Any human settlements which existed within or close to what is now Rylstone before recorded history would have generated routeways for people, livestock and goods. We cannot be certain now what lines ancient routes followed or how impermanent they were. We know that, once settled agriculture developed, field boundaries occurred (around which routes would have passed). We do not know if these boundaries were different from those of today, but we do know that some areas of land currently well drained and passable would have been too boggy for convenient or safe passage.
An article by H. M. Gill of Grassington, published in the Craven Herald in 1964, and reproduced below, states that as late as the 18th century there were no reliable roads from Skipton to Rylstone. The article suggests that the best route from Skipton to Rylstone was via Gargrave, Flasby and Hetton, and that the second best option was a route over Embsay Moor, dropping down on the east side of Norton Tower after crossing Waterfall Gill.
The article below is taken from April 3rd, 1964 edition of the Craven Herald.
The third choice for 18th century travellers (according to Gill) would have been roughly along the line of the present B6265 from Skipton up to Sandy Beck Bar. The remainder of the present B road up to Rylstone village did not exist. The route would then have had to follow either the line of the existing bridleway (the more likely route) or a track or footpath running up to Scale House. It would then continue northwards (across the line of the modern B road) to pass through Turn Croft Plantation, along the line of the existing public footpath, entering the village from the south-west along Green Lane.
The route to Rylstone from Scale House via Turncroft plantation is clearly marked as 'FP'
on the First Edition 1853 OS map of this area. This apparent right of way has now been lost, apart from the public footpath, shown on current OS sheets, running from Green Lane upto the B6265 via Turncroft plantation.
Routes between Rylstone and Skipton
Old Road to Skipton at Sandy Beck Bar
Old Road to Skipton above Sandy Beck Bar
Old Road to Skipton -
Old road maps of Rylstone, starting with the 1771 Jeffrey map (see links to maps below), show the road from Rylstone to Skipton as following the line of the present bridleway. They also show the Cracoe-Hetton-Flasby road as more significant than the Cracoe-Rylstone-Skipton road.
For all the disadvantages noted by Gill in the 18th century, it is a version of the old bridleway route which seems to be depicted in a map of 'Major Medieval Roads', within a chapter on 'Communications', by Christopher Daniell in Butlin’s 2003 'Historical Atlas of North Yorkshire'. The map suggests that this route from Skipton via Rylstone to Kilnsey and the higher Dales was part of an important south-north route running from the south through Rotherham up to Barnard Castle (via Leyburn and Richmond) and then on to Scotland, following roughly the line of the present A66. Rotherham was an important religous and educational centre in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
In the Rylstone area, this route connected with an important track over Rylstone Fell and Barden Moor to Bolton Priory, and to a road via Hetton and Flasby and Gargrave into the Aire Valley. There were also connections to tracks over Boss Moor, past Bordley to Malham, and to the ancient Mastiles Lane, which was created by the monks of Fountains Abbey to link its Malham Moor Estate with its 'Grange' (outlying farmstead) at Kilnsey. Secondary pathways, which mostly still exist, were used for local journeys, for agricultural purposes and for moving stock and goods around the area.
Route to Bolton Priory
Medieval routes through Rylstone
Arthur Raistrick (1) highlights the importance of routes serving either cattle fairs, drovers or packmen. Before better means of transport were provided by canals, turnpike roads and later railways, goods of all kinds were moved by pack horses on routes that would go literally up hill and down dale. Similarly, to provide meat for growing Yorkshire and Lancashire towns meant moving cattle on the hoof, on wide drove roads.
Markets in villages developed on a small scale in medieval times and were later regulated by charters. Pack-horse tracks would have allowed movement of goods to and from such markets over high moor routes where no proper roads existed. Raistrick suggests that there was a market road or route passing through Boss Moor between Masham and Settle, though it is not clear when this was first established.
Raistrick also describes the establishment of a cattle fair on Boss Moor as a spin off from a much larger such fair at 'The Great Close', east of Malham Tarn. Cattle from Scotland were sold at Great Close in large numbers, but smaller numbers would then be resold at Boss Moor to local farmers, who could fatten them up for eventual resale. There was an ale house, the Waste Inn, (see link below) located to the north east of Lainger House, to serve those gathering at Boss Moor, and Raistrick’s map shows tracks radiating out from Boss Moor towards Masham and Richmond (probably via Grassington), to Malham Tarn and then to Settle, or further north via Gearstones, and south to Skipton.
Track by Lainger Beck to Lane Head
Track across Boss Moor
Track to Lane Head and Site of Waste Inn
Site of Waste Inn and Lane Head
There are records of cattle and other animals being brought to The Great Close from elsewhere in England in the early 17th century to be pastured and resold. (1) Scottish cattle were being brought there in the 18th century, when presumably the Boss Moor cattle fair was also established. Cattle droving rapidly declined in the 19th century as other means of transport improved, and as commons were enclosed and some lengths of track enclosed and narrowed. The bridleways still open today across moorland within and on the edge of Rylstone are, in some cases, the remnants of the old droving routes.
Drove roads suggested by Raistrick
In 1853, a Turnpike road from Skipton to Cracoe via Rylstone was opened, and the line of what we now know as the B6265 was established.(1) The book of accounts shows that the contractor, Thomas Wright, was paid £2,160 on September 13th 1852 for building the Scale House section of the road. The Turnpike road largely used the then existing route, but between Sandy Beck Bar and Rylstone a new road line was created, below and west of Scale House, on what is now the line of the B6265. A Toll House was built at Sandy Beck where the old road route, now a bridle way, continues on a more northerly alignment.
Apart from the construction of the 19th century toll road and some changes made in the early 20th century to accommodate the railway, roads or tracks serving Rylstone seemed to have changed little over the last 200 years. The 1771 Jeffrey map shows only three routes radiating from the village:
the road to Hetton via Skirse Gill Bridge
the road heading north eastwards to Cracoe
the road heading southwards to become the bridleway passing east of Scale House, rejoining the present B6265 at Sandy Beck Bar.
Skirse Gill Bridge from Skirsegill
All these exist in some form today, apart from a short section of the old road to the south which has been fenced off.
Carey’s 1794 map shows even less detail than the Jeffrey map, apart from indicating a short section of Mucky Lane heading north out of the village. The First Edition OS maps of 1853 (see the Landscape Section of this site) give fine detail of the roads, tracks and paths of the mid 19th century, before either toll road or railway. Much of the network of routes of 1853 remains unchanged. Apart from the toll road change mentioned above, most changes have been as a result of the railway. This caused a diversion southwards of part of Strait Lane, making it a slightly less direct path to Hetton. A path from Strait Lane (by Burton House) to Green Laithe has also been forced to kink by the railway, and Green Lane has to negotiate a kink over a railway bridge, by Park Laithe.
A 'Times Past' series of articles, reproduced in the section on the toll house, sets out what is known about the taking of tolls and the toll house. A wonderful painting of the toll house and road by Harry Reeday is also shown in this section by kind permission of Kathleen Carlisle. Sadly, the toll house has been completely demolished, and this small but previously attractive visual evidence of Rylstone history lost.
The Button below links to the page on the Toll House where there is more information about the Turnpike Road between Skipton and Grassington.
The 19th century toll road is now the B6265, busy with commuters, farm and quarry traffic, enthusiastic cyclists and tourists, and clearly the main road serving Rylstone today. It provides good links with the national road network, including cross-Pennine routes. It has also served as part of the route for a leg of the 2012 Tour de France and, more recently, for the Tour de Yorkshire.
All this traffic is likely to increase, except perhaps, thankfully, for HGV movements to and from Swinden limestone quarry, north-west of Cracoe. A 2017 planning application for the owners, LaFarge/Tarmac, to extend the life of the quarry until 2039, states that they generated 42,000 lorry journeys a year along the B6265 in 2016. The application submission suggests that they could reduce the number of HGV trips generated by 55 per cent by 2035, by using the railway more.(2) This would be a welcome move to make this road a little more peaceable, if not quite the road depicted in the Harry Reeday painting. The planning application for the quarry has now been agreed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.(3)
1. Raistrick A (1967). Old Yorkshire Dales. Newton Abbot: David and Charles (Publishers) Ltd., South Devon House, Railway Station, Newton Abbot, Devon. Printed by Latimer Trend and Co. Ltd., Plymouth.
2. Environmental Statement (Non Technical Summary) submitted for Tarmac with planning application C/23/67/K of January 2017 to deepen Swinden Quarry.
3. Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority planning web site, application C/23/67K.