Mear Beck Farmhouse, near Settle

Anthony Bradley
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

These notes were made by Mr Anthony Bradley in January 2001 and are worth recording.

The Name Mear Beck (formerly Mere) can mean boundary and refers to the stream which rises behind the top house and later becomes the parish boundary between Settle and Long Preston. The whole of Mear Beck was once owned by the Preston family, the last Mrs Preston (née Procter) died in 1915. She had several daughters and at least two sons, one of whom was killed in the Boer War and one (Captain Preston) in the early days of the Great War ‘leading from the front’. What happened to Mr Preston I do not know.

I was born in 1913 in the farmhouse in Long Preston. The buildings there had been a tannery. They had been advertised for sale in the 1850s as 57 tan pits. One of the ‘pits’ is still in use as a water trough (made of Helwith Bridge slate). That part of the Preston estate seems to have passed to a member of the family who became bankrupt and was involved in domestic scandal and ‘banished’ to Canada. No descendants have been heard of. It passed to a Mr Knowles, who had connections with Stainforth.

After the death of Mrs Preston in 1915, the ‘big house’ was occupied by one of her daughters, Miss Alison Preston and Mr John Procter, a cousin. Other daughters lived at Mount Pleasant, Langcliffe. Miss Alison and many of her generation never married, having lost boy-friends in the war. She spent her time (with a maid) at Grange over Sands in summer and The White Hart at Windsor in winter, with an annual day’s visit to Mear Beck, when she called on my mother and had a weep. She lived to be 100 and is buried in the old part of Giggleswick church yard. It was always thought that the Preston property was entailed (passing to the eldest male heir) but Miss Alison is supposed to have left it to ‘the nephew of a friend’ by name of Rankin, who seemed to sell property that becomes vacant.

Before the 1914 war, oak trees on the Mear Beck estate (and some brought in by train) were cut on a petrol-driven saw bench into planks and stored in a ‘Dutch barn’ (which is still there) to be used to ‘restore’ Long Preston church. This was done in the early 1920s. Sometime after 1900, the farm yard at the top farm was paved by Mr Christopher Sutcliffe of High Bank Farm, Rathmell (my uncle) who quarried the stone in a quarry at the end of the wood in the hillside. When I was a boy, the box sledge used was still there.

The farm owned by Mr Knowles was purchased in the late 1890s by my grandfather, Anthony Bradley. It was tenanted by William Dodgson, who moved to Long Preston and founded a ‘proven’ (provender) business. The top house was built much later than the rest of Mear Beck and used to be the ‘Home’ Farm. Where Peter Fawcett now lives used to be the home of the coachman for the ‘big house’. His name was Albert Wooler; behind his cottage was a coach-house, stables and a kitchen garden for the big house.

I started school at Long Preston on May 12th 1919. There was a well-trodden path from Long Preston, just west of the Riddings, through Mear Beck, the (paved) farm yard, up the Rookery, along the western edge of Parks Wood, across Lodge Lane and along Watery Lane to Upper Settle.