The Yorkes of Halton Place

Gowthwaite Hall before it was pulled down in the 1920sGowthwaite Hall before it was pulled down in the 1920s
© Gerald England

The Yorke family of Halton Place traced their ancestry back to Sir Richard Yorke, a wool merchant of the city of York who was knighted by Henry VII shortly after the Battle of Bosworth. Sir Richard Yorke's family went on to gain many lands in Nidderdale and later in the Craven area. One of Sir Richard Yorke's descendants was famously tried in the Star Chamber in 1611 for holding a ‘Catholic’ play in his home at Gowthwaite Hall in Nidderdale. Just six years after the Gunpowder Plot, he was also accused retrospectively of being involved in that—but he managed to establish his innocence.

W.R. Mitchell interviewed Major John Edward Evelyn Yorke and his wife Eleanor in 1982, and their interview is a wealth of information about the Yorke estates in Nidderdale and Craven. Eleanor Yorke (née Assheton) was born in Whalley in 1907, the daughter of Sir Ralph Cockayne Assheton, first Baronet Assheton of Downham. Major John Edward Evelyn Yorke was born in 1904 and inherited the Yorke estates from his grandfather, Thomas Edward Yorke, ‘the last squire’, in the 1920s. However, most of the Nidderdale estates were sold to pay death duties. In the interview with W.R. Mitchell, Eleanor Yorke describes how some of the estates came into the Yorke family hands through fortuitous marriages and settlements as well as boundary disputes with the Clifford Earls of Skipton Castle. Eleanor and Major Yorke also describe grouse shooting, the building of ’Yorke Folly’, the establishment of Appletreewick fair, and other stories from the journals and family papers of the Yorke family.