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Site last updated
09 February, 2019

Documentary Research about Kilnsey

To complement the vernacular buildings study currently being undertaken by UWHG, another team of UWHG members are conducting documentary research into the history of this Dales hamlet. Building on the work previously done by UWHG member Sonia Wilkinson, the team are discovering a surprisingly rich history for such a small village.


The team pay regular visits to the various archives and record offices which hold a surprisingly large number of documents relative to Kilnsey. So far we have visited the North Yorkshire County Record Office, the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society’s collection at the Brotherton Library (Leeds University), and the Borthwick Institute Archives (University of York) – such is the large number of documents in these three archives that we have not yet had time to visit other archives where we already know we will unearth many more!


We are very grateful to the Olicana Historical Society for awarding us a £500 grant from the May Pickles Grant for 2016, which we will be putting towards our reprographics and publication costs.

Our work flow is designed to ensure high academic standards, and is therefore necessarily slow, but thorough, ensuring that our work will be of use to other researchers. The documents we have gathered so far, mainly from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, are now being carefully transcribed, the team working in pairs to assist each other with each document, and each transcript is then double checked by another team member for accuracy and consistency.

This is then followed by group exercises at our monthly workshops, in which each transcription is closely analysed for its historical information, significance at a local and national level, and so that we can assess where we need to conduct further contextual research.

From the resulting information we are compiling indexes to subjects; personal and place names; details of the transference of land and property; family trees; and a village time-line. A series of maps is also being produced to show the changes in land use and ownership over time. A genealogical database for the village is also being developed.

The end result will be a resource that will hopefully be of use not only to the Kilnsey buildings survey team, but also to any future researchers of regional, local and family history in this area.


We are supplementing this locally focused work with more general research into the historical context into which events in Kilnsey fitted. At the moment we have decided to focus on the following topics as these are highly pertinent to the issues arising from the documents we have transcribed to date:

  • > The rise of the landed gentry in the early modern period
  • > Women in the 17th & 18th Centuries, especially with regard to property
  • > The Old Poor Law (particularly in its later stages, in the early 18thC) in relation to Settlement, Removal and Illegitimacy



Update on the work of the Kilnsey Documentary Research Team – Spring 2018
The team continues to work on transcribing old documents in the Proctor collection at North Yorkshire County Record Office, and the large Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society’s collection of leases and similar documents held at the Brotherton Library in Leeds.
As the bank of completed transcriptions grows, they are being indexed by subject, personal and place names, along with a timeline narrative of Kilnsey events set within a broader historical context
The group welcomed Vera Brearey and Helen Steele to the team this year, which will be a great help in speeding up the transcription process.
The following is a list of talks and presentations given by the team over the year:

  • March 2017 – Jane gave a talk “Under the Crag” to Olicana Historical Society discussing three case studies from Kilnsey.
  • March 2017 - Jane gave a short presentation to local residents as part of Jamie Roberts’ Village Heritage day.
    July 2017 Festival of Archaeology - An exhibition of some of our findings was displayed at Long Ashes; this display has also been shown later in the year at the Kilnsey Show, a UWHG evening, and in Kilnsey village halll
  • November 2017 - Jane Lunnon & Pat Carroll gave a guided walk around Kilnsey for the Friends of the Yorkshire Dales
  • December 2017 - Jane gave the talk, “Under the Crag”, to UWHG based around the 3 Kilnsey case studies

In conclusion, the Kilnsey Documentary Research Team regret the sad passing in August 2017 of Bronte Bedford-Payne, an enthusiastic and well-loved local historian of the Upper Wharfedale region. Briefly, a member of the Kilnsey documentary team in its earliest days, she fell ill shortly after the group’s foundation, and was unable to contribute as much as she would have liked. Happily she lived long enough to complete and publish her magnum opus, a history of Barden in 2017.
Jane Lunnon ; 26.1.2018

Current Kilnsey Documentary Research Team members:
Jane Lunnon, Team co-ordinator
Vera Brearey
Norrie Earl
Les Hardy
Carol Miles
Lynne Primmer
Ruth Spencer
Helen Steele
Jill Sykes
Ann Thake

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