NORTH DUFFIELD - AN ANCIENT VILLAGE

This article will attempt to piece together the bits of the jigsaw. All or a combination of some of the factors mentioned may help to explain why it was that North Duffield was founded. This is an abbreviated version of the entry in the new book so, if you would like to know more  PLEASE purchase the book when it becomes available.

North Duffield is and, in all likelihood, always was an agricultural village. Situated in the South of the Vale of York, an area of fertile soils and mild climate, it is only to be expected that it attracted farmers to work the land.

Perhaps of even more significance is the fact that the village stands on the very edge of the Lower Derwent Valley. With its seasonally inundated flood-meadows, the Derwent Valley was of huge importance for thousands of years to the people living near it. The tidal river was navigable for some distance upriver from North Duffield and was therefore useful for transport with direct access to the open ocean via the Ouse and the Humber. The river was also a source of food with freshwater shellfish and salmon and trout- a fishery was situated on the Carrs from at least the 13th to the 18thC. In addition, the river provided water for drinking and washing.  Flooding brought down silt to enrich the meadows of the Carrs and Ings to ensure a good harvest of fresh and tasty hay and a profusion of wildflowers.  The wildflowers were used for medicinal purposes,(for more details on medicinal plants click here[Article C2 detail. Fairies, witches and whooping cough])  the hay for grazing and winter fodder and bedding for both animals and humans. The river itself was a defence barrier from warlike invaders from the East. Indeed, the River Derwent is still of very significant  International importance as a rare and priceless habitat making it one of the most important environmental rivers in Europe.

 A ferry is documented to exist between Bubwith and North Duffield since at least 13th Century with stock pens to hold livestock awaiting transport across the river from one side to the other. The ferry needed suitable access on both banks so that it could be used all year round.

The English Place Names Society has indicated that North Duffield is a name of Anglian

origin and probably dates to around 900AD. They state that the name may refer to 'open land frequented by doves'. Another view suggests that the 'du' in Duffield is a derivative from

 the same root as Durham and Dubrovnic, and the 'Der' in Derwent. This comes from an ancient word for Oak -so 'the valley or place of oak trees'.

In 1066, as everyone knows, William the Conqueror, known affectionately as William the Bastard, landed at Hastings and defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.  In 1086, he set about cataloguing all his possession in the Island of Great Britain so that he knew who owned what and who should be paying him taxes. This survey is now well known as the Domesday Book, so called by the inhabitants of this island as they considered it to be like the Day of Judgement.

Significantly for North Duffield, the village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as 'Nort Duffelt'.  This is the earliest record so far discovered, of the existence of the village and finally puts the village 'on the map'. So from this we can gather that, before the conquest, William Malet was the overlord, or owner, of land which included North Duffield, presumably through family connected to his English (Saxon) mother.

From this extract, we learn that a castle existed here and clearly must predate the Norman invasion. It is described as being 'destroyed'. Experts have stated that castles of this time were wooden structures set on mottes or mounds. It may be that the castle was destroyed during the 'Harrying of the North' when the Normans punished the North for its rebellion against them by destroying strongholds etc shortly before the Domesday Survey.

The site of the 'castle' is strongly believed to have been situated on the very edge of the floodplain at what is now Hall Farm.  What we do know is that a moated manor house was built on the site at some later date and that the building stood on a spur of land jutting out into the floodplain and protected on the inland side by a moat.

Close by and slightly to the north of the fortified manor house is the site of a Chapel of the Knights Hospitallers, dedicated to St. James and mentioned in documents between 1190 and 1280. These Knights of Jerusalem were associated with the Crusades in the Holy Land.

Detail of John Flintofts map 1760(see later)

The Society is lucky to have a copy of the Sale Document of 1839 when the then Lord of the Manor sold off his estate and, whilst he did not own every building in the village, he did own a large proportion. The description of each property is such that our ever-resourceful Tony Stevens has created a model of how the village might have looked at that time. The above image is a small section of the entire village that Tony has created. Most noticeable is, that in 1839, there were still many thatched cottages still standing, many, however, described as almost hovels and not long to survive before being knocked down and replaced.

Finally, although the village green has been part of village life for hundreds of years, the pond, or The Pit as it is referred to on some maps, does not seem to have been so long-lived. No evidence of it can be found on the earliest map of which we are aware: John Flintoft’s map of 1760, created on behalf of the Lord of the Manor, shows a much larger village green but no pond. Now either that was a mistake or the pond did not then exist. If this map can be relied on, then the pond was created sometime after 1760 and before 1810, our next earliest map.

This map predates the first Ordinance Survey maps by almost 90 years so the cartographer, John Flintoft, must have been well-practised in his art. Significantly, the protocol of always drawing maps on a north-south axis had yet to be formulated. It should be noted that the River Derwent at the top of the map appears to be flowing east-west rather than correctly north-south. See of you can orientate yourself so that you start to recognise features that still exist today: remember, the A163 was not to be built until 1793 but you can still pick out the ferry and the track marked in red leading to the village coming out on Menthorpe Lane.

1852  First Edition Ordinance Survey map