Granny House & Local History

So is it Granville House or Granny House?

When built 400 years ago it was called Granny House Farm with 34 acres. About 100 years ago, the name was changed to Granville House. The lane is locally known as Granny Lane. It is officially Mark House Lane but Mark House nearer to the river disappeared many years ago.

Everyone wonders why the House was called Granny House, was it built for somebody’s granny or was it a granary?

We have recently officially restored this delightful old name. The lane is the old Roman road from Otterburn to Gargrave. There is the outline of a Roman marching post just east of Granny House along the original route of the lane before it was diverted left at the corner of our field. This was the main road until 1820 and a viable road until the 1970s.

The fields around Granny House are; Granny Croft, Lower Granny Croft, Granny Pasture and Lower Granny pasture. Granny House dates back to the 16th century. Built as a laithe (farmhouse with a barn attached). The stone probably came from the huge productive quarry at the base of Haw Cragg.

A railway branch line ran from the quarry towards Gargrave. The barn has intact 17C king trusses.

Granny House became a hostelry and drovers from the Highlands would stay over and put their livestock in the fields. On maps from the 18thC Granny House is larger than it is now and L shaped. This hint of an L shape is just visible when you look at the barn from the lane.

The house was always independent from the surrounding estates at Nessfield Hall, Eshton Hall, Gargrave House and Coniston Hall.

Granny House is mentioned in the walking book; ‘Through Airedale from Goole to Malham’, written in 1891, it refers to Granny House as a stout old edifice, an old dwelling, 3 centuries old, which had been a ‘public’ up until 1820, a familiar rendezvous for the packmen in ancient days.

Just over 100 years ago the front of the house was ruined by fire and rebuilt with dressed stone.

  • In 1841 it was occupied by John Dixon and family - cotton weaver
  • In 1851 by James Winterton and family – railway labourer
  • In 1861 by Henry Hirst and family – shoemaker
  • In 1871 uninhabited
  • In 1881 by Thomas Jowett – a postman, he lived here with his family and boarders for about 30 years.

The Holgate family (yeomen from Long Preston) then sold Granny House to the Lister and Dowson family in 1904 who sold it to the Giffords in 1912.

The Giffords were horse dealers and had been living in a wooden shack on Station Road in Bell Busk. Descendants of this family have gone on to become famous horse trainers. We have a racing horse weathervane from their time here. The Giffords lived here until 1991 and became involved with Whittakers chocolates in Skipton, all the chocolates were stored in the barn.

We have lived here since 2010 and just before we bought it, it was on Escape to the Country 2009.

We have renovated the house and converted the barn, created gardens for flowers, wildlife and vegetables, a wildflower meadow, an orchard and some native woodland.

Bell Busk

Bell Busk is a hamlet about a mile from Coniston Cold on the Otterburn Road. It did not appear on the map until 1627, when it probably consisted of one house on the East bank of the River Aire between the old bridge and the ford.

The house (maybe Mark House) lay near the drovers track; a roman road known locally as Granny Lane or Mark House Lane. This lane was for packhorses and highland cattle being driven from the Highlands to Skipton and Lincoln. A bell is thought to have been hung nearby in a conspicuous bush and rung as an indicator of the route to be taken across the remote pastures and as a guide used by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem as they set off on the crusades, or as a warning after dark if the water was high. This is perhaps how the hamlet derived its name; a bell in a busk (tree stump or bush).

Bell may come from the word bel, which is a ford, so a ford over the river by a busk. Alternatively, Bell Busk comes from the word beale which was a sacrificial site in bronze age times. If you look towards Haw Crag there is a lower flat mound to the North West where bronze age villagers sacrificed animals. The last witches of Craven were burnt at Haw Crag.

The village is one of the earliest seats of Quakerism in Yorkshire. A Toleration Act license was granted in 1689 and Quaker meetings were allowed to be held. The church used by villagers then was at Kirkby Malham. Later there was a Wesleyan chapel and a church built at Coniston Cold as the population grew.

Though only a hamlet of Coniston Cold, Bell Busk became a bustling place thanks to the 5-storey cotton mill which became a silk mill, it was built in 1781 by Peter Garforth, the grandfather of James Garforth. The mill gave employment to many people in the surrounding area. The insignia for the mill was a bell in a tree. A bell was rung to call the workers, and this is still hung on the gable end of one of the cottages. The last time this bell was rung was for the Queen’s coronation in 1953. The mill, which produced beautiful silk yarns was later bought by the Rickards family, then inherited by the Dewhirst family (from Belle Vue Mills, Skipton) and finally owned by the Slingsbys, before being quickly dismantled in 1905. There are no known photos of the mill. The outline of the mill pond and the mill race is at the end of Granny Lane. The mill is being rebuilt as a 2-storey factory for motorbikes and gin.

There were many more cottages and wooden shacks than there are today and the cottages that remain would have once been back to back. There was even a 4-berth toilet constructed across the road for the comfort of the villagers. No longer in use, this building is grade 2 listed. Bell Busk Bridge and Red Bridge are grade 2 listed, along with Ravenflatt and Essbottom. A communal wash house has now been converted into a cottage, the infant school built in 1871 at Hill Top House became a post office and there were even tennis courts. Betty Davis liked this area very much and one of her films ‘One Man’s Poison was made here.

The railway brought new interest and prosperity when it was opened in 1849. Bell Busk railway station was the main terminus for the Dales. Milk left Malhamdale in huge churns called milk kits, also eggs, chicks, cattle and sheep would leave the Dales from Bell Busk. Sadly, the station closed in 1959.

The very first works day outing in England arrived in Bell Busk when Sir Titus Salt brought 1600 workers from Saltaire on 2 very long steam trains. They were supposed to walk to Malham for a picnic, but many stopped off along the way.

Bell Busk today, produces Hesper Farm Skyr. Hesper farm is one of the best dairy farms in the Dales and the Skyr is winning many awards.

The world-famous Metcalfe models and toys are produced here too.

The vertigo bike is assembled on the site of the old mill.

The Pendle and Craven Hunt house their hounds on the Estate. The Estate, via the hotel provides opportunities for fly fishing, clay pigeon shooting, pheasant shooting and off roading. There is also a spa with a swimming pool.

Coniston Cold

Coniston Cold is a small village on the old road to the Lake District between the market towns of Skipton and Settle. The road was diverted in 1829 from Wheelwright Plantation when a cutting was made through rock to Hellifield. There were 2 coaching inns on this old road, one known as the Punch Bowl (ball) Inn where villagers would kick a ball against the wall and one known today as Church Close Farm. Many of the houses are grade 2 listed. Coniston Cold means Kings land in Saxon English and is mentioned in The Domesday Book as a land of Terra Regis.

Conyg; King      Ton; town        Cald; cold  

In 1665, the village was bought by the Coulthursts of Gargrave and sold to Mr. Laycock of Lothersdale at the beginning of the 19th Century, then soon after to Mr. Garforth. Coniston Cold is rich in history; there are many ring dwellings, earthworks and tumuli on either side of the road going North. On the South side of this road there is a Danish camp. Many gems, coins, daggers and urns have been discovered.

Wheels for farm carts were made by a couper at Wheelwright Farm from 1379.

In 1846, the Garforth family built the church dedicated to St Peter and the parish was separated from Gargrave. John Wesley is said to have preached from the steps of the Old Vicarage. The church has a unique 3 tier pulpit and a very high steeple. The clock is one of only 4 surviving from 14 made in the world. It was made by James Harrison of Hull in 1845, so it is considered as a Harrison clock. Richard and I are the timelords here and make regular adjustments.

In 1849, the school was completed and by 1851, Coniston Hall was completed. The Hall and lands passed to James Garforth’s daughter; Frances Catherine who married James William Tottie of Leeds. The Hall fell into decay and was demolished in 1969. Many of the houses and farms were sold off at that time.

Electricity arrived in 1955.