history and nature

The area in and around Kilnsey and Conistone in Upper Wharfedale, North Yorkshire, in the Yorkshire Dales, is rich with history, geology, landscape interest and nature.

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A War Memorial has been erected in Conistone with Kilnsey...Read more

History of Kilnsey and Conistone

The Yorkshire Dales Historic Environment Record lists over 60 historic landscape features, ranging from Mesolithic to Medieval, spread liberally over the Kilnsey and Conistone landscape, many of which can be seen from public footpaths.

Kilnsey, known as Kylnesey in 1146, is said to have taken its name either from 'Cynel's water meadow' or from 'The marsh by the kiln' and either derivation may be possible as the flat meadowland lying between Kilnsey and Conistone is the bed of a long gone glacial lake held back by a moraine across the valley near to Chapel House Farm. Rushes were harvested from the water meadows in front of the Crag and taken to the Abbey, and there was also a large lime kiln attached to Kilnsey Grange which supplied lime for the monk's building work. In the villages of Kilnsey and Conistone there are buildings of historical merit and beauty built around the 17th Century. On the slopes above both villages are field barns which have served the Wharfedale farmers for generations. These traditional farm buildings have been enlarged and adapted to serve the changing needs of their owners and occupiers, in some cases, since early 17th Century

Conistone - meaning 'the king's farmstead', mentioned in the Domesday book as 'Cunestune' - is a charming and quiet village hidden away from the main road on the east side of Wharfedale. Conistone Dib is a narrow gorge, which was created by post-glacial floodwater, and leads upwards from the village green, through Gurling Trough, to an area of spectacular limestone scenery. A second melt water channel running alongside Grass Wood has a dry waterfall known as Dib Scar, and Dib Beck below then runs down the hillside to join the River Wharfe at White Nook. A knoll with a very distinctive shape to the north East of Conistone village, is known as Conistone Pie. Grass Wood is an area between Conistone and Grassington and is a good example of an upland ash wood on limestone pavement which offers interesting walks through a well wooded and picturesque area. Lower Grass Wood, next to the river, is owned by the Woodland Trust and has ash, oak, birch, blackthorn, dog rose and hazel trees. Here you can find primroses, cowslip and bluebells during the year. Grass Wood is owned and managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and you can find herb paris, wild garlic, lily of the valley, Solomon's Seal, orchids, violets, harebells and field scabious plants.

On the lower hillsides above Conistone are well-developed field terraces, known locally as lynchets (or raines in Grassington) which are evidence of earlier arable farming. At higher levels, dewponds are a common sight on this side of the River Wharfe, where there are fewer springs. Field lime kilns appear at regular intervals: these date from a time when limestone was burnt to make agricultural lime which was spread on the land to improve and increase the productivity of the meadows and pastures. Scott Gate Lane is the start of an ancient trackway, Bycliffe Road, crossing the moor to Middlesmoor in Nidderdale. In the past this same route served the many mines, mostly lead from at least the 17th Century, but also to bring down peat and poor quality coal to Conistone village.

St Mary's church at Conistone owes much of its present appearance to a modernisation of the mid 19th century, but behind this it retains some of the oldest building fabric surviving in Craven. The two western openings of the arcade between the nave and the aisle, with plain round arches, are Norman - that is, 12th-century - and so probably is the bowl of the font. The eastern two, with pointed arches, are late medieval - 14th- or 15th-century. The 19th-century work, appropriately in the Neo-Norman style, was carried out in 1846-7 under the direction of the Lancaster architects Sharpe & Paley. The existing church was thoroughly restored, with a new roof and new windows, and the chancel, porch, bellcote and vestry were added; but unfortunately all the old fittings - box pews, gallery and 'three-decker' pulpit - were removed. In 1957 the church was re-pewed, and in 2004 a beautiful fabric wall-hanging of local scenes was created by a group of villagers.

You can find the Register of St. Marys Chapel at Conistone in the parish of Burnsall-in-Craven 1567-1812 here. The register was edited by W.J. Stavert, M.A., rector of Burnsall, Yorkshire, and chaplain to the Earl of Craven.

During the 12th Century the Cistercian Monks of Fountains Abbey began to acquire land in Kilnsey and other areas of Craven. Experienced in sheep management, they soon established an administration centre in Kilnsey serving their granges in Craven. Sited on a busy major route, the monks from Fountains Abbey (near Ripon) had easy access to their estates throughout Craven and the Lake District. The activities of the monks have left a wealth of landscape features throughout the whole of Kilnsey. The monks were allowed to build Conistone Bridge to cross the river, and were also given rights of passage for sheep, cattle, men and their wagons to pass through Grassington and Hebden on their way to Fountains Abbey.

Mastiles Lane formerly known as Strete Gate, another ancient trackway, makes its way from Kilnsey across the hills to Malham, passing through the remains of a Roman Marching Camp. The route still echoes with the sound of the monastery's sheep, driven down to Kilnsey at mid-summer to be washed and shorn, the bells of the pack-horses carrying fleeces and other goods, and cattle from Scotland on their way to the sales held at Great Close on Malham Moor. In recent years Mastiles Lane had been badly damaged by off-road motor cyclists and 4X4 vehicles, and also due to the noise of groups of drivers/riders spoiling the peace and tranquility of the area, the North Yorkshire County Council, and more recently the National Park, have placed Traffic Restriction Orders (TRO's) on Mastiles Lane and several other 'green lanes' which prevents their use by motorised recreational vehicles.

The Kilnsey and Conistone Tithe Awards

The purpose of the tithe awards, executed by Tithe Commissioners under the Tithe Act of 1836, was the replacement of traditional tithes payable in kind by money payments calculated on the basis of the price of corn. They consist of two parts, a schedule and a map. The schedule lists the landowners and occupiers of the area covered by the award and their holdings piece by piece, together with the state of cultivation and the acreage of each piece and the notional tithe charge to be paid on it. The map identifies the location of each by means of a number key. The awards were executed in triplicate, the originals being retained by the Commissioners and now deposited in the National Archives at Kew, one of the copies going to the diocese - those for York and Ripon are now in the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York - and the other to the parish incumbent or churchwardens.

Kilnsey and Conistone have separate awards, Kilnsey's dating from 1844 and Conistone's from 1848: the website images are taken from the parish copies, which are now in private hands. They provide a vivid and detailed snapshot of the townships in the early Victorian period. The pattern of land-ownership differs slightly between the two. At Conistone it was quite widely dispersed, between over twenty proprietors, in holdings of widely varying size, from 400 acres down to single figures; whereas at Kilnsey there was only half the number of owners, with three larger holdings - the largest the Chapel House estate at nearly 1000 acres - but then a similar spread downwards in size. Most land was tenanted, owner-occupiers forming only a small minority. As to the state of cultivation, unsurprisingly almost all the agricultural land was pasture or meadow, with only six acres at Conistone and five at Kilnsey in use as arable. But the schedule also lists even the smallest, non-titheable holdings, consisting of just a house and garden; and all, together with the field-names in use at the time, are identifiable by means of the keys and maps, which are evidently more detailed and accurate than some. Also specified and quantified are the lands belonging to the townships, and at Conistone the roads, the 'waste land' which is the village green, and the commons, principally Conistone Moor: at Kilnsey the moor had been enclosed and divided amongst the individual owners. A striking feature of the Kilnsey map is the depiction of the woods at Chapel House as a pleasure ground, with walks or rides cut through them. Peter Leach

Kilnsey Tithe Award

Map of the Township of Kilnsey

Kilnsey Tithe Award

Conistone Tithe Award

Map of the Township of Conistone Part 1
Map of the Township of Conistone Part 2

Conistone Tithe Award

Locations of Records of Conistone with Kilnsey Parish Meeting

Conistone with Kilnsey War Memorial

A War Memorial has been erected in Conistone with Kilnsey.

In 2010 there was a discussion at the Conistone with Kilnsey Parish meeting about the absence of a War Memorial in Conistone with Kilnsey. It was agreed by the meeting that a memorial should be erected at a suitable location.

The memorial is now in position on the west wall in St. Mary's Church, Conistone. Most of the expense has been met by the Co-operative Memorials of Nab Wood Shipley along with donations from local people.

The memorial, along with the details of the six casualties and a map showing the places where they lived, can be viewed below.

If anybody has any further information (e.g. photographs or family details), please forward them through this website.

Map showing details of the war casualties from Conistone with Kilnsey Parish, click here...

Details of Casualties on Conistone with Kilnsey War Memorial, click here...

War Memorial Dedication Plaque - this is now in position on the West wall of St. Mary's Church, Conistone with Kilnsey, click here...

Nature: Birds, Botany and Butterflies

Within close reach of Conistone and Kilnsey there is a variety of habitats rich in wildlife, including a riverine pasture, mixed woodland, upland pasture and moorland. These very different habitats attract a wonderful variety of wildlife, including birds, flowers, butterflies and moths.

At various times of year up to 80 species of birds have been spotted within a three-mile radius, including resident, summer and winter migrants. Spring brings the welcome call of the curlew as it floats down from the hilltop, and flocks of lapwings seeking their nest sites in the rough pastures. By Easter-time the wheatears are back, and after the early sand martins, the house martins, swallows and swifts appear over the villages. Warblers begin to sing, and in May spotted flycatchers may nest around the houses. Occasionally, red kites and migrating ospreys are seen in the area, along with the resident buzzards, sparrow hawks, peregrines, kestrels and ravens.

There are regular sightings of 16 species of butterfly and a wide variety of wild flowers, particularly limestone loving orchids and helleborines which can be seen very easily (for a small fee) in the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Kilnsey Park, where a nature footpath has been created around Kilnsey Flush. Land behind Kilnsey village is also part of the extensive Malham-Arncliffe SSSI which is of outstanding geological and biological interest. In the 1450's a hedge and ditch was created to enclose 'The Cool', a cow pasture alongside Cool Scar above Kilnsey village, and today Cool Pasture is also designated as an SSSI. On the other side of the dale, Conistone Old Pasture is another SSSI where mountain pansies, fragrant orchids, birds eye primrose, dropwort, rock-rose and field gentians can be found.

Birds Eye Primrose The Tennants Arms Kilnsey Common Blue Butterfly Field Lime Kiln Conistone St Marys Church Consitone Mastiles Lane Old Conistone Wild Orchids Curlew Old Conistone