A Brief History
There is ample evidence of prehistoric activity within the current Otterburn
township with the existence of earthworks to the north and west of the
village, some shown on the Ordnance Survey map of the area and listed
on the Yorkshire Dales National Park sites and monuments records and
others not. They are generally reckoned to be Bronze Age although the
only formal excavation to be carried out was just outside the township
boundary at the Lingber Hill Barrow in 1885 when a Bronze Age beaker,
a perforated stone axe, a bronze blade and other pottery dating from
around 1500BC were found.
The Domesday Book describes Otterburn as a manor of 3 carucates - waste,
formerly belonging to Gamelbar but now part of the fee of Roger of Poictou
and from here it grew to hold a position of some influence within the
parish of Kirkby Malham during the 13th and 14th centuries when the
family of de Otterburn along with their relatives, the de Malham family,
were the principal donors of lands, principally in Malham and Malham
Moor, to Fountains Abbey and, to a lesser degree, Bolton Priory. Their
dwelling would probably have been on the site of the present Otterburn
The fields of Otterburn show many signs of medieval arable farming and
this appears to have been the only occupation of the villagers during
this period as there is no record of any other trades or crafts apart
from a blacksmith. The other villages of the parish all had some other
trades as shown by the 1379 Poll Tax returns.
The size of the village has fluctuated somewhat over the years. According
to the 1379 Poll Tax there were 13 families, 2 servants and one single
person living in it and by 1672 this number had increased to 17 inhabited
homes but by the time of the 1841 census there were only 10 and as the
table below shows it remained fairly constant, varying between 9 and
11 until towards the end of the twentieth century when several former
agricultural buildings were converted to dwellings bringing the total
to its present 17.
Population Statistics from the Census
No. of dwellings
There are four Grade 2 listed buildings in the village:
Grove Farmhouse - C17 origins but mainly
Otterburn Hall - Early C19
Otterburn Lodge - Early C19
Otterburn Bridge - Late C18 or early
Details of the changes in ownership of Otterburn Hall
The information regarding Otterburn Hall is not strictly accurate as
the deeds to the property show it to exist in C18 and to have been altered
and improved around 1840. It held an estate of just over 216 acres embracing
six other houses, including Bodkin House and Kendal House, in 1806 when
it was sold by the then owner Thomas Clapham to the sitting tenant John
Gill, yeoman, and, as stated earlier, there would almost certainly have
been a substantial property on the current site since medieval times.
In 1808 the estate was sold for £7,780 to Robert Nightingale,
father of 10 children; the eldest son, John, believed to have served
in the Craven Militia and been promoted to Major in 1809 and another,
William, being the leading coursing judge in the country, known as the
'Chief Justice', when coursing was becoming established as a national
sport. He judged his first Waterloo cup in1839 and his last in 1857
and was also famous as an expert on greyhounds. He was buried with a
greyhound carved on his coffin lid. Robert served as churchwarden at
Kirkby Malham in 1812 and 1813 and died in 1817. After his death, the
Nightingale family were sued in 1820 for having obtained some of the
monies for the purchase of the estate by fraud and were eventually ordered
to pay £3,000. This they did by taking out an additional mortgage
on the property. Their total mortgage indebtedness, including arrears
of interest, was eventually £9,807 and, as they could not repay
this amount when required to, they had to sell the estate to the mortgagee,
Richard Waddilove of Rylstone who then leased it out.
|John Gill buys from Thomas Clapham
|Robertt Nightingale buys from John Gill
|Robert Nightingale buys Reek House land from Francis
|Richard Waddilove buys from Robert Nightingale
|Richard Taylor of Newfield, cousin, inherited from
|Anthony & Robert Taylor inherited equally from
|Robert Procter, gentleman of Eshton House, inherited
Anthony Taylor's share
|Robert Procter & Hannah Turner inherited Robert
Taylor's share equally
|Robert Procter buys Hannah Turner's share
|Robert Procter buys Pot Lumb Meadow & Otterburn
Moor Pasture from the mortgagee in possession re I H Coates
|Robert Procter dies leaving Otterburn Hall estate
to his wife & daughter on trust
|Wife, Agnes Edith, dies and the estate passes to
their daughter on trust
|Estate vests in daughter, Winifred Mary Clough
|G E & J R Metcalfe buy from Clough
It is not known when the present house was built, but whilst it's now
a private dwelling house that has been extended by converting part of
the attached barn, it was originally a working farm of approx 81 acres
forming part of the Otterburn Hall estate.
Kendal House- early 20th century
Kendall Hill and Kendall House took their name from the
Kendall family who first appear in the village during the 16th Century.
The earliest records found are the witnessing of the will of Thomas
Atkynson, another villager, by John Kendall, dated 19th January 1543
and his entry in the Lay Subsidy of that year:
Lay Subsidy 1543
| £3 6d
|Relict Robert Spenser
| 20s 2d
| 20s 2d
| 20s 2d
| 20s 2d
He does not appear in the Lay Subsidy of 1525 so it may
be that his arrival in the village coincided with the dissolution of
the monasteries. His assessment, along with those of the other four
villagers also assessed at 20s, being the lowest in the village, indicate
that he was not a wealthy man. This is borne out by the survey taken
by Sir Thomas Tempest and John Lambert into the potential manpower available,
if required, for combat taken sometime before the above (Robert Spenser
still being alive) which shows him having neither horse, leather protective
jacket nor weapon i.e. bill.
|jak bill hors
|bill jak hors
|hors jak bill
|hors & hern
|hors & hern
|hors jak bill
In 1672 William Kendal was the village constable at the
age of 73 and the last reference found to the family is the death in
1740 of a Joan Kendall, at the age of 38, daughter to the great-great
grandson of John.
Hill House, now divided into two dwellings, Hill House and Hill Place, was in the nineteenth century originally a farm of some 300 acres, with a range of farm buildings that were converted towards the end of the twentieth century into the four cottages seen today.
Hill House, Otterburn - early 20th century
It was purchased at the beginning of the 19th century by William Gomersall, who had a dyeworks in Birstall, along with Otterburn Lodge farm (then known as Cranefield farm) and further lands known as Great Howber, Crossber Hill and Trantinber. There is no record of him ever having lived in the village and the farms were tenanted by Augustine Hardacre at Otterburn Lodge and William Moorby at Hill House. Eventually he bequeathed his estate to his three children, one of whom, also called William, appears to be living with the Moorby family at Hill House on the 1841 census. The other two children, a daughter and another son received Otterburn Lodge and the further lands respectively. The young William eventually bought the other two properties giving him a total land holding of just under 500 acres, almost half the total village land, and farmed Hill House as a gentleman farmer with Otterburn Lodge remaining tenanted. He lived in some style, at one time employing a cook and a nursemaid and raising ten children, the eldest of whom, also named William, entered the church and was also a well respected poet.
He built up a well regarded herd of shorthorn cattle, wintering about thirty head and buying in Irish heifers in spring for either killing or feeding on, along with approx two hundred black-faced ewes that were crossed with Wensleydale rams and the produce sold fat.
Unfortunately, the 1870/1880 period saw a dramatic decline in farming fortunes and in September 1879 the shorthorn herd was auctioned with a large crowd attending but, as reported in the Craven Herald: Prices were not so good as had been expected. Thirty-four females realised £782.15.6 (approx £37,800 at 2006 values). None of the bulls brought large prices. Eleven bull calves averaged between £7 and £8.
The family fortunes continued to decline and, on May 14th, 1884 both farms were offered for sale at auction at the Midland Hotel in Skipton but were unsold and eventually, having been heavily mortgaged for many years, were repossessed by the ultimate mortgagee, the Craven Bank, who allowed Gomersall to remain living at Hill House until they sold the entire estate in 1897 to Frederick J Haggas of the well known Keighley textile manufacturers. He also bought Otterburn House which it is believed he lived in as a gentleman farmer whilst accommodating his farm staff, gardener and coachman in the other properties. He played a very prominent role in local affairs, serving on Settle Rural District Council for twenty-six years, eight as chairman. He was also chairman of the local Military Tribunal during the 1914-1918 war and, at his death in 1924 was the oldest Justice of the Peace at Settle.
Hill House has recently been refurbished and an original inglenook fireplace with its beehive oven uncovered and restored. The construction of this fireplace with its many cut and shaped voussoirs suggests a date of the early seventeenth century for the original building as does the presence of a window mullion with a concave chamfer that could well have been reused when the original building was modified and extended.
An early reference to Otterburn Bridge is found in an abstract of
the will of Robert Spencer of Otterborne dated 1542:
To be buried in the ch: yarde of Sancte Michaell Tharcangell of
Malloughdale. Item I will have placebo and dirige with messe &
requiem solemplie songe for my soull in the day of my buriall with
prests and clerks of the same churche for the which service so doinge
I will have every prest have iiijd and clerks and singers every one
1d. Item I give and bequethe to the church warks of Malloughdale xiid.
Item I give and bequeathe to Sir Christopher Branthwate our ladie
prest xs to singe one trentall of messe for my soule. To Long Preston
ch. xiid. Item I give and bequeath to the mendynge of Otterborne brige
xiid. to the making of the stone (?) bridge xxd.
This almost certainly refers to the bridge in the heart of the village
on the Hellifield to Airton road and indicates that, at the time of
executing his will, a new bridge of stone construction either was
being, or was proposed to be, built to replace a wooden one. It is
likely that the abutments to be seen upstream from the present bridge
and opposite the lane that was the original road are the remains of
Today's bridge, which presumably replaced the above, is a Grade 11
listed building built, according to the Sites and Monuments Record,
between 1767 and 1833.
The bridge between Otterburn and Bell Busk was built, by subscription,
in 1870 by Thomas Varley at a cost of £76 to replace another
wooden bridge that was sold for £1-5-0 (£1.25) with William
Gomersall of Hill House in the village being one of the prime movers
and the first to subscribe. He gave £5, as did eight others,
with Walter Morrison of Malham Tarn House donating £10, the
balance being raised from a further 19 donors.
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