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The Parish of Haverah Park with Beckwithshaw (situated in the ancient Forest of Knaresborough) is a rural area and, with its reservoirs, farms and a network of good paths, makes excellent walking country. Beckwithshaw is the main village and includes the ancient settlement of Beckwith (Becvi) and Lund House Green, the original site of The Workhouses and famous locally for its celebrated Squinting Cat pub. Beckwithshaw village consists entirely of detached farms with a small cluster of houses at the Beckwithshaw toll-bar, at the junction of the Harrogate to Otley road and the Killinghall to North Rigton road. Nearby John O’Gaunt’s castle is an ancient tower, probably built in the reign of Edward I. It was owned by Edmund de Thedmersh until 1349, but was nothing more than a forest lodge and a defence against freebooters or outlaws. The popular story is that Cromwell’s cannon battered it down. Haverah Park was formally one of the Royal parks of the Forest of Knaresborough, this area was first mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086. At that time it was owned by Gamelbar de Spofford, along with the Manor of Beckwith-with-Rossett. In true feudal style Gamelbar used the lands for breeding and grazing horses and cattle, and hunting, rather than developing it as arable. This agricultural trait has survived to the present day. In 1177 the land was granted to William de Stutevelle, who dispossessed the men of Killinghall of their right of pasture resulting in a dispute with King Henry II. When the Royal forest was dissolved in 1770 Haverah Park was sold by the Crown to fund enclosure. The origins of the modern Moor Park Estate can be found in the mid-1800s when the house was bought by the railway promoter James Bray. Bray was a highly successful iron and brass founder based in Leeds who had won the contract for building the Leeds and Thirsk, and Wharfedale Railways. He bought the Moor Park Estate along with 227 acres in 1848 and spent over £8,000 on renovating the house and grounds. Although there is no evidence of formal planting or landscaping, Bray spent a great deal of time and money developing copses and coverts to encourage game such as Pheasant. He loved shooting and it is thought that Bray’s intention was to set himself up as a country squire. As a result of changing hands so often during the early part of the 19th Century, the Estate did not benefit from the clear vision and careful management of single family ownership. In 1869 Moor Park was sold to local MP Joseph Nussey, a Leeds woollen manufacturer, before passing to the Williams family in 1881. The estate stayed in this family until around 1950, during which time they added some of the outlying farms such as Windmill Farm whose name derives from a cornmill which was sited there. Moor Park House has recently been developed to create six apartments and 22 further dwellings have been created in the outbuildings and farmhouse including nine new-build houses. At the heart of the village sits St. Michael and All Angels’ Church which was consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon, the Reverend Dr W Boyd-Carpenter on the 29 September 1886 – exactly a year to the day after the foundation stone was laid by Mrs Ellen Williams. The church is built of Killinghall stone and has a peal of six bells. It is now joined with St. Roberts in Pannal The Williams family of Moor Park kindly donated the Village Hall to the local community when they moved to Castle Hill Farm in the 1950s. The Village Hall was originally called the Institute, and was a reading room and annexe to the church. It has since been extended and houses the Roll of Honour to residents of the district who served in the Great War 1914 – 1918 and provides a meeting place for the whole village. The small Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built in 1845 and could accommodate almost 100 hearers. It has since been converted into a dwelling. Every village needs a public house and Beckwithshaw is no different. The Smiths Arms got its name from a condition of its original tenancy. Apparently the landlord had to be a blacksmith with a duty to keep the Moor Park horses and equipment in good order, as well as serving the local community and travellers on the busy coach route between Harrogate and Otley. Before James Bray of Moor Park built the National School in 1865, the pub’s upper room was used as a schoolroom for local children. The original smithy and public bar were at ground level, and you can still see the imprint of the external steps the children used to reach their schoolroom without going through the pub itself.
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