North Duffield Conservation and Local History Society

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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.

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, 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. Sadly, the barrage at Barmby -on-the-Marsh, means the river is no longer tidal, however, it does still flood in periods of wet weather and its flood defence system is invaluable to prevent flooding of the surrounding area by soaking up the huge amounts of water coming down from the North York Moors. The flood-banks were created in the 18th Century and added to more recently.

Where a river forms a barrier between two areas, it is usual for there to be crossing points. Local people are well aware of how far they have to travel to find access over the Ouse and the Derwent is no different. 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. With Bubwith on the Eastern bank and North Duffield on the West this ensured a degree of protection and people to both service the ferry and have need of its use to get produce to and from the market at Selby. In a document from 1580 in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir John Hussey, Lord of the Manor of North Duffield, made an agreement with Nicholas Nesbeck, Waterman of Bubwith, to maintain the ferry boat and out of his own funds,  to build a new boat sufficiently large to carry eight men and eight horses.

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'. Originally, the name is not a habitative one, so it could have been in existence a long time before it came to be written down. The name clearly pre-dates the Norman Conquest, as we will see, but, not by very much, in their view.

Given that areas of habitation tend to develop in places which allow mankind to flourish with relative ease and, once having been established, are likely to remain in one place, it is conceivable that even earlier civilisations exist under these areas.

The foregoing attempts to explain what prompted man to choose North Duffield as a place to live and work and ultimately die. So far, research has failed to find any documentary evidence to support the belief that the village began around 900AD or earlier. However, two events, occurring almost a thousand years apart, have put an entirely different complexion on our search for answers.

The first event occurred In 1066, when, as every schoolboy knows, William the Conqueror, known affectionately as William the Bastard, landed at Hastings and defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. And just as a side issue,  what every schoolboy may not know is that weeks before this invasion, a fleet of 300 Viking longboats sailed up the Ouse as far as Riccall where the Viking Army  disembarked and marched off and beat the English northern army at  the battle of Fulford. At this point, King Harold was waiting for the French to arrive at Hastings. Hearing of events in the North, he marched his army in 10 days, (an unbelievable feat of endurance) from Hastings to North Yorkshire . where he defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately, this was to be his downfall, because  the Normans duly arrived on the South coast of England and he had to repeat his mammoth trek and, sadly,  weakened by the effort, was defeated at Hastings.

And so began the Norman Conquest. In 1086, William the Conqueror 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'. But it tells us much more than that. The actual transcription is much abbreviated, as the image in the lefthand column shows. It is believed that the shortened words were an attempt to cram as much information into as little space as possible and to reduce the time it took to write the entries, given the huge undertaking.

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. After 1069 (see 'Lords of the Manor' below) Nigel had become the new incumbent.

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. Certainly old maps describe the site as that of a 'castle'. There are lumps and bumps at Hall Farm and some carved masonry, which is now in storage, was discovered on the site during some building work. 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.

The second event was actually a series of inter-linked events which began in 2008. Whilst carrying out some work on a bungalow in Broadmanor, the resident unearthed what he immediately recognised as a single piece of Roman pottery. This potsherd was quickly positively identified by archaeologists in York. At about the same time, whilst enquiries concerning the history of Skipwith Common were taking place, a request for cropmark maps was made for the Skipwith Common area and, as an afterthought, for North Duffield as well.

Cropmarks are, as the name implies, indications in the crops of things below the surface of the soil. Where there is a structure of stone or wood below the surface, this would reduce the fertility and moisture content of the soil at that point and the crop would not grow as high. If there was an ancient ditch or earthwork which, over the millennia had filled up with vegetable matter, the soil would be rich and retain moisture and the crop would grow taller. Where there was neither structure nor ditch the soil would grow quite normally. The effect would be a three dimensional picture visible in aerial photographs. These visible cropmarks are clear indications of early human activity and their shape and form can give a hint of the times in which they were made.

When the cropmark maps for North Duffield arrived from the County Archaeologists Office in Northallerton, a surprise was awaiting. Just North of the village, close to Park Farm was an extensive area of cropmarks in several of the fields. Interpretation by experts informs us that within this complex there are Iron Age Hut Circle bases indicated, set within small compounds about 150 to 200 yards apart and a system of field boundaries and probable ditches of antiquity. It is likely that this cluster is a family group and the hut circles are typical dwellings of Iron Age man known as 'roundhouses'. In reality, man has used 'roundhouses' as his dwellings for thousands of years and certainly long before the Iron Age. In the cropmarks, the entrances to the roundhouses can clearly be seen facing South Easterly to gain the advantage of the morning rising sun. This may have had religious, ceremonial or traditional implications as well as practical ones. In addition, archaeological fieldwork being conducted by Archaeology North Duffield has resulted in significant amounts of Roman and Medieval pottery being picked up in local fields.

To summarise then,  documented evidence confirms that North Duffield was a village in 1086; archaeological 'finds' suggests the Romans were here, probably in the 4th/5th C AD; the name of the village indicates an origin of around 900AD and cropmarks indicate  Iron Age people lived here, in all probability, in the last 100 years BC

Domesday Book entry 1086

Domesday Book entry 1086 translation

North Duffield in 1854