Farndale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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General Sir Martin Farndale KCB

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Our early ancestors were the inhabitants of Farndale. We know of some of those who lived in Farndale in medieval times (see FAR00001 and FAR00002). We know a little of the forest of Farndale (FAR00003 and FAR00004).  Edmund the hermit was presumably not one of our ancestors. But perhaps William the Smith of Farndale, 1240 (FAR00009), John the Shepherd of Farndale, 1250 (FAR00010), Roger milne (miller) of Farndale, 1265 (FAR00013A) and Simon the miller of Farndale, 1282 (FAR00021) were our early ancestors living in Farndale.

 

Over time, folk started to adopt names which described them by place or occupation. Examples are Nicholas de Farndale, the first personal name linked to Farndale (see FAR000006 and Farndale 1), Peter de Farndale (see FAR000008 and Farndale 2), Gilbert de Farndale (FAR00018 and Farndale 3), and Simon de Farndale (FAR00021 and Farndale 4). So our ancestors started to called themselves de Farndale, and in time just used the Farndale name. That process signalled the start of a spread of our ancestors out of Farndale to the surrounding lands. At that time, such movements were no doubt as bold and significant as later emigrations to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We know for instance that De Johanne de Farndale, 1275 (FAR00014) moved further afield to Egton.

 

 

A land fit only for wild beasts, and men who live like wild beasts

 

‘Northwards from the Wolds, the windswept moors of Hambleton and Cleveland remain as they have been throughout pre-historic times, a refuge of broken peoples, a home of lost cultural causes. Bede described the area as ‘vel bestiae commorari vel hommines bestialiter vivere conserverant.’ (‘A land fit only for wild beasts, and men who live like wild beasts.’). Although there are many pre-historic remains on the North Yorkshire moors, it is to this day an area cut off. The Romans built roads around it and the Vikings skirted it also. When the Romans left and the Saxons and Vikings arrived, they did move into the dales and left their burial mounds and crosses across the moors. Thus the people who today come from the ‘dales on the moors’ of North Yorkshire have remained essentially English for several hundred years and developed very special characteristics. In many respects they remain to this day a unique English Tribe.

(Early man in NE Yorkshire, 1930 p 219-20 by F Elgee)

Farndale is not mentioned in Doomsday. But Kirby Moorside is and must have included Farndale. Before the Conquest it was in the hands of Waltef who had a manor and 5 carucates at Fadmoor. In 1086, Count Robert of Mortain held it and it was waste. Later it fell into the hands of Hugh son of Baldric before passing first to Roger de Mowbray and later to William and then Nicholas de Stuteville in 1200. Farndale then became part of the manor of Kirby Moorside.

(Victoria County History of Yorkshire

 

 

Farndale

 

Farndale is a valley located in the North York Moors National Park in North Yorkshire, England. The nearest town is Kirkbymoorside located some 5 miles to the south. Pickering is some 13 miles to the south-east and Helmsley 12 miles to the south-west. Farndale is surrounded by some of the wildest moorland in England, and is sandwiched between Bransdale and Rosedale. To the north-east sits Blakey Ridge at over 400 m above sea level, and to the north-west, Cockayne Ridge reaching up to 454 m above sea level is one of the highest points of the North York Moors. Around the north of Farndale, between Bloworth Crossing and Blakey is the track bed of the old Rosedale Ironstone Railway (Rosedale Branch) which forms part of two Long Distance Footpaths these being Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk and The Lyke Wake Walk.

Farndale is a scattered agricultural community with traditional Yorkshire dry stone walls. The valley is popular with walkers due to its famous wild daffodils, which can be seen around Easter time all along the banks of the River Dove. To protect the daffodils the majority of Farndale north of Lowna was created a Local Nature Reserve in 1955.

Farndale is home to two hamlets - Church Houses at the top of the valley and Low Mill further down. Low Mill is a honeypot during daffodil season as this is where the famous daffodil walk begins, and the national park runs a Moorsbus service through the valley during busy periods to ease the traffic on the two narrow roads that run either side of the valley.

The annual Farndale Agricultural Show which is held on the Summer Bank Holiday Monday in Late August is a popular local event. The 100th Show was held in 2006[1]

South of Lowna on the Gillamoor to Hutton-le-Hole road, Farndale becomes Douthwaite Dale.

Around the head of Farndale ran the Rosedale Branch railway en route from Battersby to Rosedale supporting iron ore mining on the moors.

 

 

First mention of Farndale

 

The first mention of FARNDALE (Farendale, Farendal, Farnedale, xiii cent.) is found at the beginning of the 13th century (Cal. Rot. Chart. 1199–1216 (Rec. Com.), 86). It formed part of the fee of the lords of Kirkby Moorside (q.v.), of which manor it was parcel. ( For an extent in 1281–2 see Yorks. Inq. (Yorks. Arch. Soc.), i, 249). The capital messuage called the Hallhouse and the tenement called the Headhouse were granted by the Crown in 1600–1 to Francis Burton (Pat. 43 Eliz. pt. iv). Robert de Stutevill gave the nuns of Keldholme the right of getting wood for burning and building in Farndale, (Cal. Rot. Chart. 1199–1216 (Rec. Com.), 86) and in or about 1209 the Abbot of St. Mary's obtained from King John rights in the forest of Farndale which the king had recovered from Nicholas de Stutevill. (Pipe R. 11 John, m. 11) The abbot and Nicholas came to an agreement concerning common of wood and pasture here, this being renewed in 1233. (Feet of F. Yorks. 17 Hen. III, no. 14)

 

 

 

 

The tale of Sarkless Kitty, whose spirit claimed many a life in Farndale

 

It would make a gripping opening to a TV drama. Bare-headed and solemn, a large gathering of dalesfolk stands silently by a lonely ford.

 

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In the middle, Bible in hand, a priest conducts the funeral service. There is no coffin, and no body that might otherwise be in one. After uttering the familiar words 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust,' the priest pauses meaningfully before adding: 'water to water.' With a profound 'Amen', the assembly murmurs its assent.

 

This happened in Farndale on the evening of Whit Sunday, 1809. The water-burial without a body was to lay to rest the tormented soul of Kitty Garthwaite - Sarkless Kitty as she had become known. Only when Kitty was granted eternal rest would her spirit cease to plague this ford - and claim the lives of men. Eighteen had died so far...

 

A ghost-story to rank with the scariest, the tale of Sarkless Kitty opens with the courtship of this Gillamoor girl by Willie Dixon, of neighbouring Hutton-le-Hole. A likeable lad, a good dancer and singer, Willie attracted a succession of girlfriends. But he spent more time with Kitty than most. As Hutton folk wryly observed he was often 'off ti Gillimoor when there warn't no need.'

 

Keen to marry Willie, Kitty one September afternoon received help from fate. Gathering brambles in Douthwaite Dale, the southerly extension of Farndale that separates Gillamoor from Hutton-le-Hole, she got a painful spell (a splinter) under her thumb nail. As she tried to remove it, crying in pain, up came Willie, on his way home from Kirkbymoorside market. He pulled out the spell, comforted Kitty, and the chance meeting moved on tenderly from there. As a Victorian account delicately put it: 'It was quite dark when the lovers reached Gillamoor, but they were both perfectly happy.'

 

The less-happy outcome - Kitty's pregnancy - put Willie under an obligation to marry the girl. At first he seemed as pleased as she did. He often rode to see Kitty, crossing the unbridged river Dove at the ford at Lowna. Kitty often met him there, where she became a familiar figure, sitting on the trunk of a sideways-grown alder tree.

 

But Willie kept putting off the wedding day. And six or seven months after that 'happy' moment in Douthwaite Dale, he failed to keep a rendezvous at their trysting tree. Returning to Gillamoor, Kitty heard rumours that Willie had been seen that day with the daughter of a wealthy farmer in Castleton, over the moors. Next time she saw Willie he was evasive about where he had been

 

On May 29, 1787 - Whit Sunday - the pair met by the ford for the fateful last time. A quarrel climaxed with Willie galloping off, leaving the distraught Kitty by her tree. The next morning her body, clothed only in her white sark, a kind of shirt or smock, was found in the pool below the ford. Her other garments were strewn across four fields.

 

Aware of the trouble between Kitty and Willie, villagers concluded that the jilted girl had set off back for Gillamoor but had decided to drown herself. Distraught, she had cast off her clothes as she ran to the ford, where she plunged in naked except for her sark.

 

Kitty's body was laid out in a barn at Lowna Mill, near the ford. The miller's wife, Mrs Agar, removed and washed the sark and hung it by the body, which was carefully covered with clean sacks.

 

Kitty's burial posed a problem. With suicide still regarded as an offence against God, the bodies of those who killed themselves were excluded from holy ground. Moorland custom decreed Kitty would be buried at a crossroads, with a stake through her heart. But even that cost money, and Kitty's mother insisted: 'By rights Kitty was Mrs Dixon, and Willie must see to t' burryin.'

 

But where was Willie? Absent since the row, he didn't reappear until Wednesday - three days after Kitty's death. He said that after the row he had gone on the moor to think things over. Deciding to make it up with Kitty he had galloped to York to obtain a wedding licence. He had forgotten the office was closed on Whit Monday. And although he obtained the licence the next day, his return was delayed by heavy floods. Since Willie had the licence in his pocket, and floods had indeed disrupted the district, this explanation was accepted.

 

Accompanied by Mrs Agar, Willie went to see Kitty's body. But the body and sark had vanished. Only the sacks, neatly folded in a corner, remained.

 

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Willie spent the rest of the day searching for the body. On his horse, he called on Kitty's family and friends and the vicar of Lastingham, whose parish included Farndale. At dusk he was seen riding along the old bridleway between Low Mill and Lowna. But next morning his horse was found grazing near Lowna Mill. His body lay in the same pool in which Kitty had been drowned. 'Sarkless Kitty', as she was henceforth called, had claimed her first man.

 

A few weeks later two Hutton-le-Hole children, arrived home breathless, claiming to have seen Kitty at the ford -'stark nakt'. They said she was sitting on her usual tree, from which she smiled at them and waved her sark. Accused of being 'dirty little leears', the children were smartly packed off to bed

 

But in October, the horse of a well-known occasional traveller across the moors trotted riderless up to the Royal Oak, Gillamoor. The man's body was soon found - in Kitty's pool.

 

Over the next few years 16 more men, all but two of them strangers, were drowned in the pool. Locals were convinced that Kitty's ghost startled the men's horses, which reared up and threw the riders. Several local men claimed to have seen Kitty's ghost as they were 'aiming fer to cross' the ford. Always clutching her white sark, the 'nakt' Kitty was sometimes sitting on her tree, sometimes running on the bank, and sometimes in the ford itself. Understanding what this spectre foretold, the local men turned back.

 

Of the two who died, one was drunk. But it was the death of the other, Kitty's 18th victim, a popular and hardworking young farmer, that persuaded people something must be done. Hence that extraordinary funeral-cum-exorcism. Dressed in full robes the vicar conducted it with the assistance of two surpliced choristers, one holding a lighted candle, the other ringing a bell. Kitty's ghost has never reappeared.

 

But what had happened to her body? In 1947 Wilf Crosland, a Hutton-le-Hole historian, unveiled a startling explanation. Recounting the saga in his book Yorkshire Treasure, he said that among books he had purchased 'quite recently' at a local sale was an old Bible. Against verse 60 of 28 Matthew was a cross, accompanied at the foot of the page by a note in faded ink which said: 'X inside back.' Between the paper lining and the board Crosland found a folded sheet of paper covered in small, neat handwriting.

 

Consulting a family tree in the Bible, Crosland worked out that initials on the paper, H. A. were those of a Henry Armadale. Born in 1775, he was a son of Joseph and Eliza Armadale, the Bible's original owners. The family tree also revealed that Henry's elder sister, Mary, died on May 24, 1787, six days after Kitty. Aged 18 she was buried in the Quaker burial ground at Lowna.

 

According to Henry Armadale's detailed note, Mary's burial took place on the Friday before the Monday on which Kitty's body was found. The note said that the day after the funeral, the Armadale family, devout Quakers, sat down after supper for their usual bedtime Bible reading. Selected at random, the passage happened to be Matthew's account of how Joseph removed Jesus's body from the cross, and 'wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb.'

 

In bed that night, Joseph Armadale asked his wife: 'Art thou sleeping Eliza?' She replied: 'Nay. That poor child under the sacks is on my mind.' Joseph said: 'Dost thou think Joseph left the bodies of those two thieves hanging? I think he must have covered them somewhere.' Turning over the phrase 'his own new tomb,' he asked: 'Dost thou think it is a leading?' - ie is it telling us something? Convinced it was he sprang up and declared: 'There can be no delay. It must be done at once.' Agreeing, his now sobbing wife said: ' I must go with thee.'

 

Loading their mare with a pick, spade, ropes and a clean linen sheet, the couple made their way to the barn at Lowna. There, Eliza re-clothed Kitty's corpse in her sark and wrapped it in the linen sheet. She and Joseph then took it the short distance to the isolated burial ground where Joseph placed Kitty in their daughter's own freshly-dug grave. Years later, he related all this to Henry, who wrote it down.

 

So said Crosland. But a list of all 114 Quakers buried at Lowna between 1675 and 1854 includes no Armadale, a very un-Farndale-like name. Nor was the marked Bible among the artefacts gifted by Crosland to found what has become the Ryedale Folk Museum. A Cropton resident who recently unearthed these facts, and remembers Crosland as an 'imaginative storyteller', believes he may have invented the dramatic denouement, perhaps for fun and/or to present Quakerism, his creed, in an appealing light. But would a serious historian wish to muddy history or a devout Quaker to present fiction as fact?

 

An earlier version of the main story than Crosland's - in Gordon Home's Pickering: The Evolution of an English Town (1905) - has Kitty as a 'lewd hussey', mysteriously drowned sometime after being deserted by her husband of four months. That deaths occurred in the ford, and an exorcism took place there, is virtually certain, for the first record of the service, obtained and described about 100 years ago by Richard Blakeborough, an assiduous collector of moorland folklore, was in a manuscript of stories of the moors, written in 1823, less than 20 years after the exorcism, by a man named George Calvert.

 

Identified by a plaque on its boundary wall, the old burial ground, now host to large trees, is just a five-minute stroll from a small car park at Lowna. No longer discernible, the ford itself was formerly a notorious hazard, with very uneven footing. Like Willie Dixon, who had been warned he would try to cross once too often in dangerous conditions, all its victims probably died when the river was in spate. The building of Lowna Bridge in 1826 finally eliminated the danger.

It's odd that Willie apparently wasn't suspected of murder. But odder is that commerce has never swooped on this fascinating story. Thankfully, no Sarkless Kitty Tearoom or gift shop, with a range of souvenirs, greets visitors in Kitty's old haunts

 

There is also the tale of the Farndale Hob.

 

 

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Richard Farndale, Jamie Farndale and Sarah Farndale in 2016

 

 

Sarah, Richard and Jamie Farndale at Farndale in 2016

 

 

 

 

There’s no inflation in Farndale! The fine was five pounds in the 1980s!

 

 

 

The ferns from which Farndale gets its name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Wordsworth, married only a few miles from Farndale, would have loved the annual display of the area’s wild daffodils. Today, crowds flock to see the flowers, which cover the wooded banks of the River Dove in colourful swathes. This 3½-mile walk takes you from the prettiest part of the dale to areas that reveal expansive vistas.

 

1. LOW MILL

The tiny hamlet of Low Mill is a cluster of stone houses. Its 100-seat, corrugated-iron-clad hall, built for Farndale Silver Band in the 1920s, is now England’s smallest big-name venue and attracts some of the top folk, country, roots and Americana musicians. Take the signed footpath from the car park in Low Mill to join the riverside walk beside the River Dove.

 

2. DAFFODILS

Farndale’s daffodils are often known by their old name – Lenten lilies. Tradition says that they were planted by monks from nearby Rievaulx Abbey. Farndale has been a nature reserve since 1953 and strict by-laws prohibit picking the flowers or uprooting the bulbs.

 

3. HIGH MILL

The firm riverside path passes through many gates to reach High Mill. Two supernatural presences once inhabited this area: one was a tenacious hob – a mischievous spirit – that fell out with a local farmer. When the farmer tried to move house, the hob mounted the removal cart, so the farmer stayed put. The other ghost is Sarkless Kitty, a local girl who drowned herself, in her chemise (sark). Over the years, Kitty’s ghost was seen sitting naked in Farndale’s trees, waving her sark to signal the deaths of young men. Follow the lane to Church Houses.

 

4. CHURCH HOUSES

Farmers petitioned the local landlord for a pub in 1875; named after him, the Feversham Arms still welcomes walkers. Pass the pub and veer right to the church; there are more daffodils in the churchyard. Follow the lane uphill. Just past Mackeridge House turn right on a clearly signposted footpath to Bragg Farm and Bitchagreen Farm.

 

5. BITCHAGREEN

Enjoy great views over Farndale from this section. Jet, coal and iron ore were once mined in the valley, but the greatest threat to its beauty came in the 20th century. In the 1930s and the 1960s, there were plans to dam and flood the valley as a reservoir for Hull. Both were defeated by conservationists. From Bitchagreen Farm, continue south on clearly marked paths back to High Wold House and finally Low Mill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dorothy (centre front) and Grace (right front) at Farndale in about 1922

 

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Farndale views in 1980

 

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Farndale sign at Kirkbymoorside in 1980

 

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Photograph of the sign in 1980

 

 

 

 

 

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I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Farndale Hunt

 

 

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