Summer Outing 2007 — Either side of the Swale

5 July 2007 — Leader - David S. Johnson
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

The Summer Outing this year took us in a north-easterly direction to the lower reaches of the Swale and we began our tour with a visit to Bedale.

We went first to Bedale Hall described by Pevsner as ‘really a country house placed in a town’. The Manor was purchased by the Pierse family in 1638 and the first house was built on the site soon after. Around 1730 this was transformed into the Palladian style house we see today and during the early 19th century it passed by marriage to the Beresford family, whose name was changed to Beresford-Pierse. The family lived there until after the First World War when it was tenanted out, later becoming semi-derelict. However the Local Authority took it over and a programme of restoration began, notably in the splendid ballroom and adjoining rooms. The salon/ballroom is especially impressive with ornate plasterwork around the cornice featuring nymphs and whimsical putti in informal poses. There is a small museum within the main house and outside in the grounds is an ice house probably built in 1777. Unfortunately health and safety issues prevented us from going inside the ice house.

Across the road from the Hall is St Gregory’s Church - well worth a visit. It contains mediaeval stonework and a window, possibly dating from 1300, thought to have been brought from Jervaulx Abbey after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The church tower is one of the finest examples of a fortified tower in Northern England and dominates the High Street. It was built around 1330 by Matilda Fitzalan as a refuge against raids by the Scots. There is a small building by the church gates. This is the earliest known school building in Bedale and was the old Grammar School. The school was started by John Grege, a chantry priest from Jervaulx in the early 1500s. Inside the church are traces of a mediaeval wall painting depicting St George and the Dragon. Discovered in 1926 it has been substantially repainted. The pulpit has extensive carvings of Pope Gregory and young Anglo-Saxon slaves while the altar screen is carved with images of the Northern Saints who brought Christianity to this area.

After these visits there was just time to wander along the Market Place and note some of the varied architecture before having a spot of lunch and moving on to our next visit at Crakehall Watermill. We were met by the owner who explained some of the history of the mill. Mentioned in the Domesday Book it seems to have been in continuous use for many years, although sadly at present not working being in urgent need of repair. This the owner is hoping to do. We were shown over the whole of the mill, inside and out, and given details of the workings of the water system and sluices etc. which feed the wheels operating the grinding mechanism and pulleys and wheels inside. One very interesting fact was that a small building next to the mill had almost certainly been used as a grain drier. It had been constructed so that warm air could circulate from below the floor rather like the Roman hypocaust. The owner also pointed out that the mill stones came from France (as many did in previous times), being exceptionally hard and durable.

Then it was on to Kiplin Hall and a warm welcome from the warden and our excellent guide. Kiplin Hall is a brick-built house constructed in the 1620s as a hunting lodge for George Calvert - later Lord Baltimore and founder of Maryland in the United States. For four centuries Kiplin was owned by four families all connected by blood or marriage - the Calverts, Crowes, Carpenters and Talbots, but it is now owned by a charitable trust. The house is Grade 1 listed and is furnished in the style of a comfortable Victorian country home with personal possessions collected by the families. There are many notable paintings and items acquired during the days of the Grand Tour, as well as works from the late 19th century arts and crafts movement.

Our visit ended with a very welcome tea and a stroll in the fresh air of the topiary garden. The whole day was most enjoyable thanks to David’s skill as a planner and group leader.

Heather Jemson

Kiplin Hall

Kiplin Hall