HISTORY OF THE LOCAL AREA
The Lord of the Manor in 1066 was Thorfin, and the village is documented in the Domesday Book (1086). At that time it was recorded as having 21 households, a church and a priest and quite a large settlement. This is presumed to be in the wider landscape which included Kirby Hill.
The Manor passed through various hands and in the reign of Henry I the Fitzhugh family built a fortress which would have offered protection against Scottish raids. Henry Fitzhugh built the current Ravensworth Castle in 1391 on the site of the previous 11th century fortress and received a licence to enclose 200 acres of land around the castle to make a park. The park pale (‘pale’ being a medieval term used to refer to a substantial boundary often associated with parks or deer parks), is still evident in numerous areas to the south of the castle (photo 2). After the end of the Fitzhugh male line in 1513 the castle passed through the female ‘Parr’ line, but by 1571 it passed to the Crown Estate and the castle was ruined largely as a result of being quarried for local building materials. In the middle of the 16th century the castle was substantially pulled down although the antiquarian John Leyland recorded that the gatehouse was still intact. Over the following centuries the castle passed through various ownerships and today is retained in private hands.
In the wider landscape around the castle there is extensive evidence in the form of ridge and furrow cultivation for the medieval farming regime of the area. There were a number of skirmishes in the area during the Civil War and the region was a Royalist stronghold.
After the Enclosures Act of 1778 the majority of the land around Ravensworth is recorded as pasture and meadow with specific reference to sheep.
Milling was also undertaken at this time along with numerous quarries to the south of the Conservation Area for sandstone and limestone, and a coal mine that would probably have provided coal for the local limekilns.
Much of the housing stock dates from the mid to late 17th century when the basic form of the current village was established. Over the years Ravensworth has been described by many, most notably by 16th century antiquarian, John Leland, as a ‘pretty’ village and later as ‘exceedingly neat’. The artist M W Turner made several sketches of the castle and Walter Scott referenced the village in ‘Rokeby’ 1813, an epic poem set in the area.
This shows an extract from a historical map of Holmedale, dating from about 1842, showing Ravensworth village as it was then.
Points of interest include the stone cross located on the main section of the village green, the public house called The Greyhound, located to the north of the main road through the village (now 'Hare House'), the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, the Free School (now the village hall), and various other local features such as a ford at Mill Farm and the original road across Holme Bridge.
The full map can be viewed here:
This shows a hand coloured copper engraving of Ravensworth Castle (viewed from the north) by J Hooper, published 12th May 1784
Water colour painting of Ravensworth Castle by the late Pat Baker