About Kirkby Malzeard Area


Brief history of the Kirkby Malzeard Area

05 Dec 2019


A 400 page book “KIRKBY MALZEARD SINCE 1850” by IAN CORFIELD gives further details on all the points referred to above. It is illustrated with over 70 colour photos, plus many old ones in black and white. Copies priced £20 are obtainable from Ian, the author of this piece, and he can be contacted directly on 01765 658987.

The name Kirkby Malzeard, 'The Church by the poor clearing in the forest' is derived from words left by   the Danes (Vikings) and the French (Normans) who came to these parts. The Domesday Book (1086), tells us that Gospatric’s land at Chirchebi was “one and a half leagues long and wide, or 5 carucates.” At that time 8 villagers had a plough. Gray; in his catalogue of English Field Systems, written in 1327-8, assessed that Kirkby had “20 acres sown and 20 acres fallow”. In the late 19th century Surtees, in his book ''The Chantry Surveys”, quoted a medieval source which stated ‘The paroch is of grete circyte’ (The parish covers a huge area).This parish stood strategically, in the 1200s, within the vast Honour of Kirkby Malzeard from Great Whernside to Ripon. It survived the “Harrying of the North” by William the Conqueror, because he kept to the lower valley land.

Stone Age farmers shaped the surrounding land. Axe heads and querns have been unearthed at Azerley and Laverton. A few genuine items stand by the farm doors of those who found them. In a field called Ellers near Willow House, in the Gate Bridge area, 28 socketed celts, (cleaving tools or chisels), were discovered. These were relics of Bronze Age inhabitants. The place above Tom Corner in Dallowgill, where the body of a Roman centurion was found, is marked by a mosaic on the Mosaic Trail, a walk devised within the last few years. A sword used by Cromwell’s forces during the Civil War in 1642 was found in a peat bed in Kirkby Malzeard.

Ancient drove roads and tracks cross the higher moors. Cattle and other animals were brought across these wild areas for sale in Kirkby. Drovers came from Scotland via Pateley Bridge and Dallowgill. The Pinfold dating from around 1300 was where stray animals were gathered in on the way to the Market Cross where sales were negotiated. The Normans laid the first stone of Saint Andrew’s Church around 1150. Records state that it was close to the site of a wooden Church dating from 1050. The lower part of a Preaching Cross, still standing in the Churchyard, has been dated back to the 7th century, although there is no evidence that it was of Saxon origin. It was regularly used for services by itinerant early Christians for 300 years before the Normans came. After fire damage to the present Church in 1879, a “Hog Back Grave” a relic of Anglo-Danish times, was found buried in the foundations. Sadly, the grave was lost in a later fire in 1908.

A plaque on the Market Cross commemorates the granting of a Market Charter in 1307 by Edward the First. This royal award marked the beginning of the change from a modest settlement to a township, with its increasing prosperity. From a handful of farmers other trades began to enrich the township. There has been a School in Kirkby Malzeard since circa 1640. William Aislabie rebuilt it in 1862. A new school building was erected and equipped in 1971.The 1822 Baines Directory is of interest. The population was then only 862, yet the list of shops and trades is impressive, The Yorkshire Directory of 1861 records the population as 796. Doctor Bishop’s book “A Moorland Doctor” emphasises hard times for moorland farmers in the second half of the 19th century. After World War I the population fell to 560, but then moved on to a much strengthened local economy. According to the 2011 census over 1167 people now live in the Kirkby Malzeard and Laverton/Dallowgill parishes.

The Mechanics Institute is one of the few remaining in the country and is still run according to original principles. It serves as a busy village hall which displays many of the village’s notable images and achievements, including a copy of Dorothy Una Ratcliffe’s dialect poems. In 1877 she was living at Laverton Grange, where she wrote poems in local idioms and accents. These reflect moorland ways and local life. She called her vernacular language “Mother Speech”. Local author Lilian Chandler knew this area intimately. Her book “Laverton and Dallowgill” is focussed on its history and people. The New Connexion Chapel (Protestant and non-conformist), 
at Ivy Dene, Kirkby Malzeard, was established after the secession in 1797. The first stone of the Ebenezer Chapel was laid in 1880. A former Primitive Methodist Chapel, near the Garage, is now a private house.

A good vantage point from where you can see signs of Kirkby Malzeard’s past is from Saint Andrew’s Church, set 1000 years ago in the heart of what is potentially a fine Conservation area. From the 15th century tower you see most of the village below. The cross roads at the end of Church Street, the market cross and the winding line of vernacular buildings leading west, mark out the general plan and gradual development. The layout of tofts and crofts along Back Lane North, and the lynchets beyond Longswales are in view. Enclosure lands are visible. In the churchyard, the gravestones commemorate the lives of generations of villagers from Kirkby, Dallowgill, Laverton and other settlements along Nidderdale. The Corpse Road, running behind East Witton (some 10 miles distant) brought bodies to be buried in Kirkby. Six centenarians are recorded in the Parish Registers. George Wharton of Laverton, died at the age of 112. The earthworks of the Castle lie close by on the other side of Kex Beck. The structure was destroyed by King Henry II in 1174. Witches covens were held in the North East corner of the Churchyard until the late 19th century. Love Lane can be seen leading east, past Mowbray House, to the Ripon road. The sunken track was built in the 1800's. In World War II, the existing roof which had been built across part of the path to give access to Mowbray House for carriages, was used to make an air raid shelter.

The fine Norman Church has stood since 1150 exercising its spiritual, educational and caring influence over its parish. By the 1500s the Parish stretched from Great Whernside to the Church itself. A Leet Court, dealing with misdemeanours of both civil and ecclesiastical nature was held alternating each month between St Andrew’s and St Mary’s, Masham. A police station assumed responsibility for civil law from around 1910 until 1956. The building still stands. The Church in Kirkby was always the Mother Church, named for centuries, by many, the “Cathedral of the Dales”. Until recent times all residents paid a levy to the Church. St Andrew’s survived three fires. Scorch marks on the stonework reveal that there was a fire in the middle ages.  The fire of 1876 was damaging, but the most recent one in 1908 was devastating. The Norman South Door and the wall remained intact. Six Benefaction Boards, which survived are still on display in the Church.

Mowbray House is a mid-18th century country house at the eastern end of Kirkby village. It was bought by the second son of the second earl of Cathcart in about 1869. Alterations were made; the front of the house was demolished and rebuilt as you see it today. Existing pleasure grounds were extended by him. Catherine Cathcart lived there until 1922. The estate of 773,192 acres was split into 19 lots for the 1922 sale. Fred Moore, later Sir Fred, bought the House and grounds. The Cathcarts and the Moores were great benefactors to the village. The grounds of Mowbray House were regularly opened for Church, Chapel and Village events. Mowbray House was considered as a residence for the Queen Mother but was not bought because of security risks. It was converted into flats by Kit Calvert for some employees of the adjacent Dairy. It is now in private ownership again as a single dwelling. It is one of 22 Grade II Listed buildings in Kirkby. The Church is the only Grade I Listed building.


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