All Our Stories – Tracking The Past

Trying to find the site of a building above the Tan House.

Trying to find the site of a building above the Tan House.

Part of the success of the geophysics survey at the end of July will come from knowing what might be found – this is where the paper archive research has a vital part to play.    Barbara has therefore been to Aireborough Historical Society to study transcriptions of the Manor Court Rolls for Kelcliffe in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century:  following which,  she went to West Yorkshire Archives to check the originals, as the variable Early Modern  spelling means mistakes are easy made; Barbara did find several mistakes.

Manor Court Rolls were the recorded minutes of the regular meetings held by local people to deal with the day-to-day running of a town or village.  The Court set the local rules and bylaws, dealt with dispute and fines, organized the local infrastructure and agreed community planning and agricultural phasing eg the crop rotation on the common lands.   Manor Court Rolls are a mine of trivial detail that when pieced together can give a fascinating picture of local life.  The only issue for the ones covering Kelcliffe and the Park, is that there are large gaps, and they finish in 1719 when the land was sold by the Duke of Norfolk to the Freeholders of Guisley.

What is emerging however, is a little more information on Kelcliffe Lane.  We already knew that Kelclliffe was a Tannery going back to at least the seventeenth century – it was in an ideal spot with running water, oak for tannin, and a local cattle trade for a ready supply of skins.  There must also have been a source of lime,  although we do not yet know where that might have come from; it may well have been carted in from the limestone deposits in the area left by the glacier.

However, transport seems to have been a cause of constant dispute (not unlike the A65 today).  Back in 1673, the owner of Kelcliffe House, one Thomas Lambert, whose initials may well be still carved above a fireplace in the house, refused to let anyone from Bracken End Farm cross one of his closes to get to Guiseley on pain of a fine of 3s 4d.  Hence the likely reason for the path today following the ridge around the back of the gardens on Hillside Avenue.  The fine for crossing the close was a large amount of money – so a serious transgression.

Then in 1707, the bridle way to Kelcliffe from Guiseley was upgraded to a cart track; just how much of it was upgraded is unclear.   So, it was likely at this time that Kelcliffe Lane came into being.  But, it only went to Kelcliffe, as  a note in 1713 tells us that only the tenants of Kelcliffe could go through the gate at the ‘tan house’ end, and presumably out the other side to Swincar – in other words, it was a no through Lane !!

However, this obviously did not deter people from using the route, as in 1718,  George Smith is required to put a gate up at the New Dykes end of Kelcliffe lane – this maybe the old gatepost that still stands in a drunken fashion where Kelcliffe Lane meets the Sycamores.

The Manor Court Rolls, and other records have also enabled us to track more of the changing names of fields in the area, for these often give vital clues about their use, and tenure.  Names tended to sometimes change around the sixteenth century, when the system of common land moved on from medieval practices; and then again in the eighteenth century as land use changed.

  • Clapper and Clapper Brow – may indicate a rabbit warren.  But we don’t know whether Clapper or Crook is the older name.
  • Tan House Brow, which was Little Brow on the tithe map – is obviously the brow above the tan house itself.  The name was changed to Little in the ninteenth century.
  • Farm Lands, which were all along the north side of Kelcliffe Lane could well be a corruption of Foreland, a certain type of arable field that was not under the common field system.
  • Ing, was a hay meadow with a high water table – there were a lot of Ings under the Brows, and a few Doles.  Doles were meadows farmed by individual farmers, who, after hay making opened up the land for common grazing.
  • Land, as in Bingley Lands or Crook Lands, were strips in the common fields farmed by one person .
  • Flatt, as in the land behind Flattfield house (where The Sycamores and Claremont is ), were groups of strips, farmed by one person.  These tended to come in after the Reformation, during Tudor enclosure, when feeding a growing population was vital, and great strides were taken in productive agricultural practices.
  • Great Brow in the Park, was formerly known as Potterton Brow – the reason is a mystery at the moment.  It was likely a pasture of the Kelcliffe Estate.

Putting all of this information together, and studying maps, deeds and pictures from 1838 to modern-day Google satellite pictures,  we have now been out and about, to see what there is still to see and come up with an outline of what there might be to find.  We now await the archeologists.

About Jennifer Inskip Kirkby

Director and Vice Chair of Friends of Parkinson's Park CIC, Chair of Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum and Facilitator of Inskip One-Name Study. Has a degree in Local History (University of Cambridge), and Economics (University of Leeds). Now retired after a career as a Business Analyst and Advisor.
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