The Green, Langcliffe: making sense of an enigmatic building

David Johnson
 JOURNAL 
 2019 
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Historical Context

At first sight, casual visitors could be forgiven for assuming that Langcliffe is a quiet and picturesque village set within a purely rural context, that it probably has not changed much for centuries. It does not take long, though, to appreciate that all is not what it seems: why does such a small village have two school buildings, a church and a chapel, and a rather impressive village hall cum reading room? What was that odd tall and narrow building with a flagpole at the south end of the village green; what was that other, much larger three-storey building facing the village green; and why does Langcliffe have rows of small terraced houses? None of these elements fits with its having been an agricultural village. More determined investigation might lead our visitors to realise that there must be some connection between all these non-agricultural elements and the former cotton mills down by the River Ribble. Even so, they might still gaze at the long three-storey building overlooking the village green — appropriately called The Green by those who live in the village — none the wiser about what it was and why it looks like it does. They may conceivably engage in conversation with residents who might tell them local knowledge is that it was part of a tannery business located where the church now stands, or that it was a tallow candle factory, or some other kind of industrial building with stables on the ground floor. Hopefully, they will take these explanations with a large pinch of salt: in reality none is correct. In this article the focus is on making sense of The Green.

Let us start, though, by summarising Langcliffe’s administrative journey. During the centuries of monastic dominance in Britain Sawley Abbey controlled Langcliffe along with most of Ribblesdale southwards from Stainforth: the abbot was lord of the manor and all tenants paid their annual rents and dues to the abbey. Tenants paid their rents and were admitted to their tenancies — for example, when the tenement passed from one generation to the next or was sold — at the manor court but it is not known where the court sat. The abbot, like all lords of the manor, employed bailiffs (or proktours, from whence the surname Procter) to collect monies due and they made use of suitable monastic buildings in their distant estates to carry on their business. At Dissolution in 1537 all Sawley Abbey’s lands passed to the Crown but much was granted to royal favourites or sold to speculators. Langcliffe was sold (and then granted) to Sir Arthur Darcy who thus became lord of the manor though he never set foot here [1]. In 1561 his son Nicholas inherited and, like his father, he was a purely absentee landlord. Unlike his father, he borrowed beyond his ability to repay and was eventually forced to sell up.

Rather than try and find someone willing and able to purchase the entire manor, he sold it and all rights that went with it to nine feoffees (those granted possession of lands and properties) on behalf of the existing twenty-four customary tenants within the manor of Langcliffe. Henceforth, the twenty-four jointly and equally shared ownership of the manor, presumably paying rents to the Cliffords, lords of the Honour within which Langcliffe rested. These 1591 sale documents mention a court leet (a manor court with wide-ranging powers) though whether or not it was formalised or even established and, if so, enjoyed any real power is unknown. There must have been some formal structural apparatus in place, however, as basic matters such as grazing control, land disputes, trespass and affray needed regulating. More serious offences were passed up to the higher court which sat at Gargrave. At some point, the office of constable was introduced, overseen by whatever court system the tenants had established. Constables were appointed for fixed terms, on rotation within each township, and it was not necessarily a role in popular demand as conflicts inevitably arose between maintaining kinship ties and friendships on the one hand and imposing justice on the other. In 1760, as one example, Thomas Gelderd of Langcliffe served as constable of the manor, having earlier been Overseer of the Poor [2].

Until the creation of parish councils [3], in manors where there was no effective manor court system, local laws were upheld by bylawmen who were appointed by their peers on an annual basis. Among their roles were overseeing the parish constable, disbursing money from the Overseers of the Poor, appointing annual Surveyors of Highways, managing the common township bull and, in Langcliffe, regulating use of the village green [4]. For 1744, for instance, William and George Paley were appointed bylawmen

For almost two centuries Langcliffe’s bylawmen and constables held sway over a farming community composed of independent tenements originating from the 1591 agreement, some of which may have been sub-divided, and others amalgamated into larger units as individual farmers’ fortunes waxed and waned. Beneath this yeomen class were their tenants, craftsmen, farm labourers and farm or household servants. In essence, little would have changed over that extended period. In 1783, however, all that changed, and in a major and irrevocable way: Messrs Clayton and Walshman built Langcliffe High Mill taking advantage of the Ribble’s waters to power their cotton-spinning frames. Families were imported from their earlier mill at Keighley: children to undertake the mind-numbing task of cotton picking, their parents to work the machines. All, initially, were lodged locally but as operations expanded dedicated housing was built by the mill owners, in 1787, at Holme Head (Locks Cottages) specifically to attract ‘large families’ [5]. Physical extensions to the mill complex in 1818, and development some two decades later of Shed Mill’s weaving capacity, with its classical saw-tooth roofline, brought ever more families into the village.

There was a clear demand for more housing and the mill owners were in no position — or saw no reason — to build it all themselves, and this clearly provided an opportunity for speculative developers to provide the extra housing. The probable medieval buildings along the west side of Main Street (now numbers 1,2,3) were refronted and extended in the seventeenth century, and the equally old No. 1 New Street was also structurally modified and had the row of small terraced cottages (No. 2 onwards) attached to its west gable end. Langcliffe had been transformed beyond recognition in a very short length of time into an industrial village. The Green played its part in this transformation.

Historical mapping

The oldest map of Langcliffe village to have been sourced dates from 1800 [6]. It appears in the West Riding Quarter Sessions records and was made to support the process of realigning the road through the heart of the village (Fig. 1). The existing road passed along the east side of the village green in front of St John’sRow and east of the grounds of Langcliffe Hall to join the High Road into Settle. Another branch of the old road ran around the western side of the village to join the Stainforth road. Both were closed as through routes were diverted through the middle of the village along the line of the present Main Street from the B6479 towards Malham Tarn. Figure 1 marks a stream — now culverted — running across the green, and between it and the new road there is a rectangular building contained within a rectangular enclosure (X on Figure 1) facing and parallel to the new road but at some distance from it. That building is the row of cottages now known as Fountain Cottage and Hollie Cottage: in 1800 the row comprised three two-storey cottages; in recent times they were combined into two though the evidence of their original form is clear to see in their front and rear elevations in roof lines, straight joints and blocked-up doors (Fig. 2). There is also clear evidence within the cottages of, at least, seventeenth-century fabric [7], in the form of wide walls, changing style of quoins and reused timbers, and they could well date from earlier times. The enclosure which contains them may have been a common garden: whatever it was, it is most likely that at some point after 1591 one of the twenty-four obtained consent from the bylawmen, or came to some arrangement, enabling him to claim that parcel of ground from the common village green for his own benefit. The large three-storey block did not exist at that date.

The tithe apportionment map of 1841 marked buildings with much more precision than the 1800 map [8], and the positions of individual plots on the tithe map can be taken as reliable indicators of size and configuration (Fig. 3). It does not show the bounds of Main Street though. The rectangular plot (X on Figure 1) is still there on the tithe map but by now it had been more or less completely infilled with buildings. The original row of three cottages is there, the three-storey block is also depicted as is the cottage that blocks off the end of the complex nearest the Institute. Thus, the large block and this top end were erected at some point between 1800 and 1841.

By 1847-48, when the Ordnance Survey (OS) First Edition map was surveyed, small additions seem to have been added to the elevations facing Main Street and the village green and at both gable ends (Fig. 4). These could have been privies made obligatory by improvements in public health provision aimed at disease control, although this hardly seems likely for the western extension. Now, only the ones at the corners facing the Institute and the one diagonally opposite are still extant. Indeed, the other extensions had gone by the time the second edition OS map was surveyed in 1893-94; this, and later, editions also marked the bounds of Main Street for the first time (Fig. 5).

The Green as a Building

Taking the complex as a whole, it is 22m in length along both the village green side of the three-storey block and the row of cottages fronting Main Street; at the Institute end it is 18m in overall width. The former block is 10m wide at the opposite gable, the latter only 6m, but adding in the 2m width of the passageway between the two blocks makes the whole complex a perfect 22m by 18m rectangle (Fig. 6). The original three cottages were of single-bay format, each was two rooms deep and all had a rear door. By 1981 at the latest, Fountain Cottage (then called Fitchett Cottage) had been created by amalgamating two into one; Hollie Cottage, with its small gable extension, was known as Allen Cottage; and what is now the bay-windowed Brow Cottage was called Crawford Cottage.

The three-storey block in 1981 was composed of six separate residences (see Figure 6): at the Institute end Tallow Cottage extended the full 10m width, as did the neighbouring Chandlers Cottage, but the rest of the block was divided lengthways into two identical parts. The front part was two discrete residences, Wicklow Cottage and Mercer Cottage; the rear part was also physically split into two but joined together to make one residence, Lund Cottage. Nowadays, structural rearrangements have shrunk the block into only three separate dwellings. Reminiscences by former residents shed light on the block’s internal configuration and on changes made at various times by successive occupants. One such described the block as being of ‘curious composition’ [9].

Examination from the outside confirms this observation. There are four rows of chimney pots which originally would have had twenty-four individual chimney pots, obviously each with a chimney flue. In the gable at the lower end there is a blocked doorway identical to the existing operational doorway in that wall (Fig. 7); the gable wall facing the Institute also has a blocked door. As said already, the block has three floors but only two are visible externally at the rear, in the passageway (Fig. 8). Windows along the front wall are not symmetrical apart from on the top floor, and one of the first floor windows is a modern insertion. The longitudinal wall dividing what are now front rooms from those at the rear are significantly thicker than walls dividing one residence from another: 800mm as opposed to 650mm. Rooms are small — very small — and many have evidence of fireplaces on all three floors; even some first-floor rooms have flagged floors whereas one would expect planks; more than one staircase is incredibly steep. Some rooms show evidence that they were sub-divided by partitions into even smaller spaces.

None of this is accidental; it may seem quirky and eccentric but everything can be explained by careful detective work. What we have here is a large block of back-to-back cottages, hence the massive longitudinal dividing wall, the large number of chimneys and the blocked external doorways. Not only was this the case, but matters are further complicated by the fact that each pair of (front and rear) bays had different dwellings on different floors. This explains the number of fireplaces and the flagged upper floors. The steepness of the staircases and the small size of the rooms are also explained by this. At some point in its life, The Green fell on hard times, was condemned as unfit for human habitation, but was saved in the 1970s when a developer from Addingham bought the whole block for £57,000 [10] and, despite the presence of long-established sitting tenants at the bottom end, they were comprehensively restored and shrunk to a smaller number of dwellings suitable for then-modern demands. Long before this, though, national legislation in 1909 had banned back-to-back houses though some authorities had already taken that step, on public health grounds [11].

Peopling The Green

Whereas ground-truthing (drawing conclusions from what is seen on the ground) can answer key questions about any given feature or landscape, the picture built up will only be partial: recourse to accessible documentary sources is vital to complete it. The one supports the other, and it matters not which is tackled first. Fortunately for this story, sufficient archival evidence is available.

One family name is of particular significance in the story — Yeadon. Henry Yeadon, of Wilson Wood and Wood End south-west of Ingleton, yeoman, died in 1788. His son James (1757-1837) established himself in Langcliffe as a cordwainer and in 1779 married Barbara Oldfield who owned Willy Wood (or Newhouses) cottages between Langcliffe and Stainforth. They had six children of whom the eldest, Henry (1786-1859), became a ‘cotton manufacturer’, whatever that meant, as well as owner of a shop and cottages. A Memorial of Indenture, dated 4 June 1814, between John Bowskill of Settle, innkeeper, and James and Henry Yeadon confirms their occupations and concerned transfer of a small parcel of ground at Langcliffe [12]. The Langcliffe tithe apportionment map of 1841 marked The Green as plot No. 23 ‘Houses’ and the tithe schedule of 1844 named Thomas Yeadon (1828?-1906), Henry’s nephew, as owner of the block [13]; the 1881 census listed his occupation as ‘House proprietor’.

In 1854, by Indenture, Henry (shopkeeper in Langcliffe) conveyed to his nephew Thomas Yeadon (also of Langcliffe and a carter by trade) his cottages at Willy Wood along with ‘all those dwelling houses etc’ in Langcliffe itself which must refer to The Green [14]. When Thomas died, in 1906, his will decreed that all his properties should be sold. However, The Green clearly was not as his son John part-conveyed it to his brother Tom in 1947 [15]. They, in turn, sold it to Thomas Davidson in the same year, and on his death it was sold to Ouseburn Properties Ltd, the Addingham developer mentioned earlier, in 1978. It is this link which confirms that the ten households recorded in the 1841 and 1851 census returns lived in The Green. It is also the 1978 conveyance which states unequivocally that Ouseburn Properties had purchased a block of ten, formerly eleven, cottages.

To summarise, the Yeadon family owned a multi-occupancy property in Langcliffe and that can only be The Green. As we have seen earlier, the block did not exist in 1800 but it did by 1841 so is the 1814 deed the key to pinning down when it was constructed?

Census records add substance to the evolving story. The 1841 return for Langcliffe lists consecutively Sarah Banks, widow with five children; Richard Hudson, cotton spinner with eleven other members of his household, all cotton spinners; James Foulds, a rag gatherer, and his family; Edward Carr, a tenter, and his household of six; William Steed, a cotton carder, with his large household; Mary Carr, cotton weaver, plus nine in her household; Rachel Preston; Mary Sharp; Christopher Langstrith; and Lawrence Bradley — ten households in all. The 1851 census return also itemises ten households consecutively.

The 1854 Indenture noted that the ‘dwelling houses’ were in the several occupations of Henry Yeadon, Rachael Preston, Lawrence Bradley, Mary Sharp, Sarah Banks, Richard Hudson, Christopher Langstrith, James Folds, Edward Carr, William Stead, and Mary Carr; four dwellings were then unoccupied. Henry would not have lived in such confined circumstances, but the other ten names in this list are those listed in the 1841 census, and seven are in the 1851 census return.

Conclusion

Using evidence gleaned from internal and external inspection of all elements of The Green, and from archival searches, it can be concluded with absolute confidence that it was conceived and built as a multi-occupant tenement block between 1800 and 1841 (Fig. 9). Census returns strongly suggest that the ten dwellings listed were physically combined, and the 1881 entry for Thomas Yeadon as ‘House proprietor’ precludes his owning just one or two dwellings. The deed of 1814 may be taken to indicate that James and Henry Yeadon had purchased this plot, with the three original cottages fronting Main Street, as a speculative venture: certainly the fact that the Yeadons owned The Green complex until 1947 adds weight to this hypothesis. The 1978 conveyance confirms beyond doubt that what the Yeadons owned for so long comprised a maximum of eleven cottages. Internal inspection leaves no doubt that the three-storey block had been built for multiple-occupancy.

This leaves us with the question why James and Henry took the gamble of building and modifying the tithe map’s plot No. 23. In reality, it would not have been a gamble at all, rather, an astute investment. The enormous expansion of textile production capacity in Langcliffe after 1783, with its almost insatiable demand for labour (adults and their children, not to mention lodgers), created a demand for low-cost, high-density housing provision. As we saw earlier, Clayton built a few houses at Holme Head, but saw no reason for the company to divert its profits to building more. It was commercial venturers like the Yeadons who took on that role.

So, forget tallow making, candles, tanning and stables: the three-storey block was built as eleven back-to-back dwellings for textile workers.

Acknowledgements

Without the willing co-operation of the residents it would not have been possible to unwrap The Green’s inner secrets, so profound thanks are due to Sir Rhys and Lady Kathy Davies, Pauline and David Elliott, Rachel and Chris Gledhill, Pat and Alan Smelt, and Sarah Walker and Doug Smith. The author also gratefully acknowledges the considerable logistical assistance and input of Michael Slater.

Notes

  1. Slater, M. 2002. ‘The Final Concord of 1582’ in Langcliffe Millennium Group. More glimpses of Langcliffe. Settle: Hudson History, pp. 42-45.
  2. Brayshaw, T. and Robinson, R .M. 1932. A history of the Ancient Parish of Giggleswick,London: Halton & Co., p. 91; North Yorkshire County Record Office (NYCRO). PC/LAC 1. Langcliffe Parish Council Minute Books, 1740-1942.
  3. Local Government Act 1894.
  4. NYCRO. PC/LAC 1. In 1641 Richard Lawson Senior was Surveyor of the Highways (NYCRO. PR/GGW).
  5. Giles, C and Goodall, I.H. 1992, Yorkshire textile mills. The buildings of the Yorkshire textile industry 1770-1930. London: HMSO, p. 185.
  6. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield (WYAS). QS1/139/8,1800. Around this time it was common practice for unsuitable roads to be legally diverted.
  7. For example, both Hollie and Fountains Cottages have a plinth along the rear wall, and walls are 600-650mm thick.
  8. NYCRO. (PR. GGW), Langcliffe tithe map, 1841.
  9. Reminiscences of Helen Atkinson (née Bean).
  10. Conveyance of ten (formerly eleven) cottages, Thomas Davidson (deceased), Builder and Contractor, to Ouseburn Properties Ltd, 1978.
  11. Giles, C. and Goodall,I.H. 1992, p. 187. The Housing. Town Planning, etc Act 1909 banned the building of back-to backs and imposed improved minimum standards for existing housing.
  12. WYAS, Registry of Deeds. GA 647 773 1814.
  13. NYCRO. PR. GGW, 1841; NYCRO. ZUC 2, tithe apportionment schedule transcript.
  14. WYAS, Registry of Deeds. SQ 204 235 1854. Courtesy of Pat and Alan Smelt.
  15. Deed of Enlargement, 1947, with deeds for Chandlers Cottage, courtesy of Pat and Alan Smelt.

Figure captions

  1. Road diversion, Langcliffe, 1800. WYAS, QS1/139/8. Reproduced with permission of Wakefield Archives.
  2. Cottages fronting Main Street. The slight change in roofline in Fountains Cottage marks the straight joint between the two original cottages. A change in quoins on the right-hand side of the near gable indicates the original steep roofline. (David Johnson)
  3. Tithe apportionment map, Langcliffe, 1841, extract. After NYCRO. T (PR. GGW). (A — New Street, B — Main Street)
  4. Part of Langcliffe redrawn from OS First Edition six-inch mapping, surveyed 1847-48. (A — New Street, B — Main Street)
  5. Part of Langcliffe redrawn from OS Third Edition six-inch mapping, surveyed 1907. (A — New Street, B — Main Street)
  6. Plan of The Green, 1981. After ‘The Green, Langcliffe, Ouseburn Properties Ltd’. Courtesy Pat and Alan Smelt.
  7. The Green, south gable. The blocked first-floor door is seen on the right. (David Johnson)
  8. The passageway between the three-storey block (on the right) and Hollie Cottage (on the left) with Stocks Tree Cottage infilling the north end. (David Johnson)
  9. The east frontage of the three-storey block. (David Johnson)

fig1.jpg
Fig 1: Road diversion, Langcliffe, 1800
fig2.jpg
Fid 2: Cottages fronting Main Street
fig3.jpg
Fig 3: Tithe apportionment map, Langcliffe, 1841
fig4.jpg
Fig 4: Part of Langcliffe redrawn from OS First Edition
fig5.jpg
Fig 5: Part of Langcliffe redrawn from OS Third Edition
fig6.jpg
Fig 6: Plan of The Green, 1981
fig7.jpg
Fig 7: The Green, south gable
fig8.jpg
Fig 8: The passageway between the three-storey block and Hollie Cottage
fig9.jpg
Fig 9: The east frontage of the three-storey block



fig1.jpg
Fig 1: Road diversion, Langcliffe, 1800


fig2.jpg
Fid 2: Cottages fronting Main Street


fig3.jpg
Fig 3: Tithe apportionment map, Langcliffe, 1841


fig4.jpg
Fig 4: Part of Langcliffe redrawn from OS First Edition


fig5.jpg
Fig 5: Part of Langcliffe redrawn from OS Third Edition


fig6.jpg
Fig 6: Plan of The Green, 1981


fig7.jpg
Fig 7: The Green, south gable


fig8.jpg
Fig 8: The passageway between the three-storey block and Hollie Cottage


fig9.jpg
Fig 9: The east frontage of the three-storey block