Out & About …

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

Bilsdale Midcable


Bilsdale is a dale of two halves. Or should that be two ends? At the top is the ‘hamlet’ of Bilsdale-Kirkham1GENUKI (2016).¬†GENUKI: In 1822, the following places were in the Parish of Helmsley:, Yorkshire (North Riding). [online] Genuki.org.uk. Available at: https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/NRY/Helmsley/more [Accessed 20 Aug. 2021].. Lower down is Bilsdale-Midcable, a ‘chapelry’, the name is a corruption of “Media Capella,” a middle or midway chapel, probably an ancient chapel-of-ease in the adjoining parish of Harome2GENUKI (2016). GENUKI: BILSDALE-MIDCABLE: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890., Yorkshire (North Riding). [online] Genuki.org.uk. Available at: https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/NRY/BilsdaleMidcable/BilsdaleMidcable90 [Accessed 20 Aug. 2021]..

In 1132 , at the invitation of King Henry I, Walter Espec, Lord of the Manor of Helmsley, gave land in Ryedale to a group of Cistercian monks from Burgundy – Rievaulx Abbey. Rievaulx being French for the Rye valley. In the next 15 years the abbey expanded to a community of over 500 monks. Buoyed by this success, and maybe fearing that his soul still needed to be saved, Walter then gave the nascent abbey almost all of Bilsdale from Newgate Bank to William Beck Farm. Two years later, perhaps hedging his bets, he gave the uppermost part of the dale, including Chop Gate and Urra, to the Augustinian monks at Kirkham Abbey3Bilsdale.org.uk. (2021). Monks in Bilsdale. [online] Available at: http://www.bilsdale.org.uk/index.php?id=73 [Accessed 20 Aug. 2021]..

William Beck Farm can just be discerned in the photo. The whitish speck of a barn can be made out if you look closely just this side of the large block of coniferous plantation on the right. So that farm marks the boundary between two different farming systems. Of the 500 Cistercian monks at Rievaulx, 350 were lay brothers who did most of the manual work at the monastery and its granges while the rest spent their days copying books and praying. This resulted in a sparsely populated dale4Bilsdale.org.uk. (2021). Monks in Bilsdale. [online] Available at: http://www.bilsdale.org.uk/index.php?id=73 [Accessed 20 Aug. 2021]..

By contrast, the Augustinian monks had a very different approach to managing their lands. They let the farms to tenants and received rents, acting like feudal landlords. So long as the rents were paid, the monks were only concerned with the tenants’ spiritual needs. As regards the day to day running of the farms, the tenants were more or less left to their own devices. A close knit farming community developed with associated trades such as milling and tanning5Bilsdale.org.uk. (2021).¬†Monks in Bilsdale. [online] Available at: http://www.bilsdale.org.uk/index.php?id=73 [Accessed 20 Aug. 2021]..

I wonder if the differences in these late medieval farming practices can be detected in the layout of the farms and fields systems in the 21st century.







3 responses to “Bilsdale-Midcable”

  1. Miles Sharp avatar
    Miles Sharp

    Hello Mick, A pleasure to meet and chat with you just below Cock Howe On Friday. Please could you remind me of the link to the historical maps that you explained would be a good source of information for the NYM.
    Kind regards,

    1. Fhithich avatar

      Hi Miles, https://www.nls.uk/

      As I said I tend to go into it through the https://www.geograph.org.uk/ website. Enter the grid square into the search box – NZ6105 for Baysdale.

      You’ll see a link “More Links for NZ6105” and from there a link to maps.nls.uk which should open up at the right location.

      The maps.nls.uk that first comes up is not that intuitive. Just click on the rectangle on the map which corresponds to the area you want. Then different old versions appears on the right. Click on the one you want.

      This might sound complicated but I’ve just gotten into the habit of going in this way.

      Get back to me if you need any help.

      and let me know if you find anything interesting.

      See you around.


      1. Miles Sharp avatar
        Miles Sharp

        Thanks Mick,
        I’ll have a look at those resources.

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