Houses of Interest: Yorkshire

Update: now with added executions at Ripley and the tale of 'trooper Jane'

When I researched and wrote the Rupert travelogue entry for Yorkshire, and the entry for Adwalton Moor there were some great houses that I was unable to visit (namely because they were shut). I have slowly been plugging away at visiting and documenting them here on the blog.

Skipton Castle got it's own post, Knaresborough Castle was added to the Rupert Yorkshire post; which leaves Oakwell Hall. (And probably lots of others...)

Oakwell Hall gets the honour of kicking off the Yorkshire Houses of Interest entry. Oakwell was the inspiration for Charlotte BrontĂ«'s Fieldhead in "Shirley". More recently it has been used a number of times as a film set, including "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell".


Located close to the M62 and the Leeds branch of purgatory on Earth (aka Ikea), this Tudor manor house is beautifully maintained by Kirklees Borough Council.

The hall is presented as a seventeenth century home. I really like this approach, as so often historic houses have different rooms decorated for different eras, so it is really nice to see a house presented from one era in it's entirety.


Oakwell was in the ownership of the Batt family, who supported the King, John Batt was a captain and most probably fought at Adwalton Moor. The retreating Parliamentarian troops passed along Warren Lane (adjacent to the house) after the battle.


After the Royalist defeat at Marston Moor, John Batt surrendered the house to Black Tom in order to keep his family safe. John paid a fine of £364 to reclaim the estate in 1649.

What's there today?
As I have already mentioned, the whole house is presented as a seventeenth century residence.


One room documents the whole history of the house and has some cannon balls and musket shot from Adwalton Moor on display.


Another room, has a number of period costumes for you to try on; it also shows the construction of the building off nicely.


A fine portrait of Newcastle hangs in one of the rooms.


There is a beautifully maintained  walled garden, and the remainder of the estate is laid out as a nature reserve with a number of trails.


Of course there is a tea room and shop.

The ECWS have assisted the Council with the Hall, and there are some civil war themed gates into the shop and function room courtyard: resplendent with helmets, swords and breastplates.

All Saints Church in Ripley (Harrogate way, not the one in Derbyshire) was used by the Parliamentarians as a billet for their soldiers who were pursuing fleeing Royalists from Marston Moor. A number were captured and executed against the walls of the church which still bears the scars of musket balls. Inside the Church they added graffiti  "no pompe nor pride let God be honoured" to the tomb of Sir William Ingilby (1546-1618).


Interestingly Sir William's children are both claimed to have fought at Marston Moor: Sir William (junior) was a Royalist cavalry officer, and his sister Jane is supposed to have disguised herself as a man wearing full armour in order to take the field.

After the Battle Sir William (jr.) hid in Ripley Castle's priest hole when Cromwell's men came looking for him; Cromwell asked to stay the night, Jane agreed on the condition that his men slept in the barn and she could keep two loaded pistols at her side. Jane became known as 'trooper Jane'. Private guided tours of the castle are available.


Photo of a Victorian print of Jane keeping guard over Cromwell in the Castle's library

There are many 'local fables' about the Civil Wars, usually involving Cromwell allegedly visiting places that he never actually visited or doing something that never happened or someone else very definitely did. One only has to look around at the prevalence of landmarks prefaced with "Oliver's". Most of these stories, and names, stem from a Victorian desire to cover the unsavoury bits of merry olde English history with a broad brush of romanticism. Sadly the story of trooper Jane might just fall into this category.

The story of both Sir William and Jane is a little problematical: Sir William does not appear in the Indignant Officer lists (as having served in the Royalist Army) as one would expect. Nor does he appear in any officer lists for any of the regiments that make up the Marston Moor Royalist order of battle. That does not necessarily negate his presence at Marston Moor as many of the regimental lists are incomplete, however his absence from Indignant Officers does suggest he wasn't a serving officer in the King's Army.

Jane wearing full armour to fight at Marston Moor: whilst vaguely plausible this has more than a whiff of  Victorian embellishment about it - serving troopers had long ditched full armour because it was too heavy to wear into battle, suitable horses to carry the extra weight were thin on the ground as they had already been taken for service in the war, where did she find a suit of armour that fitted her? A buff coat and helmet would serve equally to mask her identity. There are a handful of well documented cases of women who donned men's attire to fight as soldiers, but these are heavily outweighed by rumours and fiction.

The keeping guard over Cromwell with a brace of pistols part of the story, whilst seemingly far fetched, might just be the truthful part of the story. I wonder if even the Victorians might think that is an embellishment too far.

But no evidence appears to exist other than the Victorian retelling of the tale, so we will probably never know how much of the tale is true (if any), and how much is Victorian fabrication. 


Postcodes for SatNavs
Oakwell Hall WF17 9LG
All Saints Church, Main Street, Ripley HG3 3AD
Ripley Castle HG3 3AY


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