The Yorke Family

The Yorkes, a family of the landed gentry, made a major impact on the landscape around Bewerley through their development of extensive pleasure gardens and grounds around their home of Bewerley Hall.

Bewerley Hall and Garden (Nidderdale Museum)

Bewerley Hall and Garden (Nidderdale Museum)

From the eighteenth century folly high on the cliffs of Guisecliffe, to the woodlands with their cascades and fern-filled dells, and to the more intimate flower gardens with lawns kept trim and neat in the twentieth century by means of a Green’s of Leeds lawnmower, they had a lasting effect on the local landscape.

Differing, fashionable garden styles were developed: parkland dotted with specimen trees alluding to the eighteenth century English Landscape Movement, the enhanced woodlands of Fishpond and Ravensgill suggesting a later Picturesque style, and the ‘island’ flower beds dotted around the lawns, typical of the Victorian period.

Edward Yorke in Ravensgill - Nidderdale Museum

Edward Yorke in Ravensgill in late 19th century (Nidderdale Museum)

These changes to the dale landscape took place across three generations of the family who, in addition to following design trends, inevitably displayed references to their own interests, style and status.

In the 1920s, when the Hall and estate were sold, with the land split into different segments, much of the design of the private gardens disappeared. There are many areas and features which remain and it is possible to visit some of these via the public footpaths through Guisecliffe, Ravensgill and Fishpond woods, as well as the permissive path leading to the Fishpond Wood icehouse.

You can find out more about the Yorkes and the designed landscape they created in Bewerley in the book, Folly to Flower Garden: The Yorkes in Nidderdale by Margaret Hadley Waterson, one of a series of publications from the Historic Parks and Gardens Study Group.

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