Water Usage and Sheep Dipping in Rylstone
As we have seen in the Landscape and Land Use section, Rylstone sits on a low watershed between the Wharfe and the Aire drainage systems. Despite a sizeable catchment area for rain water on Rylstone Fell, the streams that pass through the central and southern parish are small, as the map above shows.
The larger-scale map above depicts the main stream - Town End Beck - which rises on the slopes of Hall Fell, passes by the Old Hall (previously feeding the Tudor fish pods there), and descends slowly towards the village and into Rylstone Pond. It then progresses into the larger Hetton Beck which forms the boundary between Rylstone and Hetton parishes. This would have been the main source of domestic water for parishioners until mains water was piped in from Rylstone Fell during the 20th century. The Rylstone area is, however, peppered with small springs and wells, and the original siting of the village and it outposts in Fleets, Scale House and Buckerhouse were very probably influenced by the abundance of good local water sources.
No doubt, because of its low water flow, Rylstone Pond was built on Town End Beck to store sufficient water with which to run the small mill that once existed in Rylstone, village, below the pond. Little is known about either the building of the pond or the mill, although the remains of an old mill-house existed within living memory. The main mill servicing both Rylstone and Hetton until the early 19th century was sited over on the much larger Hetton Beck near Mill Gate Laithe as shown on the first Screenshot. This was variously a corn mill and then a wool and cotton mill. For more information on the local mills, please see the website pages on Rylstone Mills.
Another key use of water until the mid 20th century was for 'sheep washing' or 'dipping'. This took place in all Dales villages in early summer and was very much a communal event in which the farmers in each parish cooperated.
The Spring, 2007 editon of Times Past gave a description of why sheep washing took place and then set out how it occurred in each village. The relevant sections are reproduced here below.
Each village had a specific location on a local beck for its 'wash dub' or 'sheep wash'. In Rylstone, a site up towards the Fell on Wash Fold Beck on Manor Farm land was used each year. The precise location is shown on the map above. Below is a description in Times Past by Tommy Shuttleworth of where and how this took place. Interestingly, a second sheep wash is shown on the map, close to Green Farm that the Shuttleworths farmed, although they appear to have used the main wash dub on the fell side.
Whilst we have not been able to locate any pictures of sheep washing at Rylstone, we reproduce below two photographs of the Hetton sheep dub, again from the same Times Past article, to show how it took place.