Ancient Yorkshire Dales village beloved of those seeking solace

PIC: Tony Johnson
PIC: Tony Johnson
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There’s no doubt Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales goes back a long way.

The oldest record of it is the Domesday Survey of 1086, when it was called Cheteleuuelle but by 1189 it was Kettlewell. People have lived in the area much longer though. In August 1997, Yorkshire Electricity workers accidentally dug up the skeleton of a farmer believed by archaeologists to be about 4,000 years old.

The Kettlewell estate was split in 1293, an event recorded on 500-year-old pig parchment found in 1937 and put on display in that year in the church. One half of the estate came back to into Crown ownership thanks to the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 and the other half was retained in 1569. Kettlewell was sold to the Trust Lords of Kettlewell in 1656 by Charles I.

You might think the aged stone cottages of the Upper Wharfedale village, long recognised as “an abode of peace and quiet”, give the impression things move a little slower than they do in the city but Kettlewell first mobilised itself to create a village association as far back as 1966. It gained conservation area status in 1969.

In 1985, the village faced the prospect of being partially cut off after the collapse of a bridge on the Grassington to Leyburn road. A temporary bridge was put up but cost £130 a day, with estimates upward of £80,000 to repair the old stone bridge.

In 1987, the Yorkshire Dales National Park committee called the village “a window on the countryside” and objected to plans to build new homes there, arguing there was no demand.

Of course, some begged to differ, especially given the village has long been renowned for enjoying some of the best scenery in the world and the chance to enjoy a quiet moment, perhaps while watching fleecy clouds tumble over Great Whernside or watching the River Wharfe wind its way down the valley. Even in the 1950s, the area was beloved of walkers and motorists. Since 1994, the village has held a scarecrow festival, which this year will take place from August 12-20. Participants pay £1 to enter and follow a trail, solving puzzles with proceeds going to the local church and school.

Picture: Tony Johnson

Words: Neil Hudson