History of Ravensknowle & Scheme for the Development of a Local Museum (1921) - History of Ravensknowle

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History of Ravensknowle & Scheme for the Development of a Local Museum (1921) by Legh Tolson and T.W. Woodhead


The cross in various forms, often a patriarchal, or double one, to be found on some ancient houses, is said to indicate that the land upon which they stand was at one period the property of the medieval Military Order of the Templars who had their origin in the first Crusade; those warriors whose valour was to astonish the world, and whose subsequent power and riches were to excite its envy and hatred. Instituted in 1118, they flourished during the XIIth and XIIIth centuries, but were suppressed in England by a decree promulgated by Archbishop Greenfeld at Cawood, 5th Ed. II., 1312. Most of the estates of the Templars were granted to the rival order of The Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem.

The phrase occasionally found in old Wills and Court Rolls, stating that persons died "subcrue," or under the cross, has a dual meaning, showing that they were tenants of the Manors of the above Orders, whose sign their houses bore, and also that their days ended literally beneath the Cross and within the pale of the church. The Ravensknowle lands are known to have been subject to a rental to the Commandery, or Preceptory of these Militant Brethren at Newland, near Normanton.

Probably the earliest mention of Ravensknowle is in a deed dated 25th Henry VI., 1446-7, ten years before the commencement of the Wars of the Roses, when "William Dyghton of Ravensknowle" was one of the witnesses to a Release of land in Dalton; and in 21st Edward IV., 1481-2, "William Dighton" sold lands at Ravensknolle to "Thomas Savyle of Holygne."

There was probably Thomas Savile, of Hullinedge, whose Will was proved in 1490, in which he charged his lands in "Heton" (Kirkheaton), and which there is little doubt included Ravensknowle with the support of a Chaplain to "celebrate annually forever, and to pray for my soul, and the souls of Elizabeth, my wife, and Henry, my brother, and the souls of all my benefactors, and my parents, and all faithful departed." Thomas Savile left no children, and was succeeded by his brothers, Henry and Nicholas, and in 1496-7 Ravensknowle appears to have passed into the possession of Richard Wheatley, and from the Court Rolls of the Manor of Dalton for 7th century Henry VIII., 1515, that he had "held of the lord the messuage called Ravensknowle by service and yearly rent of Vid."; that he was dead; and that Richard Whetlay of full age was his son and heir. Ravensknowle remained in the Wheatley family, passing from father to son until it was inherited by Thomas Wheatley of Woolley, Who, in the History of south Yorkshire is said to have been the campaigner of early Stuart days from whom Lord Fairfax learn much of the military skill which he afterwards displayed during the Civil War. In 1617, the Rolls of the Manor of Kirkheaton tell us that Thomas Wheatley had sold his property at Ravensknowle to Thomas Hirst. There were several families of Hirst in the parishes of Kirkheaton and Huddersfield; the most conspicuous member of these was a Thomas Hirst, of Greenhead, Huddersfield, but that he was the purchaser of Ravensknowle can only be conjectured. His mother gave a Communion Cup to the parish bearing the inscription "The Gift of Lucy Hirst, of Greenhead, to the Church of Huddersfield, A.D. 1638"; it is silver, and is still preserved at St. Peter’s. Thomas Hirst was a Royalist, and when the struggle ended in the execution of King Charles on that wintry day in January, 1649, he was made to suffer for his delinquency and heavily fined. He seems to have been unable to bear the loss imposed upon him, and in 1660 much of the Hirst property had passed into the hands of the Wilkinsons, whose heiress married Sir John Lister Kaye, Bart., about 1725.

To which ever family of Hirst the purchaser of 1617 belonged, it is evident from the Newland documents that his forbears had lived at Ravensknowle as tenants for nearly a century prior to that date, and in the Kirkheaton Rolls the following Administration of one of them, who died there in the same year is mentioned:– "At this Court Adm. Of all and singular the goods, chattels, credits, and debts of Roger Smyth als; Hirst, who died under the Cross at Ravensknowle intestate. As is asserted, was granted to Richard Hirst." This is an example of the former "Peculiar Court" of Kirkheaton; the legal powers of which, in regard to the proof of Wills, etc., were derived from the pre-Reformation jurisdiction of the Preceptory of Newland, to whom one of the Manors of the parish belonged; the privilege was continued to the subsequent purchasers of the lordship, but is now obsolete and lost.

We lost sight of the Hirsts and next find Ravensknowle in the hands of the Kayes, who, whether they obtained it by marriage or purchase, were in possession before 1783, for in a manuscript Survey of Dalton for that year, it is described as part of their then extensive estate in that township.

In 1827 the Ravensknowle lands were divided and sold by auction for the trustees of Sir John Lister Kaye, Bart., of Grange. At that time Ravensknowle Road was not made, and there were homesteads, farm buildings and lands, on both sides of the present street; those to the south were brought by Wm. Raynor, of Fartown, Huddersfield, and afterwards became the property of Giles Roebuck; while those to the north were purchased by Thomas Wilson, of Birkby Grange, Huddersfield, Banker, whose father and grandfather had lived at Ravensknowle as tenants of the Kayes.

All the old houses on both portions have disappeared, and there is nothing to indicated which is the site of the original dwelling, excepting that in the grounds of the northern moiety there is an ancient drinking pond for cattle in the irregular form of the figure eight, some 75 ft. long by 17ft. wide, cut out of the rock below the surface soil, with a peculiar sunken reserve at the lower end of it, evidently intended to retain the diminishing supply of water in dry seasons. A streamlet, long since drained away, at one time ran through this pond, which may be the last relic of the first stone and timber dwelling.

In 1850, Thomas Wilson sold his property at Ravensknowle to his nephew, John Beaumont, of Dalton, who, in 1860, built the present mansion at a cost of more than £20,000. On his death in 1889, it was inherited by his only child, Mrs. Standish Grove-Grady; from her it passed on to her cousin, Legh Tolson, who, in 1919, gave the house and grounds to the Corporation of Huddersfield for a Museum and Park, as a Memorial to his nephews, Lieuts. Robert Huntriss Tolson, and James Martin Tolson, who gave their lives for their Country in the War of 1914–18.