A Brief History of the Villages


The spectacular scenery of the area around Lockton and Levisham results partly from geological activity dating back millions of years, partly from human activity over the last ten thousand or so years. There are numerous archaeological sites on Levisham Moor bearing witness to the activities of nomadic people of the Neolithic period followed by farming people from the Bronze Age onwards.  We can see the remains of burial mounds and of extensive territorial boundary dykes from these prehistoric times.


During the early centuries of the first millenium AD, the Romans were around this area, their soldiers encamped at Malton and Cawthorne (near Cropton), and using a road across Wheeldale Moor to reach their signal stations on the coast. But it was the Anglian settlers from across the North Sea who, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the Roman Army in 410, began claiming the land. A man with a name like 'Leaf' found a promising spot to settle with his extended family - 'Leaf's ham' or 'homestead'; 'Loca' and his lot made their 'ton' or township across the valley or homestead. This, at least, is what the place names suggest. All that remains from this pre-Conquest period is the place names and fragments of carved stone crosses and gravestones.


By the time of the Norman Conquest, both villages were recorded in Domesday Book.  They are likely to have suffered, along with the rest of the region, in the Norman retaliation after a series of rebellions, the 'Harrying of the North', but what happened can only be conjecture.


From the 12th century onwards there are mentions in official records relating to taxation, or crime and punishment that begin to fill out the picture of village life. This is an area of upland agriculture, with records of sheep farming on the moors from the 13th century Monastic Grange on Levisham Moor. A glimpse of the hard lives of the small farmers from the 16th century onwards can be seen in their wills, detailing the meagre possessions passed on to their descendants.


The picture of family life fills out in the 19th century when Parish Registers and Census Returns, together with various farm surveys provide much fuller information. Population reached its peak in the first half of the 19th century. In the 1830s, agricultural hard times forced many off the land, some emigrating to seek a better life in the New World, others attracted by cities with expanding industries.


Today's villages still have an agricultural core, but a quite different type of farming, while the beauty of the countryside and relaxed life-style attracts both holiday makers and those seeking a quiet spot for retirement or to work from home.


Many records relating to the history of these villages can be found in the continually growing Archive which is kept in Levisham Village Hall.

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