Les Tyson

Sadly Les Tyson died a couple of days ago. A prolific researcher on Swaledale and the local area he  wrote two of the best researched and most popular books on lead mining in this area, British Mining numbers 38 & 53 on the mines of Marrick and Arkengarthdale respectively and co-authored number 51 on the mines of Grinton, see

Always willing to share his research and help others, he was good friend to many and will be sadly missed.


The impact of famine, pestilence and the Scots on Swaledale and the North Riding in the early fourteenth century

Judith and I have published a paper entitled “Assessing the impact of famine, pestilence and the Scots on Swaledale and the North Riding in the early fourteenth century.”  
The paper was developed based on the results of the Big Dig and has been published in the October edition of The Local Historian, the journal of the British Association for Local History.
It is available here Local Historian paper October 2018 PDF


Swaledale water mills

Water has long been used as a source of power in Swaledale. The earliest record of a water powered corn mill in Swaledale is in the 1273/4 survey of the manor of Healaugh. This is probably the Reeth mill on the Arkle Beck, referred to in a deed of 1293. William Spenceley was the tenant in 1635. The mill continued in use until at least the 19th century. The power of the water in the Arkle Beck was later harnessed to drive a saw mill near Reeth Bridge and by Mr William Handley Burton in 1911 to provide electricity in Reeth. The hydroelectric plant continued to supply electricity to the people of Reeth until the late 1950s when the growth in the use of domestic appliances meant it could no longer meet the demand.

The first record of a corn mill in Fremington is in 1288. It was replaced ca. 1677 by a new corn mill, now incorporated into the farm at Low Fremington. There were two corn mills in Grinton. The earliest mention of a Grinton corn mill is 1521-22 in the Charlesworth v Broderick papers. It is unclear whether this is the one opposite the Church, or the one recently recognised at Swale Hall, Grinton.

The photos below show the weir on the Arkle Beck, the sluice and the now disused ‘leat’ which took the water to the hydroelectricity plant.

Reeth Mill weir leat composite

Swaledale vernacular buildings

The photo shows a clear thatch line on the gable end of this house in High Fremington, indicating that when first built the house was thatched. This is consistent with the deeds which give the date of construction around 1640. Locally heather known as ‘ling’ was used for thatching. The thatch line shows that the roof was steeper than today to allow the water to run off, limiting the height of the first floor, if any. There might well have been only a sleeping platform above the living room, accessible by a ladder. Subsequently the walls were raised and a stone slate roof put on at a shallower pitch, enabling a first floor to be inserted. This was probably done in the late 18th or early 19thC.



Ancient trackway

This ancient cobbled trackway runs from Reeth Bridge, through High Fremington to join what is now the Reels Head road to Richmond. It was probably the route east out of Swaledale for centuries and perhaps millennia since just beyond here is the small Iron Age enclosed settlement of Ewelop Hill. The local tradition that this was Roman road is not as far-fetched as some might think!