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November 2, 2009



by trooperstale

Ripon and Killinghall Beck
1622 to 1641

Michaelmas, Sept 29 1622, the first day of a bright Autumn. Henrietta, wife of Mark Fletcher, gave birth to a strapping son…….Henry. Henry’s birth, however, would have no effect on world events or even local history, remarkable only that he would live in a house later, much later, bought by my brother Tony in 1988, 350 years later.
Mark Fletcher, Henry’s father, was born and bred in Ripon in what used to be West Yorkshire. He was a stonemason as was his father before him. Generations of Fletchers had been stonemasons spending much of their time and tradecraft working on Ripon Cathedral, a building originally started in AD 672 with the major portions being completed in 1220. However a Cathedral is a work in progress providing the Diocese has the funds….then as now.
Young Henry had very little schooling and at an early age was apprenticed, through the Guild, to his father as a stonemason. Slowly, over time, he became stronger. Strong in the back as the work required. Hardened arms befitting his trade. Bronzed by the sun.
In 1640 Henry finished his apprenticeship and chose not to continue working with his father on the cathedral but to strike out on his own.
Unbeknown to him he lived in turbulent times. News travelled slowly in those days if at all. They were times that had had, as yet, no impact on tiny Ripon or the surrounding countryside.
For years now there had been serious discontent between Parliament and King Charles 1st. Parliament had, in fact, been dissolved by the King on more than one occasion. Civil War was in the offing.
Other than in and around the Church money was getting scarce. As a result young Henry didn’t get too far by modern standards. He made it, on foot, down the road, in the direction of Harrogate, as far as Ripley Castle and the quarries owned by Sir John Ingleby. With his experience and qualification and with no better prospect directly in front of him he took a job finishing stone after it was quarried.
Sir John had had built a row of quarry men’s houses along the Killinghall Beck facing the old packhorse bridge and within walking distance of the quarries. At one end he built the Starre Inn to provide lodging and food to both visitors to the Estate and travelers using the footbridge across the river.
A year later, in 1641, Henry, with his new wife Margaret, a scullery maid up at the Castle, moved into the house at the other end of the property. A home slightly larger than average directly opposite the packhorse bridge crossing Killinghall Beck.
It was exactly a year before the English Civil War broke out in earnest.
West Yorkshire 1642 to 1643
Discontent had been simmering between Parliament and the King since 1638. King Charles had recalled Parliament solely because he was desperately in need of parliamentary subsidies as a result of his wars with the Scots.
By March 1642 the quarrel had escalated to such an extent that the King moved his court from London to York thus making York the de facto capital of the country. It is to be noted that, at this point in time, the majority of Yorkshire was pro Royalist although the tide was soon to turn.
Parliaments leading commanders in the North were Lord Fairfax and his son Sir Thomas Fairfax. They had, at their own expense, raised over nine troops of horse, two thousand musketeers and two thousand clubmen. No mean feat!
Early in 1643, with the snow still on the ground, Fairfax attacked Leeds from both sides of the river Aire. Leeds was defended by Sir William Savile but had little chance in the face of overwhelming odds. The Royalists were able to hold out for only three hours and were then quickly overwhelmed. Over 450 prisoners were taken together with several canons and a great store of other weapons.
Savile escaped on horseback to the North West in the direction of Ripon knowing this area to be pro Royalist.
Sir William escaped to his old friend Sir John Ingleby at Ripley Castle and it is upon this fact hangs our tale!
Anthony Mellor 1948 to 1993
Tony, my brother, was born April 29 1948. I was already seven years old and playing with the big boys. 1948 the year we moved into our new house in Moortown. The year Monty the cat disappeared. The year we acquired Kim the Cairn terrier of air raid shelter fame.
Sadly Tony was born with polio, seven years before the discovery of the Salk vaccine. The disease left him physically hampered for life and somewhat quiet and withdrawn.
As he got older, not able to participate in most childhood activities, he developed an interest in history, more specifically Yorkshire’s history. An interest that became a vocation and ultimately a business.
It is to be said that he also developed a dry and wicked sense of humor that would stand him in good stead in later years.
After finishing school Tony opted not to go to university although he had attained the necessary qualifications. He chose to go to work with one end in mind. His sole objective was to amass sufficient funds to enable him to open his own antique store in rural Yorkshire.
It took him almost twenty years, all this time striving to become more knowledgeable and intimate with the history of Yorkshire.
He saved every penny but periodically acquired antique items of specific interest possibly unique. He avoided large pieces of furniture thinking that he would not be able to afford premises sufficiently large.
He also met Janet. She was a like traveler. She belonged to historical societies in Ripon and Harrogate and had a specific interest in 17th and 18th century Yorkshire. Invaluable!
Although they never married she stood by his side until his dying day.
In 1983 his dream came true. He opened an antique store in Poole in Wharfedale. His store rapidly became well known as far away as London for small, rare items. Shying away from commercial collectibles he focused solely on smaller items of proven provenance and historical value.
As his store became better known his financial situation improved proportionally. He was able to acquire rural properties that reflected his love of antiques and local history.
In 1988 he bought his last home. A 17th century stone cottage. The end house of a small row of quarry men’s cottages directly opposite an ancient pack horse bridge crossing Killinghall Beck.
Killinghall Beck 1643
In 1643 Killinghall, Ripley Castle and Ripon itself was an island of rural tranquility. Although a centre of Royalist support in the North it boded no military threat to the Parliamentarians. It was to Ripley Castle and his friend Sir John Ingleby that Sir William Savile fled after his defeat at Leeds thus bringing the Civil War to this quiet part of the Yorkshire Dales.
The Government commander, Lord Fairfax, understood the political value of capturing Savile after his escape at Leeds and ordered Sir Thomas Mauleverer in pursuit. Sir Thomas, although having been knighted by King Charles, raised a regiment of foot, a troop of horse and, changing allegiance, joined Fairfax and the government cause. These troops had become notorious for pillaging and defiling churches. Doubtless the proximity of Ripon Cathedral was added incentive for them.
To better enable his search for Sir William Savile Sir Thomas divided his force into small groups of men, some sufficiently small to be under the command of a sergeant, assuming that there was no local military threat of any concern.
One of these small groups arrived at the far side of Killinghall Beck in the spring of 1643 causing the inhabitants of the cottages to flee. Henry and his wife Margaret fled in the direction of Ripon and his father Mark Fletcher the stonemason.
Crossing the pack horse bridge this small group of government troops occupied the cottages recently vacated by the quarry men and their families including the Starre Inn although Will Foster, the tenant and landlord, opted to stay.
At Ripley Castle Ingleby and Savile became aware of the activity down by the river. As was common in those days Ingleby had at his disposal a small troop of cavalry maintained solely for the defense of the estate but posing no threat to a large military force. Ingleby was sufficiently astute to recognize that only small enemy groups were in the area and that no cavalry had been sighted.
Ingleby’s cavalry attacked the troops now occupying the cottages and the inn.
Mauleverers troops had no defense against the cavalrymen and were killed to a man both in and around the cottages.
As an aside Fairfax’s and Mauleverers forces were later routed by Savile at the Battle of Adwalton Moor in June of 1643. They escaped to Hull………but that’s another story.
Killinghall Beck 1993. (350 years later)
I visited my brother in this glorious old house, in the summer of 1993, the year before our dad died. The building was designated a Heritage 3 house so very little could be done to it.
It had modern plumbing and electricity.
A new roof had been installed the slate taken from the very quarry in which Henry Fletcher had worked so many years before. The windows had also been replaced one of the few concessions to modernity allowed by the National Trust. Other than that the cottages stood exactly as they had 350 years before.
The river still ran just in front of the houses spanned by the pack horse bridge crossed by the government troops in 1643.
The Ingleby family still lived in the “big house” and horse riders still used the old bridge. Unfortunately the Starre Inn no longer existed having been converted to a private residence over a hundred years previously.
Hard to believe that so little had changed.
The ceilings were low, the floorboards footworn and cockeyed. All the woodwork was original except for the new windows. A huge stone fireplace dominated one wall surrounded by 17th century accessories acquired by Tony.
The downstairs consisted of two rooms plus a small kitchen. Upstairs were two bedrooms and a small separate washroom. A long, narrow, creaky landing ran the length of the house upstairs with a right angled turn at the end leading to the stairs. Tony had furnished the house with legitimate period pieces and no broadloom anywhere just area rugs where appropriate.
The house was a time capsule.
With the front windows open you could hear the beck flowing by the front of the house the rich warm stone of the buildings, the walls and the bridge soaking up the summer sun.
The following is a poem found by my brother’s girlfriend, Janet, relative to the Starre Inn when occupied by Parliamentary troops. The original resides in a Yorkshire museum:
A bande of soldiers with boisterous dinne
Filled ye large kitchen of ye olde Starre Inne
Some rounde ye spacious chimney,smoking,satt
And whiled ye time in battle talk and chatt
Some at ye brown oake table gamed and swore
While pikes and matchlocks strewed ye sanded floore
Will Foster ye hoste ‘ mid ye group was seene
With full redd face,bright eye and honest miene
He smoked in silence in his olde arm chaire
No joke nor jeste disturbed his sadden’d air
I would doubt if pikes were actually in the building as they were at least 15’ long. Either some poetic license or they were Halberds being somewhat shorter.
More often than not my brother had to take a pee in the middle of the night, leaving his bedroom, turning right and walking the length of the old landing to the washroom.
One night he was not alone! In the corner where the landing turned towards the stairs stood a man in uniform. Not all cloudy and ethereal like a ghost in a movie but with stature and a presence. What was more curious was that there was nothing to be seen of him from the knees down.
With a doubletake Tony continued to the washroom. After he had finished the soldier was still there. In the morning he had gone.
The following night Janet stayed over.
In the middle of the night they both walked down the landing. He was there again…….still cut off at the knees.
Janet did the research on the man’s uniform. He was a sergeant in the Parliamentary army typical of the period of the Civil War. More specifically a sergeant in the musketeers wearing the required buff leather jerkin, the Morion helmet and carrying a short sword at his side.
Off and on my brother and Janet saw this soldier over the course of a couple of years. They tried to photograph him without any success. They repeatedly tried to engage him in conversation with an equal lack of success.
At one time they brought in a medium who was immediately aware of multiple presences in the house. She felt that several people had met violent ends in the house but that she felt no ill will. Having said that the sergeant never manifested himself to her.
It was a good friend of my brother’s that solved the mystery of the knees. He questioned whether or not the floor on which he was standing was the original. My brother and he very carefully took up the floor in that corner of the landing only to find the original floor beneath. At some point in time over the last few hundred years someone had replaced the floor.
The sergeant was standing on the original!
My brother was killed under mysterious circumstances in 1998.
After flying over from Canada I stayed in the house a couple of nights……not that I slept much….in an attempt to see the sergeant for myself. I never saw him. Perhaps if I’d stayed in the house longer he might have manifested himself to me concluding I was friendly.
I still have in my possession the letters from my brother describing, in detail, the events of those two years. What is fascinating is that everything my brother saw reflects the historical and well documented facts of that period so long ago.
I sold the house very quickly being the executor of my brother’s estate. I made no mention of the sergeant to the realtors although his presence was well known to the neighbors. Should it have formed part of the “disclosure?”
* The photograph is the cottage as it looked in 1998.
1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Nov 2 2009

    What an interesting historic recount! The home was absolutely beautiful. The ghost aspect really intrigued me. Apparently many Kettleby homes have their resident ghosts too.Nancy Beatty


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