On this blog I will be writing about selected histories of the people and places of Swaledale. It’s not where I live, nor where I come from. My paternal ancestors hail from another of the Yorkshire dales – Nidderdale – and then from Teesside. I live in York. However, the reason for my interest in Swaledale isn’t hard to spot. My surname is Swales, a very old Yorkshire surname, still found predominantly within the county.
As far as anyone can tell, the surname stretches back at least as far as one Robert Swale in 1170, who may or may not have been related to one Aluredus de Sualedale, a member of the minor gentry of Yorkshire of the same period. The descendants of the latter are thought to have become the family Swale who for many centuries lived at Swale Hall, near Grinton, in Swaledale. They were prominent in the dale until the early 1700s, and even achieved some national fame and notoriety. Their story is one of many aspects of Swaledale history that has captivated my interest.
I should explain that the area of Swaledale that interests me is the upper dale, from the villages of Grinton and Fremington rising westwards to the Pennine watershed. This was the area covered by the Norman Forest of Swaledale and was also the original area of the ecclesiastical parish of Grinton.
Through my membership of the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group, I also have some involvement in the study of Arkengarthdale, another former medieval forest, and the immediate neighbour – one might say the sister – of upper Swaledale. They are sometimes referred to as the Two Dales.
I am working on several Swaledale history projects simultaneously. This blog will develop as I gather more information and hopefully produce comments and articles that are sufficiently cogent for sharing. Some will also appear on the web pages associated with this blog, and with luck others might be summaries of something more comprehensive that actually makes it into print.