Hellifield and the Peel

5th July 1998
Leader - Elizabeth Shorrock
Meeting Place - Hellifield Car Park (behind Black Horse Hotel)

The group, including four non-members, went down Gisburn Road (A682), with a prearranged stop at Chapel House. Despite a family party being in progress the owner took the time to show us, behind some climbing roses, a stone cross inset in the wall, belonging to the Knights of St John, who held land at Hellifield given to them after the Crusades.

Resuming our walk, leaving the village and the Gisburn Road behind, we took field paths, including one round a crop of maize (!), returning to and crossing it at the Halton West road junction. Walking downhill towards the Ribble we could see Halton Place, home of the historical Yorke family, on the other side. Following the river down stream we came to Tommy Clark's Wood. Climbing up through the recently planted trees we had again to dash quickly across the busy Gisburn Road, then uphill right on to the old coach road.

Tom Merrill quotes in his book 'A History of Hellifield' - 'This road has been used from the very beginning of civilisation'.

Looking right we saw Swinden ahead of us, now a quiet hamlet but once a busy village. We had a peep at Swinden Hall, built in 1657. Then we looked at Swinden Manor, possibly older than the Hall, where the owner told us of a secret room in the house.

Having gained the other side of the beck we turned back towards Hellifield and approached Hellifield Peel, now a ruin.

The Peel has had a long history with many changes. In 1440-1, at a time when Craven was suffering fierce raids from the Scots, Laurence Hamerton asked King Henry VI for a licence to fortify and embattle his manor house at Hellifield, which he was granted. There was almost certainly an earlier building on the site. A small chapel existed within the Peel, but was destroyed during modernisation. After that it was used as a Urge country house with extensive gardens and parkland. In World War II it was used as a camp housing Italian and German Prisoners.

After discussing the plans submitted to rebuild and reuse the Peel, we followed the tree-lined driveway back to Hellifield, as the rain started, luckily at the end of our walk.