The Village History of Beck Hole

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Beck Hole is not - as you might at first think - a cavern or pot-hole. The name is from the Viking description of  'a deep valley through which runs a stream'.

The surrounding area was called Allan Tofts and was the northern most part of the great Forest of Pickering. In 1267 the King's Foresters began clearing trees from the high ground and the land was improved to provide a rough living for smallholders in low thatched dwellings. The high moor land, rough grazing and harsh winters meant that life revolved around sheep farming and the production of wool.

Eventually the clearance of trees and scrubland continued down into the valley at what we now know as Green End and Beck Hole, though in those days Beck Hole was called 'Amerholm' and Green End 'Summerholm'.

The earliest records show only one farmstead in Beck Hole in 1572 owned, according to the Duchy of Lancaster 'Rent Roll', by William, John and Maryann Ducke. The farm must have prospered as they built a big fulling mill for the preparation of fleeces on the bend of the river. There are still traces of the stonework to be seen on the riverbank, and some still refer to this part of the river as 't'mill steps'.

What became of the Duckes is not known,( tho' there are still families by that name in the area )  but it is said that in the 1600's Amerholm and it's lands were given to the Leighton family for services rendered to King Charles 1st during the Civil War. The Leightons stayed in Beck Hole until about 1751, and they too have left their mark on the local name for one of the fields is still referred to as 'the leyton field'.

There must by this time have been several dwellings in the valley. The Birch Hall Inn's own title deeds mention the change of tenancy, in 1651, of a small dwelling on the site where now stands the pub.

The earliest known public house in Beck Hole was in 1678 when the inn in question was 'The Bulls Head'. It stood at the far end of the hamlet, was re-named 'The Lord Nelson' in 1801, and was re-built in 1850.

Little changed as centuries passed. Beck Hole was linked to the village of Goathland and the nearest market at Egton by a stone causeway, or 'Trod', parts of which you can  still walk on today. it wasn't until 1868 that it was decided   to extend the hard road to Beck Hole 

 

The census of 1851 records just 6 dwellings in Beck Hole, but the tide of change was approaching as in 1836 George Stephenson's Railway had opened, right through the middle of the valley. 

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The carriages were initially horse-drawn but the steep gradient of the incline between Beck Hole and Goathland could only be overcome by pulling the carriages up on a system of wire ropes. Steam was introduced in 1845, but trains still had to negotiate the incline by means of the winches until a fatal accident in 1864 prompted the re-routing of the line to it's present course.

By 1857 the industrial revolution had dawned. Coal and Ironstone mining was soon underway, and two blast furnaces beside the river produced pig-iron to be sent off to Whitby.

All this activity brought with it a corresponding increase in workforce, and of course their families.  A row of 33 cottages was built in the part of Beck Hole known as Buber Wood. It is around this time that we first hear of the Birch Hall Inn, when it was developed from two adjoining cottages to include a provisions store with accommodation above and a resident cobbler on the top floor. In 1860 it was granted a license to sell 'Ale Porter, Cider and Perry'.

The boom was short lived. By 1867 the mines had closed and the furnaces were dismantled. By 1871 only the Birch Hall Inn, the cottage opposite and The White House were occupied, and just 13 of the new cottages. Once the cottages were all empty the whole row was demolished and the stone taken away to build Malton Station. All that remains to be seen is a few stone gateposts along the side of the path. Beck Hole slowly became a quiet backwater again, and has changed little since.

In 1873 the stone bridge was built to replace the existing wooden footbridge with its ford alongside and demolition of the station buildings had provided stone for several new cottages.

In 1940 the Lord Nelson Inn was closed and became a private house, leaving the Birch Hall inn as the only pub.

Electricity came to Beck Hole in 1948 and eventually in 1952  the residents had the luxury of mains water instead of having to carry it from springs and streams.. and until 1989 there was no television reception. The residents got together and raised money to erect their own mast at the top of the hill which cabled the signal down into the valley !

Though rather 'Heath-Robinson'  the system lasted until 2002 by which time satellite transmission was available..and it was eventually dismantled as most houses tuned in to Sky TV. 

 

 

 

 

Authors note
This is a very potted history, putting together stuff gleaned in conversation with lots of people, as well as bits and pieces from several good books on the area. I'm sure there's lots more to learn so anyone out there who can add any details, give further information or can correct me if you have a different version of events please email Glenys.