A Common Sort of Farm-House


 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 
Clapham Wood Hall lies on the east bank of Keasden Beck about one and a half miles from Clapham Station. Set back from the minor road linking Keasden and Mewith it is approached by a track next to the The Temperance Hall, a building owned by the Church and used occasionally for social events. Both 'halls' have a tale to tell, being linked together at one time in a single farming unit.

The present house was built on the site of the old hall which according to Bence Jones (1870) ".. .was of some beauty, and a style said to be almost peculiar to the district between Lancaster, Kirkby Lonsdale, and Skipton. The porch had a gable-end and ornamental lintel with the initials of the builder (the proprietor); and the windows, with three or four mullions and a label or string-course, had a very good effect. It was partly pulled down some twenty years ago, and a common sort of farmhouse built in its place. It is now little better than a stone cottage. The door opens directly into a kitchen, flagged with four large flags. What remains of the old Hall is, if anything, meaner than the dwelling itself..."

Why is so much known about the old hall and the rebuilding which took place? And how is it that Bence Jones, biographer of the eminent scientist Michael Faraday, is the one to tell us? To continue "... At this Hall Robert and Elizabeth Faraday lived, and had ten children, whose names and birthdays, and callings in after life, so far as they are known, were these:

Robert, born 1724, died 1786, married 1756 to Elizabeth Dean of Clapham Wood Hall.

Richard, born June 14, 1757, was an innholder, slater, grocer.

John, born May 19, 1759, was a farmer.

James, born May 8, 1761, was a blacksmith.

Robert, born February 3, 1763, was a packer in a flax mill.

Elizabeth, born June 27, 1765.

William, born April 20, 1767, died in July 1791.

Jane, born April 27, 1769.

Hannah, born August 16, 1771.

Thomas, born November 6, 1773, kept a shop.

Barnabas, whose birthday is not known, was a shoemaker."

In his biography Bence Jones reveals that Robert Faraday was the son or nephew of "Richard ffara-day" of Keasden, stonemason and tiler who died in 1741, and that Thomas (John) and Hannah Dean and their three young daughters, Jane, Elizabeth and Hannah, lived at Clapham Wood Hall nearby. When John Dean died in March 1756 he left the property to his wife until her death or remarriage; thereafter as "tenants in common to those of his family (and their heirs) as should be alive at the time of his death." To keep the property intact Elizabeth and Hannah transferred their portions to their eldest sister Jane, who in turn mortgaged them back to her sisters for sums of 190 and 60 respectively in a deed of May 31, 1756 which was witnessed by Robert Faraday, both sums payable within six days of the death of their mother to whom accommodation was assured throughout her lifetime (Riley (1954)).

Soon after her father's death Elizabeth married Robert Faraday and the house was divided between the two families. During the next twenty years Robert and Elizabeth had ten children but, despite this increase in population, relations between the Faradays and Deans appear harmonious as Jane Dean bequeathed her inheritance to her nephew John in an agreement dated November 29, 1771 which "Witnesseth that for and in consideration of the natural love and affection which she bore for and towards him and for his further preferment in this world and for the sum of 5s/- of lawful money of England in hand well and truly paid before the sealing and delivery thereof... she the said Jane Dean did give.. .to the said J. Faraday... all the messuage and tenement standing and being at Clapham Wood Hall." John received the key of the door from his aunt on his twenty first birthday in 1780 (Riley, Appleyard (1931)).

At that time the Temperance Hall was used as a barn but it was converted first into a cotton mill for weaving and then into a bobbin mill for bobbin-winding. Later still it became a dwelling and then a school. "An old Dalesman who was a scholar there tells how, for his naughtiness, he was periodically banished through a trapdoor in the floor to the stable underneath, adding that as there was usually another donkey already present he enjoyed the punishment, for by lying flat on the donkey's back he could ride round in the darkness of the confined space. On one occasion he escaped and went bird nesting in Clapham Wood (or Captin Wood as the old documents have it) across the beck" (Riley). Its current name is reminder of the period a century ago when it was owned by the Temperance Society in Bentham.

When John Faraday came into his inheritance it was clear the small estate could not support the whole family. Richard his elder brother aged twenty three was first to leave, and James his next younger brother followed soon after at the age of nineteen to become a blacksmith at Outhgill in Mallerstang. In 1786 James married Margaret Hastwell, a maidservant at a nearby farm. They had two children, Elizabeth in 1787 and Robert in 1788, but left the district after five years and moved to London where Michael, their third child, was born shortly after their arrival on September 22, 1791.

Although receiving only rudimentary education at a local day school this grandson of Robert Faraday went on to serve his time as an apprentice bookbinder before transferring his affection to experiment and scientific research, first as laboratory assistant at the Royal Institution, then as private assistant to Humphrey Davy who was later knighted, and finally as Director of the Institution and Professor of Chemistry. During a career lasting almost fifty years Michael Faraday's genius led to many discoveries, notably the principles of electromagnetism which underlie processes for generating electricity.

But what of the link between his forebears and Clapham Wood Hall? The end came two centuries ago when a deed of April 30, 1800 effected the "release of premises at Clapham Wood Hall in the county of York by Richard Faraday and others to Josias Physick for 30" (Appleyard). It is signed by the surviving sons and daughters of Robert and Elizabeth:

Richard Faraday, yeoman.

John Faraday, weaver.

James Faraday of the City of London, blacksmith.

Robert Faraday, tailor of Bentham.

Betty Faraday, spinster.

Jennet Faraday, spinster.

Hannah Faraday, spinster.

Thomas Faraday, cordwainer.

Barnabas Faraday, cordwainer.

Let Riley help us travel back and forth across those centuries. "Looking at Clapham Wood Hall today it is not difficult to picture the scene there when the children of Robert and Elizabeth Faraday were growing up. We can see them in Springtime gathering primroses and anemones in the woods around the farm. In Summer the older children helped in the hayfield while the younger ones swing on Honey Hock gate waiting for the laden carts to come brushing along the lane. Autumn brings its crop of hazel nuts to Captin wood. In Winter there is sliding on the frozen race which supplies the little mill. And each Sunday the whole family makes its way to the church which plays such an important part in their lives."

It is exciting to think that the genius of Michael Faraday can be attributed partly to genes which gathered those primroses, harvested that hay, and worshipped in the environs of a common sort of farmhouse.

Ian Woodbum.

Appleyard, R., A Tribute to Michael Faraday, Constable & Co. Ltd. (1931)

Bence Jones, H., Life and Letters of Faraday. Vol. I & II, Longmans, Green, and Co. (1870) Riley, J.R., The Hammer and The Anvil, Dalesman Publishing Company (1954).

Clapham Wood Hall, reproduced by kind permission of the Longman Group.

Clapham Wood Hall, reproduced by kind permission of the Longman Group.