Kirby Bank — a battleground between a David and a Goliath

In 1854 there was a legal dispute over the boundary between Bilsdale and Kirby which has been decribed as a ‘David and Goliath’ legal battle1KIRBY BANK TROD. VOICE OF THE MOORS, THE MAGAZINE OF THE NORTH YORKSHIRE MOORS ASSOCIATION (NYMA). ISSUE 120 SUMMER 2015. Available online at: https://www.nyma.org.uk/_webedit/uploaded-files/All%20Files/Voice%20of%20the%20Moors/VOICE-120.pdf [Accessed 13 Apr. 2022]..

The plaintiff (he who brought the case) was the rich and influential Lord Feversham, Lord of the Manor of Bilsdale. The defendant was James Emerson who was described in the court reports as a ‘a gentleman of fortune‘ and who had only purchased the the title of Lord of the Manor of Kirby just two years earlier2FEVERSHAM v. EMERSON. Yorkshire Spring Assizes. | York Herald | Saturday 24 March 1855 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000499/18550324/039/0006 [Accessed 13 Apr. 2022]..

Donna Cross — a medieval boundary cross with just the socket surviving, carved into a boulder, on which is inscribed with ‘E’ on the north side and ‘F’ on the south.

Emerson had started jet mining on Kirby Bank — at about the 310 metre contour (roughly just a bit higher than the col between Cold Moor and Cringle Moor. Feversham objected and commenced a protracted and costly legal action.

The total value of jet Emerson had extracted was only £21 but with the recent discovery of ironstone in the Cleveland Hills, every landowner was on the lookout to fully exploit their mineral resources3Ibid..

Feversham maintained that the boundary between Bilsdale and Kildale was a straight line drawn from Donna Cross, the stump of a medieval cross on the col and Beacon Stone (where the seat is today on Cringle End). This is reflected on the 1857 Ordnance Survey Six-inch map4Ordnance Survey Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952. Yorkshire 42 (includes: Bilsdale Midcable; Carlton; Faceby; Little Busby; Whorlt. Available online at: https://maps.nls.uk/view/102344290#zoom=7&lat=5790&lon=12864&layers=BT [Accessed 13 Apr. 2022]..

As evidence he cites an earlier award made in 1812 and several perambulations which had taken place in which the agent of the Lord of Kirby was present5FEVERSHAM v. EMERSON. Yorkshire Spring Assizes. | York Herald | Saturday 24 March 1855 | British Newspaper Archive. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000499/18550324/039/0006 [Accessed 13 Apr. 2022]..

Emerson asserted that the true boundary was the natural watershed and referenced in a deed executed in 1752 in which the Lord of the Manor of Kirby conferred on a person named Cass to “dig, cut, take and wry away” stone. A deed which both parties to the 1812 award were aware of.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the jury took just five minutes to decide the case in favour of James Emerson.

By the time the 1895 Ordnance Survey map was published the ‘new’ boundary had been incorporated6Ordnance Survey Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952. Yorkshire XLII.NE (includes: Bilsdale Midcable; Carlton; Great Busby; Kirby in C. Available online at: https://maps.nls.uk/view/100942391#zoom=5&lat=1517&lon=6021&layers=BT [Accessed 13 Apr. 2022]..

It is said that the court papers include the advice that “You will never get a juryman to mount the hill at the March Assizes. There might have been a chance this month, but it will be impossible next Assizes unless you engage a Balloon.7KIRBY BANK TROD. VOICE OF THE MOORS, THE MAGAZINE OF THE NORTH YORKSHIRE MOORS ASSOCIATION (NYMA). ISSUE 120 SUMMER 2015. Available online at: https://www.nyma.org.uk/_webedit/uploaded-files/All%20Files/Voice%20of%20the%20Moors/VOICE-120.pdf [Accessed 13 Apr. 2022]..

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