12 June 2005
Leader - Sue Taylor
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Sue Taylor kindly allowed the group to see Mearbeck House and gardens then led us on a walk across the fields westwards then up through the woods above Mearbeck and eventually back down the hillside into the hamlet through Mearbeck Farm, just as the heavens opened. In the 2003 Journal a description of the hamlet by the late Mr Anthony Bradley was printed. During the 2005 walk Margaret Callan, eldest daughter of Mr Bradley, the eldest daughter in a family of 6, recalled an idyllic childhood in the hamlet of Mearbeck.

Mearbeck Farm (in the parish of Long Preston) has been the home of the Bradley family since the late 1890s, the house being currently occupied by Jean Bradley, widow of William - eldest son of Hetty and the late Anthony Bradley. The land is farmed by William and Jean’s two eldest sons, Anthony and Andrew, who are the fifth generation.

The other properties in the hamlet (in the parish of Settle, the boundary being drawn along the course of the ‘beck’) form part of the estate of the land-owning Preston family, which in the 1940s, 50s and 60s was overseen in the absence of Miss Alison Preston, by her estate agent.

Margaret Callan recalled that Mearbeck House (‘The Big House’) was empty and through our childish eyes looked neglected and quite scary; it was ‘off limits’ to the dozen or more children who ‘played out’ together around Mearbeck at that time. However, our curiosity got the better of us, and we discovered that it was possible to get down to a cellar window, protected by metal bars, one of which was rather loose - which gave us access to the whole house - a perfect ‘hide and seek’ location! A mounting block situated on the drive approaching the house gave us the opportunity to practice our climbing, and jumping skills. Sadly, the mounting block no longer exists, nor does the large flower bed on the sloping frontage of the house, which was still planted annually, by the estate gardener, in memory of the young men of the Preston family who did not return from the Boer war and the Great War. The grass tennis court to the east below the Big House was always lost beneath the meadow grass, but re-appeared after hay time. However, the great walnut tree which stood alongside the court seems to have disappeared. It was good to see Mearbeck house reclaimed, renovated and come to life again as a family home. One notable feature still hangs securely from the rear corner of the house - the big bell with its chain which we loved to pull to hear its chimes sound across the hamlet.” We were told that it was probably used to call in the estate workers to the staff kitchen at the rear of the building - which along with the laundry rooms has now been converted into delightful self-catering holiday accommodation.

The ‘top farm’ was tenanted by the Preston estate to the Wilson family, who eventually moved to Runley Bridge, at which time Ted and Nellie Fawcett brought their family (William, Edward and Margaret) to live there. The coachman/gardener’s cottage was the home of the Glossop family and is now occupied by Peter Fawcett and his family (grandson of Ted and Nellie) and he farms the combined land of the Preston estate. Margaret Walker (née Umpleby) of Settle and her sister, Mary Thwaite,(of Long Preston) were brought up at the middle farm house; later, ‘Dobbin’ and Clarice Staveley and family lived in the house which sadly is now derelict, as are the barns and outbuildings. The lower farm on the Preston estate was tenanted by William (Billy) and Winnie Foster; then later by the Kinder family. In more recent times, that house was destroyed by fire and a new house built to replace it also now stands deserted along with its outbuildings, making the hamlet a shadow of its former self. On the A65 roadside below the Bradley farm, (across the line from Settle Junction signal box) the Station House was the home of the Mason family - this building was demolished several years ago.

During the 1940s and 50s there were as many as 17 children who travelled on the Pennine buses to Long Preston Primary school, Hellifield School, Settle Girls High School, St. Monica’s convent and Ermysteds Grammar School in Skipton. How times have changed!

Margaret Callan

Margaret Callan