Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

When Houlsyke Ruled the Eskdale Meat Market

Houlsyke has lingered in my thoughts as a subject worthy of a post for some time, a hamlet steeped in history1Houlsyke village NYM HER No: 4615.. Yet, despite its tranquil demeanour, it lacks a photogenic charm. Devoid of a defined centre, bereft of an inn or shop, it comprises merely an assortment of cottages, both old and modern, clinging to the road between Danby and Lealholm, and the ubiquitous line of parked cars.

So I settled for a distant photo of the village across the flat expanse of the Esk valley.

In past times, it once served as the focal point of commerce in Eskdale, experiencing its heyday between 1860 and 1865. The endeavours of two families, the Smiths of James and Joseph lineage, were pivotal in the establishment of a formidable enterprise dealing in pork, lamb, and wool2Burns, Tom Scott. “Round and About The North Yorkshire Moors: A Glimpse of the Past”. Page 11, M.T.D. Rigg Publications. Reprinted 1989..

Vast quantities of salted and cured bacon were transported by horse and cart mainly to Whitby, from where they were shipped south to London. The place where most transactions took place was The Fat Ox inn.

The coming of the railway, initially from Pickering to Grosmont in 1836, facilitated the transportation of substantial shipments to the capital3‘Esk Valley Line’, Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esk_Valley_line#cite_ref-8> [accessed 29 March 2024]. Nonetheless, a significant portion of trade still found its way to the northern market towns via wagon.

After 1865, the trade experienced a steady decline, because of the importation of foreign pork and the demise of the illustrious Smith families.

When this trade was active, Houlsyke boasted its own Sunday School, village shop, blacksmiths, and joinery. It was bustling with activity, a stark juxtaposition to the placid ambience that now prevails.

  • 1
    Houlsyke village NYM HER No: 4615.
  • 2
    Burns, Tom Scott. “Round and About The North Yorkshire Moors: A Glimpse of the Past”. Page 11, M.T.D. Rigg Publications. Reprinted 1989.
  • 3
    ‘Esk Valley Line’, Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esk_Valley_line#cite_ref-8> [accessed 29 March 2024]







2 responses to “When Houlsyke Ruled the Eskdale Meat Market”

  1. Martin Smith avatar

    Always interested in where the word “syke” came from as my mother used it in sentences as in ….”and syke” meaning and so on…any ideas? p.s – it would be good if you replied!

    1. Fhithich avatar

      Martin, here a letter I found on my travels around the newspaper archives. It might enlighten you. Turton was lord of the manor of Kildale and well known in historical circles. I’m not sure if the modern thinking is any different.

      To The Editor of the Whitby Gazette. | Whitby Gazette | Friday 09 September 1904 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2023. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001103/19040909/106/0006> [accessed 6 January 2023]


      Sir.—In reply to ” Enquirer,” the origin of place-names that have any claim to antiquity must always matter of speculation. Those, however, which he has selected, are not so difficult many others in the district. Danby may be, we were taught in the school-room, the dwelling of the Dane; more probably, as Canon Atkinson, if I remember right, has suggested, it is ” the dwelling of Dane,” a personal name that, appears part of the commoner name. Haldane or Halfdane (see inter alia. “the Saxon Chronicle”). Houlsyke is the syke in the hollow. Every Yorkshireman knows a syke when sees it, but the word is difficult to translate. Perhaps ” rill ” conveys the meaning best, as we generally find “rivulus” in monastic documents to represent it. ” Paddamere lonen ” I know not. ” Lonen ” or ” lonnen,” of course, is lane, and “mere” expresses the boundary or march between two adjacent manors. ” Huckaback ” suggests an ancient industry, until learn that, in 1608, and again in 1847, it is found in ” Haggaback Stone,” or ” Hanging Stone.” Here again, have. I fancy, corruption. There is no ” Hanging stone,” such as occurs not far from Hutton Lowcross. The wood below Huckaback, Sloethorn Park, was apparently called either ” Hinderscogh,” the “Hay (or Yorks’ Hagg, or Hayning Hinderecogh.” or conjecture is that word represented the stone at the Back Hagg, or Hayning Hinderscogh is possibly the wood (Old Noree-skogr), behind some other wood. I use the word ” wood” in a general sense. I cannot discuss here the peculiar and sometimes varying meanings of I* hagg,” “skeugh.” shaw.” etc. “Lumley House ” I do not know, but the Lumley family held lands in Sinnington and Thornton. ” Kalli ” house used, in younger days to be written “Calais” House. I fancy that its name was of purely temporary interest.

      Yours faithfully,
      Robert B. Turton.
      Kildale Hall.

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