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Reading Room Committee 1903



Clapham Village History Project
(Note: the name “The Old Manor House’ is recorded from 1888)

The old manor house was built sometime prior to 1701, very probably as the manor house of the manor of Clapham in succession to the original manor house now known as Clapdale Farm. The former building may have been built in 1658 by Christopher Clapham when he recovered Clapham Manor from Arthur Ingleby by mortgage.

1701 the two-story porch was added by William and Isabel Clapham whose initials adorn the front elevation of the porch and the arch over the inglenook in the ground floor room to the east. The date carved in the keystone of this arch lies within a heart shape suggesting that 1701 was the date of their marriage. They did not marry in Clapham and no record of Williams marriage to Isabel(Greenbank) has yet been found. William lived 1659-1718 and Isabel 1659-1745. William’s farther Jonas died in 1691 leaving an estate consisting of “purse and apparel” valued at only £6 so William may well have inherited the old manor house and farm some time before Jonas’s death.

1718 William died and the Clapham family moved to Slaidburn but retained the manor house and farm. William’s will describes him as a “gent” and suggests that he had been an wealthy yeoman farmer. After his death his goods and chattels were valued at £148.11.8. He left 4 horses, 21 cattle, 60 sheep, 4 oxen, and 1 pig as well as domestic and farm utensils and stocks of hay. corn, oats, barley and beans. In addition to the old manor house, its adjacent barn, stable, turfhouse, orchard and garden he owned Crina bottoms farm and “Lawhous” or Lawsons Barn as well as at least 20 parcels of arable, meadow and pasture land. All was left to their son Jonas, apart from £10 left the their maid Elizabeth Guy.

1736 The tenants of the old manor house and farm were then Oliver Thornton and Thomas Tomlinson and Jonas ran into financial problems, appears to have taken a business partner and mortgaged the property to John Hewett of York.

1742 Jonas’s son William married Isabel Heaton and Jonas seems to have transferred the property to Isabels father John as part of a marriage settlement. It was then valued at £450. The property stayed in the Heaton family for many years.

1815 The property was still owned by John Heaton but was occupied by Edward Robinson.

1838 The Heatons sold the Old Manor House and farm to the Farrers.

1847 By this time the building was owned and used by James William Farrer and Oliver Farrer but for what purpose is unknown.

1857 The building was let to Robert Robinson who was the last person for many years to live in it.

1858 It is believe that Robinson died and the building became the ‘parish reading room’ established as such on the 3rd December 1858 although there is some doubt as to weather this occurred in 1858 or a year or two later. The establishment of the reading room is attributed to David Elder, a 38 year old gardener and two ‘other scots’. The 1851 census tells us that there only 3 Scots born men in Clapham at that time-Elder, a carpenter named Thomas Sturgeon and James Stewart the Farrer’s Ingleborough estate agent. The reading room was initially stocked with nearly 100 volumes which were “the remains of the Clapham Parochial Library”. The rooms were provided rent free by the Farrer’s

1880 At the Reading Room and Library Committee AGM it was agreed that the Reading Room would take the Illustrated London News, Lancaster guardian, Punch – and Judy. A bagatelle and billiards table was provided.

1888 It was reported in the local press that the reading room had completed 30 years since its foundation, an anniversary celebrated by a “public tea”. The book stock was by now 1940 volumes, subscriptions were 1d per week and the average membership numbered 60.

1889 The village squire, Rev. Matthew Farrer died and his place was taken by James Anson Farrer. The reading room was described at that time as being in “ruinous condition” and James decided to have it restored in keeping with its original style and to turn it into a “Village reading room and Penny bank” The renovation was carried out by Robert Shaw of Bentham who used Nutgill flags to re-roof the building. The renovation was described by the local press as creating “an institution of mental and moral education (for) the uplifting of the working classes” though it was seen as being intended primarily for the “young men of the Clapham district”. It combined the functions of the reading room, library, Yorkshire Penny Bank, billiard room, “lavatory, coffee, smoke and recreation room” and was also later used as a Sunday school.

The newspaper reports of 1888 and 1889 appear to confirm that the Reading Room was originally established in 1858 but in a different building, being transferred to the Old Manor House in 1889 following its renovation. No record has so far been found to indicate where location of any original reading room.

1902 The Reading Room Committee reported that the Library book stock then stood at 3160 volumes.

1903 The committee included up to 33 members, including ladies and some residents of Austwick. There photograph hangs in the Reading room bar.

1906 A Special Committee Meeting decided against Sunday afternoon opening, which was described as “simply self-indulgence”. The committee paid a rent of 2/6 per year for the use of the premises.

1910 The local press reported that the billiard handicaps played in the reading Room “provided much pleasure through the winter in the quieter hours of ordinary village life”.

1911 The Manor House was at least partly occupied by George Redman and his family. He was the manager of Reginald Farrer’s nursery garden in the village.

1942 The building ceased to be used as a reading room and library though the billiard room appears to have continued in use.

1947 The building became the home of Matthew Rolland Farrer, then Squire and lord of the manor. He died in 1952, his successor chose to live at hall Garth and continued to charge 2/6 per year for the use of the building.

1968 The building was sold to the west Riding County Council for £900 for use as a National Park Information Center with the proviso that the billiards & snooker room was to remain open to local residents through the winter months in perpetuity. It was recognized the rent would have to be increased. W.R.C.C. later transferred the building to Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

2003 The Y.D.N.P.A. closed the Information Center and put it up for sale.

2005 The building was bought privately.

2006 The ground floor was opened as a gift shop and bar.

2007 The upper floor was opened as a bunkhouse accommodation. The snooker/ billiards room proved uneconomic and was closed.

2011 The building was taken by fresh tenants as a cafe, bar and bunkhouse.

K. Pearce 6th March 2013 C.V.H.P.


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