One of the greatest changes to take place in the countryside came about after 1539 with the Dissolution of the monasteries. Large tracts of the Yorkshire Dales had been granted to several monastic houses in Norman and Medieval times. When Henry VIII seized and then sold this land off, huge monastic granges were broken up and a new class of tenant came to be established. Often the same men who had looked after the land for the monasteries took over ownership.
Non-monastic cattle rearing farms (vaccaries) were also gradually subdivided and finally leased out by their lordly owners. Overall, there was a gradual shift from the feudal manorial system, to rent paying tenants. By the end of the period, a system called customary tenant right ensured that control of the land came to lie in the hands of the farming communities not the landlords. The foundations of the freeholder, yeoman farmer dynasties that survive into the present day were laid.
Few examples of the houses and farm buildings of these Tudor tenant farmers survive. The Great Tythe Barn at Bolton Abbey is rarity in the north of England. It was originally built for the monks of Bolton Priory but survived the Dissolution and continued in use on the estate as a farm building. The heather thatched cruck barns at Drebley show us what ordinary Tudor farm buildings may have looked like.
Fold Farmhouse may have originally been a grange for a monastic house but it certainly became the home of a well-to-do farmer after the Dissolution. It was constructed in the medieval timber frame building tradition. High Hall in Appletreewick on the other hand was built in stone for its wealthy yeoman owner and looks forward to the Great Rebuilding of farmhouses in the Dales during the 17th century.
The aristocracy could afford to build in stone and on a much grander scale. In 1485, Henry Clifford, known as the Shepherd Lord because of his humble upbringing, succeeded to his family estates. He built a new home for himself out of an old forest lodge. Barden Tower was perhaps not as comfortable as he could have afforded, but its isolated location suited his solitary nature. Other landowners continued to use their land for pleasure as well as profit. Norton Tower was built as a hunting lookout and banqueting room for the Norton family of Rylstone.