Chapel-le-Dale and Scales: a case study in social and demographic history

David S. Johnson
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

At the north-eastern end of Scales Moor, above the hamlet of Chapel-le-Dale, is a discrete area where land had historically been taken in, piecemeal from the ‘waste’, to be enclosed and improved for more intensive agricultural use. For the sake of convenience, it is referred to simply as Scales primarily because three of its four (former) farm holdings have that element in their name, and because in most archival sources the farms were just called Scales with no distinction made between them; all four lay within the manor of Twisleton-and-Ellerbeck. A fifth former farm - Gillhead - straddled the boundary between this manor and Newby manor, while the former farm of Weathercote lay entirely within the latter. Either side of a line drawn from Gillhead to Weathercote there are marked contrasts in the altitude to which encroachment onto the moor occurred: to the east it extended to the lower slopes of Whernside but to the west it largely stopped at the present lower edge of Scales Moor, except at Scales itself where it was taken laterally a further 500 metres across the moor.

Detailed examination of Scales, using maps, documents and especially evidence in the field, illustrates in microcosm how land management in the wider Chapel-le-Dale area evolved. Aspects of the economic and political history of Scales, and of clear archaeological evidence of occupation there during the Anglo-Saxon era, have been dealt with elsewhere by this writer [Johnson 2013a; 2013b; 2014; 2015]. This article considers aspects of social and demographic history around the hamlet of Chapel-le-Dale.


The various Scales tenements are historically well-documented but, frustratingly, early records did not distinguish between High, Middle and Low Scales so, with a few exceptions, it is not possible to determine which of the three - or an unnamed fourth site now in ruins - is referred to. One of the earliest records, a Lay Subsidy Roll from 1378-79, listed three heads of household with direct links to the Scales area: Wilhelmus de Scales and Johannes filius Wilhelmi, and Johannes de Ellerbeck, a nearby farm that lay within the same manor, who were all assessed at 4d tax [Rolls 1378-79]. Only the latter can be indisputably linked to a particular tenement on the ground.

In some cases it has been possible to match archival record to tenement by cross-referencing with other sources. For example, the will and inventory of Leonard Weatherhead described him as being ‘of Skalles’; his will included specific bequests of named fields to named individuals, enabling him to be linked to Low Scales which is known to have had ownership of those fields. Fourteen wills and inventories, from 1579 to 1760, can be ascribed to Scales in general but only Weatherhead’s can be tied down to an actual tenement. John Greenbank (d. 1636) had a lime kiln, valued at 4s 4d, as an item in his inventory: the scant remains of a kiln lie in a field formerly part-owned by Middle Scales and part by Low Scales placing him in one or the other.

Parish registers also leave much to be desired. They record the baptism, marriage or burial of residents named as living at Scales between 1610 and 1812 but, again, most ascribe them only to ‘Scales’; Upper Scales first appears in 1769, High Scales only in 1812, but Middle and Low Scales do not have a single entry in baptismal and burial registers. Middle Scales and Scales Cottage were thought to be the same tenement but the 1851 census listed John Atkinson living at Scales Cottage, as well as the church incumbent, whereas the 1847 tithe award entered him as owning Middle Scales but not living there, which casts an element of doubt - John Robinson was the occupant but he did not appear in the census returns. The problem is compounded by the number of family names recorded here in the registers. From 1608 to 1613, during which period one might reasonably expect that the named families were all living there at the same time, five family names appear (Table 1), with a sixth entering the record in 1620. It could be that one or more of the tenements was in multiple occupancy or that some of the names that spanned a limited period were of farm or house servants: this may apply to Marson (1610 and 1612) and Allann (1610 and 1611). Christian names and surnames are repeated with impressive frequency, not only at Scales but throughout the valley of Chapel-le-Dale: since successive generations used a very limited number of given names, trying to sort one from another can be challenging.

Three family names that appear time and again in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century wills and probate inventories across the whole valley - Foxcroft, Procter and Weatherhead - can be traced back to the monastic period [Brownbill 1915, 648]. A post-Dissolution rental of Furness Abbey’s estate at Southerscales, encompassing much of the valley of Chapel-le-Dale between God’s Bridge and Haws House, listed six tenants - two were called Falscrofte (later Foxcroft), two Proctour (Procter) and two Wedderhyde (Weatherhead). The last of these patronyms speaks of their, or their male ancestors’ occupation, managing or herding wethers (castrated male sheep); the second refers to their ancestors’ role as the (Old English) proketour. A ‘procter’ was a steward or collector of rents, here presumably for the Abbey. There was definite continuity from the monastic era through the early modern period in the families who tenanted the valley, and this continuity extended to the basis of husbandry here, namely a mix of cattle (beef and dairy) and sheep.

Another potential contemporary source - Land Tax Registers for Ingleton - also failed to identify the names of tenancies [WYAS. QE 13/13/26], but census returns from 1841 tended to distinguish between High Scales, Low Scales and Middle Scales or Scales Cottage [NYCRO. PR/INT 1]. This has enabled comparison between nineteenth-century occupations and those from earlier sources. Of the heads of household at High Scales, from 1841-71, three were entered as farmer; at Low Scales stated occupations were successively shoemaker, agricultural labourer and tea dealer, suggesting that this was not then an independent farming unit; while at Scales Cottage landed proprietor (of only 17ha) and incumbent at the church were entered. For the unsubstantiated Scales entries ‘farmer’ appeared in four census returns, with stated areas of 19ha. Such a small size does not equate to any of the three farming units, and nor can it be linked with the now ruined farmstead, as 1840s Ordnance Survey mapping depicted it even then as a ruin (Fig. 1).

Family status

The impression can be gained from ten of the wills and inventories not just of the type of farming but also of the scale of operations and status of the families (Table 2).

Total appraised values for the years 1608-20, during which period minimal variations in inflation rates are likely to make comparisons across the range meaningful, varied from £19 to £79 giving a mean value of £39. What may perhaps seem hard to explain, for a farming community, is the discrepancy in livestock between the two extremes: John Wood (d. 1608) possessed at his death fifty-nine ‘old sheipe’, four lambs and three cattle; whereas Thomas Weatherhead (d. 1620) had sixteen cattle, two mares and an unstated number of sheep, but they were valued at £38 making it a substantial flock [LRO. WRW/L]. For the years 1636 and 1642, again when monetary values were broadly stable, the range in appraised valuations is large: John Greenbank (d. 1636) was assessed at £91, compared to Leonard Weatherhead’s (d.1642) £35. For whatever reason, the latter’s appraisal contained almost no household or husbandry items. Again, though Weatherhead was not cash-rich at his death he was asset-rich, and he bequeathed to his three sisters and mother his tenements of Low Scales and The Hill (now the Hill Inn), several named fields, field barns, and cattle gaits in Brows Pasture. He also bequeathed an enclosure ‘called Petty garth and one house called the Over house with a parocke (a small field or paddock) before the doore on the South side of the said Over house adjoininge to the Over end of Pettigarth’. If Pettigarth was the same as the later field names Petty or Petty Hill, and if it is correct to assume that the Over end was the upper end of that enclosure, then the Over house would be what is now called Dowbiggin Barn (Fig. 2) on the moor edge which does indeed have a small enclosure, simply called Parrock, on its southern side (the word ‘house’ could refer to a cow house or a field barn as well as to a dwelling). A century or so later James Parker’s estate at Scales was valued in probate at over £122 despite his being described as a husbandman rather than a yeoman [LRO. WRW/L/R 617/ 59, 1760]. Over half of his estate (£67) was accounted for by cattle and sheep, yet his husbandry gear was assessed at only £1: perhaps he had disposed of most of it prior to his death.

From the evidence that is available in probate inventories, cattle appear to have played a greater role in the farming economy than sheep. Often such assessments, between 1608 and 1760, stated the number of cattle and four also assessed the value of calves; that for Leonard Weatherhead in 1642 assessed his two calves (at 10s each) separately from his ‘two kine’ - milk cows - (at £4 6s 8d combined) and his ‘other younge Cattell’ (at £5 10s in total). Sheep tended to be assessed collectively and only one inventory - Weatherhead’s - stated the number assessed. ‘Twentie wethers and a Ramme’ were valued at £7 10s, with his ‘Ewes and Lambes’ at the same amount, and ‘Foure hogges’ (lambs between six months old and their first shearing) at 11s each. Only his inventory itemised a ram.

Another potential indicator of status is the number of horses assessed in inventories or bequeathed in wills; six of the ten included them. Janet Wood (d. 1610) left one ‘whyte meare with a foale’ valued at £3 and a ‘Bay meare’ valued at £4 20s (sic); Thomas Weatherhead (d. 1612) left his younger son Leonard one ‘Blacke meare’ and his inventory listed his ‘Ryding geare’, from which we can conclude that this mare was for riding rather than for farm work, whereas Janet Wood’s inventory tells us nothing. The next Thomas Weatherhead to die (in 1620) left two mares, valued at £5 combined, as well as riding gear; John Greenbank (d. 1636) had his horse and two mares valued at £8 6s 8d combined, as well as ‘ryding geare’; and that of Christopher Foster (d. 1671) valued his single mare at £4 with his ‘rideing furniture’ separate. The same conclusion can be drawn for these men as for the earlier Weatherhead. Leonard who died in 1642 left riding gear, a horse and a ‘twinter coult’ (a two-year old foal) assessed together at £6 6s 8d. However, if these valuations say anything about the status of the men of the various Scales tenements, it is frustratingly hidden by the lack of attribution to particular tenements. Nevertheless, even if described as husbandman rather than yeoman, all were clearly prosperous farmers despite the assumed difference in social status implied by these terms. By all accounts Gillhead seems to have been the poor relation, going through a rapid succession of tenants in the late eighteenth and most of the nineteenth century when, for a period covering two censuses, the heads of household were described as farmer and cordwainer. Having a holding of only 4ha, it is hardly surprising that there was a need to supplement income with a trade. At an earlier date, though, it presents a rather different picture. William Batty (d. 1664) left an estate valued at £75 which included ‘five kine, one stear, five heifers, three calves, sheep and wooll’ which together accounted for more than half of the valuation. He was described as a husbandman and was not totally without substance.


At the other end of the scale altogether was Weathercote, on the Newby side of the manorial boundary. It has a history as long as the Scales farms and was possibly the bercary (sheephouse complex) recorded as a boundary feature, between Furness Abbey’s Southerscales estate and seigneurial lands, in a perambulation of c.1220. This described the boundary running from the top of Ingleborough via a stream then called Merebek (now Meregill) ‘... usque ad rupem proximam bercariis ex parte occidentali’ (up to the rock near the sheephouse on the western side) [WYL 524/209; Brownbill 1916, 341]. The name Weathercote derives from Old English weder (wether) and Old English cot (shed or house). Through the late seventeenth century it was home to a branch of the Foxcroft family who were substantial yeoman farmers. Miles (d. 1691) left his tenement here to his granddaughter, and his other tenements at Chapel House, near the church, and Ivescar, nearer Ribblehead, to his son [LRO. WRW/L]. His probate inventory valued the total estate at £790, which was an enormous amount, and itemised the contents of eight named rooms within the house. He possessed 68 cattle, 240 sheep and other livestock, presumably spread across his three holdings: he was truly a man of substance.

An indenture recorded the sale, by James Procter (yeoman) and his wife, of various parcels of land around Weathercote, including Long Slack in Philpindale, which still stands, and ‘Boungaries’ (now Boungarris Barn) with a ‘mansion house or dwelling house’ therein. The barn still stands but there is no obvious trace on the ground of a residence [CAS.K. WD/PP, Box 2, 1704]. One of the parties to this agreement was John Foxcroft of Brunscar (or Bruntscar), husbandman. In the following year the Procters assigned Weathercote to William Banks father and son, both yeomen of Giggleswick. One of these had married the daughter of Miles Foxcroft, who is recorded living at Weathercote in the 1672 Hearth Tax Returns and whose will is dated 1691 [Tyler 2005, 11], so that link is clear but the connection between Miles and John has yet to be made.

In 1721 William Metcalfe, of Pryhouse near Hawes, purchased the estate, with Southerscales farm added to the family portfolio in 1726, and Philpin in 1775 [CAS. K. WD/PP, Bundle 2, Indenture]. The Metcalfes were the social and financial equals of the Foxcrofts and were to live and farm at Weathercote into the twentieth century. Measures of John Metcalfe’s wealth (William’s son), assessed by probate after his death in 1775, were the bequest of £400 to his daughter Agnes when she should reach the age of twenty-one and, amongst other items, his ‘new dwelling house at Weathercoat’ [CAS. K. WD/PP, Bundle 2, Probate of Will; LRO. WRW/L/R 622/195]. At his death he also owned Overhill (now the Hill Inn) and had beast gaits in eight stinted pastures in the valley.

William’s descendant, also William (d. 1888), added to the family estate by buying High Scales and Gillhead, the latter then having 21ha, as well as land further up the valley and around Ingleton itself, and East Chapel House Farm which contained c. 18ha of land between the church and Low Scales Farm [WYAS.WRROD, 1887 and 1891].


These purchases were the unwitting precursor to a process of farm amalgamation or abandonment that typified the entire valley of Chapel-le-Dale (as well as the Ribblehead-Newby Head area) through the following century. Long before 1900 five discrete farms had lost their independence for ever, their lands having been swallowed up by other farms. In the twentieth century a further twelve met the same fate. In farming size matters: small, and in some cases marginal, units could not survive competitive forces or adapt to the demands of modern mechanised and highly commercialised farming, so as individual farms came on the market they were bought by, and subsumed within, other more successful units. Between Ribblehead viaduct and the Scales complex the maximum number of discrete working farming units has shrunk from twenty-one a century and a half ago to five now - Brunscar, Ivescar, Winterscales, Gunnerfleet and Philpin.


  • Brownbill, J., 1915. The Coucher Book of Furness Abbey vol. II part I. Chetham Society New Series vol. 74.
  • Brownbill, J., 1916. The Coucher Book of Furness Abbey vol. II part II. Chetham Society New Series vol. 76.
  • CAS.K. (Cumbria Archive Service, Kendal) WD/PP acc. 5331, Box 20, Indentures 4 January 1704, 7 January 1705.
  • CAS.K. WD/PP acc. 5331, Bundle 2, Indenture. 1721.
  • CAS.K. WD/PP acc. 5331, Probate of Will. 1775.
  • Johnson, D., 2013a. Excavation of two Anglo-Saxon-period farmsteads in Brows Pasture, Chapel-le-Dale, North Yorkshire. Kettlewell: Yorkshire Dales Landscape Research Trust.
  • Johnson, D., 2013b. 'A field survey in the manors of Ingleton and Twisleton-and-Ellerbeck: piecing together the evidence' in R. Martlew (ed.) Medieval studies in the Yorkshire Dales. York: PLACE; and Kettlewell: Yorkshire Dales Landscape Research Trust, pp. 27-45.
  • Johnson, D., 2014. 'Ingleborough. Seeking Saxons in the Dales'. Current Archaeology, Issue 296, 25 (8), pp. 14-20.
  • Johnson, D., 2015. 'Chapel-le-Dale, North Yorkshire: the making of an upland landscape'. Landscape History, vol. 36, pp. 25-46.
  • LRO (Lancashire Record Office). WRW/L/R617/59. 1760.
  • LRO WRW/L/R622/195. 1775.
  • NYCRO (North Yorkshire County Record Office). PR/INT 1. Ingleton Parish Registers. 1607-1936.
  • Rolls of the Collectors in the West Riding of the Lay Subsidy, 2 Richard II, Membrane 51b, Ingleton, 1378-79.
  • Tyler, G., 2002. Sheep, steam and shows. Farming life in Chapel le Dale. Chapel-le-Dale: Committee of the Ribblehead Sheep Show.
  • Tyler, G., 2003. The Chapel of the Fells. The history of St Leonard's Church, Chapel le Dale. Chapel-le-Dale: Friends of St Leonard's Church.
  • Tyler, G. (ed.), 2005. The Metcalfes of Chapel le Dale. Privately published.
  • WYAS (West Yorkshire Archive Service). QE 13/13/26. Land Tax Registers, Ingleton. 1781-1832.
  • WYAS. WRROD. 1887 and 1891.
  • WYL 524/209, copy of charter, 13 Henry IV.


Transcription of the wills referred to in this article was undertaken by the author and Sheila Gordon as part of an ongoing project by members of Ingleborough Archaeology Group, spearheaded by Carol Howard and Sheila Gordon, which is transcribing all Ingleton wills from 1548 to 1750: to be published in 2015 as Voices from the past. Inventories and wills from the parish of Ingleton 1548 to 1700.

Table 1 Scales: family names recorded in parish registers and wills, 1608 - 1613
DateFamily NameTenement NameSource
1608Wood, John’of Twisleton’will
1610Marson, ElizabethSkallesburials
1610Marson, JohnScallsbaptisms
1610Procter, JoanScallesbaptisms
1610Weatherhead, Thomas Scalesburials, will
1610Wodde, JennetSkallesburials, will
1610Wood, George-will
1611Allann, EllennScallesbaptisms
1611Weatherhead, ?Skalsburials
1612Marson, FrancisScallesbaptisms
1612Procter, WilliamScallsburials
1613Wood, SymonScaleswill

Table 2 Scales: scale of operations and status of each tenement, 1841 - 1871

Date FarmTenant’s NameOccupationIndications
of Status
1841High ScalesSlinger, Johncensus
Low ScalesWalling, Johnshoemakercensus
ScalesAtkinson, Johnfarmerfarm servant employedcensus
1845Middle ScalesCooper, WilliamvicarTyler 2003, p. 54
1847High ScalesSlinger, Johnoccupanttithe award
Low ScalesGuy, Thomasoccupanttithe award
Middle ScalesRobinson, Johnoccupanttithe award
1851High ScalesSlinger, Johnfarmer360 acrescensus
Low ScalesShepherd, Dorotheaagricultural labourercensus
ScalesTaylor, Thomasfarmercensus
Scales CottageAtkinson, Johnlanded prop.43 acres; owner
of Middle Scales
census; tithe award
Scales CottageCooper, Williamincumbentcensus
GillheadCragg, Johnfarmer & cordwainer10 acrescensus
1861Low ScalesShepherd, Williamtea dealercensus
ScalesBarker, Johnfarmer46 acrescensus
ScalesAtkinson, Johnfarmerretiredcensus
GillheadElleson, Thomasfarmer & cordwainer52 acrescensus
1870GillheadEllison, Thomasfarmerdied this yearTyler 2002, p. 34
1871High ScalesSlinger, Johnfarmer28 acres, farm servant empl’d census
ScalesBentham, Richardfarmer & shoemaker47 acres; 4employeescensus
ScalesMorphet, Johnfarmer60 acres; farm servant empl’dcensus
GillheadThompson, Jane farmer40 acres; 2 farm servants empl’dcensus

Dowbiggin Barn ‘with a parocke before the door on the south side’
Survey plan of the ruined farmstead at Scales

Dowbiggin Barn ‘with a parocke before the door on the south side’

Survey plan of the ruined farmstead at Scales