WRITER Vera Brearey says one of the fascinating things about Old Road where she lives is how little it has changed, and how easy it is to imagine people from the past, from Romans to wealthy Victorians and itinerant mill workers making their way along it.

Her research into the road, and into the families who lived in the grand Throstle Nest, now , has been a fascinating project, she says.

“Old Road is just a typical country lane in Yorkshire. It leaves the A56 at the eastern edge of the village, twists hither and thither, then joins the main road again a few hundred yards further on,” she says.

“It passes some houses and a couple of fields. So far, so normal – but it has a long history.”

One clue, she continues, is its name. “ It was part of the old road along the valley, before this little loop was cut off by the turnpike - now the A56 - in the early 19th century and became ‘Old Road’.

“But the story goes further back than that. One end of the lane, where the houses are, lies pretty much directly on the route of the Roman military road from Ribchester to York - faint traces of the Roman route can still be seen in the nearby fields, heading off towards the Roman fort at Elslack about a mile away.”

But, Vera’s book is not just about the road itself.

“Researching the stories of some of the people who lived there in the past has been just as fascinating,” she says.

“The Quaker part of the title derives from the Wilson family, who built Throstle Nest in 1765.

“Thomas Wilson was a worsted manufacturer, a description given to those people who, before the arrival of the factory system, organised the production of woollen cloth.

“They bought wool - in fact my house started life as the wool warehouse, built onto the end of Throstle Nest - and arranged for spinners to spin it and weavers (handloom weavers working from home) to weave it, before selling the finished pieces at Cloth Halls or Piece Halls.

“The family owned farmland too, as witnessed by the stacks of oats that were periodically seized to pay to the local clergy in lieu of church tithes. Quakers objected to the existence of an official priesthood and so refused to pay for its upkeep, but had goods seized by the bailiffs instead.”

One year, says Vera, a ‘Scot’s cow’ was taken instead.

“Four generations of the Wilson family lived at Throstle Nest. Thomas’ grandson, another Thomas, was a druggist, or pharmacist, in Bradford.

“In his early 40s he moved back to the family home and by his 50s he had retired and was busy with his many hobbies, one of which was astronomy.

“ He had a very powerful and accurate telescope, mounted in a purpose built observatory, and was one of a small but influential network of Victorian gentleman astronomers.”

Thomas’ son, Charles, was a railway engineer.He was just four years old when he moved with his father to Throstle Nest in 1848..

“It was the very year that the Skipton to Colne railway opened, almost right at the bottom of the garden. I like to imagine him falling in love with the steam trains and deciding what he wanted to do when he grew up. Charles was a keen amateur photographer too and his photographs of the railway network under construction are incredibly rare – it was early days for photography as well as for railways,” says Vera.

By the late 19th century, the last members of the Wilson family had moved away, and in 1910, the estate, made up of Throstle Nest, nearby properties and some farmland, was bought by Arthur Birley.

By the late nineteenth century the last members of the Wilson family had moved away. “The factory system had arrived, cotton was king and Arthur Birley was in the thick of it. He owned looms at two sheds in Earby and employed several hundred people,” says Vera.

“The 1920s and 20s were troubled times. My researches led me to read about the tramp weavers - itinerant mill workers who waited outside the mills every morning, ready to be take on if a regular worker was sick or late. People could be five minutes late and lose a day’s work. And then, later, the cotton industry collapsed, mainly because of the pressure from cheaper, more efficient, overseas competitors. Arthur Birley died in 1944 and the company, run by his daughters after his death, finally closed its doors in 1959.”

Vera says one of the best things about Old Road today is how unchanged it seems.

“ It is very easy to imagine travellers from past centuries following its route, winding up between the enormous trees and steep banks. It’s also easy to imagine the people from the past – a world away, in one sense, but in another still here, on our very doorstep.”

The book is available from Vera Brearey at The Rookery, Old Road, Thornton-in-Craven, BD23 3TB. It costs £5 (£6.75 if sent by post). Queries to vera.brearey@btinternet.com.