Cappleside: Hill of the Horses

Chris Weston

 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 





Cappleside. Drawn by J. Weston

In unearthing the history of a property there are two main avenues of approach: research into its inhabitants, and an examination of the building itself. The history of Cappleside presents obstacles along both these avenues. Very little historical evidence of its inhabitants survives other than dates of births, deaths and marriages. As for the building itself, it hides its secrets well; there is no visible date stone, and the house, in common with many of the older properties in the area, has been altered and added to several times.

It has long been an (unsubstantiated) rumour in our family that Cappleside was mentioned in the Domesday Book. Whether or not this is true, there is no doubt that the name is an old one. It derives from the Old Norse word kapall meaning horse; side refers to hillside. Therefore, perhaps, in the times of Norse-men it was a hillside where horses were kept. Interestingly, the field which stretches up the hill behind the next farm (Far Cappleside) is to this day called Horse Pasture. This farm was originally a part of the "ancient estate of Cappleside", and did not gain the prefix "Far" until 1869 when a new farmhouse was built for it by Christopher John Geldard. One of the barns here is a listed property, with the date stone C.N.1679; formerly this was a row of farm workers' cottages. C.N. is one Charles Nowell, whose family probably built the present Cappleside House in the late 17th century.

There are however references to Cappleside prior to this time. (Indeed it would not be surprising if this spot had been inhabited for many centuries before, nestling as it does at the foot of an east-facing bank, and thus well sheltered from the prevailing west winds, with a ready supply of spring water close by). The earliest record of the name we have found is in the Parish Register of Giggleswick which declares the baptism of John, son of William Carr de Caplesyde (one of several different spellings) in December 1565. Since this time the property seems to have remained in two families and have been sold just once, although the exact date of this sale is uncertain.

From the Carr family the property passed to the Nowells by dint of the marriage of Ann, daughter and co-heir of John Carr, who had Cappleside "for her purpartye", to William Nowell in 1624. This William Nowell was clearly a gentleman of some standing being MP for Clitheroe and a governor of Giggleswick School. Evidence of the Nowells still exists in the date stones on two big barns; one C.N.1721 which stands next to the house, and H.A.N.1714 on the splendid barn across the road from Cappleside drive entrance.

The sale of Cappleside occurred when it passed from the Nowell family to the Geldards. There is a conveyance dated 1827 in which Charlotte Mathilda Muston, daughter of Charles Nowell, sells to John Geldard all her property at Cappleside. However we know that the ancient estate had already been divided in two before this.

In 1749 a Charles Nowell left in his will "a moiety of the ancient estate of Cappleside". So the question remains: which "moiety" included the house? The 1827 document appears to include all the land which now comprises Far Cappleside farm, but does not make specific reference to the house. In addition to this we have a map of "Nicholas Geldard's Estate" dated 1793, which appears to include Cappleside House and surrounding land. Was he already the owner of the house at this date?

Either way, with the sale in 1827, the estate became reunited in something like its original form under one owner. For the Geldards, who were yeoman farmers who had moved from Aigden, Wigglesworth into Rathmell in about 1750, this must have represented a big step up the social ladder. Since then Cappleside has remained in the same family, and continuously occupied by the family, except for twenty-two years from the start of the Second World War. During the war it was occupied by the Land Army, and subsequently for some years let to tenants.

Turning to the house, the oldest part of the present building probably dates back to the late 17th century. There are still a few clues to suggest this, such as three interior oak doors and a 17th century staircase. The exterior of this central part of the present house has similarities with Wigglesworth Hall two cross-mullioned windows, the architrave surrounding the door (still to be seen at the back of Cappleside now surrounding a modern window). Wigglesworth Hall also has no datestone, but has been estimated as having been built circa 1700.

On to this fairly modest 17th century house was attached a Georgian front which added two spacious front rooms on ground and first floors. The house was also extended westwards into the banking with an elegant south-facing gable overlooking the gardens; the latter must have been extended and landscaped most probably during the middle part of the 19th century. This back section of the house was then attached to the granary (an older building which had stood apart from the house) to give the house a north wing. The dates of these alterations, and indeed the order in which they occurred, are unfortunately not known. But out of it all a substantial property evolved, or was created, to satisfy the aspirations of the inhabitants.

To know even a little of the history surrounding a property is fascinating, but of course it also whets the appetite to learn more. Without doubt an historical architect could tell us much by examining the building. But the crucial questions regarding the relationship between the inhabitants and the property—in other words who did what to the building, and when, and why?—remain unanswered.

Chris Weston farms at Cappleside but also has musical interests, being a member of a choral society. Julia has an honours degree in English and is also very artistic. They are both ardent gardeners. The Wigglesworth and Rathmell cricket ground is on their land.

Cappleside. Drawn by J. Western.