Know Your Area Walks — The early history of Langcliffe

4 August 2005
Leader - Mike Slater

The party first walked a few hundred metres along Pike Lane leading to Winskill to observe the lynchets in the fields alongside the lane and to consider the possible location of the village in earlier times on the higher ground under the long cliffs at the top of the relatively modern quarry. The village is mentioned in the Domesday book, with Feg having three carucates of taxable land - around 180 to 360 acres, corresponding to the area of the present farmed fields. The village came into the hands of the Percy overlords in 1102. Elias, the then Lord of the Manor of Giggleswick granted his one carucate of land and the mill in Langcliffe in 1240 to Sawley Abbey, expecting eternal joy in heaven as a result. Tithes for Langcliffe are mentioned in a Finchale charter of 1269. It is said that the village was sacked by Scottish raiders in about 1318, after which event the village was rebuilt on its present site.

We walked back to the village with the townfields on either side of the lane. There are very few field names known from the early 1600s corresponding with tithe map names of 1844: the most interesting old names are Womelstroth (wommal - gadfly), Hagwormbottom (dialect for snake) and Frumper (unknown meaning). Some information on the mill on the Stainforth boundary is extant in the period 1499 to 1728.

The 1379 Poll tax lists 35 persons over 14 years old, all except one paying fourpence. The Dissolution of Sawley Abbey in 1536 led to the sale of Langcliffe to the absentee landlord Sir Arthur Darcy; rental income was 25 8s 10d a year. The manor passed to his son Nicholas and we have collected together many documents concerning the mortgaging and eventual sale in 1591 by Nicholas to nine feoffees on behalf of the Langcliffe tenants. Nicholas borrowed very large sums of money from Sir Henry Billingsley, haberdasher and Lord Mayor of London, and from Lawrence Atwill of Exeter and the Skinner’s Company. His default led to the sale of Langcliffe in a set of different agreements with several families.

The stories behind several of the old houses were recounted. Hope Hill was noted in the will of Richard Preston of the Folly, in 1695. The Old Vicarage was the home of the Paley family from before 1670 until about 1900 (but became a vicarage only in the 1850s). Mount Pleasant Farm (1681) was the home of the Lawsons and Manor Farm House was built by Leonard Carr in 1678. Langcliffe Hall, built by Henry Somerscales in 1602 has a sketchy early history - but has links with trade in Norway and unfounded details of a visit by Sir Isaac Newton! The tenements at Winskill and Cowside are in the Langcliffe Parish and are very well-documented. We have 30 16th/17th C wills, two inventories and Parish Register details concerning many of the inhabitants of the village which help us to envisage life at that time. In addition taxation details from 1322 (in The National Archives) are a further source of interesting information. The history of the village continues to be revealed as early documents are ‘excavated’ from a variety of archives and family papers.