Bransdale is the home to 25 families of whom 9 make their living from farming. The largest community is Cockayne, at the head of the dale, but describing it as a hamlet might be overgenerous. A few houses and the simple church is there, dedicated to St. Nicholas. The datestone says 1886 but the architecual historian, Nicholas Pevsner, surmises this is when some remodelling was done and the building actually dates from around 1800, although the earliest record of a church on the site is from the 13th-century. Around the time of the remodelling the population of the dale was around 400. In addition to farmers, there were an inn-keeper, a shoe maker, two blacksmiths, two millers, school teachers, dairymen, gamekeepers and jet miners. A Wesleyan chapel as well as the church provided for the dalesfolk’s spiritual needs. When the Earl of Feversham was in residence at his Cockayne shooting lodge there would have been an influx of servants and staff. The dale was not as isolated as might first appear. Coal was being mined on the moor tops as well as ironstone in the next valley. A mere three miles away across the moors was the mineral railway to Rosedale which although not a passenger railway brought in foodstuffs, fertilizers, timber and oil, with excess farm produce being conveyed to Teesside. Some passengers however were issued with a pass and were indeed carried.
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