BRONTE Bedford-Payne has spent years probing the history of the small Yorkshire Dales "parish" where she lived in the 1940s having been evacuated there during the blitz from her home in London to live with her mother's family. For several generations the family had been tenant farmers in Hanlith in Malhamdale and at Barden on the Bolton Abbey estate. It was at Barden that Mrs Bedford-Payne spent her childhood, schooldays and the war years. A time of "continuity" amidst great tumult.
Here Clive White writes about her book "Barden in Wharfedale The Place and its People" published by Hayloft at £18.00.
THE book is a goldmine of information touching on the area's ancient history, its topography, architecture and archaeology all woven together through the lives of the characters who occupied the area for hundreds of years.
It spans a time from Barden as an early settlement, explores the history and architecture of Barden Tower, the route ways, the various buildings and farms, focuses on the hamlet of Drebley and the social history of the place.
It is jam-packed with photographs, both in colour and black and white which capture the stunning scenery, the characters who enlivened the place, the homes they lived in and the land they worked on.
The Duke of Devonshire, who owns vast tracts of the area, describes reading Mrs Bedford-Payne's book as a "revelation, a fascinating historical survey of every aspect of this beautiful and ancient part of Yorkshire."
In her own preface she explains how the umpteen records she examined revealed how "over a period of 350 years, generations of the same families inhabited the same steadings, farming the land as had their forefathers.
"Once having settled, many of these tenant farmers built their own houses and their barns, their families were born, baptised, married and died in the homes of their forefathers. Many now lie before stone headstones in the churchyard at Bolton Abbey."
One Dalesman we meet along the way is Hubert Demaine - he is shown in a photograph taken in the 1930s with one of his prized Swaledale sheep. His character is described in the "diary" of Billy Mason who went to work aged 15 for Hubert at Fold Farm Drebley in the 1920s and recalls him as "behaving exceptionally well to me and so did t'wife, but she were a funny person."
Billy recalls how Hubert would "go and sit on the back steps of the farmhouse and play his trumpet " whenever his wife one of these funny turns. The sound could be heard all round the valley and particularly in Drebley hamlet.
He also recalled the Irishmen hired in Skipton during haytime and staying for a month. Billy writes how these Irishmen preferred to sleep out and then when they went "drinking in t'evening they could come in when they liked. They used the wooden footbridge to get to the New Inn at Apptreewick."
There's a chapter on twentieth century life and farming in Drebley which also recalls how the hamlet grew between the River Wharfe and the road to Burnsall and was situated on what is probably a pre-historic trackway running through the valley.
It was developed on the site of one of the medieval hunting lodges in the Forest of Barden owned first by the Romillies and then by the Cliffords of Skipton Castle.
Roads, lanesn footpaths and stepping stones formed a vital part in the life of the valley, no less so than the road from Skipton to Patley Bridge which took on a greater significance with the arrival of the Leeds-Liverpool canal in Skipton and wound its way on up the Bailey, through Embsay and Eastby and over Black Park down to Barden.
It is fascinating to image Anne Clifford of Skipton Castle riding, or being carried, along this road to spend time at Barden Towner possibly on her way to Brougham Castle. It was definitely used by her father George, the 3rd Earl of Cumberland with his wife Margaret pregnant with her daughter Ann.
These routes were not all the relatively wide trackways like over Black Park especially when it came to crossing the River Wharfe where in places the only way was by stepping stones. Like those between Drebley and Hough Mill.
Mrs Bedford-Payne also explores the emergence of education in the valley and we learn about the development Barden School, at Barden Tower. It appears on the first edition Ordnance Survey published in 1853. The book includes a group photograph, which features children, possibly taken in the late 1920s before it closed in 1931 and became a village institute. It re-emerged in 1993 as an annexe to the Montessori school at Strid Cottage.
The Field Society's Local History Group has produced the book, called "People and Places in Upper Wharfedale". It is a collection of articles written by society members and has been compiled by member Bronte Bedford-Payne and edited by Helen Wheatley.