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The Medieval Way

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Passing through the Parish Churchyard from east to west, foot passengers come across a gate on the western boundary as shown in the photograph above. This marks the start of what is known locally as the “Medieval Way” – a footpath leading after several hundred feet to the Birstwith Road.

As the name suggests, the footpath is believed to be of ancient origin and the route of an old road from the Birstwith direction to the church. It is covered for some distance by flat stone slabs believed by some to be of Roman origin.

A local antiquarian writing in January 1904 described how he ". . . noticed today that men were carting soil etc., to the new addition to the Churchyard so went across here. I find they have taken in about ¾ of an acre of the field to the West & South of the Church to quite close to the riverbank. This has necessitated the removal of the picturesque stone stile & steps leading from the old road from the Birstwith highway to the Church, & they have set back the fence so as to enclose about 50 yards of this road. They were busy removing the last of these steps when I watched them. The carting operations have revealed the foundation of the old road, & the large square paving stones are very evident & put the fact of its being a portion of the old Roman highway towards Kettlesing Head & "Watling Street" beyond all doubt, as it is in a direct line with the bit now used as a bridle road to Ripley.

This also establishes the position of the ford across the Nidd & certainly the river at this point is the most likely for the purpose today, though the building of the bridge may have assisted the formation of the gravel & shingle beds to some effect. Presence of old ford perhaps fixed site of or led to choice of site for Church & certainly would fix the site of the bridge in later years. The Churchyard will require several feet of filling in many places.

A remarkable fact is that the material being carted along the old road for filling, is what has gradually accumulated during many years from the spare material from graves dug in the old portion.

I spoke to Mr Peck (Vicar) about burials here; he stated that it was supposed that between 30 & 40 thousand persons are interred in the old part, it having been a grave yard about 500 years. At one time yearly average was about 50, now seldom more than six."

The stone stile and steps referred to are, presumably, those seen in this old photograph . . .

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. . . which can be compared with this modern view from which it is apparent that the gate and wall have, indeed, been reconstructed much further to the west . . .

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The Way makes a picturesque route as it continues to the west . . .

 - click for full size image
 - click for full size image
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The Medieval Way

Passing through the Parish Churchyard from east to west, foot passengers come across a gate on the western boundary as shown in the photograph above. This marks the start of what is known locally as the “Medieval Way” – a footpath leading after several hundred feet to the Birstwith Road.

image