The hamlet of Easby is flanked by the Grade I-listed Easby Abbey, which English Heritage describes as one of the best preserved monasteries of the 12th century Premonstratensian order.
The abbey, which has stood since 1152, may now be in ruins but visitors today can still see the refectory, gatehouse and canons’ dormitory, while the parish church within the precinct is still in use and contains rare 13th century wall paintings.
Most of its buildings were stripped and demolished after the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII as part of the reformation in 1536, but such is its enduring beauty that the ruins became a favourite subject for artists such as JMW Turner.
The surrounding community consists of less than 100 people, whose lands once belonged to Count Alan of Brittany. The manor was also for a time in possession of the Crown but it came into the hands of a Reverend William Smith in the 18th century who built Easby Hall.
Said to have been the family home of many notable people for more than 250 years, the impressive Georgian building now offers luxury bed and breakfast accommodation and is a venue for special events.
Today’s owners are Karen and John Clarke, who relocated from Wimbledon in London following previous spells living and working in London and Hong Kong.
Mrs Clarke, originally from Wetherby, started a career in publishing as part of the sales team at The Yorkshire Post and went on to work for international business and finance title, Euromoney. Working for the publisher, she moved from London to Hong Kong to set up its Asian office.
When she met her husband John and they started a family, the couple realised they wanted to live in a different environment and so they arrived at Easby Hall on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales 15 years ago.
“We wanted to bring our children up in the country, it was just a case of where,” said Mrs Clarke, a mother-of-two.
Following an extensive renovation to one of the hall’s wings, the family has branched out into holiday accommodation, offering three en-suite rooms, each in different styles.
Mrs Clarke prides herself on the hall’s self-sufficiency, keeping free-roaming hens to supply eggs, a flock of sheep for lamb and a kitchen garden to grow fruit and vegetables.
Speaking to Mrs Clarke, there was a sense that she had found in Easby a slice of heaven. “It’s entirely unique here, so tranquil. There aren’t many places that are as peaceful as this.”
Easby lies near the River Swale and is within walking distance of Richmond.
A popular circular walk, taking in the river, starts from the local churchyard.
A notable son of Easby is Rev William Smith. Born in 1653, he became master of the jewel house in the reign of Charles I.
Easby’s name is said to derive from an Old Norse personal name, Esi and the suffix ‘-by’, meaning Esi’s farm.