Farndales and Agriculture











Agriculture has always been the heart of the Farndale communities








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General Sir Martin Farndale KCB





Dates are in red.

Hyperlinks to other pages are in dark blue.

Headlines are in brown.

References and citations are in turquoise.

Context and local history are in purple.


This page has the following sections:


·         Introduction

·         The Farndale farmers

·         Farndale agricultural workers

·         Agriculture in the Middle Ages

·         Serfdom

·         Tenancy

·         Farming methods

·         Rural Life around the North York Moors

·         Agricultural Labourers

·         Agricultural Change

·         The path to modern farming

·         Links, texts and books




Whilst of course the family in the twenty first century comprises a large range of folk, many now living in urban areas, the historical family is rooted in the land and agriculture. Until the industrial revolution, most of the British population was rural and horizons were small.


Our family’s recorded history began with the clearing of the land in Farndale by about 1230. There was pastureland in Farndale by at least 1225.


Even by 1280 there were folk such as William the Smith of Farndale who specialised in supportive trades. By 1338 people such as Walter de Farndale, later Vicar of Haltwhistle, Lazonby and Chelmsford, and William Farndale later Vicar of Doncaster, had become chaplains. By 1363, Johannis de Farndale had moved to York and was working as a saddler in an urban setting, and his family would stay there for generations, his grandson being a butcher. There were large numbers of the family who joined the Armed Forces. There were several policemen.


However the bulk of the family remained in a rural setting, working for others on the land, and occasionally becoming tenant farmers themselves.


Indeed even as the family moved its centre of gravity to the area of Cleveland when Nicholas Farndale’s family moved there in perhaps about 1565, the focus remained rural for another four centuries. It is true that there were groups of the family who moved to the larger urban port town of Whitby where many turned to the sea for work, and when the industrial revolution came, others found work in the mines, whilst some large groups of the family moved to urban centres such as Leeds and Bradford, particularly to work in the textile industry. However the bulk of the family continued to work in agricultural roles and mostly within a comparatively small radius of not more than about ten miles around Guisborough.


This web page tells the story of the Farndales and agriculture.  


The Farndale farmers


The Farndales who became tenant farmers included John Farndale, “Old Farndale of Kilton” (FAR000143); William Farndale, Farmer of Craggs (FAR000146); William Farndale (FAR00152) perhaps for a time; John Farndale (FAR00167); John Farndale (FAR00177); William Farndale (FAR00183); Elias Farndale of Ampleforth (FAR00184); John Farndale, for a time before he turned to trade and agency and became a writer (FAR00217); Matthew Farndale, who then emigrated to Australia where he became rooted to the land of Victoria (FAR00225); John Farndale (FAR00230); Martin Farndale of Kilton (FAR00236); John Farndale (FAR00240); John Farndale of Whitby (FAR00244); George Farndale of Kilton (FAR00252); Elias Farndale of Ampleforth (FAR00274); Charles Farndale of Kilton Hall Farm (FAR00341); George Farndale of Brotton (FAR00350C); Martin Farndale of Tidkinhow (FAR00364); Matthew Farndale of Craggs (FAR00383); William Farndale of Gillingwood Hall, Richmond (FAR00531); John William Farndale of Danby (FAR00537); John Farndale at Tidkinhow (FAR00553); Martin Farndale, cattle farmer of Alberta (FAR00571); George Farndale, farmer at Three Hills, Alberta (FAR00588); Catherine Farndale and the Kinseys in Alberta (FAR00601); Herbert Farndale of Craggs (FAR00652); Grace Farndale and Howard Holmes (FAR00659); William Farndale of Thirsk (FAR00665); Alfred Farndale of Wensleydale (FAR00683) and Geoff Farndale of Wensleydale (FAR00922).


A person standing in a field holding a bundle of hay

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Martin Farndale at Tidkinhow about 1920                      John Farndale at Tidkinhow about 1937     Matthew Farndale and Mary Ann at Craggs Hall Farm, about 1900           George Farndale, of Kilton Hall Farm, about 1925


The Farndale Farm Labourers


The lives of many members of the family through time, was a life of work for others on the fields. Many of the farmers listed above spent periods of time working for others on the land before they acquired land to farm for themselves. Examples of those who worked as ‘agricultural labourers’ included George Farndale of Brotton (FAR00215); Jethro Farndale of Ampleforth (FAR00218); Wilson Farndale (FAR00227); Henry Farndale of Great Ayton (FAR00229); William Farndale of Brotton (FAR00243); William Farndale of Whitby (FAR00257); William Farndale of Seltringham (FAR00258); John Farndale of Eskdaleside (FAR00262); Martin Farndale of Kilton (FAR00264); William Farndale of Great Ayton (FAR00283); Joseph Farndale of Whitby (FAR00285); William Farndale of Ampleforth (FAR00286); John Farndale of Kilton (FAR00287); Richard Farndale of Great Ayton (FAR00288); Matthew Farndale of Coatham (FAR00297); John Farndale (FAR00305); John George Farndale before he emigrated to Ontario (FAR00337); William Farndale of Loftus (FAR00378); Thomas Farndale of Ampleforth (FAR00474) and George Farndale of Loftus (FAR00627).


Agriculture in the Middle Ages


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Peasant woman milking a cow, mid Thirteenth Century


Medieval Farming in Farndale




By 1086, Farndale was an unknown place in thick forested land. However there was a tiny settlement which comprised ten villagers, one priest, two ploughlands, two lord’s plough teams, three men’s plough teams, a mill and a church around the Chucrh of St Gregory in Chirchebi, now at Kirkdale. It had been a community under Orm’s suzerainty since at least 1055 and no doubt well before that.




The Abbot granted that if the cattle of Nicholas or of his heirs or of his men at KikbyFademorGillingmor or Farndale, hereafter enter upon the common of the said wood and pasture of Houton, Spaunton and Farendale, they shall have free way in and out without ward set; provided they do not tarry in the said pasture.’ 17th year of the Reign of Henry III. (Yorkshire Fines Vol LXVII) (FAR00007)




John the shepherd of Farndale must have been a herdsman by about 1270.


Sheep and Shepherds by MINIATURIST, English




By 1276 there was perhaps 545 acres of cultivated land in Farndale.


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By 1282 there was perhaps 768 acres in cultivation in Farndale.


In a certain dale called Farndale there are fourscore and ten natives, not tenants by bovate of land, but by, more and less, whose rents are extended at £38 8s 8d. Each of whom pays at Martinmas two strikes of nuts, four of the aforesaid tenants only being excepted from the rent of nuts. Price of nuts as above. Sum of nuts, two and a half quarters and one strike. Sum in money 43s 9d of whom four score and five shall be harrowing at Lent according to the size of his holding, that is, for each acre of his own land a 1/2d worth of harrowing. Those works are extended at 29s 4d. They ought to be talliated and given pannage as above. The sum of £1 10s 1d. There are there three tenants in waste places called Arkeners and Swenekelis, holding ten acres of land, an paying 10s a year and giving nuts worth 18d. The harrowing is extended at 5d. They are serfs as the aforesaid ones of Farndale. Sum 11s 11d.’




By 1301, there was a sizeable agricultural community in Farndale, with 39 names associatred with the place and the identification of farmed settlements which can still be identified today, including Wakelevedy’ (Wake Lady Green), ‘Westgille’ (West Gill), Monkegate (Monket House) and ‘Elleshaye (Eller House).




In 1310, 20 oxen the property of Nicholas the parker, worth 8s, 6 oxen and 3 stirks of William in the horn worth £1 9s, a cow and a stirk of Hugh Laverock 4s 8d and 6 oxen of William Stibbing de Farndale…….’


Life as a Medieval Farmer


Further research required.




The early medieval period (1200 to 1399)


Further research required.



The Late Medieval Period (1401 to 1499)


Many of the folk living in a late medieval village would have had a one room house. The size of the house, the way it was built, and the contents reveal the simplicity of the home. The villagers provided most of what they needed for themselves and their daily routine was governed by the seasons.


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Reconstruction from the Ryedale Folk Museum


The family lived at one end of the building and the animals, kept for milk, meat and wool, at the other. The hearth, where the meals were cooked, was the centre of the home. The smoke would escape through the thatch.


The cottage was also used to store tools and those used for raking, hoeing, scything and chopping varied little over centuries. Hay and grain, needed over winter, were stored in the loft and salted meats hung from the roof beams.


The most precious possessions were stored in wooden chests. All the furniture could be easily moved to allow the room to be used for other purposes.

Further research required.




Further research required.





Further research required.


By the late Victorian period, Lark Rise, Flora Thomson, Chapter I, Poor People's Houses : The first charge on the labourers' ten shillings was house rent. Most of the cottages belonged to small tradesmen in the market town and the weekly rents ranged from one shilling to half a crown. Some labourers in other villages worked on farms or estates where they had their cottages rent free; but the hamlet people did not envy them, for 'Stands to reason,' they said, 'they've allus got to do just what they be told, or out they goes, neck and crop, bag and baggage.' A shilling, or even two shillings a week, they felt, was not too much to pay for the freedom to live and vote as they liked and to go to church or chapel or neither as they preferred.



Farming methods


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Further research required.



Rural Life around the North York Moors


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There were many foundries across the North Yorkshire Moors that specialised in the production of parts for ranges. People could choose features and even decoration, as they wished – for instance one or two ovens, separate or combined hearths, a turf plate or coal basket and left or right handed. Complicated flues to alter the draught could be operated to transfer heat from the main hearth to the ovens to cook.


There is a manufacturer of wood burning stoves in Pickering which keeps up the tradition, and they have a Farndale Stove!


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Supplying water to a nineteenth century house could be a challenge. Few of the poorer houses had indoor taps and people relied upon communal supplies such as rivers, wells and springs. Two buckets might be carried with a yoke.



Local rural communities would have relied upon local businesses such as blacksmiths and iron foundries, such as these, reconstructed at the Ryedale Folk Museum near Farndale today.


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Agricultural Labourers





In the late Victorian period …

Lark Rise, Flora Thomson, Chapter III, Men Afield: Very early in the morning, before daybreak for the greater part of the year, the hamlet men would throw on their clothes, breakfast on bread and lard, snatch the dinner-baskets which had been packed for them overnight, and hurry off across fields and over stiles to the farm. Getting the boys off was a more difficult matter. Mothers would have to call and shake and sometimes pull boys of eleven or twelve out of their warm beds on a winter morning. Then boots which had been drying inside the fender all night and had become shrunk and hard as boards in the process would have to be coaxed on over chilblains. Sometimes a very small boy would cry over this and his mother to cheer him would remind him that they were only boots, not breeches. 'Good thing you didn't live when breeches wer' made o' leather,' she would say, and tell him about the boy of a previous generation whose leather breeches were so baked up in drying that it took him an hour to get into them. 'Patience! Have patience, my son', his mother had exhorted. 'Remember Job.' 'Job!' scoffed the boy. 'What did he know about patience? He didn't have to wear no leather breeches.'

The elders stooped, had gnarled and swollen hands and walked badly, for they felt the effects of a life spent out of doors in all weathers and of the rheumatism which tried most of them.

The men's incomes were the same to a penny; their circumstances, pleasures, and their daily field work were shared in common; but in themselves they differed; as other men of their day differed, in country and town. Some were intelligent, others slow at the uptake; some were kind and helpful, others selfish; some vivacious, others taciturn. If a stranger had gone there looking for the conventional Hodge, he would not have found him.

Their favourite virtue was endurance. Not to flinch from pain or hardship was their ideal. A man would say, 'He says, says he, that field o' oo-ats's got to come in afore night, for there's a rain a-comin'. But we didn't flinch, not we! Got the last loo-ad under cover by midnight. A'moost too fagged-out to walk home; but we didn't flinch. We done it!' Or,'Ole bull he comes for me, wi's head down. But I didn't flinch. I ripped off a bit o' loose rail an' went for he. 'Twas him as did th' flinchin'. He! he!' Or a woman would say, 'I set up wi' my poor old mother six nights runnin'; never had me clothes off. But I didn't flinch, an' I pulled her through, for she didn't flinch neither.' Or a young wife would say to the midwife after her first confinement, 'I didn't flinch, did I? Oh, I do hope I didn't flinch.'

The farm was large, extending far beyond the parish boundaries; being, in fact, several farms, formerly in separate occupancy, but now thrown into one and ruled over by the rich old man at the Tudor farmhouse. The meadows around the farmstead sufficed for the carthorses' grazing and to support the store cattle and a couple of milking cows which supplied the farmer's family and those of a few of his immediate neighbours with butter and milk. A few fields were sown with grass seed for hay, and sainfoin and rye were grown and cut green for cattle food. The rest was arable land producing corn and root crops, chiefly wheat.

Around the farmhouse were grouped the farm buildings; stables for the great stamping shaggy-fetlocked carthorses; barns with doors so wide and high that a load of hay could be driven through; sheds for the yellow-and-blue painted farm wagons, granaries with outdoor staircases; and sheds for storing oilcake, artificial manures, and agricultural implements. In the rickyard, tall, pointed, elaborately thatched ricks stood on stone straddles; the dairy indoors, though small, was a model one; there was a profusion of all that was necessary or desirable for good farming.

The field names gave the clue to the fields' history. Near the farmhouse, 'Moat Piece', 'Fishponds', 'Duffus [i.e. dovehouse] piece', 'Kennels', and 'Warren Piece' spoke of a time before the Tudor house took the place of another and older establishment.

One name was as good as another to most of the men; to them it was just a name and meant nothing. What mattered to them about the field in which they happened to be working was whether the road was good or bad which led from the farm to it; or if it was comparatively sheltered or one of those bleak open places which the wind hurtled through, driving the rain through the clothes to the very pores; and was the soil easily workable or of back-breaking heaviness or so bound together with that 'hemmed' twitch that a ploughshare could scarcely get through it.

There were usually three or four ploughs to a field, each of them drawn by a team of three horses, with a boy at the head of the leader and the ploughman behind at the shafts. All day, up and down they would go, ribbing the pale stubble with stripes of dark furrows, which, as the day advanced, would get wider and nearer together, until, at length, the whole field lay a rich velvety plum-colour.

The labourers worked hard and well when they considered the occasion demanded it and kept up a good steady pace at all times. Some were better workmen than others, of course; but the majority took a pride in their craft and were fond of explaining to an outsider that field work was not the fool's job that some townsmen considered it. Things must be done just so and at the exact moment, they said; there were ins and outs in good land work which took a man's lifetime to learn. A few of less admirable build would boast: 'We gets ten bob a week, a' we yarns every penny of it; but we doesn't yarn no more; we takes hemmed good care o' that!' But at team work, at least, such 'slack-twisted 'uns' had to keep in step, and the pace, if slow, was steady.

Lark Rise, Flora Thomson, Chapter XV, Harvest Home:

After the mowing and reaping and binding came the carrying, the busiest time of all. Every man and boy put his best foot forward then,

Harvest home! Harvest home!

Merry, merry, merry harvest home!

Our bottles are empty, our barrels won't run,

And we think it's a very dry harvest home.

the farmer came out, followed by his daughters and maids with jugs and bottles and mugs, and drinks were handed round amidst general congratulations.

the harvest home dinner everybody prepared themselves for a tremendous feast



Agricultural change


Further research required.



By 1870 John Farndale was writing about the dramatic impact of agricultural change on the rural landscape of Kilton. Realising the profound effect of change on his homeland, he has recorded the events which occurred in his native place, Kilton and the neighbourhood, and which took place when spinning wheels ad woollen wheels were industriously used by every housewife in the district, and long before there were such things in the world as Lucifer match boxes and telegraphs, or locomotives built to run, without horse or bridle, at the astonishing rate of sixty miles an hour (Guide to Saltburn by the Sea and the Surrounding District, John Farndale, 1870). Kilton had started to realise the impacts of the "monstre farm" and the Industrial Revolution. "And now dear Farndale, the best of friends must part, I bid you and your little Kilton along and final farewell. Time was on to all our precious boon, Time is passing away so soon, Time know more about his vast eternity, World without end oceans without sure."


Thomas Hardy …



The effects of the new innovations b y the late nineteenth century …

Lark Rise, Flora Thomson, Chapter IV, At the ‘Wagon and Horses’: All times are times of transition; but the eighteen-eighties were so in a special sense, for the world was at the beginning of a new era, the era of machinery and scientific discovery. Values and conditions of life were changing everywhere. Even to simple country people the change was apparent. The railways had brought distant parts of the country nearer; newspapers were coming into every home; machinery was superseding hand labour, even on the farms to some extent; food bought at shops, much of it from distant countries, was replacing the home-made and home-grown. Horizons were widening; a stranger from a village five miles away was no longer looked upon as 'a furriner'. But, side by side with these changes, the old country civilization lingered. Traditions and customs which had lasted for centuries did not die out in a moment. State-educated children still played the old country rhyme games; women still went leazing, although the field had been cut by the mechanical reaper; and men and boys still sang the old country ballads and songs, as well as the latest music-hall successes. So, when a few songs were called for at the 'Wagon and Horses', the programme was apt to be a curious mixture of old and new.

Lark Rise, Flora Thomson, Chapter III, Men Afield: Machinery was just coming into use on the land. Every autumn appeared a pair of large traction engines, which, posted one on each side of a field, drew a plough across and across by means of a cable. These toured the district under their own steam for hire on the different farms, and the outfit included a small caravan, known as 'the box', for the two drivers to live and sleep in. In the 'nineties, when they had decided to emigrate and wanted to learn all that was possible about farming, both Laura's brothers, in turn, did a spell with the steam plough, horrifying the other hamlet people, who looked upon such nomads as social outcasts. Their ideas had not then been extended to include mechanics as a class apart and they were lumped as inferiors with sweeps and tinkers and others whose work made their faces and clothes black. On the other hand, clerks and salesmen of every grade, whose clean smartness might have been expected to ensure respect, were looked down upon as 'counter-jumpers'. Their recognized world was made up of landowners, farmers, publicans, and farm labourers, with the butcher, the baker, the miller, and the grocer as subsidiaries.

Such machinery as the farmer owned was horse-drawn and was only in partial use. In some fields a horse-drawn drill would sow the seed in rows, in others a human sower would walk up and down with a basket suspended from his neck and fling the seed with both hands broadcast. In harvest time the mechanical reaper was already a familiar sight, but it only did a small part of the work; men were still mowing with scythes and a few women were still reaping with sickles. A thrashing machine on hire went from farm to farm and its use was more general; but men at home still thrashed out their allotment crops and their wives' leazings with a flail and winnowed the corn by pouring from sieve to sieve in the wind.




The path to modern farming


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Gale Bank Farm, Wensley where Alfred and Geoff farmed.


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Gale Bank Farm early twentieth century



Links, texts and books