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Hartley: A Westmorland Village


About this book:

  • ISBN: 978 1 910237 48 9 (paperback)

  • Published November 2020

  • Price £22.00 + postage

  • 352 pages

  • Illustrated with 70 colour photographs, maps, plans and diagrams


About the Book:

MORE than 2,000 years of the history of Hartley, an upper Eden Valley village in the historic county of Westmorland, are contained in the pages of this well researched and beautifully written book. The author peels back the deep layers of history to show the earliest inhabitants and the remains of their Iron Age village on the fellside just above the present village. Hunters, farmers and the Roman occupation are examined along with a fascinating chapter on the ancient local kingdoms of the so-called Dark Ages.
There are chapters about the arrival of the Normans and the first of the de Harcla lords who built an early fortification, slowly to be refined and improved into Hartley Castle which stood guard over the village for centuries.
Medieval life for the villagers is explored in detail, including early agriculture and the first family names some of which still exist in the village and surrounding area. The difficulties of the lords of the manor, the arrival of the Musgrave family and changes to the local economy with new farms, crofts and later mining for coal and lead are examined as is the Victorian era and the arrival of the railway.
The second part of the book is devoted to the village houses and farms, and to the families who lived and worked there. Numerous photographs, maps, plans and appendices add rich detail to the story. Although this book is a particular, and special story, it reflects and includes wider history and Hartley's story is illustrative of many villages, not just in Cumbria, but in all of northern England.

About the Author:

Sir Martin Holdgate has known Westmorland from childhood. Growing up in Blackpool, the Eden Valley was his holiday home and the stimulus to his growing interest in the countryside. In 1956 he first wrote about the area with a History of Appleby as a digression from his work as an academic biologist. Since then he has been an Antarctic scientist, University Lecturer, Director of Conservation Research, Civil Servant, co-ordinator of national action to combat environmental pollution and Director General of the World Conservation Union. He has worked extensively with the United Nations and was co-Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. Martin Holdgate was knighted in 1994 and in 2000 he and his wife Elizabeth retired to live in the Eden Valley.


Through extensive research in archive sources, many still in private hands, Sir Martin Holdgate has compiled a fascinating, richly illustrated and intensely detailed history of the small village of Hartley, just outside Kirkby Stephen, from earliest times to the present day. The book is remarkable in its level of detail, including an account of every house in Hartley (from the lost castle to each of the farms and cottages) and identifying those who lived there across past centuries. A small rural community cannot be understood without reference to the wider sweep of history and one of the book’s strengths lies in its blending of local detail with published research on the historical context. The result is a deeply informed account of the evolution of a Westmorland village community, its buildings and the local landscape.
Angus Winchester, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, Lancaster University

A majestic sweep through more than two thousand years of history. Exceptionally well researched and detailed for one small village but illustrative of the development of scores of others. Holdgate charts the development of Hartley from a series of Iron Age farmsteads, still visible as banks, ditches and platforms above the village, through the Romano-British period and the Early Medieval to the coming of the Norman barons after the Conquest and onwards into the twenty-first century. The great lordships of the de Harclas (Hartleys) and Musgraves (for 600 years until 1925 the Lords of the Manor) are examined in detail giving great insight into the functioning of the manor and village through to modern times.
Farming of course looms large in that history, but so too does the mining for coal and lead that has pockmarked the hills above the village. The structure of Hartley village still reflects the pattern of crofts, which followed the Medieval arrangement of tofts along either side of the beck and a history of each of the houses and their occupants brings to life the story of the village. Along the way we find fascinating insights into environmental/climate change, population ups and downs, plague and famine, skirmishes and unrest on the Scottish/English border, the Pilgrimage of Grace, the Jacobite rebellion, hearth and window taxes, the role and effects of ‘customary tenure’.
All in all a fascinating read and a great insight into the story of Britain as told through the history of one Westmorland village.
Graham Hooley, Professor Aston University



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