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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:
A majestic sweep through more than two thousand years of historythis is how Professor Graham Hooley describes Sir Martin Holdgate's new book about Hartley, a village near Kirkby Stephen in the Upper Eden Valley.

The book is in three parts. The first part tells the story of Hartley down the ages, from the arrival of the first people at the end of the Ice Age through prehistory, Roman times, the so-called Dark Ages and the era of the Norman de Harcla and Musgrave Lords of the Manor into modern times.
Part two brings us down to the familiar earth. It is an account of the buildings of Hartley, starting with the Castle and the Lord’s Mills and summarising what is known of the history of today’s houses, many of which are two- or three-hundred-year-old replacements for mediaeval crofts which themselves replaced the early timber and thatch tofts of Norman times.
Part three contains examples of the kinds of record the author used in writing the book. The first list of Hartley residents, who paid a Poll Tax in 1380. Those whose hearths were taxed in 1670. Tenants who paid rents and ‘fines’ and supplied ‘boon hens’, loads of coal and days shearing to the Manorial Lords in the 17th and 19th centuries. Bills for repairs at the Castle in the early 1700s. Two records of ‘disbursements’ by Thomas Rudd the bailiff in 1734-35. And finally, copies of the census records from 1841 to 1911 which readers can search for their own namesakes and possible ancestors.
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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Hayloft books are printed with an environmentally friendly policy. The offset of carbon emissions is through a new Wood of Words project in Dumfries and Galloway. For this book we are planting a Rowan tree.

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