Solving the mystery of the Board Inns

Tan Hill House (left) and King's Pit House, aka Tan Hill Inn (right), circa 1905.

Board’ Inns – Tan Hill House (left) and King’s Pit House, aka Tan Hill Inn (right), circa 1905.

A desk study of the old pubs and inns of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale seems to solve a 150-year-old mystery over the origins of the inn-name Board.

An oddity in Edward Baines’s 1823 directory of the North Riding – the first such directory – is that out of 17 pubs and inns listed in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale, six were called the Board. There were three King’s Heads and two CB Inns, but no other multiples of any other inn-name.

In William White’s more comprehensive directory of the North Riding, published in 1840, the total number of pubs and inns recorded in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale was up to 24, of which eight were called the Board. That the name should have been so outstandingly popular seems quite extraordinary, especially as the name completely disappeared from the two dales by 1872.

So what was it all about? To find out the most likely explanation see the article here – Solving the mystery of the Board Inns.

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The curious case of Scottish money in Swaledale

A Muker Manor court record of 1686 showing an example of partible inheritance creating rents involving placks. Facsimile created by Timothy Bagenal. Image courtesy of North Yorkshire County Records Office and Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group.

A Muker Manor court record of 1686 showing an example of partible inheritance creating rents involving placks. Facsimile created by Timothy Bagenal. Image courtesy of North Yorkshire County Records Office and Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group.

The court books of the manors of Healaugh and Muker in Swaledale, from the earliest in 1686 until 1712, show that some of the annual rents paid by copyhold tenants included an unfamiliar monetary denomination – a plack.

The rents were recorded in words and digits, making it clear that the value of a plack was one-sixth of a penny. But it wasn’t even a denomination of English currency. It was Scottish. And even in Scotland it was long-since obsolete. So what was going on? Read more here: Value of a plack: the curious case of Scottish money in Swaledale.

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Two stories of Reeth Swing Bridge

The new Reeth Swing Bridge looking towards Harkerside.

The new Reeth Swing Bridge looking towards Harkerside.

Almost everyone who enjoys walking around the Reeth area in Swaledale will know of the footbridge over the River Swale, known locally as Reeth Swing Bridge or sometimes as Harkerside Swing Bridge since it links these two communities. Two stories of interest relate to this structure.

The first unravels a puzzle – why it’s called the swing bridge, when it’s a fixed-span suspension bridge? To learn why, read here: Doesn’t swing? Oh yes it does!

The second story searches behind a phrase on the information board next to the bridge, which explains that the predecessor of the current structure was built in 1920 ‘after the community helped raise the money to connect the parishes of Grinton and Reeth’. In fact, nearly 100 years ago the community did a lot more than help fund the bridge, and a mix-up over a deal with the council left a handful of Harkerside farmers who provided the money feeling unhappy. For this story, read here: How the original Reeth Swing Bridge left farmers paying more than they planned.

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‘Haunted’ Muker barn identified

A previous post resurrecting a Victorian ghost story about a haunted barn near Muker caught the attention of researcher Karen Griffiths who is working on a Heritage Lottery Fund project ‘Every Barn Tells a Story’.

Her careful follow-up investigation has identified the place-names and the two barns described in the story, which means that walkers in the Muker area can now see for themselves the places where the chilling events were said to have happened.

To read about the awful fate of a much-hated local schoolmaster in 1846, and to link to the historical background and the research findings of the Every Barn Tells a Story project, visit Muker Schoolmaster’s ghostly adventure.

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Wham – a mixed bag of meanings

The Wham in Arkengarthdale has a steep-sided marshy hollow by a bend in the road.

The Wham in Arkengarthdale has a steep-sided marshy hollow by a bend in the road.

Swaledale and Arkengarthdale have between them three places with the word-element wham in the name. It’s an obscure northern dialect word occurring in the Pennine hills of Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland, as well as in Lancashire, Cheshire, Dumfries and Galloway, and as far north as the central belt of Scotland from St Andrews to Stirlingshire.

The geographical spread suggests it was a word introduced by the Norwegian Vikings who migrated from Ireland in the early 900s to settle in northern England and Scotland. Wham is used as a word for a land formation. However, the topographies of the places called wham vary so widely, and the range of interpretations of the word given in dialect and place-name dictionaries is so great, that maybe it’s time for someone to undertake a careful study of all the whams in a search for greater clarity.

The three wham places in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale illustrate the point. All are different from each other. Two of them fit some of the meanings offered by the dictionaries, and the third struggles even to achieve that. The Wham in Arkengarthdale is a perfect match for the most common interpretation of a marshy hollow.

Two root words have been identified by the experts, the Old Norse hvammr, meaning a grassy slope or vale, and the Old English hwamm meaning a corner or angle, usually of a building. Both seem to be some distance from a meaning of a marshy hollow. So maybe there is another root word at play and maybe over the centuries they have become confused or conflated.

Images and descriptions of the three wham places in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale are now entered on the website associated with this blog, and can be seen at The Wham, Wham Bottom, and Whamp. Comments and feedback will be very welcome.

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Looking for source material on the drove-road between Barnard Castle and Tan Hill

Mud Beck looking downstream in the area around Scabba Wath.

Mud Beck looking downstream in the area around Scabba Wath.

Having been intrigued by the unusual place-name Scabba Wath that marks a ford across the River Swale in upper Swaledale, I was excited while browsing the OS map to spot another Scabba Wath, marked as a crossing of Mud Beck in an area of remote moorland at the head of Arkengarthdale. It was named on all the OS maps of the area dating back to the first, published in 1856.

Curiously no OS map has ever marked a track crossing Mud Beck at Scabba Wath. It appears as a crossing from nowhere to nowhere. Helpfully, Arthur Raistrick’s book Green tracks on the Pennines (Clapham, 1962) later republished as Green roads in the mid-Pennines (Ashbourne, 1978) mentioned a crossing on Mud Beck as a point on an ancient drove-road between Barnard Castle and Tan Hill. But he didn’t give the crossing a name.

In two recent visits to this wild and empty landscape I found no sign of the track described by Raistrick and no sign of the ford named on the maps. Unfortunately Arthur Raistrick didn’t quote any sources for his knowledge of the drove-road between Barnard Castle and Tan Hill. Does anyone know where earlier sources might be found?

More information on this mysterious place-name is here – Scabba Wath in Arkengarthdale, and here – Scabba Wath in Swaledale.

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How Norwegian Vikings brought Irish Gaelic words to Swaledale

Creeton Close with its field barn on the top wall, house platform in the bottom right quarter, and above and to the right the estate boundary wall descending from the moor top to the road below.

Creeton Close with its field barn on the top wall, house platform in the bottom right quarter, and above and to the right the estate boundary wall descending from the moor top to the road below.

Creeton Close, a two-acre enclosed pasture between Gunnerside and Low Row in upper Swaledale, is notable for having what appears to be an ancient house-platform cut from its steep slope, and for its extremely unusual name, which seems to have come from the Gaelic language of Ireland, courtesy of Norwegian Vikings.

This strange occurrence is explained because the Norwegian Vikings who settled upper Swaledale in the early 900s had come by a circuitous route. Having first settled the northern isles of Scotland they ventured south along the Irish Sea and settled again around Dublin and County Wicklow. There they absorbed into their Old Norse language some words of Irish Gaelic, especially relating to land.

When the Irish kicked out the Vikings, they took to their boats again and came to north-west England. Many settled there, while others came over the Pennines and settled in upper Swaledale, which now has a preponderance of Old Norse place-names. Among them are a few that have no roots in Old Norse, nor in Old English, nor Old Welsh, nor any other of the early languages sometimes found in the area.

One such is the field recorded in 1844 as Creeton Close, which by its location at the extremity of a farm settlement and next to a moor-top and hillside boundary wall that separated the village estates of Gunnerside and Low Row, seems likely to have been named form the Gaelic word crioch, pronounced cree, and the Old Norse word tún, which together mean ‘boundary house-enclosure’. For a more detailed explanation, visit the Swaledale place-names web page Creeton Close.

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