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Near the centre of Rylstone is a piece of waste land that may give us a clue as to how our village developed at the end of the 18th century.


Recently we discovered a plan of this waste land in a bundle of documents in the archives of the Duke of Devonshire Estate (see below):

Miss Foster 1.jpg

The sketch left and attached text right (see transcription below) formed part of a proposed deed of exchange of properties. The document is undated but is likely to be around 1765 to 1767.

“Proposed plan of an Exchange between his Grace the Duke of Devonshire and Miss Foster at Rilston in the County of York.


The Duke to give away a piece of land lying about half a mile to the North of the Town called the Slatern flat maybe about 4a..2r and one other piece called the Mucky Lane Croft may be

about 2a..2r lying on the North of the town.


Miss Foster to give away the Cottages, outbuildings and Croft in the annexed sketch. 


The Duke certainly gives up more land than he gets in Exchange but by making a fence from A to B inclosing the Waste and throwing Down the Old Buildings would certainly make his estate more Compact.


If the exchange was to take place it would be advisable to lay the bottom end of Miss Fosters Croft to the Lower Snell Close and the Top end to the Upper Snell Close by that means both the Snell Closes would be laid to the water.


The Cottage and Lathe at B are in good repair and might very well stand.


At 4 would be a very eligible situation to Erect a New House.”

The plan predates the 1806 Martha Throup map and the 1839 tythe map of Rylstone. So, it is possibly the first map we have, showing details of this area of the village. John Carey’s 1794 map of Yorkshire shows the village but does not show the buildings to such detail.

The text is also interesting, giving us some idea of how properties were exchanged at that time.


The exchange may never have taken place, as the 1839 tythe map shows Slattern Flat, one of the Duke’s properties to be swopped, still in the hands of the Duke. The exchange of properties would have been a consolidation of the Duke’s properties in this area of the village, which would have benefitted the Duke, but not seem to give any advantage to Miss Foster, as she would have been landed with properties haphazardly located over the village!


Who was Miss Foster?  Looking at the parish registers, there were a lot of Fosters in the village around this time. It is likely that Miss (assumed spinster) Foster was one of Thomas Foster's daughters; could be Sarah born in 1736. Thomas Foster was the squire of the village and lived in Rylstone Hall. When he died in 1765, it is possible that Sarah inherited the properties shown on the deed of exchange as part of her father's estate.


Sarah married Anthony Bolland of Settle in 1767, but sadly died six months latter. It is assumed the properties would then have passed to Anthony Bolland.

Although the plan is basically a sketch (see enlargement below) and does not show accurate distances between buildings, and their sizes, it tells us what sort of buildings they were and how they related to the other buildings in the village.

Miss Foster 2.png

The surveyor has got the north sign slightly wrong (on the top left-hand side of the plan), say about 30 degrees out, but that is not significant.


The plan shows the existence in the late 18th century of many more buildings (twelve or thirteen) in this area of the village than now (four or five). This would be anticipated if some of these buildings were timber built and the only buildings which have survived are the 17th century masonry-built buildings.


             Photo of the waste land viewed from the main road Feb. 2022

What makes it interesting is that the area shown is on the east side of the village green and these buildings are in a part of the village considered common or waste land adjacent to the village stream (see part of plan enlarged below):

snow drops village 2.jpg
Miss Foster3.png

The encroachment of buildings in this area of the village was likely due to population pressure. This is confirmed by May Pickles’ analysis of occupations in the parish of Rylstone (2).  Her research indicates that prior to the date of the Miss Foster plan there was a huge increase of population in the parish, about 40% in the period of 1721/40 to 1761/80 (an increase of 107 from 272 to 379).


Although her analysis is of the parish, it is likely that the village also increased by the same rate. According to Pickles, the increase can be attributed to various occupations including 'landless labour', 'lead miners', 'clothing and footwear' and 'food and drink'. The number of farmers in the parish over this period stayed relatively constant.


What we are looking at is a plan of Rylstone village at the height of its prosperity - the population of the village was to decline in later years.


This could explain why landowners in the village such as the Duke, Miss Foster and Squire Waddilove were allowed to encroach on areas, previously considered unsuitable, to cope with this increase in population.


Another interesting feature is that the plan shows that the heart of the village had two main ranges of buildings:


  • A west range - Building 9 ('the remains of an old house') is shown as a continuation of the Lodge Farm range of buildings. This range extended further to the east than now.


  • And an east range - the range of Manor Farm buildings was considerably longer extending further eastwards than now by say three or four buildings.


The buildings shown on Miss Foster’s plan have been plotted on a modern map of the village removing any structures built since 1800 (see below):

Miss Foster 4.png

Each of the ranges appears to comprise seven or eight separate buildings. The west range is about 800 metres long and the east range about 600 metres long.


It looks as if the west range was a continuous line of buildings, before say a north south road was cut through it?  If this was the original arrangement of the village houses (before the new road) how did the villagers get onto Mucky Lane (it is assumed the route to Cracoe was via Chapel Lane) - was the entrance lower down i.e. more to the west?


What is the reason for the change in line of the two ranges i.e. the offset between the ranges? Could be due to the contouring of the land in that area?

1       Text transcribed into current English from a photocopy kindly provided by The Chatham Settlement Trustees Archivist and published with their permission.

2.       Pickles M.F. (1976) Mid- Wharfedale 1721-1812: economic and demographic change in a Pennine dale.

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