Village Focus: Protecting the peace at Kirkby in Cleveland

The village of Kirkby in Cleveland on the northern edge of the North York Moors National Park. Picture by Gary Longbottom.
The village of Kirkby in Cleveland on the northern edge of the North York Moors National Park. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

It is thought to have been visited by travelling monks; a farming stronghold that is now a quiet retreat at the foot of the North York Moors.

And one of the chief concerns in the village of Kirkby in Cleveland today is about ensuring that its peaceful rural character remains.

Thirteen years ago, the parish council sponsored a village design statement that sought to protect Kirkbys distinctive attributes. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Thirteen years ago, the parish council sponsored a village design statement that sought to protect Kirkbys distinctive attributes. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Home to about 300 people in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, it lies north of Chop Gate and south of Stokesley where the area’s big local agricultural show was held last weekend.

A village with a mixed populace; its church, village hall and its only public house, The Black Swan, are at the heart of an active community which seeks to preserve its sense of place.

Some 13 years ago, the parish council sponsored a ‘village design statement’ that sought to protect Kirkby’s distinctive attributes and spelt out formal guiding principles for future developments in the village that were accepted at district council level.

The march of time has largely been kind to village life since, said Mary Frew, who chairs the parish council.

The village has maintained a good balanced demographic, according to parish council chairman Mary Frew. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

The village has maintained a good balanced demographic, according to parish council chairman Mary Frew. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

“We seem to have maintained a good balanced demographic. A lot of other villages have ended up being at one end of the demographic but we have a lot of young families with children,” said Mrs Frew, who moved to the village from London 37 years ago. “The local school is bursting at the seams as it serves the communities of Kirkby and (neighbouring) Great Broughton.”

Farmland has long dominated the landscape but not every family farm passes between generations and in one recent case, the only remaining farm buildings in the village itself were lost to housing.

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The prospect of the buildings coming into non-agricultural use was a cause for concern, but their conversion into new homes has widely been welcomed as “the best solution”, Mrs Frew said.

Nothing stays the same forever and earlier this year, one of the village’s oldest buildings was sold on the open market for the first time. The School House was built in 1683 by Henry Edmonds, of South Yorkshire, whose family grew wealthy through income from mining. It served as a school for boys and passed into the ownership of The Henry Edmonds Trust. Grade II-listed, it is now a three-bedroom house.

A modern menace for many rural communities, which is evident in Kirkby, is speeding traffic. The parish council is currently weighing up whether to seek funds to install speed signals. For now, a community speed watch initiative is in operation.

The village’s peaceful setting is worth preserving, not least for how it benefits the enjoyment of the surrounding countryside; as Mrs Frew said: “You can walk straight out of your house and onto the North York Moors.”

Facts

The nearby Kirby Bank Trod is a 400m track and scheduled monument believed to have been laid for packhorses by Rievaulx Abbey to link the abbey church in Bilsdale to its grange at Normanby and other landholdings including at Kirkby.

The village is served by Kirkby and Great Broughton Church of England Primary School which is rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted.

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