Life in the 1840s

One among the very helpful resources for understanding life in upper Swaledale and Arkengarthdale in the 1840s is the History, Gazetteer and Directory of the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire, by William White.

White directory of North Riding 1840 title pageCounty gazetteers and directories were popular throughout the country from the 1820s to the 1930s. Today they are extremely useful to genealogists because they were revised and reprinted quite regularly, they tended to be organised by parish, and they listed local notables such as the gentry, landowners, clergy, and school heads, as well as everyone who was engaged in any sort of business, including farmers. The better directories also gave information about local schools and churches, and some highlights of local history.

In the early years of these directories there was stiff competition among publishers to produce the best-selling editions. Between 1823 and 1890 seven different publishers produced 11 volumes covering the North Riding of Yorkshire. For information on upper Swaledale, the 1840 History, Gazetteer and Directory of the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire by William White, stands out as one of the best for the quality and volume of useful information it provided.

And it’s a happy coincidence that this exceptionally good volume was published a year before the first complete national population census of 1841, and just four years before the tithe apportionment surveys of upper Swaledale. The latter provided not only the names of all the property owners and tenants, but also very detailed maps to show exactly which property they owned or occupied. Combining these three important resources helps to provide a comprehensive picture of life in upper Swaledale in the early 1840s.

The author of the upper Swaledale entries in the 1840 directory is unknown, but a good guess would be the Reverend Henry Burdett Worthington, at that time the Vicar of Grinton. He lived in the village, and his parish covered the whole of the upper dale, making him ideally placed to gather all the information that appeared.

Entries in the directory for each of the four Grinton Parish townships – Grinton, Melbecks, Muker and Reeth – and for the parish and township of Arkengarthdale will appear on the sub-pages below.

The sections listing significant people in each township are grouped by an unstated class division. Gentry, professionals and high-status trades people are first, followed by lesser trades people, and then separated from each are farmers, within which, those who owned their farms rather than rented them are designated as yeomen.

The townships: