Swaledale - Home ownership in 1870

This Swaledale-related essay is full of names! I write about who owned the houses and who rented them, who owned the land and who rented it; an unexpected land sale forced by Chancery, and the effect of the new secret ballot on tenant-farmers.

One of the questions not answerable from census data is "who owns their own house?". Then I came across the 1870 rateable valuations for Reeth, Fremington, and Healaugh. This document, which lists of all the houses and land on which rates can be charged, itemises each house and field, who owns it, and who occupies it. It does not say anywhere that these valuations and given rents are per annum, but careful research and thought by the staff at NYCRO have established that they probably are annual valuations. It quickly becomes clear that there are not many owner-occupiers in Reeth township.

Given that Reeth, Fremington and Healaugh are the most densely-populated areas of Swaledale, the pattern established here might not apply to the more widespread farming communities, but it is a start.

I compared the valuation list with the 1871 census. In Reeth there were 169 households in the census, including empty houses, and 170 houses in the valuation list. Good match there then. In Fremington there were 42 households and 43 houses, so that's another complete list. Healaugh was a bit different, with 83 households and only 61 houses. Maybe part of the Healaugh census was outside the area being investigated for rates. But on the whole it looks as though the valuation list matches the residents, which makes it easy to find out who was renting. If you would like a copy of my Excel transcript of the full list, please email me.

There are lots of way of presenting the information, but the summary is this:

Reeth landowners

Yet the land was not the monopoly of one family. Most of the main landowners had a share. So who were they? Here are the main owners in that 1870 valuation list. Not all of them lived locally.

And what sort of annual rent were these tenants paying?

Rents and some tenants


Houses without land

Houses with land


Some specific tenants

Here is what the various ALDERSON families were paying in and around Reeth:


There were so few of them that it is possible to list them all here. I have taken their ages and occupations, and a note of any large family size, from the 1871 census. The amount against each property is the annual rental equivalent as shown in the 1870 rateable valuation document.

Post Script Sept 2014: A descendant of James Tomlin points out that it was John Leonard Tomlin who moved to Kensington, not JR. She writes: "Both James Robinson and John Leonard were solicitors and sons of Ottiwell Tomlin. JR was a solicitor in Richmond, like his father, and served as Town Clerk of Richmond from 1868 until his death at Bolton Crofts, Richmond in 1884. JL was the son who moved to London, practising law from Old Burlington Street, with a house in Cobham as well as Thirnswood. He was involved with the development on the Earls Court area of London, married well, married his children well, and his descendants are listed in Debretts."

And that's it. Of the 241 households in Reeth, Fremington and Healaugh, 36 were owner-occupiers. The remaining 205 rented.

Local turnover

The 1871 censuses for Reeth, Fremington and Healaugh identify 22 Heads of Household who are not mentioned in the 1870 valuation. These include a few familiar names - next door to Reeth's Hill House is the Brownrigg family and I think that Ellen must have been James ROBINSON's daughter, since grandson George BROWNRIGG was at Hill House; maybe they had a private arrangement. There are seven widowed ladies whose sons were probably looking after them. But half of the Heads are unfamiliar names, and must have moved into the township recently. They were leadminers, a schoolteacher, a couple of young widows, a tailor, that sort of thing; nothing unusual - nobody significant enough to appear as a new name in the 1879 Post Office Directory. Given the number of families moving out, this turnover is not surprising.

The whole of Swaledale

The trade directories and local gazetteers usually summarised the main landowners. Here are abbreviated extracts from various directories from the 1880s and 1890s which cover the whole of the dale. Some of the names above appear again, often more than once. The income shown above is only from the Reeth township; they did have more.


In GRINTON township the land belongs to a number of freeholders, of whom the principal are: E G Whitelock Esq of Cogden Hall, James William Close Esq of Leeds, Col A H Charlesworth of Chapelthorpe Hall, Wakefield (Col Albany Hawke Charlesworth is lord of the manor, having purchased the rights from the Crown about ten years ago [about 1880]; he keeps Grinton Lodge as a shooting box); Messrs Winn of Askrigg and West Burton, the heirs of Edward and John Broderick of Summer Lodge, the heirs of the Rev J Metcalfe of Hawes, Mr F Garth of Haverdell House, Mr. William Eglin of Hebdon election, Miss Atkinson of Derby, Mrs. Clarkson, the executors of James Metcalfe, the heirs of John Littlefair of Gaythorne Hall at Shap, the heirs of Thomas Metcalfe, Miss Simpson, Mr J Barker, Mr G W Robinson, and Mr N Clarkson.

Cogden Hall, the property and residence of E. G. Whitelock, is situated on an eminence about a mile east of Grinton. The estate formerly belonged to the Wilsons, of Eshton Hall, and was purchased in 1740 for 2,000 by Caleb Readshaw Esq, whose son and successor, John Readshaw, built the hall, which with the estate was subsequently sold to James Fenton Esq. From this gentleman the hall and estate were purchased in 1802 by Messrs. Christopher and Matthew Whitelock, of Ellerton, from whom it has descended to the latter's grandson, the present owner.

Swale Hall, now an antiquated farmhouse, but formerly the seat and property of a family from whom it took its name of Swale, is situated on Harkerside Moor. In 1877, the Rev Sir John Swale, OSB, of Birtley, county Durham resumed the family honours; "not," he says, "for the sake of worldly vanity, for a Benedictine monk despised all worldly things, but he assumed it as an honest and worldly man, having regard to the future welfare and preservation of the ancient house." He died in 1887, and was succeeded by his nephew, Sir John Swale, Bart, landlord of the Royal Oak Hotel, Knaresborough, who died in 1888. The title then descended to Sir Benjamin Swale, who died October, 1889, and it then went to his brother, James Swale, of Rudfarlington, who is the present baronet.

Post script: I subsequently found this description of Grinton manor in a sale advertisement of 1788. The advertisement, which was placed repeatedly between May 1787 and April 1788 in the London newspapers the St James's Chronicle, the British Evening Post, The World, was headed "To be SOLD, before one of the Masters of the High-Court of Chancery". The advertisement (I have combined two similar ads) went on:

"A valuable FREEHOLD ESTATE; consisting of the extensive MANOUR of GRINTON and COGDEN MANSION-HOUSE, offices, eligible Farms, with their requisite Buildings, and three Hundred and fifty Acres of rich Land situated in Swaledale, in the North-Riding of the County of York. The Estate consists of the capital Mansion-House, called Cogden-Hall, extensive Manour of Grinton and Cogden, and several Farms, lying together compact, in Grinton and Cogden, on the Banks of the River Swale, with Smelting-Mills and two Collieries. The Land-Tax remarkably low but is paid by the tenants. The Moors, or Commons, within the Manour are extensive and abound with Grouse and other Game, and excellent Trout-fishing on the River Swale for several Miles. The Mansion-House, Manour, and Farms, are all let to yearly Tenants at the clear rent of 269 3s subject only to a charity of 13s 4d per annum to the poor of Grinton, and a modus of 11s annually in lieu of hay tithe. The Mansion-House is a complete modern built Family-House, re-built within ten years last, and most delightfully situated about a Mile from Reeth, a good Market-Town, within six Miles of Middleham and seven of Richmond, and, with the Manour, is in the Occupation of Henry William Peirre, Esq, as yearly Tennant and the principal Farm is occupyed by Mr John Briggham at 96 a Year, who will show the Premisses."


The principal landowners are Capt F H Lyell, Mr John Barker of Reeth, John Tomlin Esq of Burlington Street, Kensington, London; Mr. John Sherlock of Scarborough, Mr. Matthew Whitelock, Dr A B Kernot of Reeth, G W Robinson Esq of Reeth, Mrs M. Robinson, Mr. James Littlefair of Gaythorne Hall, Westmoreland; Mrs. Winn of Askrigg, Mrs. Metcalfe of Hawes, and Mr Henry Deacon of Reeth.


Fremington is mentioned in Domesday Book, and at that time Alan, Earl of Richmond, had the manor, which then lay waste. In 1796, or soon after, the estate was purchased by Peter Denys, from whom it has descended to Sir Francis Charles Edward Denys, Bart. Draycott Hall, the seat of Sir Francis, is at present held on a lease by W S Deacon, Esq, who resides here during the shooting season.


Healaugh, or Helah (Hale in Domesday Book) was once a place of much more importance, and the head of the manor, which included Reeth, Melbecks, and Muker, comprising about 40,000 acres. The manor descended in severalties through various families, and eventually came into the possession of the Whartons, and now belongs to Captain Francis Horner Lyell. The owners of the royalties are Sir F C E Denys, Bart, Sir F F D Shuckburgh, Bart, and the Countess of Pomfret.

The 1871 census for Healaugh suggests that ten adjacent houses held Pedley families and the valuation shows that they all rented land with their rented houses, excluding Dinah who was 74. Well: the census shows them as adjacent, until you realise that the enumerator has neatly re-arranged the whole village into alphabetical order and it is impossible now to tell who were neighbours!


Captain F H Lyell, lord of the manor, is an extensive landowner, and the following are also large proprietors in the township: George William Robinson Esq of Reeth, the heirs of Joseph Peacock Esq of Arkingarthdale, the trustees of the late Matthew Whitelock Esq, E A Knowles Esq of Gorton Lodge, and Thomas and Maurice Birkbeck Esqrs.


The manor of Muker has descended to Capt F H Lyell the present owner. The following have also considerable estates in the township: Messrs Winn of Askrigg and West Burton, the Misses Clarkson of Satron, the heirs of the late Thomas Lodge, J C C Bouth Esq of Wood hall, Askrigg, Booth Hay Metcalfe Esq, the Broderick family, Mr R Alderson of West Stonesdale, Messrs Scott, Messrs Wilson of Keld, Simon Fawcett Snr of Angram, R Thompson Esq of Inglewood, Penrith, and Mr John Metcalfe of Gingerfield, Richmond.

High Court Forces Sale

A forced sale

And a fascinating postscript. The Northern Echo of 7 Sept 1875 reported on the sale of properties in Swaledale:

Reeth property; a Chancery sale

"... which were sold pursuant to an order of the High Court of Chancery, made in the cause of Birkbeck v. McCollah. The land, as will be seen, realised unusually high prices, averaging as much as 180 per acre, whilst the house property went for next to nothing."

In the 1841 Reeth census there are two McCollah households: that of druggist Richard and his son John, who was the Reeth doctor all his life, and Edith and Mary (maybe Richard's sisters?), single ladies and grocers and drapers all their lives. Dr John died in 1865Q1; Edith and Mary had also died by then, so the "McCollah heirs" of the 1870 valuation list must have been John's six children who were also, presumably, Edith and Mary's nephews and nieces and probably their beneficiaries. They inherited quite a lot.

No Birkbeck owned any property in Reeth township in 1870, although the name is familiar in the dale, but from the Birkbecks listed in the 1871 census the most likely litigant is John Clarkson Birkbeck, solicitor and landowner of Hazel Brow, Low Row. A search on various internet search engines bring up no references to what might have caused the row. Nor is there any further mention in the scanned 19thC newspapers available during that tantalising free access period of March 2008 (where I first found the auction list). Durham Archives apparently has the same list, but no more. If anyone knows the cause of the litigation and is willing to tell all, please contact me.

The old Shoulder of Mutton in Reeth (c)MH

The sale took place at the Shoulder of Mutton Inn in Reeth (which was itself being sold) and the auctioneer was Mr Edmund Coates. The two pubs were shown in the 1870 valuation lists as belonging to the McCollah heirs, as was the land at Halfway House, Wheat Close, the house and land at Riddings and a number of houses in Reeth, quite a few of them empty. So it was the McCollahs who were having to sell.

The Shoulder of Mutton was renamed the King's Arms by 1901, so the two pubs are those on either side of the (white-painted) Black Bull in this photograph of the western side of Reeth Green. The left-hand building still sports a half-moon sign although it is no longer a pub, and the King's Arms is where the auction was held.

The auction lots, and the bidding, were described in the newspaper like this:

  1. Copyhold allotment of pasture land, known as Simpson's Sun Side, situate at Crackpot, in Swaledale, within the manor of Healaugh New Land, containing 6a 3r 8p - sold for 290.
  2. Copyhold close of meadow land within the said manor, known as Ware Ing Close, situate at Crackpot, containing 2a 3r 36p - sold for 250.
  3. Copyhold close of meadow land within the said manor, known as Burblet, or Barblet Close, with barn therein, situate at Crackpot, containing 4a 1r 12p - withdrawn after bidding had reached 525.
  4. Two closes of freehold meadow land, known as West Wensley Close, with barn therein, and East Wensley Close, situate within the township of Reeth, respectively containing 1a 2r 10p and 2a 1r 30p, making together 4 acres - sold to Mr G METCALFE for 485.
  5. Freehold dwelling house, with garden, barn, etc, situate at Riddings, in the township of Reeth, containing altogether 10a 1r 19p - sold to Dr KERNOT for 920.
  6. Copyhold closes of meadow and pasture land, known as West Garth Close, containing 2 acres, and East Garth Close, containing 1a 3r 34p, situate at Halfway House in the township of Reeth, within the Manor of Healaugh Old Land - withdrawn after the bidding had reached 430.
  7. Copyhold close of meadow land, known as Brown Close, with barn thereon, situate at Reeth, within the last-mentioned manor, containing 1a 3r 35p. For this lot Mr BARKER made the last bid of 330, after which it was withdrawn.
  8. Close of freehold meadow land, known as Wheat Close, with barn thereon, formerly in two closes, and called Wheat Close and Pipe Mire Close, situate at Reeth, containing 3a 1r 223p - sold to Mr BARKER for Mr Charlesworth, of Grinton Lodge, for 605.
  9. Close of freehold meadow land, with barn thereone, known as Pipe Well Close, situate at Reeth, containing 2a 3r 8p - sold to Mr BARKER for Mr Charlesworth, of Grinton Lodge, for 490.
  10. Close of freehold meadow land, known as Houth close, situate at Reeth, containing 3a 0r 24p. For this lot the bidding was carried on with much spirit until it reached over 500, when Mr Joseph RAINE, of Richmond, called 540, but, as there had been a higher reserve placed upon the lad, the lot was withdrawn.
  11. Freehold dwelling house, with garden, stable, outbuildings, etc, situte at Reeth; also, a freehold house, situate at Reeth, which is out of repair and unoccupied, and also a walled garden, containing 18 perches of freehold lnad or ground - sold to Mr SLACK, of Durham, for 75.
  12. Freehold dwelling-house, with garden, outbuildings, etc, situate at Reeth; also, a freehold souse adjoining the above-mentioned dwelling-house, and also a freehold house, adjoining thereto - sold to Mr McCOLLAH.
  13. Freehold public-house, known as the Half Moon Inn, with the outbuildings and appurtenances thereto belonging, situate at Reeth. This lot was sold to Mr William FAWCETT for 240.
  14. Freehold public house, known as the Shoulder of Mutton Inn, situate at Reeth, with coalhouses, small garden, two stables and lofts, carthouse, loose-box, yard, etc, also, a freehold cottage, in Shoulder of Mutton yard, Reeth, and also a close of freehold meadow land, known as The Croft, containing 1 rood and 25p. This lot realised 440, for which price it was knocked down to Mr SLACK, of Durham.
  15. Two freehold cottages, called Hill Cottages, situate at Reeth, sold to Mr DOLPHIN, for 50.
  16. Five closes of freehold land, situate near to and adjoining Arkengarthdale Beck, in the township of Reeth, containing 12a 0r 16p. For this lot Mr McCOLLAH made the last bid of 1,640, when it was withdrawn.

The scale of land ownership, and the 1882 by-election

I thought I had found an indication of the scale of some land ownership quite by chance in a Northern Echo newspaper report on 23rd January 1882 of the exciting by-election held for representation of the North Riding - the first election in the North Riding to be contested under the new method of a secret ballot, and one where a local landowning supporter employed 13,000 men. Well, you can see why I followed it up, and found a remarkable story - nothing to do directly with house ownership, but a lot to do with tenant-farmers and their increasing voting power and influence in the country. What follows is based entirely on contemporary newspaper reports.

The first election where the ballot would be secret, but the tenant farmers didn't believe a word of it

The 1882 election drew much national attention because, for the first time, a tenant farmer called Rowlandson was standing (for the Liberals) against the mighty (and Conservative) landowning fraternity, and there were almost 10,000 tenant farmers in the Riding. The press went wild about this young farmer "on the favourable side of forty years, tall, and of good presence" and were certain he would sweep to victory if the other tenant farmers could bring themselves to vote against their own landowners' politics.

And the renting voters were very nervous. After the 1868 election, everyone knew that lists of voters had been published showing who they voted for [including a certain Wm Hearfield of Hessle, whose name can be found in Hull library]. During this current campaign, JPs in Egton now heard complaints from local farmers that they had been told that "whichever way they voted it could be afterwards ascertained, notwithstanding the ballot". The inaugural Liberal party meetings agreed "It was above all things necessary to convince the 20,000 electors that under the operation of the ballot their voting would be perfectly secret." Local canvassing was giving a clear indication of Liberal victory.

"Throughout Wensleydale, where Lord Wharncliffe and Lord Bolton are great landed proprietors, it has been found difficult to get the tenant-farmers to say what they intend to do; but even here, after the careful canvass that has been made, it is estimated that the Liberals will poll from two-thirds to three-fourths of the whole voting force; whilst in the Muker district, at the top of Swaledale, out of 260 voters on the register, of whom 210 are expected to poll, 165 promises have been received by the Liberal agents. Arkengarthdale, where Mr Gilpin Brown, Conservative, is the chief landlord, will have a probable poll of about 260, of which the Liberals estimate that they will receive 200 out of 330 votes."

Public pledges were given of financial support for Mr Rowlandson and his young family if he were to win [in an earlier report he had said he could not otherwise manage]. They would not stoop to publishing "high-sounding" lists of influential supporters. Their canvassers would work voluntarily - many were clearly fired with radical politics for the first time. There were enthusiastic meetings all over the Riding; hats were thrown in the air, loud laughter, cheers and applause rang across the moors and chimneytops. It must have been an exhilarating few weeks.

One of the supporters who gave 1,000 to the campaign fund was a Mr Bolckow, and it is he who illustrates the scale of some of the landowners:

"The farmers of the North Riding, though feeling the effects of bad seasons, have suffered less perhaps than those of any other part of the country, and there are very few farms vacant. The great firm of Messrs Bolckow and Vaughan, sneered at by Mr Dawnay [the Conservative candidate] as not likely to assist tenant farmers, are the cultivators and rent-payers of 2,300 acres in addition to a thousand acres of Mr Bolckow's own property. The uncle of this gentleman having come into Cleveland about 1840, Mr Bolckow cannot boast of holding land for centuries; but though coming, as Bolckow and Vaughan did, as strangers, they brought their own capital and attracted the capital of others, and now the huge concern of which the present Mr Bolckow is the head employs in North Yorkshire and South Durham 13,000 hands, and pays in wages and salaries annually about one million sterling." [Not solely in farming, I found later, but mostly in the ironworks of Middlesbrough.]

And the election result? The Conservatives retained the seat by a majority of 386. But only because, as the Pall Mall Gazette said on 26th January in an article titled Political Defeat and Social Progress "but for Mr Dawnay's acceptance in the middle of the election of seven-eights of the tenant-farmers' programme he would not have had the remotest chance of carrying the election." and

"Opinion is practically unanimous that [Mr Rowlandson] would have headed the poll by a large majority if the voters had possessed that confidence in the secrecy of the ballot which is only established after practical experience of its working.... Had he been returned, he would have been a useful representative of a class which at present can only count two members in the House of Commons."

The Pall Mall Gazette's opinion was that "a new force is making itself felt in the counties, with which both parties will have to make their account."

I can't leave the story like this. Who was Bolckow and where did he come from? People in Middlesbrough will even now know this name, but I did not. The internet holds good historical information about his uncle Henry, who funded everything later. I picked the following information from his various obituaries in the newspapers of the time. Henry William Ferdinand BOLCKOW was born in 1806, son of a country gentleman with "an ancestral estate and some fortune" in Salten, Mecklenburn. Henry came to England in 1827 from a merchant's office at Rostock, north Germany, and started as a merchant's clerk in Newcastle. By 1841 he had made a 40,000 fortune in corn factoring, which he then invested in John VAUGHAN, local iron master (one, but only one, website said John VAUGHAN was Henry's brother-in-law). Bolckow and Vaughan transformed Middlesbrough; Henry became the town's first mayor and was its MP until he died (of diabetes, in Ramsgate) in 1878.

Although twice married, Henry had no children. His nephew Carl came to Middlesbrough from Pomerania to join the business. By 1871 Carl was established, with his English wife and English children and London governess on Henry's estate at Marton whilst Henry was living in Knightsbridge as the Middlesbrough MP (with his wife and seven servants). By 1881 Carl and his family had moved into Marton Hall. In the census Carl describes himself as a landed proprietor so he must have inherited much of Henry's Yorkshire holdings as well as the huge businesses, and he must be the one helping to fund the Liberal campaign in the 1882 election. Thank you Google. What an astonishing range of detail can be found on the internet.

Copyright © Marion Hearfield 2008