Yew Tree Farm

Ancestry, the genealogy website, is offering free access during this Easter “break” and I put that in inverted commas as it seems just like any other day. Anyhow, I thought I would do a bit of research on the history of a property rather than my family history. I found that it’s not that easy.

Yew Tree Farm

Trawling my photo archive, I found this ruin that I came across in May 2015 during some downtime during a children’s residential weekend. It’s at Hury in Baldersdale, just west of Barnard Castle and south Middleton-in-Teesdale.

I remember talking to the farmer who said this was an old coaching inn on the packhorse route from Barnard Castle to Brough. I guessed at the time that the pitch of the gable would indicate that the roof was thatched, presumably with heather.

The first stop was the old O.S. maps. The building is clearly marked on the 1854 edition but on the 1912 it is named as ‘Yew Tree’. Brilliant, would that be the name of the inn? Interestingly, the 1854 map does indicate an inn, ‘The Half Moon Inn’, but in Hury 400 yards away while on the 1912 it has become the ‘Hare and Hounds Inn’. In 2015, I recall seeing no pub in the hamlet.

The other thing I picked up fairly quickly was a FaceBook comment that the farm of Yew Tree was abandoned when the Hury Reservoir was completed in 1892.

So to Ancestry. I actually found it not easy to research the history of a particular property, but I only spent an hour or so on it so I may be missing a trick. I did find that in the 1911 Census, Yew Tree was occupied by John Bell, a farmer aged 35. Although he was listed as married there doesn’t appear to anyone else living with him. Perhaps he was an itinerant shepherd dossing down there for the lambing season, the date for the 1911 Census was after all 2nd April.

Yew Tree Farm

So it seems that the building wasn’t in fact fully abandoned when the reservoir was built in 1892. Indeed on the 8th January 1902, the Teesdale Mercury carried an advertisement for the letting of Yew Tree which they describe as a ‘Small farm‘ comprising ‘dwelling house, outbuildings, and 16 acres‘.

Google then came up with several genealogy websites, which I have made no attempt to corroborate.

During the 1860s/70s, Thomas and Martha Kipling lived at Yew Tree with many children are listed as being born there:

Elizabeth 1863
James 1870
William 1873
Martha Ann 1875
Frederick 1877 (he died at just six months)

(See also here and here).

Another genealogy lists William Bayles Hauxwell as having been born at Yew Tree in 1896 (again after the building of the reservoir) to James and Elizabeth Hauxwell (although the same webpage also gives his birthplace as Sleetburn in Co. Durham). William was the father of Hannah Hauxwell, who became a ‘star’ in the ITV documentary ‘Too Long a Winter’ in the 1970s and who lived further up the valley.

So not a mystery today but an interesting diversion nevertheless during the lockdown.

6 Replies to “Yew Tree Farm”

  1. Ho interesting. My grandma was evacuated to Hury from Hartlepool with her mother and siblings during the 2nd world war. We thought they stayed in a building that used to be an inn, but this building would appear to be derelict before WW2?
    We were at Hury today but didn’t notice this building.

  2. It’s not accessible by road. You have to use the Public Footpath.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if it was still occupied in the 1940s. More research needed.

  3. My uncle John Bell of East Park, Bishop Auckland always said that his family came from Hury but moved after the reservoir was built. This wouldn’t be him but it could be his father who married into the Parr family.

  4. So good to be able to download this photo
    My Great Grandfather is James Kipling who was born at Yew Tree (I have his birth certificate) James immigrated to New Zealand in 1912 and his wife Martha followed with the children 2 years later. As I am currently researching and composing our family tree this photo is of great value.
    it would be interesting to find any further information and whether the Kipling family actually owned the farm and building?

  5. I’ve had an email from Susan Elliott who has kindly provided more information of the Bell family:

    “John Bell married my great grandmothers sister Sarah Jane Gardiner who was from St John’s Chapel in Weardale. She was born at at a house called Sunnybrow on the road between Four Lane ends nr East Blackdene and Westgate (Detached house on it’s own on the the right hand side of the road almost opposite the track down to Frogg Hall, not far from Weardale racing)

    “On the 1911 census John’s wife Sarah Bell and child , John William Gardiner, are living at Sunnybrow with Sarah’s mother , Mary Ann Gardiner . I presumed that he had gone to help his family during lambing season. If I remember correctly, his mother Ann was a widow by then and living in Middleton In Teesdale with her decorator son and 2 daughters who weren’t working.”

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