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People of the Parish

This diverse section describes the life and times of the people who have lived in Rylstone Township.


In the earlier records, people are recorded by the taxes that they paid and these changed over time. A first paper, People and the Parish, provides a broad explanation of the various tax reforms and records held on parishioners from the 14th to the early 20th century. This serves as an introduction to a key page where we present precise data on Poll Taxes, Loans, Lay Subsidies, Hearth Taxes, Tithe Awards and Elected Knights, as well as later Census and Electoral Register figures. A further page gives access to information from the Parish Registers. Three separate articles then describe Poll Taxes, Loans and Lay Subsidies in more depth. 

Tracing the Major Landowners is an overview of the settlement and land-owning history of Rylstone Township. A section on Occupations reveals that Rylstone was a mixed agricultural and industrial township from the 17th to 19th centuries, with clear distinctions made between landowners, gentlemen and workers. A paper then describes Mortality in Rylstone and neighbouring Mid-Wharefdale parishes in 1623 - a fateful year when death rates were particularly high.

The tudor history of Rylstone has been dominated by three noble families - the de Rillstons, Nortons and Cliffords - who were lords of Rylstone manor and controlled much of went on in the parish, including the lives of their tenants and parishioners. Three pages set out their lineages, histories and interactions - not least the consuming feud between the catholic Nortons and protestant Cliffords of Skipton Castle. The Nortons lost their lands to the crown after their involvement in the Uprising of the North in 1569, and this sad story is told in Wordsworth's famous poem, 'The White Doe of Rylstone or the Fate of the Nortons', to which a page is dedicated. Access to a full version of this lengthy ode can by gained by pressing on the blue button.


After the departure of the Nortons, Rylstone manor came into the hands of the Cliffords, who progressively sold much of it off to local landowners and existing tenants. The descendants of the Cliffords were the Cavendishes, who became the Dukes of Devonshire, and still own a considerable amount of land in Rylstone. 

The Quakers have had a long association with Rylstone, with Scale House and Fox House, having been meeting houses for members of the faith.  A page is dedicated to bringing together what is known about the Society of Friends in the parish.

The Reverend Bury was rector of Burnsall from 1939 until his death in 1875, and as Rylstone fell under the ecclesiastical parish of Burnsall until later on in the 19th century, he had a strong involvement with the township.  He was a keen antiquarian and collected much information on Rylstone and the surrounding area - which is contained in his 'Scrapbook' - reproduced here by kind permission of the Standevan family.

The project team has spent a considerable amount of time transcribing old documents left behind by leading members of Rylstone parish, who owned land and/or property. These are largely their Wills and Indentures (contracts) and provide fascinating insights into what they owned and what was important to them.

Finally, we provide a series of narratives on the recent past by people who lived in Rylstone and have memories of different aspects of parish life during the last century.

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