Education, Routes and Green Spaces

This tour takes you east of the High Street to look at some old schools of Skipton.  Town Hall in High Street (car park to rear with toilets) is start and finish.  Allow 60 minutes.

Town Hall – Jerry Croft – Albion Yard – Otley Street – Otley Road – Wilderness – Newmarket Street – Petyt Grove (optional: Ginnel Wood – The Ginnel) – Newmarket Street – Caroline Square -High Street – Town Hall.

1. From Town Hall look north to the parish church. The CLERK SCHOOL in Skipton began in this church in the 1400s. It probably already existed when in 1492 Peter Toller endowed a grammar school in the chantry chapel of St. Nicholas, inside the church, with lands. The boys would have been taught at least literacy, Latin and theology by a chantry priest and would have helped him sing mass for the souls of the dead. In the reign of King Edward the sixth, in 1548, chantries were abolished and the school ceased. In the same year Canon Ermysted founded a new school in another building which you will see later.

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church

A few years later Queen Mary reigned and Latin was back in fashion; Ermysted promptly founded a new Clerk’s School in the parish church, endowed with lands, for the parish clerk to teach children to read and to speak their Primer and Psalter in Latin, teach them plainsong, and only take one penny at the entry and if the scholar had no penny, to let him (no girls) enter for nothing. A thatched building was built in the churchyard. After Mary’s reign this school seems to have become a simple school for literacy in English, and ran until 1771 when the parish clerk was accused of being drunk on duty and neglecting the Clerk’s School so that poor children remained illiterate and he was sacked.  In 1806 thanks to a grant by Ignatius Ingham a new clerk was paid to teach diligently, and to teach 8 poor scholars for free but allowed to charge the rest a sum set by the minister.

2.  At the side of the Town Hall turn down Jerry Croft noting RED LION INN 17th century outbuildings on the right.  The 13th century inn was an abbey hospice or inn and has mediaeval arched cellars, a fireplace over 400 years old and another nearly as old, plus ancient timbers.  The frontage onto the High Street is from when Skipton was rebuilt in stone after the Fire of London and frontages were moved forward as the old wooden jetties or galleries were done away with.  After the Reformation the inn was tenanted by the Catterson family who intermarried with the Petyt family four times in the 1600s. The Petyt family were generous benefactors of education in Skipton. The traditional inn sign was replaced 2013 by a modern clone even on this important listed building.

3. Just beyond the Inn on right is a LAITHE or barn,  owned by Red Lion until the 19th century as part of Red Lion Croft. Crofts were long and narrow with a toft (house with yard) at one end and were usually side by side within a ditched enclosure.  Croft systems were Anglo-Saxon. Saxon farmers in Skipton kept sheep (Skipton = Sheeptown) and cattle, pastured them on commons and grew hay, grain, nuts and fruit on the croft.  The Norman overlords changed this system and turned Skipton into a market town with burgesses. Crofts gave way to burgage plots which were still long and narrow but were used for workshops and housing, not crops and orchards. The usual style is still a shop at the front onto the marketplace, with a ginnel or yard running through the plot to access workshops, houses or warehousing behind the shop. Burgage plot structure is still common in the High Street.  Red Lion Farm included Red Lion Croft and Jerry Croft until 1907 when the cattle market moved from the High Street into what is now Town Hall car park,  Jerry Croft was used to create an access road, and Red Lion Farm closed down.

4. From beside the Red Lion note the side of the TOWN HALL.  This had its 150th birthday in 2012. What you can see is a public function room, built on the site of Holy Trinity vicarage in 1862 as a commercial venture.  It is probably built over the old Roman road from York to Kendal.  A later part of the building faces onto the High Street. In 1895 Skipton Urban District Council was created and it bought the building as a Town Hall to replace the Tolbooth on Sheep Street. In 1974 the council became Craven District Council and moved out. Skipton Town Council meets here. There is a museum and Tourist Information and you can often get in to see the hall.

5.  Continue to the M&S entrance and stop to look along Jerry Croft to a stone-walled area with trees on the right. This is the second oldest CROWN BOWLING GREEN in Yorkshire, nearly 200 years old, also probably on the Roman road alignment.  Crown green is a northern style of bowling. Bowling was popular in the 1500s but it was then made illegal for anyone below the rank of gentleman to play.  When it was legalised again, 200 years later, Skipton soon had 8 greens. There are now just 4 left and this one is threatened with tarmac in two years time, to replace the area of car park that Craven District sold for the huge block of clone shops opposite M&S.  Skipton Civic Society is opposing the loss of the green; it is a valuable bit of inner-town green space and crown green bowling is part of our heritage and of the civic amenities that the Civic Society exists to promote.

6. Turn right outside M&S to go through ALBION YARD (old laundry on left) and you reach first the long space called Rope Walk (the ropeworks is now a garage, but had to have a long space to make rope in) then join OTLEY STREET, constructed in the 1840s by cutting through from the High Street to join up with Court Lane opposite you.  Note the modernised Albion sign of 2013. Traditional pub signs are disappearing rapidly.  By the end of 2013 only 2 were left in Skipton.

7. OLD COUNTY COURT AND CLITHEROE SCHOOL LANDS.  You are opposite the old courthouse and can see down Court Lane opposite, lined on the right with Georgian warehouses and a laithe. The court house, now a church, was built in Georgian times but the land surrounding it, where buildings now front onto Otley Street or Newmarket Street, was all owned by the Free Grammar School of Clitheroe founded by Queen Mary in 1554. In 1837 a special act of parliament was passed allowing the school to sell its lands, and it sold the land here soon afterwards.

8. KIPLING DAME SCHOOL. Turn left up Otley Street. On your right is Alma Terrace.  The Battle of Alma in 1854 was the first battle of the Crimean War, a victory of English and French over Russians.  Rudyard Kipling’s grandfather Joseph was a Wesleyan Methodist minister, and his last posting was Skipton in 1860. He and his wife Frances lived here on Alma Terrace in the Methodist Manse (now gone). Kipling’s father John courted his wife at RudyardLake, and honeymooned here in 1865 then sailed to Bombay. So Rudyard may have been conceived here.

P1190852Kipling came to school in England and visited Skipton a few times. He hated school and his sister wrote, “what a lot of misery Rud and I should have been spared if mother had left us with grandmother. She had a nice little house in Skipton.” When Joseph died his widow moved with three daughters to 24 Otley Street, now offices of Armstrong Luty. The women kept a Dame School for boarders and day pupils for 25 years.  Kipling’s aunt Lizzie married chemist William Crump and he and then she ran a chemist business at 6 Sheep Street. She increased the size of the windows to improve her display of wares and kept 3 coloured glass vases in it (red, blue and yellow) as her sign.


9. Go through an arch beyond 24 Otley Street to see the BRITISH SCHOOL now a printworks.
P1190853This was a Lancasterian schoolroom based on the methods of Joseph Lancaster and the ‘British and Foreign School Society for the Education of the Labouring and Manufacturing Classes of Every Religious Persuasion.’ The older and more able pupils became monitors and taught the other pupils, from whom the best would be picked out to be taught by the master and become monitors in their turn. Discipline was brutal. Boys and girls were taught separately. Lancasterian or British schools began in 1808 but the Factory Act of 1844 required factory owners to ensure their young workers up to age 13 were educated. This led to Mr. Dewhurst of Dewhurst Mill contributing money to the BritishSchool to take his workers, as it was specifically not Anglican. Note the high windows to prevent children seeing out and being distracted: Mr Lancaster was very particular about how schools were built. They were popular in Yorkshire.

10. Further along on your left is the VOLUNTEER HALL.
P1190854The Corps of Rifle Volunteers began building Drill Halls in the 1860s after the Crimean War. Towns built the halls by subscription and young men gave up their time to be Volunteers. In the 1890s the Rifle Volunteers were affiliated to county regiments as Volunteer Battalions. This hall was for the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. The aim was to carry out a weekly routine of marching and rifle drill. After 1918 returning soldiers formed the Wellington Rifle Club here. In 1967 they vacated and sold the premises, but the club still exists and has a shooting range at Sandylands. Note the fanlight over the door; it is made of swords, not rifles.

11. The LAW COURTS on your right were built in 1973 as a local magistrates’ court when Skipton was still in the West Riding and heard cases from all over Craven.  A year later, Skipton and part of Craven were moved into North Yorkshire and the court’s jurisdiction was halved.  Barnoldswick and Earby went to Lancashire and Silsden stayed in West Yorkshire.  It now houses the county court as well.  Local architect Barry Rawson votes it as one of the dozen best buildings in Skipton. There have been threats to close the courts and move local justice to Harrogate.

12. Stop at Bunkers Hill and cross to go up Rectory Lane a short way.
In 1814 the parish built a new NATIONAL SCHOOL FOR BOYS in Rectory Lane to replace the overflowing Clerk’s School at the parish church. It is the building a little up the hill on the left (Three Links Club). Again, it has high windows. Opposite, built in 1816, is the NATIONAL SCHOOL FOR GIRLS at 24 Rectory Lane (now a cottage). The National School system was set up as an Anglican rival to the non-denominational British School system. The boys’ school building is now the HQ of Skipton Oddfellows Friendly Society. Friendly societies or fellowships were established in the early 1800s when Trade Unions were illegal. Like mediaeval guilds, they acted as associations of workers and traders, providing for funerals and care of the sick and orphans and other aid to the needy. Oddfellows began in 1810 and the Skipton branch launched in 1829. It catered for workers in all trades. You can still join today, whether you are a worker or not.

13. Return to Otley Street and turn left. OTLEY STREET SCHOOLS.In 1844 Baptists built their own church and school in Otley Street. The buildings and land cost £1,300.  In 1870 the Education Act came in and all children attended school, the existing schools could not cope. The National Schools amalgamated into a newly built parish church school in Otley Street. A state school was built in Brougham Street in 1909 and in 1958 the parish school moved to there and out of the Otley Street building which is now a youth centre.

14. OTLEY STREET NURSERY SCHOOL (set back) was established in 1942 when nursery schools were very rare.

Leave Otley Street on the north side (Otley Street school side) and go straight ahead into Otley Road, past the Police Station where Thomas Grisdale came in 1869 as police superintendent. He thought Skipton was lawless because of rowdy gatherings on holidays. When Grisdale tried to ban Guy Fawkes Night the people of Skipton were so furious that 3,000 people gathered in the marketplace for fireworks and brass band parades, and when Grisdale and 20 peelers arrived they were stoned. Scuffles broke out and windows were smashed. Grisdale left Skipton the following week and raucous Guy Fawkes nights stayed for many years more.

Pass the garage and cross Otley Road at the buildout and dropped kerb.

15. CROSS KEYS. Canon Ermysted, as well as founding the Clerks school in the reign of Mary, founded a Free Grammar School (more about this later). What you see here as the pub is a headmaster’s house build in the 1700s to replace the 1500s house next door (on its left) which then became the 2nd master’s house. The Cross Keys once had a brewery in the old school which we will see later. The current Ermysted’s Grammar School is in Gargrave Road. Continue along Otley Road to a gate on your right into the Wilderness.

16. WILDERNESS. Next to the entrance in Otley Road, beyond the Cross Keys, is a plaque about restoration by Civic Society at entrance in Otley Road. The Wilderness was the garden of the old grammar school and has the remains of a shell grotto.  Teachers and older scholars would have been allowed to use the garden. The river is Skibeden Beck. Go through to the right, over the bridge, and out again.

P1190860As you leave the Wilderness there is a lane on your left and a packhorse bridge on your right.  The bridge was rebuilt in the 1600s and has masons marks under the arch similar to some in the Castle. Before the bridge, the crossing may have been stepping stones and ford. The lane to your left is very ancient and called Sun Moor Lane, which is odd as Sun Moor is north of Skipton. The route dates from at least the time of the Knights Hospitallers and is a now a public path that heads over Elsey Croft towards Bolton Abbey.

18. Go over the packhorse bridge and on the right are buildings of the FREE GRAMMAR SCHOOL. – the most obvious being the front extension or ‘new schoolroom’ built in 1840 to the designs of Chantrell who built Leeds parish church.  Chantrell’s friend  Sidgwick was headmaster at the time. Originally this site was a chapel of St. James of the Knights Hospitallers or Order of St. John, which implies that this was a pilgrim route.

P1190859 Hospitallers specialised in housing and guiding pilgrims making long overland journeys, often to a port to take ship for Santiago da Compostella (shrine of St. James) in Spain or for Rome. At the reformation in 1540 the Order was dissolved and this building went to Clifford of Skipton Castle.  Step in local man Ermysted, canon of St. Paul’s in London. He bought the chapel from Clifford and in 1848 created a Free Grammar School to replace the newly-closed Toller chantry grammar school that had been in the parish church. He endowed it with lands.  The chapel was replaced by a new schoolhouse in the 1600s and this is the building behind the schoolroom extension – it later became the assistant master’s house when in the 1700s Petyt funded the adjoining headmaster’s house – now the Cross Keys pub.

19. NEWMARKET STREET. The river you have just crossed on the packhorse bridge, Skibeden Beck, is where Newmarket Street joins Shortbank Road. This leads up to a Roman Road along the top to Addingham, later a toll road to Addingham and Ilkley was built using part of the old Roman Road route.  There is an old tollhouse on the left hand side a little way further up but we do not go up there. Continue down to the roundabout, past two laithes or barns that belonged to the Free Grammar School. This part of town was still farms until the 1800s.

20. PETYT GROVE. Cross Newmarket Street and then Brougham Street (up which is another school) to Petyt Grove with its lovely Jubilee Garden. The Petyt family were in Storiths and Skipton for centuries, involved with the monasteries and then the Red Lion, the grammar school and the church. In 1707 William Petyt gave money for two poor scholars from Skipton Free Grammar School to go up to Christ College, Cambridge. His brother, Sylvester Petyt, left salaries for an assistant schoolmaster at the Clerk’s School and also for a librarian, money to increase and maintain the library he had begun in the parish church, and money for the parish to put out annually fourteen poor children apprentices in the county of York.  The Petyt library is now in the county library. The little garden in Petyt Grove was constructed and planted for the Queen’s Jubilee.

21. If weather is wet, continue along Newmarket Street to no. 23 below (top of The Ginnel opposite 25 Newmarket Street) but if weather is dry,  go between the bungalows of Petyt Grove to enter the WOODS AT REAR OF PETYT GROVE.  Turn right along the woodland path by the beck to reach old ‘donkey steps’ on the left and a bridge on right, cross the bridge to another laithe.  Opposite the playground turn right into The Ginnel.

22. FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE AND THE GINNEL. The building on the left through the gate is the original meeting house, built 1693.  It is very plain, and has panelling partitions and an elders’ bench. A crown bowling green to rear of the Devonshire Hotel is on the left as you go up The Ginnel. Again the layout follows the usual town pattern of long plots with one building fronting the main street and houses or workshops behind at rightangles, accessed by a ginnel. The Quakers had a school here which later moved to Birtwistles Yard at Caroline Square.

23.  25 NEWMARKET STREET.  See this to the right and opposite from top of The Ginnel.  Eaves cornice and stringcourse, and central doorway flanked by Ionic columns.  It was built by 1762 by plasterer Thomas Hartley, as a  dwelling house with a garden in Back Lane.  It was the first substantial house built on the North side of Newmarket Street. In 1775 Thomas Hartley sold the house to Samuel Atkinson, a carrier, with a barn and stable.  By 1813 a solicitor John Preston was here and then his widow Jane with her son Thomas until in 1851 they moved to 11 High Street. Thomas Preston, solicitor, “was much happier behind a brace of pointers, or up in the saddle, than he was when among his cases, briefs or parchments.”  Jane and Thomas sold to Edward Robinson, a cotton spinner employing 122 hands and a Wholesale Grocers employing 6 hands who lived here with his wife and 5 children, a governess, cook, housemaid and nurse. He died 1868, with memorial glass in the parish church. His widow stayed until 1892 with her son, an architect, until 1920 when he sold to the dentist Butchart. It was a dental surgery for eighty years, now a hotel and restaurant.

Cross road on zebra crossing from The Ginnel to 25 Newmarket St.

24. The yellowish five-story building set back is SKIPTON PERMANENT BENEFIT BUILDING SOCIETY. Set up after a public meeting in the Town Hall in 1853, the Society was proposed by timber merchant George Kendall of Kendall’s Yard. It bought the Old Post Office in Providence Place.  In 1892 it moved to 11 Newmarket Street. By 1903 it had 1,500 members and moved to 5 & 7 Newmarket Street and began opening branches.  In 1923 it bought a shop at 59 High Street and built a new Head Office there. In 1978 it built this ghastly building to house its staff, to the rear of the old PO in Providence Place. In 1990 it built new premises and moved out to Harrogate Road and the monstrosity has been empty ever since but it may become flats.

25. DEVONSHIRE HOTEL. The Cavendish family who own Bolton Abbey became earls of Devonshire in 1618. The hotel sign would originally have sported the Cavendish arms, 3 bucks heads caboshed with a crest of a serpent proper (or vert) and supporters of bucks gorged with a garland of roses proper. But traditional pub signs are disappearing. A fine building of the 1700s with ashlar front, stone rubble sides and a massive eaves cornice. It was used for auctions and important meetings and was still a hotel until the noughties.  From its construction onwards it was one of the two principal inns, the other being the older Black Horse Inn in the High Street.

26. Birtwistles Yard is now just a narrow walkway but was originally owned by the Birtwistle family who were drovers of Craven. They drove cattle from Galloway down to the cattle fairs in Craven, the most famous one being at Gargrave. Houses were later built in the yard and one was used as the QUAKER SCHOOL.

22.  CAROLINE SQUARE, CAROLINE HOUSE AND HIGH STREET HOUSE. The area at the bottom of the High Street is called Caroline Square, names when the Prince Regent tried to divorce Caroline of Brunswick in 1820. Caroline was popular in Skipton and the Prince, later George the fourth, wasn’t.  At the corner of Newmarket Street and the High Street is a house build by a man called Baldisaro Porri. High up are the initials BP. He came from Lombardy, in Italy, at the end of the Napoleonic wars with his friend Fattorini. They were specially recruited by British government agents who went to Italy to recruit craftsmen entrepreneurs to help solve unemployment in England. These foreigners agreed to come to England and take on APPRENTICES and pass on new skills or skills that had been lost because of the war.  Porri and Fattorini were goldsmiths who began selling on market stalls and soon had thriving enterprises, Porri was based in Skipton by 1827 and specialised in making barometers, Fattorini was based in Leeds and soon had permanent shops in Leeds, Harrogate, Skipton and Bradford selling jewellery and fancy goods. His wife was English and his sons made large fortunes. One son took over the Harrogate operation, specialising in importing exotic goods and jewels for wealthy spa visitors.  One took over the Bradford operation, bought a gents outfitters and became Empire Stores and Grattan.  Innocent Fattorini married Porri’s daughter and came to Skipton. Porri was very involved with St. Stephen’s church and had a shop in Otley Street.

P1190863In 1863 Porri rebuilt Caroline House, with house above and jewellery shop below with 4 shop windows onto Newmarket Street. The door was at the corner (now the drycleaners). Later, High Street House was added with 3 more windows onto the High Street frontage, to match the Newmarket Street frontage.  Innocent’s son Thomas Fattorini established a large factory in Manchester, making enamelled badges, gilt trophies, medals, jewellery and other items. His heirs sold the jewellery business to H. Samuel but carried on manufacturing and the 6th generation of Fattorinis are still manufacturing mayoral regalia, award cups and conference badges in Manchester. Thomas Fattorini bought Skipton Castle from the earl of Thanet and his heirs still have it, the current ‘Lord of the Honour of Skipton’ being Sebastian Fattorini.

23. MECHANICS INSTITUTE, TOLBOOTH AND MARKET PLACE. In 1066 Skipton was given to the de Romille family, who built the castle. These Normans had a market town with a market place that may have preceded the conquest. A royal charter was finally given by King John in 1204.  The original market place was larger; frontages crept forward during the 18th and 19th centuries as the old jetty fronts were replaced.  In the centre of it was built Middle Row including the Tolbooth built by Lady Anne Clifford.  A tolbooth was a municipal building, usually in the charge of the mayor, providing a council meeting chamber, court house and a jail underneath, also a place to hold under-cover markets and weigh goods and collect customs and tolls. This one was built with arches underneath which were originally open to give a shady space used for selling butter and cheese.  The cells in the cellar were for debtors and offenders against local laws.  Pie-powder and local courts were held in the upper area.  The stocks, pillory, whipping post etc were nearby (there is a plaque on High Street) and there would have been a bell.  Anyone found drinking on a Sunday would be put in the stocks which were last used in 1840s but parts are still visible at the Tolbooth steps.

When the council went to the Town Hall, the Tolbooth became the Mechanics Institute. These were vital parts of the education system for about thirty years until public libraries took over many of their functions.  The first was started in Edinburgh in 1821 as a ‘School of Arts’ aiming to provide a technical education for working people. Over the next thirty years hundreds were established, especially in northern towns, including one in Skipton. The building is now shops and restaurants.

24. HIGH STREET EAST. Odd numbers.  Former Hole i’ th’ Wall public house is now a with a modern shop frontage installed into the former pub. Note its doorway with a simple pediment, on moulded brackets, and the segmented arch to Kendall’s Yard on the right.

25.  TOWN HALL. Two listed phone boxes, and a plaque to the designer of the Sopwith Camel. Lime trees in the High Street were planted in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. A correspondent to the Craven Pioneer, probably the local ironmonger Manby, complained, “Why should we horny-handed taxpayers have our beautiful High Street disfigured by ugly looking trees hiding the glorious sunlight from our magnificent emporiums of commerce so that our customers cannot distinguish whether they’re buying a mousetrap or a mangle?”

We hope you have enjoyed your tour around eastern Skipton.