Site of railway construction camp, Ribblehead MYD1818 © Robert White, 2004
At its height, construction of the Settle-Carlisle railway line employed 7000 men. Nearly 1000 of these worked at Ribblehead on the major engineering tasks of building the Ribblehead viaduct and Blea Moor tunnel. The area is bleak and isolated and so accommodation had to be specially built to house this army of workers. Construction camps or shanty towns as they are popularly called, grew up between 1870 and 1875 and their remains can still be seen as low earthworks and flat building platforms.
Most of the workers lived in prefabricated single-storey wooden terraces, but the Batty Wife Hole settlement also included more substantial buildings such as shops, public houses, a school, post office and library as well as a small isolation hospital built during a smallpox epidemic.
Closer to Ribblehead viaduct lay the engineering camp of Sebastopol with its suburb, Belgravia. Sebastopol included a large brickworks as well as terraced lodging houses and an engine house with a sunken inspection pit. Remains of the brickworks can still be seen.
Reconstruction of railway construction camp at Ribblehead MYD1818 (c) YDNPA, 2023
Cardwell, Peter et al (2004) ‘An Archaeological Survey of Ribblehead Navvy Settlements’ in White, R F & Wilson, P R (eds) (2004) Archaeology and Historic Landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Occasional Paper No 2 pp195-202
Jackson, K C (1997) ‘The Railway Shanty Towns at Ribblehead, North Yorkshire’ Yorkshire History Quarterly. Vol 2:4 pp133-138
Mitchell, W R (1988) Shanty Life on the Settle-Carlisle Railway. Settle: Castleberg