About the Victorian era

Timeline - Victorian


While still a predominantly rural landscape, the nineteenth century Dales saw large industrial enterprises develop that have left lasting impressions. Lead mining and processing is perhaps the most dominant. The Gunnerside Gill lead mining complex in Swaledale left huge spoil heaps and hushing scars on the valley sides. Along the valley bottom lie the remains of crushing floors and a smelt mill. Coal was also mined in greater quantities until cheaper supplies started coming in by rail. Coal tips can still be seen in Sleddale and at the site of Threshfield Colliery


The railway brought more than cheap goods to the Dales. It was a way for farmers to get milk and butter to distant markets and also brought the first commuters and tourists to the area. In addition, the railways allowed people who worked in the cities to enjoy country life permanently. Wealthy industrialists built homes such as Taitlands at Stainforth while the urban commuters of Grassington had a modest terrace of houses overlooking the station called Bridge End.


Leadminers, millworkers and railway workers also had their housing needs met locally. Foredale housed quarry men and their families in Ribblesdale. The locals who worked in Hebden cotton mill had older buildings converted and new ones added along Brook Street and on the mill site. In Tebay two major railway lines met, the South Durham & Lancashire Union Railway and the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway. The junction developed as a major railway depot employing hundreds on men and boys many of whom were housed with their families in terraces built and owned by the two railway companies. There was even a railway company-built church, St James’.


The Settle-Carlisle Railway built toward the end of the Victorian railway construction era was an extraordinary feat of civil engineering, crossing some of the most inhospitable ground in England. The Ribblehead Viaduct is a great monument to the men who built the railway and who lived around it in long gone railway construction camps.


Working people needed spiritual guidance and the Victorian period saw a flourishing nonconformist movement building hundreds of chapels throughout the Dales. Burnsall Methodist Chapel has recently closed but other still continue as places of worship such as the Keld-in-Swaledale United Reform Church and the Wesleyan Chapel built in Langthwaite in 1883. The Church of England retaliated to what it saw as a threat to its authority by building many new churches in the Dales. St Peter’s chapel of ease was built in Hebden in the Gothic Revival style, and consecrated in 1841. Many other fine old churches were altered or demolished and rebuilt.


Workers were also provided with Reading Rooms to divert them away from drink and other undesirable activities. The Muker Literary Institute is perhaps the most unusual with its ornate, Flemish-style stone façade. More children started to attend schools regularly and Horsehouse Old School is an interesting example, built by local benefactors in 1876-78.


The wealthy had their own forms of entertainment and the building of railways allowed city-based estate owners to develop grouse shooting moors. Grinton Lodge is one of several lodges used during the Victorian era to house shooting parties in style.