Know Your Area Walks 2002

9 May 2002

Leader - Sue Taylor

Meeting Place - Mearbeck

Sue Taylor led a repeat of the popular walk she had led as a Sunday outing jointly with Elizabeth Shorrock in February 2001. On this present occasion Anthony Bradley, who had lived there for many years, provided this additional information, in his own words, on the history and his memories of the hamlet.

Mearbeck (formerly Merebeck)

which can mean boundary, refers to the stream which rises behind the top house, and later becomes the parish boundary between Settle and Long Preston.

The Preston Family

The whole of Mearbeck was once owned by the Preston family. The last Mrs Preston (nee 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 . What happened to Mr Preston I do not know.

I was born in 1913 in the farm-house which lies in Long Preston parish. The buildings had been a tannery, They were advertised for sale in the 1 850s as 57 tan pits. One of the pits, made of Helwith Bridge slate, is still in use as a water trough. That part of the Preston estate seems to have passed to a member of the family who became bankrupt and involved in domestic scandal, resulting in his banishment to Canada. No descendants have been heard of and 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, as with many of her generation, never married, having lost boy-friends in the war. She spent her time at Grange-over-Sands in summer, and the White Hart at Windsor in winter. She made an annual day's visit to Mearbeck, when she called on my mother and had a weep. She lived to be 100 and is buried in the old part of Giggleswick churchyard.

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 Ranldn, who seems to have sold property that became vacant.

Pre the 1914-18 war, oak trees on the Mearbeck estate (and some brought by train) were cut on a saw-bench into planks and stored in a 'dutch barn'. Some were used in the 1920s to restore Long Preston Church.

Sometime after 1900, the farm yard at the top farm was paved by my uncle, Mr Christopher Sutcliffe, of High Bank Farm, Rathmell. He quarried the stone at the end of the wood in the hillside. When I was a boy, the box sledge used to carry it was still there.

The Bradley Family

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 Mearbeck and used to be the home farm. Where Peter Fawcetc now lives was the home of the coachman of the big house. His name was Albert Wooler; behind his cottage was a coachhouse, stables and a kitchen garden for the big house.

There was a well-trodden path from Long Presston, just west of the Riddings, through Mearbeck, the paved farmyard, up the Rookery, along the western edge of Parks Wood, across Lodge Lane and along Watery Lane to Settle. I used this path from 1913 to walk to Long Preston school.