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Eshton is a part of the parish of Gargrave and included on this website as being a natural extension of the township of Winterburn, sitting alongside Coniston Cold on the southern edge of Malhamdale. Today it would certainly be difficult to describe as a village, as it simply consists of dwellings scattered throughout the township, the most imposing of which being Eshton Hall.

The following information about the manor of Eshton is adapted from TD Whitaker's History of Craven :


Eshton or the town of Ash-trees, which in the dialect of Craven are called Esh. (HESTON. In eadem villa sunt VI car. terra quæ tenentur de rege, et quælibet car. redd. per ann. ad finem prædictum IIId ob. q. ; unde summa est XXIId . ob.- Kirkby's Inquest A.D. 1284.)

This manor is of the Skipton fee, and the first mesne lords were the family De Eston, who occur as witnesses in the earliest charters of the neighbourhood (The Abbot of Furness holds of the Lady Margaret Nevill in Eshton 1 carucate-Knights' Fees 31 Edward I.
Johannes de Eston in 29 Edward I held manor of Eston.-Inq. post mortem.
John de Essheton held in capite of the lord of the Castle of Skipton ten carucates in Kighley, Halton, and Essheton, of which four carucates are in his own hands in Essheton.-Knights' Fees 31 Edward I.
By the Nomina Villarum 9 Edward II, we learn that John de Eston, William de Malgham, and the Abbot of Furness were lords of the manor of Eshton. Ranulf de Eston was living in 1186. Sir John de Eston, living in 1314, died s.p. and had a brother Richard, who by Juliana his wife, had William, whom I suppose to have been the father of Robert, father of the last William. James de Eston, who sold Appletrewic to the Canons of Bolton, seems to have been another brother of Sir John)
. But John de Eston is chiefly memorable for having contested the right to the earldom and estates of Albemarle with Edward I. I am unable to trace his descendants in lineal succession. The last of whom I have seen any account is William, son of Robert de Essheton, whose wardship and marriage Thomas Clifford his chief lord granted to Sir William de Rillestone in a charter of 1390-1 :-


Sachent tous Gents, nous Thom' de Clyfford Sen' de Westm', avoir dognet et graunte a n're cher compagnon Mons.W. de Rilstone, la Garde et la Marriage Will' filz et heire Roberte de Essheton, ove touts les terres et ten'ts que le dit Rob' de
nous ten't in Essheton, Kighelay, et Halton sur le Hille, etc. Escryt a Skipton in Craven le Joudy prochie apres la feste de
S. Hillarie 14 Rich. II.

A minor in 139I may probably be supposed to have survived to about the year 1430; in 1450 Henry de Preston was lord of Essheton (In that year there is an award relating to the boundaries of Essheton and Flasby, and wood growing on the same, between this Henry and Rich. Nessfield.-" Essheton Brigge" is mentioned in 1314 ; MSS, at Bolton Abbey). But in the 23rd year of the reign of Henry VIII it was in the hands of Henry Marton, the names of which family appear in the register of baptisms and burials at Gargrave down to 1584; yet I suspect that the manor of Eshton was before this time sold to the Cliffords, for the second Earl of Cumberland, who was a purchaser, died in 1570, and fourteen years after, his son was plunged in extravagance and waste. But, whatever the precise date of this transaction may be, it is certain that in 1597 or 1598, George Earl of Cumberland mortgaged this manor to Robert Bindloss of Borwick Hall, for £2,000 with a clause that upon non-payment of that sum within five years, the purchase should be absolute. It never was redeemed, and the Bindlosses held Eshton till the year 1648, when it was once more sold to Mr. John Wilson, of Thresfield, ancestor of the present possessor.

Eshton Hall
Eshton Hall around 1775


Eshton Hall stands in one of the most fertile and pleasing situations in Craven, on a gentle slope with a foreground of the finest verdure, contrasted with the brown and rugged summits of Elso, and on the east a fine trout stream running briskly along a retired and woody valley. (Eshton Hall is the seat of Sir Mathew Wilson, M.P. ; it was erected in 1825-7, Mr. Webster of Kendal being the architect. In the library are some very important MSS. which are described in the Appendix to the Third Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commissioners, and comprise forty-one volumes of Dodsworth's Yorkshire Collections, a fifteenth century Chronicle of London and the correspondence of Dr. Richardson. There is also a fine library of books, chiefly consisting of a portion of the collection of the late Miss Richardson Currer, whose portrait by Masquerier is in one of the rooms. There are some fine pictures, notably portraits of Cromwell, Fairfax, and General Lambert, all said to be by Walker; Charles I in armour, his hand on a glass globe, this picture was brought from Browsholme; Diana and Actæon by Rubens; Virgin and Child, Vandyck; Heliodorus driven from the Temple, Vandyck; Centaurs and Lapithæ, Luca Giordano and a large water-colour drawing of Thurland, in the Valley of the Lune by Turner.)
This stream is augmented about half a mile above by one of the most copious springs in the kingdom. St. Helen's Well fills at its source a circular basin twenty feet in circumference, from the whole bottom of which it boils up, without any visible augmentation in the wettest season, or diminution in the driest. In hot weather the exhalations from its surface are very conspicuous. But the most remarkable circumstance about this spring is, that, with no petrifying quality in its own basin, after a course of about two hundred yards over a common pebbly channel, during which it receives no visible accession from any other source, it petrifies strongly where it is precipitated down a steep descent into the brook.

To this well anciently belonged a chapel, with the same dedication ; for in the year 1429, a commission relating to the manor of Flasby sat in Capella beate Elene de Essheton (Bolton MSS) and on the opposite side of the road to the spring is a close called the Chapel Field. This was probably not unendowed, for I met with certain lands in Areton, anciently called Seynt Helen Lands (Lambert papers).

The honours of Helena, though a native of Britain, have been limited by Christian superstition to the neighbourhood of York and Segontium. At the former, Constantine was born; at the latter, Constantius is said to have died. In North Wales, her name is preserved in the Sarn Hellen, the Funnon Hellen, and the Coed Hellen ; in West Yorkshire, by Hellen's Ford, Chapel and Well near Tadcaster, and by two springs dedicated to her honour in Craven. That she had crossed the ford now named after her is almost certain ; that she had drunk of the well is not improbable. In Leland's time the chapel was remaining-it is now dilapidated and gone, but the following discovery will prove it to have been a place of devotion in the Saxon times. At a small distance from the ford, and close to the right of the Riggate, one branch of the great Roman road to York, are a few hillocks covered with furze and interspersed with trees, from the south end of one of which, within a small natural arch of rock, overhung with brushwood and ivy, rises St. Helen's Well, which spreads over a shallow gravelly bottom. The water is soft and very clear; it is much esteemed as a remedy for weak eyes, and the adjoining bushes are still hung with votive offerings of ribbons, &c., by persons who either expect or conceive themselves to have received, a cure through the merits of St. Helen. Adjoining are two smaller springs, also esteemed sacred ;and the waters of all the three soon uniting, run eastward along the bottom of a deep and narrow gill.

Opposite to St Helen's Well, and hid among the brushwood, was lately discovered the shaft of a cross lying on the ground. It was of the early Saxon form, obeliscal, with two broad and two narrow sides, all of which had a rude carving in relievo of a kind of foliage, in the same style with St Augustine's crosses at Whalley, though the pattern was specifically different. Thus much I have thought due to this interesting fountain, as it cannot be doubted that the fame of St. Helen of Tadcaster suggested the dedication of the two Sister Springs of Eshton and Fernhill.

Still more to the north is Eshton Tarn, abounding with pike, which, though now less than a mile in circumference (it is now only about 500 yards), seems, from the spongy levels about it, to have been formerly of much greater extent. The Lacus de Eshton, then extended to xxxs. per annum, was granted by Edward I. to John de Eston, as part of the consideration for his claim upon the earldom of Albemarle and barony of Skipton. This estimate confirms my conjecture as to its former extent, for land then bore a rent of no more than qd. an acre, and it can scarcely be supposed that water would be worth more than the ground which it covered. A circle of two miles would do no more than embrace ninety Craven acres. The area of this pool, therefore, must have been four times as large as at present. A rampart of a few feet at the outlet would restore it to its former expanse.

Image © Colin Hinson from the digital version of the 3rd, enlarged edition of TD Whitaker's History of Craven External Website logo which can be purchased, along with Thos. Langdales 1822 Topographical dictionary of Yorkshire for £20 including P&P.



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