The Earl of Cumberland’s survey of North Craven of 1579

Tony Stephens
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 


Between the 12th and 16th centuries, the Earls of Northumberland held a substantial estate in North Craven. This passed to the Cliffords of Skipton through marriage early in the 16th century and, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, was augmented by former monastic holdings of Bolton Priory in Long Preston, and of Fountains Abbey in Littondale. It remained in the hands of the Cliffords and their successors until sold by the Duke of Devonshire in the 19th century.

A survey of the estate which was carried out in 1579 when George Clifford became the 3rd Earl of Cumberland 1 is now to be found in the archives of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society in Leeds, and was photographed for transcription by kind permission of the owner of the survey, Mr Sebastian Fattorini of Skipton castle.

On first sight, the 1579 Clifford survey appears to be merely a catalogue of the holdings of a large number of North Craven residents who are otherwise unknown to history, and therefore of limited historical interest. The aim of this article is to show however that, when the information in the 1579 survey is considered in conjunction with other sources, it is found to be one of the most important surviving documentary sources for North Craven, providing interesting new insights into life in both the 16th and other centuries.

The estate, the surveys and the tenurial arrangements

Figure 1 shows the location of the Clifford holdings in Ribblesdale, Littondale and Langstrothdale in 1579. Earlier surveys of the estate survive from 1314, on the death of Henry Percy 2 from 1499, when another Henry Percy became the 5th Earl of Northumberland 3 and from 1520 4, when the 1499 survey was updated. The 1579 survey is the last substantial survey of the estate, the near bankruptcy of the 3rd Earl of Cumberland at the beginning of the 17th century causing a sale of estate assets and reducing the incentive of later lords of the manor to produce estate surveys.

Perhaps the most surprising revelation of the 1579 survey is the feudal nature of life in North Craven in the 16th century. In many parts of England feudalism came to an end in the 14th century, when the Black Death created shortages of tenants and enabled survivors to accumulate land. This did not happen in North Craven however, the predominant holding in the Clifford estate in 1579 still being the oxgang, the same subsistence holding as in earlier centuries. The Long Preston section of the 1579 survey even reminded the at-will tenants that they held their land by socage, and were not entitled to make wills. On the death of a tenant, it was the manor court which determined who should inherit, although the survey shows that the inheritor was usually the first son.

Daughters were not allowed to inherit tenancies and, where there was no male heir, a property reverted to the lord of the manor to “demise at his pleasure”. If the male heir was under age when his father died, his mother could assume the tenancy until her son came of age, when she became entitled to a third or “ moitie” (half) of the property, provided she did not re-marry. This perhaps suggests that properties were of 2 or 3 bay construction, the widow being entitled to one bay. The insistence on male tenants was possibly a consequence of the lord of the manor being required by the Crown to raise an army from among his tenantry. Although the survey did not spell out the military obligations of tenants, a document survives in the Huff collection in Leeds (WYAS/L) requiring George Bond, listed in the 1579 survey as the holder of 3 acres of land in Long Preston, to provide his own arms and follow the lord of the manor to war when required to do so. This was not a theoretical obligation, a number of tenants listed in the 1499 and 1520 surveys being identifiable in the muster roll of those who fought against the Scots at Flodden in 1513 5. The tenants’ role in the army would appear to have been determined by the amount of land they held, the holders of an oxgang being archers in the muster roll- the lesser tenants such as George Bond would have been billmen. In addition to rents, the lord of the manor was entitled to gressums, lump sums payable whenever there was a new lord of the manor or a new tenant. Gressums increased significantly in the 16th century, being approximately a quarter of the annual rent in 1499 but roughly ten times the rent by 1579, when they were paid in stages over several years. The end of feudalism in North Craven came shortly after 1603, the year in which George Clifford came close to bankrupting the Cumberland estate, the final straw being excessive expenditure at the coronation of James I 6. Clifford was forced to turn to his tenants to pay off his debts, raising substantial sums in return for giving up his right to gressums. The tenants who could afford to buy out their gressums became freeholders in all but name, for the first time being able to buy and sell property and make wills. However, George Clifford and his successors as lord of the manor retained the rents, later known as “ancient” or “reserved” rents.

The estate was finally sold by the Duke of Devonshire in a piecemeal fashion in the 19th century. A Wakefield deed of 1825 WYAS/W IF495 444, lists the sale of the Giggleswick, Rathmell and Settle rents, while another of 1836 WYAS/W MD143 126 of 1836 records the sale of the Long Preston rents. Although these rents were of almost trivial financial value compared with the values of the properties to which they were attached, their legal existence meant that they were often quoted in deeds of later centuries. As we shall see later, these unchanging rents are of particular importance to historical research of North Craven, enabling a number of properties to be traced which are not traceable by other means.

The rents and gressums of the holdings listed in the 1579 survey are summarised in Table 1, and it will be shown later that the wide variation from township to township may be explained by the different agricultural practices and tenurial arrangements of the various townships.


No. of holdings




rent per




per holding

Long Preston










































Table 1. Rents and gressums in the various townships of the Clifford estate in 1579

The townships

Long Preston

Long Preston was the first township to be surveyed in 1579, and was the only township whose freeholders were surveyed. The realisation that the seven Long Preston freeholders only yielded a total of 22d in rent and no gressums may have convinced the commissioners that it was not worth the effort of surveying the freeholders in the other townships.

The Cliffords appear to have been the only lords of the manor in Long Preston in 1579, land in the township formerly belonging to Bolton Priory coming to them after the Dissolution. This monastic land was purchased by the priory in 1304 to endow Long Preston church, and the 1579 survey records that it was re-assigned to the former monastic tenants in 1546 on very favourable terms. Possibly because of the favourable tenancy arrangements, the former monastic lands were still in the hands of direct descendants of the monastic tenants in the 18th century, when several Wakefield deeds make explicit reference to the 1546 transactions and give us the names of the fields associated with the holdings. The fieldnames in these deeds enable the identification of the former monastic holding as a block of land immediately to the west of the village, between Sour Dale Lane and Back Lane.

The survey reveals an almost identical amount of land in agricultural production in Long Preston in 1579 as in 1314 (56 oxgangs), suggesting that the Long Preston field systems were already fully developed in the 14th century 7. In addition to the land purchased in 1304, Bolton Priory held the Long Preston tithes, 10% of the township’s arable production, and the early 14th century priory accounts 8 are sufficiently detailed to enable us to estimate the arable output of the township and, by extension, the production of a typical farmer. These estimates suggest that a Long Preston oxgang holder should have been able to provide roughly 7 lbs of oats and 7 pints of ale (from barley) a day for his family, a typical diet of the late medieval period. Since North Craven agricultural practices changed little during the late medieval period, the Long Preston diet in 1579 is likely to have been similar to that revealed by the 14th century priory records. Long Preston would appear to be the only North Craven township of any period whose records allow its agricultural economy to be quantified, but conditions in other townships are likely to have been similar.

The lord of the manor still farmed demesne land in Long Preston in his own right in 1579, at Skirbeck Riddings, and the survey shows 35 tenants farming 110 acres of former demesne land, located in the south west corner of the township. The tenants’ holdings were significantly less than the minimum amount of land needed to support a family at a subsistence level, and we can only assume that the tenants also worked as farm labourers, perhaps on the lord of the manor’s remaining demesne land. Their existence explains the low average rents in Long Preston, and may also explain the township’s lack of economic development in later centuries compared with neighbouring townships such as Settle and Giggleswick. Land enclosure was strenuously resisted by the small farmers because of their justified fear that large landowners would use enclosure as an opportunity to accumulate more land.

The 1579 survey tells us that Langber pasture had been enclosed by the Cliffords in 1557, yielding £10 pa to the lord of the manor. We know from the Settle Parliamentary Enclosure Act of 1757 that the stocking level on the Settle cattle pastures was roughly one cattlegate per 3.2 acres and, if the same stocking rates had applied in Long Preston, a Long Preston oxgang holder would have had the right to three cattlegates on Langber, paying 40d for the privilege.


The Percies established a market in Settle in 1247, hoping to create a thriving borough. A family member was installed at the Cleatop manor house, and a substantial demesne estate was created to support the family. However, the market rentals recorded in 1314 (63s) , and 1499 and 1579 ( 26s 8d ), are significantly lower than rentals of successful market towns, perhaps explaining why Cleatop was abandoned as a manorial residence and the demesne land tenanted out.

Unlike Long Preston, where the surplus demesne estate was rented in small parcels to a large number of tenants, Cleatop was let on extended leases, sometimes to one tenant and sometimes to two, the remaining demesne land of 23 acres of arable land and 9 acres of meadow being split equally between the 12 Settle at-will tenants in the 1499 and 1579 surveys. Although it has not been possible to locate the former demesne arable land, the demesne meadow was to the south of Ingfield Lane, and was still in small parcels totalling 9 ancient acres in the Tithe Survey of 1841.

The first entry for Settle in the 1499 Percy survey was for Sir Stephen Hamerton, paying a freehold rent of 4s 10d for “two messuages 8 acres of land and meadow”. The location of the property may be identified as Lodge, high on the hillside above Settle, by virtue of a freehold property at Lodge of the rent of 4s 10d being mortgaged by Richard Preston in 1672 (YAS, MD335 Box20), the first owner of the Folly, Settle’s grade I listed building. It is possible that the mortgage taken out on the Lodge property was to finance the building of the Folly. The Lodge property remained in the family until 1777, when it was sold by a descendant of Richard Preston’s son-in-law, the deed recording the sale again recording the freehold rent of 4s10d (WYAS/W BY654 938).

The only Settle residences identifiable by name in the 1579 survey were at Cleatop, Lodge and Merebeck, but later deeds allow us to trace James Cokeson’s residence of 1579 to a location where the Whitefriars Guest House now stands. The survey recorded that James’s widowed mother had the right to a “moitie” (half) of the property, perhaps suggesting a two bay residence. The central and oldest section of Whitefriars is a room which appears to have originated as two bays, and the possibility must be entertained that some building fabric survives from the 16th century.

The 1579 survey records “two shops adionynge to the Toolbowthe there lately erected of the rent of 4d”, and a picture of the Settle market place of 1822 which adorns the safety screen at the Victoria Hall shows the Toll booth and adjoining shops shortly before they were demolished to make way for the present Town Hall. We are justified therefore in regarding this scene as a pictorial representation of Settle in both Victorian and Elizabethan times.


Although conventional architectural wisdom suggests that the oldest surviving North Craven residences are from the 17th century, this assumption may be partly due to the vogue for fitting dated door lintels only reaching North Craven in the 17th century. The 1579 survey would suggest that a few Giggleswick buildings are worthy of inspection for the possibility of fabric surviving from earlier than the 17th century. Hugh Claphamson held an inn in Giggleswick in 1579, known as the “Signe of the Belle”, together with “one house covered with slate laitlie erected” ( the only mention of a slated roof in the survey) and this property may be traced through Wakefield deeds to an ancient property which today stands at the top of Bell Hill. Some unusually massive internal stonework, which is not typical of later centuries, may indicate an early building style. William Craven held a property “neire unto the Scholehouse of the rent of 3s1d” in 1579, and a later deed of a property in his son’s hands with the same rental allows its identification as Thorntree, a property immediately to the west of the Giggleswick church. The 17th century datestone may be a later addition. Laurencius del Banke held a freehold property in Giggleswick for a pound of pepper in 1314, the same rent paid by John Banke in 1499 and 1520. The Giggleswick freeholders were not included in the 1579 survey, but a 16th century township rule book records the cleaning of the well “ at the north of Thomas Banks house” (Brayshaw, 1932), Thomas being identifiable as a descendant of John of 1520. A problem of identifying the location of Thomas Banks house is that there are wells next to two adjacent buildings at Bankwell. The Parish Rooms, with its mullion windows, is an obviously old building, but the apparently classical Well House next door has both massive internal walls typical of early buildings and re-used cruck beams in the roof. A survey of this building was carried out in 2009 in an attempt to deduce how its structure had evolved over the centuries.

The 1579 survey recorded numerous small Giggleswick properties in the pastures to the south west of the village with an average of around 10 acres of arable land. Many of these properties may be identified in the 1499 survey, where they were described as lodges, being in the same family hands and paying the same rents as in 1579. A study has enabled a number of the lodge sites to be identified (at Routster, Armistead, Craven Ridge, Paley Green, Tiperthwaite, Close House, Grainhouse, Fieldgate, Rome, Swaw Beck) and it has been suggested that they may have originated as assarts, new arable holdings created in the pastures in the 12th/ 13th centuries to support a burgeoning population 9.

A mill was recorded in Giggleswick paying the same rent of 66s 8d in 1314, 1499, 1579 and in 1825 (WYAS/W IF 495 444), allowing its location to be identified at the gate of Catterall Hall. The foundations of a watermill may still be seen there, and a groundsman at Giggleswick School discovered an old millstone nearby in recent years. Giggleswick had several mills in later centuries, and it is only the rent of 66s 8d which enables the identification of Catterall Hall as the location of the ancient manorial corn mill.


The Rathmell section of the 1314 inquisition is badly stained and difficult to read, but it is possible to discern 5 tofts and a third of a corn mill. In 1579 there were 5 oxgangs and a third of a corn mill, so the estate holdings in Rathmell seem to have changed little over the centuries. The holding of only a third of the corn mill in both surveys perhaps suggests that the Cliffords and the Percies before them held only a third of the township.


The Littondale section of the survey includes not only settlements in the Litton valley, from Cosh down to Arncliff, but also Birkwith, Horton (part) and Studfold in the upper Ribble valley. This arrangement was probably a perpetuation of a management arrangement revealed in a Percy household book of 1512, which showed the Craven estates being managed by two stewards, one in Long Preston and the other in Langstrothdale (YAS, 1827).

Most Littondale holdings were of 10 and 20 acres, with a rent of around 2s an acre, but there were also three large estates at Sleights, Nether Hesleden and Over Hesleden, whose rents suggest acreages of around 100 acres, 50 acres and 60 acres respectively. Over Hesleden’s entry showed that it had formerly been a possession of the Abbot of Fountains, and Sir John Gressham’s former holding of Sleights and Birkwith also suggest an earlier monastic ownership. The settlements in the upper Litton valley (Cosh, Foxup and Halton) were entirely pastoral, rent being for meadow and pasture, but the other settlements in both the Litton valley and upper Ribble valley practised mixed farming. Not all the holdings in the village of Litton were in Clifford hands, and the survey describes a division of Arncliffe Clowder between the Earl and the Litton residents, the earl and the residents sharing equally the cost of the dividing wall. While Littondale had been an important centre of the sheep industry in earlier centuries, this may not have been the case in 1579. Two “flockraikes” recorded in the survey at Litton were un-let and un-stocked and in the lord of the manor’s hands.


The Clifford estate in Langstrothdale in 1579 stretched down both banks of the upper reaches of the river Wharfe from Oughtershaw to Cray, and then down the west bank of the river to Middlesmoor (above Kettlewell). Buckden was a holding let to William Worthington for a nominal 6s 8d, reverting to the lord of the manor later. The Langstrothdale settlements each supported typically half a dozen families, and were described as lodges in 1499, as they were in an addendum to the 1314 survey, added in 1319, which recorded that the Langstrothdale lodges were “worth £24 11s and no more because of depredation of the Scots”. No arable land was recorded at any of the settlements.

The commissioners were not entirely consistent in the way they recorded holdings in 1579. Although the holdings in both upper Littondale and Langstrothdale were pastoral, they recorded acreages of meadow in Littondale, but the names of meadow and pasture in Langstrothdale. Many of the Langstrothdale pasture names of 1579 have survived to the present day, enabling us to identify with some confidence the boundaries of the settlements shown in Figure 2. It is not possible however to identity in this way the boundaries of Oughtershaw, Beckermonds, Halbank, Middlemoor or of Greenfell.

Fortunately for our understanding of Langstrothdale’s agricultural economy, the commissioners recorded the information that James Tenant and Leonard Jaike of Cray, who paid rents of 40s, were each entitled to hold 46.5 cattle. We can be fairly certain that the Langstrothdale rents reflected the number of cattle that tenants were entitled to put on the pastures, and Table 2 includes estimates of the stocking at each settlement, based on this assumption. For the settlements with known boundaries, measurement of their acreages enables us to estimate the stocking densities, and these are also shown in Table 2. Stocking densities were clearly influenced by the aspect of the settlements, with south facing settlements such as Yockenthwaite, Chapel and Cray having higher stocking densities than the north and east facing settlements such as Raisgill, Kirkgill and Birks. Deepdale, the only settlement with land on both sides of the valley, had an average stocking density.



(no of)






(acres/ cattlegate)









































































Buckden & Starbotton






Table 2. The Langstrothdale rents and cattle stocking in 1579

We have no record of how Langstrothdale was farmed in the 16th century but, since northern agricultural practices changed little between the 14th century and 1579, the arrangements are more likely to have been similar to practices on the De Lacy estate in Blackburnshire c1300 10, than the practices in the 18th century, when North Craven became heavily involved in the droving trade and its associated dairying. The main objective of the De Lacy estate, which held roughly the same number of animals as the Percy/ Clifford estate in Langstrothdale, was to produce oxen for sale in markets up to 40 miles from the vaccaries, dairying providing only a secondary income. If the management practices had been similar in Blackburnshire and Langstrothdale, we might expect to find little evidence of barns to overwinter cattle in Langstrothdale; the De Lacy records show that temporary wooden structures were used, being frequently moved to reduce the risk of disease.

Dating ancient walls

Most walls in North Craven were built in the 18th century, in response to the pastoral revolution of that century, but a smaller number of walls from earlier centuries may be recognised by the inclusion of field clearance boulders in their construction. A difficulty of dating these walls is that their style of construction appears to have changed little over the centuries, forcing us to rely on documentary evidence for dating. Settle’s Newfield is one of the few fields to be named in the 1499, 1520 and 1579 surveys, but the section on the western boundary at OS 38274630 may be considerably older, possibly dating to the 13th century, when there is a record of the field on Settle moor being divided. Two Long Preston walls illustrated in Figure 3 would appear to include some fabric from the 14th or earlier centuries. That on the left is at the Riddings, and would appear to include field clearance boulders used to create the original assart, while the wall illustrated on the right is on the eastern edge of the Long Preston monastic glebeland, and has orthostats which architectural expert Alison Armstrong suggests are of a style which typically predate the middle of the 14th century.

Massive field clearance boulders were still being used in the 16th and 17th centuries, as illustrated in Figure 4; the picture on the right is from a Giggleswick field known as Brownwatacras (at OS 38264595), and would appear to have been built shortly before 1579 because the Clifford survey of that year tells us that a small parcel of arable land had recently been reclaimed from the pastures to create Brownwatacras. The wall on the left in Figure 4 is in Long Preston, at OS 38264595, and is part of a wall dividing the pastures from the arable fields which once stretched the whole length of the township from Merebeck to Newton. Antiquarian John Thompson told a meeting in the Long Preston Mechanics Institute in 1886 that the wall had been built in 1687, and that parts of the original wall were still standing in 1886.

Since Langstrothdale was entirely pastoral from a very early time, it has good potential for the survival of early walls, particularly the external boundary and the division walls between the settlements. Surviving field names suggest that the settlement boundaries are today largely as they were in 1499, 1520 and 1579.

Concluding remarks

The 1579 Clifford survey provides important new insights into life in North Craven between the 14th and 19th centuries, particularly in the fields of the agricultural economy and the built environment. Much more perhaps remains to be revealed by the survey than has been covered in this article and, to aid future research, images and transcriptions of the 1579 survey have been deposited by the author at the YAS as MS1840. It is also hoped that transcriptions will appear on the NCHT web site at a later date as an adjunct to this article.


CH Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
TNA The National Archives, Kew
WYAS/L West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds
WYAS/W West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield
YAS Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Leeds


  1. YAS DD121/24/2
  2. TNA C134/41/8
  3. CH BAS/47/1
  4. YAS DD121/32/1
  5. Speight, 1892 pp61-66
  6. Spence, 1995 p196
  7. Stephens, 2009
  8. Kershaw, 2000
  9. Stephens and Moorhouse, 2005
  10. Atkin 1994


  • Atkin, M.A.,1994 Land use and Management in the Upland demesne of the De Lacy estate of Blackburnshire c 1300, Agricultural History Review Vol 42 pp 1-19
  • Brayshaw, T., and Robinson, R.M.,1932 The History of the Ancient Parish of Giggleswick
  • Kershaw, I., 2000 The Bolton Compotus 1286-1325 YAS Record Series Vol. 154
  • Speight, H., 1892. The Craven and North-West Yorkshire Highlands Elliott Stock
  • Spence, R.T., 1995. The Privateering Earl, George Clifford Earl of Cumberland, 1558-1605 Sutton
  • Stephens, T. and Moorhouse, S, 2005 The lodges of Giggleswick 1499 YAS Medieval Section
  • Stephens, T., 2009. Yeomen, Monks, Drovers and Handloom weavers; 800 years of Long Preston’s history, Long Preston Heritage Project publication
  • YAS, 1827.,The Regulations and Establishment of Henry Algernon Percy 5th Earl of Northumberland at his castles in Wressil and Lekinfield in Yorkshire begun AD 1512 ( copy held at the YAS, Leeds, shelf ref 4H14)
Figure 1 The Clifford estate in North Craven in 1579
Figure 2 Langstrothdale settlements (lodges) in 1579

Figure 1 The Clifford estate in North Craven in 1579

Figure 2 Langstrothdale settlements (lodges) in 1579