Notes by George for a walk at Nappa Manor Farm in April 2011 and reminiscences.
Nappa Manor Farm lies on the River Ribble, a few miles south of Long Preston. The building probably dates from the 1690s but has seen many changes in its lifetime. It has been farmed for over 100 years by the Bargh family. George grew up here and went to school at Paythorne and later to Clitheroe using a bicycle and train to get there.
Nappa historyThe early history of Nappa goes back to the Domesday book of 1086, in which the farm is mentioned. William de Percy had two carucates of land to be taxed at ‘Nappey’ and there were 26 inhabitants. In 1226 there is a record of a dispute about two bovates of land at Nappey. Also in the 13th century the Grandage family held land in Nappa and it was noted in 1284 that St Leonard’s Hospital in York had held some land at Nappey since the time of King John. In 1316 the Master of the Hospital of St Leonard’s was Lord of the manor and the Hospital held the manor until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537-8.
In 1544 the manor of Nappey (and others) passed into the hands of Sir Arthur Darcy who had persuaded King Henry VIII to let him have the property even before the Dissolution of Sawley had been finalized and its property valued by the official court. The relevant documents also concern the Manor of Langcliffe and the interests of St Leonard’s. The manors of Langcliffe and Nappa were inherited from his father by Nicholas Darcy, but he appeared to have had financial problems. In 1587 he had to borrow a large sum of money, with Nappaye manor as security, from Sir Henry Billingsley, Alderman and citizen of London (later Lord Mayor), who then took the rents. Nicholas defaulted on the money loaned so that Billingsley became the owner. In 1607, when Nicholas died, Nappa manor was sold to Christopher Williamson by Billingsley. The Darcys were absentee landlords only interested in the rents.
In much later years the Birtwhistle family had property in Nappa; a document showing the rents in 1823 also lists the fields and buildings of Nappa Manor Farm (courtesy Dr Tony Stephens). The farm was then much larger, with a total of 268 acres for a rent of £345. The tenant was Thomas Holgate. The names of many of the fields were still in use in the 20th century. The Listers of Gisburn were owners at some time later.
In 1773 a survey was produced of a proposed branch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal from Barnoldswick to Settle. It came right through Nappa - just think what a difference that would have made and the Leeds-Liverpool canal builders apparently considered this route. In a census mid-19th century 40 to 50 people lived in Nappa!
At the end of the 18th century the Marsden-Settle turnpike was built. The now notorious A682 came through, replacing the old road which had followed the Roman road via Hellifield Peel, Swinden and down to the ford, and then back up to the line of the new turnpike on Hayber Hill. There was a tollbar at Nappa. The Hellifield-Lancashire Railway (the Lanky Line) came through in the 1880s.
On the 14th March 1885 the Craven Herald reported as follows:
‘On Tuesday morning a prize cock-fight took place in an old lane near the village of Nappa. But on this occasion the police proved too active for those engaged in the barbarous sport. The party numbering forty to fifty persons were surprised in the midst of an exciting contest, the appearance of a solitary police constable being the signal for an almost general stampede’.
Hayber Farm is now occupied by agricultural contractors, and previously was a 100 acre farm and formerly a pub called the Craven Heifer. It was advertised to let in 1842 as an inn with over 100 acres of land. The large house near the farm is called Fisherman’s Cottage (the old name was Fish Hole) and is Georgian in origin and used to be home to the estate worker’s family. It had a hole in the roof for two years and my (George’s) father could have bought it for £2000 but he could not afford such a sum. It would have cost £2000 more to renovate! It is now a holiday cottage. The old farm buildings on the corner might have been a house; there are no chimneys but it has been plastered inside. My aunt said that it was a butcher’s shop.
Routeways and the RiverThe Ribble at Nappa has long been a ford to allow traffic between Gargrave and points east and villages north and west of the Ribble. The novelist Mary Stewart in The last enchantment, part of her trilogy about King Arthur and Merlin, placed one of his battles here at what she called the River Tribuit. She visited the farm, parking her Rolls Royce in the yard. The present stepping stones are not now easy to cross since there is a wide gap at one point.
The Romans made good use of the ford when two of their roads converged here on the farm side and divided again on the other side. The late Jessica Lofthouse told us that she thought the roads existed long before the Romans came. They still exist as footpaths or bridleways. One route was Horton in Craven - Cow Lane down to the river; another was from the Aire Gap - Ilkley - Elslack - Hellifield Peel - Swinden - bottom of Marton Road and to Nappa Manor Farm. Yet a third was from Nappa to Halton West and a fourth to Paythorne via the farms England’s Head and Paa. The earthworks visible on the far side of the ford are probably the remains of stock holding yards when the river was in flood.
The late Chris Johnson, who farmed at West Marton, used the ford, crossing it with a Standard Vanguard car, towing a trailer with cattle in, to reach his rented fields up on the top known as Nappa Flatts. Many is the time when we had to rescue him with a tractor and tow rope. This river looked very different in earlier years, since it was twice the present width with two very large islands and a smaller one separated by water channels. There were then 68 stepping stones and on crossing one went over a path over the end of the largest island then continued over more stepping stones in the far channel. On the farm we had never finished haytime until we had made hay on our two smaller islands, while the farmer at Nappa Flatts across the river made his hay on the largest island. It had to be mown with a scythe, worked by hand, and carted off on the horse lorry. It was scratchy on the arms if you were unlucky enough to be the one loading the cart. As a child, having been born at Nappa, I played with the neighbouring children on these islands, climbing the tall elder trees, hiding in the long what we called ‘elephant’ grass, picking wild gooseberries, red currants and spring onions - a paradise for children!
In the winter of 1940/1 the river froze solid for weeks and we had great fun sliding on it in our metal-shod clogs. My late mother recounted the day of the thaw which caused the ice to break up - attracted by the noise she saw the whole length in view from the kitchen window start to move. The ice then hit the stepping stones and the islands and piled up in a huge log jam pushing 10 inches thick ice floes on to the river bank. They took weeks to melt. Many of the massive stepping stones were found at the lower end of the islands some 200 yards down river. At least the stones were repaired fully which is more than I can persuade the authorities to do today.
About 40 or 50 years ago heavy machinery arrived out of the blue with the River Board Authority to ‘move’ the islands. Today of course we would have got the eco-warriors to sit in the trees and on our islands and a body of opposition would have opposed the removal tooth and nail. We had to watch our paradise being destroyed and turned into what looked like the Suez Canal - and worse still - the kingfisher’s nest was lost. The spoil was left on each side, forming on our side my ‘conservation’ patch..
Kingfishers, mallard, goosanders, cormorants, heron, oyster catchers, redshank - occasionally water hens were to be seen on our river. Otters were formerly to be seen, and traditional otter hunts took place. The mink have gone and we do not see eels or crayfish any longer. I have seen the river frozen, in flood and in dry spells - when white with water crowfoot. From the river bank one can see the remains of metalwork nearby which supported a wind turbine years ago - where the Nappa ghost resided.
SchooldaysMy junior school was at Paythorne, now a domestic dwelling, where I swelled the attendance to five, one of whom was a girl described to my mother as having ‘wuverly curly hair’. I was taken to school by taxi but only from the penultimate pick-up point, meaning that I had to walk the first mile including Hayber Hill where the huge lorries frightened the daylights out of me as they ground their way up in low gear. I was at Paythorne during the war and remember hanging on to the school railings watching lorry loads of bombs, 250 pounders and 1000 pounders, rolling past to be stored in the country lanes beyond. When the evacuees arrived on the surrounding farms our assembly rose dramatically from 5 to 20 and we country lads had our horizons broadened!
FarmingDuring the second world war we were ordered by the Government (the local ‘War Ag’) to grow oats to help keep the nation fed and to replace imported food for the livestock. Consequently, with the help of Land Girls and Fordson tractors I recall that, at least one year, the whole of our 56 acre High Field was ploughed and put down to oats. Then came the harvest. The ‘War Ag’ were back with that wonderful machine the ‘self-binder’. Pulled by a tractor it cut the oats and tied them in a sheaf with string from huge balls and spewed them out in neat rows. Then came the graft! We had to set them up in stooks of eight, butt ends on the ground, and the ears leaning together at the top. One day I recall we rested from our labours to have our ‘bagging’ tea and sandwiches brought to the field and were amused to see a hare lolloping along from across the field in our direction. It came right into our midst and bounded into a worker’s lap! I do not know who was the more surprised - the man or the beast. Weeks later when the corn was dry enough we carted it home, some half a mile, and made a ‘village’ of round corn stacks in our croft by the house. Using horses and carts, one was being filled in the field while one was being emptied at home and the third in-between. My job as a young teenager was leading the horses up and down on the in-between bit. I was a proud fellow at the end of the day having led some 21 loads safely home! Then there was the great day in winter when the threshing machine arrived, pulled by an American Case tractor and set up near the corn stacks. The neighbours came to help and my self-appointed job was to keep the ‘chaff’ moved from under the belly of the machine. The job I really lusted after was up on the deck above cutting the string on each sheaf and feeding it into the drum with a satisfying ‘vroom’. Belts were moving in all directions. Today’s health and safety men would have blown a fuse because nothing was protected from causing accidents. But they didn’t happen to my knowledge. The straw went into the barn, the oats into a cellar under the house, and my bagged chaff stored for bedding the cows in winter. Later the oats were rolled (squashed between rollers) by a belt-driven rolling machine. The method of driving the belt was unique. An old car which had been converted into a flat lorry had one wheel jacked up off the ground and replaced by a tyreless wheel. The belt was attached to this, a suitable gear selected, and the differential allowed it to spin - simple!
EpilogueMy grandfather had the choice of Marton Scar Farm or Nappa Manor Farm and we are eternally grateful that he chose Nappa. He took the tenancy of Nappa Manor Farm in 1900 from the Roundells estate at West Marton. Soon the Sir Amos Nelson estate was sold off to various parties. Then the Sparlings owned it until the recent death of Mrs Sparling. On our retirement she allowed us to give up the land and stay in the house with its one acre croft. The rest of the farm was split between the neighbouring two farms. Thank you Mrs Sparling. Today there is only one working farm - Stansfield, which used to be called Pickover farm, with a 17th century farmhouse.
Stepping stones at Nappa
George Bargh and visitors