Keartons who left the Dales

16 05 2013

The Kearton family, with their variant name spellings have been recorded in the North Yorkshire Dales from the early 1300’s and it is very interesting to note that recent Y chromosome and deep clade DNA test results shows the our blood line has been identified as “Brythonic” indigenous to Britain from the Iron Age. The classification being L21 or R1b1a2a1a1b4. This indicates that we are all from the original arrivals who were in Britain before the Romans came, and that we are not part, in the male line, of any of the subsequent invaders, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, Jutes or Normans.
Christopher Kearton was born at Thwaite in Swaledale on the 25th of October, 1791, the sixth child of his father Christopher Kearton by his first wife Nellie Metcalfe who were married at Muker on the 5th of October, 1782. Christopher the elder, was a lead miner and small farmer of Thwaite, who had been born at Thwaite in July, 1762. Nellie was born in May, 1784, and was a daughter of Michael and Eleanor Metcalfe of Thwaite.

The young Christopher first married his distant cousin Eleanor Kearton. She was a daughter of James Kearton, Publican and Farmer of Scar House, Thwaite, and his wife the former Phyllis Alderson. Christopher and Eleanor had married at Muker on the 16th April, 1812, and Eleanor had been born on the 18th December, 1793, but unfortunately she died on the 21st December, 1813 a few months after the birth of their daughter Eleanor Kearton, on the 12th September, 1813 and who died in July, 1814. Christopher married again for a second time, at Muker on the 2nd December, 1819. His bride was Mary Alderson, the widow of the lead miner Nathan Coates who had died aged 25 years on the 28th January, 1816. Mary had been born at the small hamlet of Keld, Upper Swaledale, on the 15th December, 1794, and she was a daughter of Ralph Alderson, a lead miner of Keld and his wife, the former Mary Sandwick. There had been two children born to Mary and Nathan Coates. A son William Coates who was born at Keld on the 3rd September, 1814 and who was buried at Muker a few days later on the 22nd. A daughter Mary Coates was born at Keld on the 23rd August, 1815. Mary Coates remained in the household of her mother and step father Christopher Kearton, and after the shift to Heggerscale, she eventually married Abraham Hilton of Old Park, at Brough, Westmorland. She was later the mother of seven children, six girls and a boy who were all baptised at Brough Church.
After the birth of Christopher and Mary Kearton’s two daughters at Thwaite, Alice Kearton on the 21st February 1821 and Isabella Kearton on the 9th March 1823, the family along with Mary’s daughter Mary Coates, left Thwaite in late 1824 and made the journey to the remote hamlet of Heggerscale in Westmorland, near Kirkby Stephen and Kaber, where Christopher farmed a few acres and set himself up in business as a butcher. This move follows the departure of Christopher’s younger step brother James Kearton from Heggerscale. James had been born at Thwaite on the 25th February, 1798, The only child of Christopher Snr’s second marriage to Ann Pounder of Thwaite at Muker in February, 1796. James had departed Thwaite in 1816, for Heggerscale where he was a husbandman and farmer. When there, James met and courted Jane Ashton, a daughter of James Ashton and his wife the former Jane Dent, farmers of High Ewebank, a very remote hamlet situate well off the Stainmore Road and located near to Heggerscale, but separated by the deep and undulating roughly wooded area of Coldkeld over which the imposing Belah Railway Viaduct would eventually be constructed in 1859. James Kearton and Jane were married at Kirkby Stephen on the 12th May, 1823 and soon after, they departed for Romaldkirk which was then still a part of Yorkshire and their first three children were born there. After Christopher and Mary Kearton settled at Heggerscale, five more children were born to them. A daughter Nancy Kearton on the 24th August, 1826, a son Christopher Kearton on the 4th March, 1829, a son Ralph Kearton on the 8th August, 1831, a son William Kearton on the 29th June, 1834 and a son Thomas Kearton on the 10th May, 1837. It is to be noted that after their births, all the children were taken to their mother’s home village of Keld, to the Keld Independent Primitive Methodist Chapel to be baptised. The exception to this was Thomas. The Rev Stillman had died by the time he was born and the Keld Chapel was without a Minister. Thomas Kearton was later baptised at Heggerscale on the 13th June, 1837, by the Primitive Methodist Circuit Minister. His name was recorded in the register as Thomas KERTON.
While at Heggerscale in 1833, and at the age of 42 years, Christopher Snr., was persuaded to attend the new Mouthlock Primitive Methodist Chapel which had been built earlier in 1831.. He was then given to be a swearing man, a Sabbath profaner, and one who kept worldly company. It is also documented that he had seen the error of his ways and he eventually took up the important roll of local preacher and he continued to do this for the next 30 years, with great credit to himself [sic] By 1841 Christopher and his family had made the move to nearby Old Park and then by 1851 and through to 1862 the family had a well established Grocer and Butcher shop business in the High Street of Market Brough. When Christopher died on the 2nd April, 1866, Christopher and Mary were the custodians of the Temperance Hotel in the Main Street of Brough. He was interred in the cemetery of Brough Church and I am pleased to be able to say that in 1991, the large headstone is still standing and readable.
Of their children, I have already mentioned that Mary Coates eventually married Abraham Hilton, of Old Park, at Brough and had a large family.
Alice Kearton born at Thwaite in February, 1821 married William Elliott, a flax dress at Brough Church on the 12th July, 1845. They had family.
Isabella Kearton born at Thwaite in March, 1823 married Jeremiah John Dixon at Barnard Castle, County Durham, on the 3rd August, 1848. Earlier in 1841 Isabella had been the housekeeper for the Horse Dealer John Wilson and his family at Kaber, near Heggerscale. In 1851 Jeremiah Dixon was a Grocer and Draper at Horse Market, Barnard Castle and later at Bishopwearmouth. Isabella died at Sunderland in 1891. Her husband Jeremiah had died some nine years before. They had two sons and a daughter.

Nancy Kearton born at Heggerscale in August, 1826 married William Emsley Parker at Brough Church on the 9th June, 1855. William born in 1832 was a son of Barnabas Parker of Sunderland and at the time of his marriage was a Primitive Methodist Minister but, by 1881 the family were Restaurateurs in Stockport Road, Manchester. They had six children, four boys and two daughters all born at Manchester. After Christopher Kearton’s death in April 1866 his widow Mary Kearton moved to Manchester to live with her daughter Nancy and family and she died there on the 7th April, 1882. After her decease, she was returned to Brough and interred with her husband Christopher Kearton in the cemetery at Brough Church. An inscription added to the headstone confirms this.
The son Christopher Kearton, Butcher and Grocer of Brough was born at Heggerscale in March, 1829. At the age of 24, he eloped with 17 year old Ann Fawcett, a daughter of Fenton Fawcett and the former Eleanor Hindmore of Brough, and they married at Gretna Green, Scotland, on the 17th May, 1853, at the anvil of John Murray. They had in total thirteen children, nine sons and four daughters. Five children had been born at Brough before the family made the shift to Cleator Moor in Cumberland in 1862. There Christopher was employed at the Montreal Iron Ore Mining Company as an Iron Ore Miner and eventually he rose to the position of Overman.. In later life, Christopher and Ann lived at “Rose Cottage” Keekle Terrace and Anne died there in 1911 and Christopher in 1918.
Ralph Kearton, Butcher, Grocer and Accountant at Brough born at Heggerscale in August, 1831, married Alice Bainbridge, the eldest daughter of Thomas Bainbridge and his wife the former Alice Fawcett who was a daughter of Robert Fawcett and Alice Moss of Sandford. Thomas Bainbridge was a Yeoman, Farming Brough Castle Farm. The large Castle on site, rebuilt by Lady Anne Clifford after a disastrous fire was already an imposing ruin at that time and had been for over one hundred years.. Ralph and Alice Kearton had five children, four boys and a daughter, three of the children had been born at Brough before the family made the shift to Cleator Moor in 1862. There Ralph was employed as a miner by the Montreal Iron Ore Mining Company and he also eventually rose to the responsible positions of Overman and then as Under Manager for Montreal’s six pits.. Montreal’s No.4 pit at the bottom of Crossfield Road was the only one in the area to bring up Iron ore and also Coal from the same shaft. They lived at 141 Ennerdale Road Cleator Moor, and Ralph died there in 1907 and Alice in 1908.

William Kearton born at Heggerscale on the 29th June, 1834 died at Brough on the 28th October, 1847. The cause of his death was given to be Hydrocephalus [water on the brain] but modern day thinking is, that he died of Meningitis. The young William had attended the Mouthlock Chapel with his father and on the 29th June, 1846, the 15th anniversary of the chapel, he had been awarded a Wharton Bible as a prize. According to a faded inscription on the front page, this was for the able manner in which he was able to recite the history of Joseph and Brethren. This bible is still extant and it was given to me by a close relative in England in 1987. As a family heirloom, it is treasured, and it is now in the possession of my brother John Kearton, also here in New Zealand.
Thomas Kearton born at Heggerscale on the 10th May, 1837, married firstly Agnes Sweeney, in February, 1858 at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Spring Gardens, Doncaster. She was a daughter of John Sweeney, a Cordwainer There were three children of the marriage two of whom unfortunately died young. The surviving daughter Ann Maria Kearton in 1881 was employed as a waitress for her Aunt Nancy at the restaurant in Stockport Road, Manchester, but no record of her has been found since that time ?? Thomas was a Linen Draper at Doncaster in 1858/9, and also at Manningham, Bradford in 1860. He was a Commission Agent at Manchester in 1868 and a Manager for a Cotton Manufacturer at Flixton, Manchester in 1879/80. A wholesale Confectioner in London in 1888 to 1902, and a warehouseman at Liverpool at the time of his death in 1907, aged 70 years. Thomas had married for the second time in November 1868 at the Independent Chapel Longsight-Gordon, Manchester. His bride was 20 year old Mary Metcalfe, a daughter of William Metcalfe an architectural carver. There was a son of the marriage born at Flixton in June 1880 but sadly he only lived six months. Mary died at Ormskirk, on the 29th June, 1914 aged 66 years.

With the shift to Cleator Moor, Cumberland, in 1862, the sons of Christopher and Ann Kearton were employed by various Iron Ore Mining Companies in the area. In 1884, three of the sons, Edwin, Thomas and Frederick Kearton went to the Gympie Gold Mines in Queensland, Australia. Of the three, two eventually returned to Cleator Moor in 1902 but Frederick stayed on in Queensland, having made his fortune there. He also married there and had family. In 1923, Richard Kearton of the Cleator Moor family emigrated to Pittsburgh, USA., His wife Jane Cowman later followed and they had a son William and a daughter Elizabeth Kearton born at Homestead, Pittsburgh. William Fenton Kearton, son of Edwin Kearton, one of the two who had returned to Cleator Moor in 1902, from the Queensland gold fields in Australia, emigrated to Queensland Australia, in October, 1926 with his wife and family. Another, John Frederick Kearton from Cleator Moor also emigrated to Victoria, Australia, in early 1926 with his wife son and three daughters. There, he was first employed in the coal mines at Wonthaggi but, several years later following a disastrous fire in the mine which closed it down, there was a move to Wollongong, New South Wales and the steel mills.

After the death of Ralph Kearton on the 3rd of November, 1907, and then his wife Alice Kearton on the 1st March, 1908, their two married sons Christopher Thomas Kearton and John Isaac Kearton and married daughter Mary Alice Holmes progressively emigrated to New Zealand with their family. Christopher Thomas had been employed by the Montreal Mining Company as a mine manger and his younger brother John Isaac as Accountant and Surface Manager.. In the main, Christopher Thomas and family departed for New Zealand in 1910, Mary Alice and family in 1911 and John Isaac and family in 1912. It was not really the best of ideas for the middle aged Iron Ore Mine employees to try to became farmers in the South Island of New Zealand. However, without doubt, they were far better off there than those they had left behind. In the North of England at that time there were poor working conditions, Iron Ore and Coal mines and also steel mills were closing down, unemployment was rife and there were unsatisfactory living conditions for many of the miners and their family.. My father, Albert Edward [Rex] Kearton, was the youngest of John Isaac Kearton’s family of five sons and I once asked an elder brother, my Uncle Jack, if he had ever had any desire to return to Cleator Moor. He said a definite No… He was 14 years of age when the family left for New Zealand and he said when going to school at Moor Row, he could still clearly remember the thick red ore dust and the filth and grime of the place. A window of a house suddenly being opened up and a miner’s head coming out coughing and spitting blood. !!! Again…No way.. The Iron Ore of Cleator was that kind known as red or kidney ore. Compact red haematite which yielded up to 65% metallic iron. These deposits of iron ore were the richest and most valuable in the area. Yes, I do think that the family were better off here with clean air and far better living conditions. Much better than those who had been left behind but, even so, life was not so easy for them trying to be farmers in a new country.

Of James Kearton and Jane Ashton’s family. After they departed Heggerscale, they settled in Romaldkirk Parish and three children were born at Balderdale, where James was employed as a labourer. Their fourth child James Kearton was born at Startford in 1831, and he married for the first time at Shildon, Co. Durham, in April, 1862 but there were no children of that marriage and he was left a widower in October, 1859. In February, 1870. He married for the second time at St James Church, Coundon, Co. Durham. His bride was the widow Sarah Jane Dobson, formerly Oliver. Sarah already had three children from her previous marriage and they all took, and were known by, the family name Kearton. James and Sarah’s first child was a son James Christopher Kearton born at Thornley, Co. Durham, in June, 1871. He was baptised at St Oswald, Thornley in September, 1874 and the entry shows his name as KURTON.. Their second child Jane Elizabeth Ann Kearton was born at Thornley in August, 1874. The son James Christopher Kearton, blacksmith, roadman and later coal miner of Cassop, Co. Durham, eventually married Dorothy Jane Hutchinson in February, 1897, he married by the name of KIRTON. And that name KIRTON has carried on through that branch of the family to the present day..

Part 2…
On the 23rd December, 1780, John Kearton farmer and lead miner of Thwaite married the widow Elizabeth Peacock at Muker and they had four children born at Thwaite, three sons and a daughter. The eldest sons were James Kearton born on the 29th July, 1783, and Christopher born on the 23rd March, 1786. In 1804, James and Christopher Kearton departed the dales for Cheshire where they were employed at Congleton as Joiners, Machine Makers and Millwrights. James married twice, for the first time on the 21st March, 1808, at Astbury Church to Mary Bailey… They had a son and three daughters, the last daughter being born in 1813 and who died in April 1814. James married again at Astbury Church on the 27th May, 1819 and his bride was the widow Martha Fithon, formerly Simon. They had a family of a daughter and two sons. James Kearton died at Congleton, Cheshire on the 20th December, 1827, aged 44 years.
Christopher also married twice. His first marriage was to Elizabeth Newton at Astbury Church on the 4th September, 1808 and they had a family of nine children, three daughters and six sons. Christopher married for the second time at College Parish Church, Manchester on the 27th November, 1842. His bride was Elizabeth Taylor. There were no children of that marriage and Elizabeth died at Greenheys, Manchester on the 28th April, 1872. Aged 73. Christopher died at Congleton on the 6th March, 1867, aged 81 years..
The children and g/children of James and Christopher Kearton had large families with many settling in Cheshire and neighbouring counties and also emigrating to Australia.

The New World Hamlet of Kearton in Swaledale

13 05 2013

By Basil Kearton

The Kearton family along with their variant name spellings have been recorded in North Yorkshire from the early 1200’s and it is very interesting to note that after a recent series of Y Chromosome and Deep Clade DNA tests, the results indicate that our blood line has been identified as being “Brythonic” and indigenous to Britain from the Iron Age. The identification being R1b1a2a1a1b4 or L21 This indicates that we are from the original arrivals who were in Britain before the arrival of the Romans and that we are not part, in the male line, of any subsequent invaders, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Normans.

In late 1978, following an inquiry from Cousin Joan Teale in Christchurch about our early family back in England I became very interested in our Kearton forebears. Our family had departed Cleator Moor, Cumbria, England, for New Zealand in three groups in 1910, 1911 and 1912. My father was only 10 years of age at that time and he was the youngest of five sons of John Isaac Kearton and his first wife, Francis Isabelle Thompson who had died of T.B., in December, 1903. Unfortunately his Step Mother also died of T.B. on the voyage out to New Zealand and she was buried at sea off Cape Town. His group was the last to depart and they arrived at Wellington in early January, 1913, on the S.S. Corinthic.. Up until 1978, and not knowing any different, I had always considered that we were a Cumbrian family but research soon showed otherwise and I soon found that Swaledale, North Yorkshire, was the fountain from which the Kearton family had earlier sprung.

On June 10th, 1981, my wife Anne and I and our nine year old son James, having departed Alston and run the gauntlet of the Gypsies and the Appleby Horse Fair, arrived at Thwaite in Swaledale. This was our first visit to the home village and there we were welcomed by our recently found relatives Sylvia and Ray Hunter of Bridge House. To our surprise we were told that there were still Keartons living in the village. George a retired farmer and bachelor, his brother Henry and his wife Isobel and unmarried daughter Mary Kearton . This, a continual occupation by family members for over four hundreds years. We were informed that Bridge House was once the local pub called “The Foresters’ Arms” and the two level old tractor and storage shed next door had been the Beer House. A John Kearton born at Thwaite on the 2nd August, 1787, and his wife Mary Alderson had been the publicans. John had died on the 16th April, 1853 aged 65 years and Mary on the 17th April, 1863.. It took some time to comprehend the fact that we were entering houses which had been built in the 1500’s and that I was walking the paths of my early ancestors. Ray and Sylvia Hunter at that time were also the owners and proprietors of “The Kearton Guest House & Shop” directly opposite, across the main street and this establishment was named after the two famous Kearton brothers Richard and Cherry, who were born in the village. Both Sylvia and Ray, a brilliant craftsman, carpenter and stonemason, had seen the need to cater for the increasing number of walkers and visitors to the dale so, in the mid 1950’s they made the purchase of the large block of terrace houses and converted them into a shop and reception area along with an upmarket restaurant with bed and breakfast accommodation. Not content with that, when Anne and I visited again in 1987, we found that the old beer house building by Bridge House had been demolished and in its place Ray had rebuilt two self catering flats under the one roof.. On the ground floor, each had a large lounge with a modern kitchen and upstairs were the bed rooms, toilet and bathroom. During the rebuild, the ancient rear stone wall of the beer house had been retained and incorporated within the new design and the outside walls of new modern building had been sheathed with the old stone salvaged and put aside during the demolition. This had to be done to comply with heritage and the district regulations. Still obvious on a large corner stone of the old rear wall were the initials “J K” etched into the stonework. Without doubt, carved by John Kearton himself so many years before. Later Ray purchased the old Thwaite Chapel, located at the end of the village on the road leading up to Angram, Keld and beyond to Tan Hill and he also converted that building into two self catering units. Unfortunately, after a short illness, Sylvia had died at the age of 52 year on the 7th December, 1986 so she was not able to participate in Ray’s further achievements. My son James still has very fond memories of his first visit to Thwaite, helping the staff in the kitchen and dining room during our stay. Today, Ray and Sylvia’s two married daughters Valerie and Pauline manage the self catering accommodation. Ray is semi retired and The Kearton Guest House has a new proprietor and it is now known as “The Kearton Country Hotel

During my research I had been told by a number of relatives that further down the dale from Thwaite, near the village of Healaugh, there was a hamlet known as “Kearton.” The next day we had plans to visit Richmond and also have lunch there and on approaching Healaugh we were able to see the “Kearton 1” sign we had heard so much about. We were keen to see the hamlet and we went up the road for the one mile as indicated but, we were disappointed to see only one large farm house on a rise, on our right, aptly named Hill Top. From the female occupier, who was out front in the garden, we inquired if we had arrived at what appeared to be all that remained of the hamlet. With a smile she stated that over the years many visitors had asked the same question and that the buildings and ruins which made up Kearton were, in fact, down to the left of the road, out of sight over the high stone wall. Disappointed, and with no apparent access to the hamlet, we turned about and made our way back down and then went on to Richmond. To my knowledge, for the past 50 years or more, those members of the Kearton family and others from all over Britain, America, Australia and Canada, who have made the pilgrimage to Swaledale and the hamlet, have all ended up at Hill Top. As a result, this lone farm house must be one of the most photographed buildings in the area.

The truth is, what remains of the hamlet is located high up on the North side of Swaledale, between the present day villages of Feetham and Healaugh. What we eventually saw were the remains of several dwellings in complete ruin and those building remaining were becoming ruinous and in the main unoccupied.. In the 1841 census, the eleven occupied dwellings which made up the hamlet housed seventy people, both young and old. The 1843 Tithe map of the district of Melbecks, Swaledale, shows the hamlet as an attachment drawing and this clearly places the position of the eleven dwellings, gives the list of owners and occupiers and it also shows one dwelling already a ruin, a pile of rubble at that time. Refer attached illustration, re-drawn from the original as supplied by the Northallerton Record Office. Early mining records and other early documents give a number of variant name spellings for the hamlet and there is no doubt that the site has been the home of many people for a very long time. Several of the unoccupied stone built dwellings also have the remains of their internal stone spiral staircases giving access to an upper floor, thus indicating their old age. A recent examination of the immediate area by landscape archaeologists indicate that the site was occupied as far back in time as 840AD. Also in line with that, an English Place Name Directory gives that the site of “Kearton” was the Homestead or Enclosure of a Swede ( Viking ) called “Kaerir.” who settled Swaledale.

On our return In July, 1987, and now having a far better knowledge of the area Anne and I entered the hamlet off the Langthwaite Road from up above Peat Gate. Referring to the tithe map of the hamlet and quoting the numbers given to the houses illustrated, I can describe the hamlet as we saw it:

  • 958.. Of one level in poor condition and showing its age. It was still intact and apparently used as a holiday home.
  • 960.. Not recognisable as a dwelling, it had been converted into a barn and its West facing wall was falling apart with large longitudinal openings in the stonework.
  • 963/4.. Of the two semi detached dwellings there only remained a low heap of stone rubble under a large tree with only part of the chimney of 963 standing. Embedded in the pile of stones was one very rusty old style steel bed end and the remains of a small tricycle and other miscellaneous junk.. What remained of the sandstone carved fireplace surround of 963 was very ornate and I managed to retrieve a small section of this and on returning home, to keep a memory of the place, I mounted it on a wooden base along with a piece of Galena ( lead Ore) along with a brass name plate “Kearton” It was obvious that almost all of the stones which at one time formed the construction of both semi detached dwellings had been robbed to make up stone walls in the vicinity.
  • 994.. This was in complete ruin with only parts of its two walls standing. Surrounded and almost hidden by trees, stone had been robbed from the ruin to construct walls for a large sheep enclosure on site..
  • 992.. Already a ruin in 1843, the only trace of this old homestead to be seen were a small number of stones still scattered in the long grass along side the track.
  • 987/990.. Only three outside stone walls of the old houses remained and the roof was very dilapidated. The South facing walls of the two had been demolished, the interiors of both had been gutted and the whole structure was being used as a tractor and implement shed.
  • 985.. Unoccupied but part of it appeared to be used as a holiday home. Structure reasonably sound but one stone wall fractured and open to the elements.
  • 1013/1013A.. Surrounded by high trees. Known as Home Farm. Neglected and abandoned but one section of it looked to have been lived in.
  • 1011.. Known as Langhorne House. In the advanced state of being ruinous. A section of the North wall had collapsed and was open to the elements. Sheep were being kept in an eastern section of the house. In 1990, Bertrand Esarte-Sarries and his wife Veronica from Reeth made the purchase of this ruin and fully restored the dwelling to its former glory. A family of Spensley were the last occupants before it had been abandoned. The dwelling was later sold on and with further alterations by the new owners, when visited in 2000 it looked magnificent.

Today the road sign “Kearton 1” at Healaugh, at the junction of the Swaledale to Langthwaite Road which crosses Kearton/Feetham pasture, is still there. As mentioned previously, following that sign, you do go up the road for about a mile, through a gate across the road ( known as Morley gate, the only one remaining of the three that at one time enclosed Kearton/Feetham pasture ) and then you come across the farmhouse on your right known as Top Hill Farm. I must strongly emphasis that the direction sign indicating the way to “Kearton” at the junction is there in great error as neither the house Park House, Birk Park, Top Hill Farm or the dwelling immediately below the road on the left, known as Brockmagill, have never ever had any association with the Kearton hamlet, although some modern day locals, not knowing any better, would like to think that they were.. In July, 1995 I contacted the Richmond authorities about having the sign removed and re-located to a more suitable place, to the other junction to the Langthwaite Road, at Feetham. That sealed road, several hundred yards above Peat Gate, ( now a cattle grid like the other, at the end of the pasture near to the Old Gang Lead Mine entrance ) gives direct access to the original unsealed gravel road leading into the hamlet, which itself is located about a quarter of a mile distant away. After several years of exchanging letters, sending maps etc., and reports on the subject by the local newspaper, I almost succeeded in my quest but, at the last minute, an appeal by the owner of a bed and breakfast establishment at Park House, who pleaded that he used the Kearton address for his business, won the day and the misleading sign remains. However, all was not lost as the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority kindly offered to Way Mark the old public footpath into Kearton which goes down from above Morley Gate and Hill Top and through the fields of Brockmagill and exiting into the East extremity of the hamlet, by the dwelling known as Langhorne House.. They also offered to erect a finger post on the road junction, above Peat Gate. Thus indicating the road, its direction and the distance into the hamlet.

Extensive research has revealed that “Kearton” is often referred to as an old world hamlet. After the Romans departed Britain in the early part of 410 AD the country was invaded by the Angles and Saxons, many of whom settled permanently in Britain. Later came the Scandinavians and as they pushed their way inland they established small settlements and it is to these Scandinavians that Swaledale owes many of its place names and dialect. The Angles preferred the lower lands as this was more suitable for their type of arable cultivation while the Scandinavians showed great preference for the upper part of the dales. This was because the steeper slopes were more suited to the type of farming they were accustomed, in the homeland they had left behind. This explains the site of “Kearton” selected with great care high up on the Northern side of the dale, in the main to take full advantage of what warmth the sun would give them as the sun would be in the South at its zenith.

It must be realized that in those early days Swaledale looked nothing like it does today. Then, it would be heavily wooded with an abundance of elm, hawthorn, mountain ash, yew and oak. Large herds of deer roamed these woods so, at times, these new settlers must have lived a almost contented lifestyle. The Viking settlement flourished and in these modern times it is very hard to imagine the primitive domestic huts which would have made up the small settlement or enclosure. From what knowledge we have today, the lower walls would have been made up of a double row of stones to about shoulder height built on a level piece of ground or platform, many of which can still be seen about the area to this day. With a good solid base of stone, the remainder of the structure would be made up of light timber and thatch. Not much is known of this early settlement but it survived and most important it retained its name. In the time of Henry 111 the name of the hamlet was recorded as “Karretan” and in 1298, in an inquisition of Yorkshire it is given as “Kerton” In the Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1301, ( taxation for the Scots campaigns and European military activities ) among those in the lists of names were Jordan of Kearton and Geoffrey of Kearton, sometimes recorded as Kerton. As time progressed, the style and type of construction would have altered many times and it was in the early 15th Century that locally quarried gritstone was used to construct the buildings which we are fortunate to be able to still see on site today.

From the time of recorded history, Keartons with their variant of name spellings, have continued to occupy Swaledale. It has not been a very prolific family when you compare them to the Aldersons and the Metcalfes but, never the less, the Keartons remain one of the oldest family groups. It is acknowledged that the early family with is number of variant spellings, took its surname name from the settlement. In later years, prominent among these were George Kearton or Kirton as he was sometimes known, of Low Oxnop, a lead miner who also fought bare fisted contests at Tan Hill, rode with the hounds in his 100th year and who died in July, 1764 in his 124th year. A little known fact is that his youngest son George Kearton, in partnership with William Lindow of Lancashire, established a large sugar and coffee plantation on the Island of St Vincent, in the Caribbean in 1763. This plantation was known as “Keartons” and although now abandoned, it is still known as that today. We also have the brothers Richard and Cherry Kearton of Thwaite, famous for their wild life photography at home and abroad, their explorations and their 30 books published on animal and bird life, the first to illustrated with photographs rather then drawings. Still in the family we have William Johnson Kearton, Emeritus Professor of Engineering of Liverpool University, born at Cleator Moor, who also wrote and published a number of books on Turbines and Engineering Practice and like Richard and Cherry Kearton before him, he lectured on his subjects overseas. Not forgetting Sir Christopher Frank Kearton of North Sea Oil, ICI and Courtaulds fame who is of the Cheshire family…

Returning to Swaledale in 1991, 1994, 2000, 2003 and 2008, accompanied by my brother John [4 times] and with Cousin Ralph Kearton [2] and John’s son Shane Kearton [1] it was agreed by all of us that there was nothing more pleasant than a drive through Swaledale on a Summer’s Day. A far cry from its description as “Wasteland” in the Domesday Book. Driving or walking along the modern day road by the river Swale, constructed by the lead mining companies in the early 1830’s to facilitate the carriage of lead ore, you are shut in by the barriers of the surrounding hills and the remoteness of the area. This valley is recognised as one of the most beautiful in England, with its meadows, wild flowers, dry stone walls and the numerous grit stone barns and houses perched on the sides of the dale.