Ravenstonedale Kirkby Stephen Cumbria

Dr. Helga Frankland's account of the family association with Ravenstonedale

My grandfather, Percy Faraday Frankland, was named Faraday after the famous physicist, Michael Faraday, whose father was a blacksmith at Outhgill in Mallerstang (although the family had moved to London before Michael was born). Faraday and my great grandfather, Edward Frankland, an eminent scientist who discovered valency, (the principle ruling the combining powers of chemical elements), were friends and hence Faraday became my grandfather's Godfather.

Needlehouse, Fell End, Ravenstonedale

Needlehouse, Fell End, Ravenstonedale

Percy Frankland first came to Ravenstonedale, probably about 1880, when he joined a 'reading party' of students at Hwith House (pronounced h-why-th), about 4 miles from Needlehouse. Hwith House was built by John Hewetson and, after his death in 1876, it was the home for much of the year of his widow, Adelaide Hewetson, and their three children, Harold, Blanch & Edith. Harold Hewetson, primarily a very gifted musician, studied Chemistry for a short time in Würzburg. Percy Frankland, who worked for his Ph.D. at Würzburg University, may have got to know Harold there, or perhaps the two families became friends in London, either through musical or scientific activities. It must have been either Harold Hewetson or his mother who invited Percy Frankland to join the 'reading party' and thus introduced Percy to Ravenstonedale The curious name, 'Hwith' is derived from the initial letters of the Christian names of John Hewetson and his brothers in sequence of their births - Henry, William, John, Thomas and Humphrey. ('J' is often written as 'I' in carved initials on 17th and 18th century furniture.) All five Hewetson boys were born at Street and when John inherited the farm from his brother Henry, he had Hwith House built on Street land. The mansion remained until 1927 when it was demolished.

Hwith House, Street, Ravenstonedale 1923

Hwith House, Street, Ravenstonedale 1923

The Ravenstonedale area must have made a great impression on Percy Frankland because he brought his wife and young son (to be my father), Edward Percy Frankland, to stay in the parish. The first occasion was, I think, when they stayed at Cross Bank, two miles out of the village, then a farm. My father would then be about four years old -c.1888. At one time Cross Bank had been an inn, attached to the farm and called The Black Lamb. Now it is an inn again, called this time The Fat Lamb but no longer attached to the farm. On at least one other occasion, the Franklands stayed at Orchard House near the King's Head in Ravenstonedale.

Later, Percy Frankland took up the idea of buying a farm in the area and in 1909 he was able to buy Newhouse in Fell End, Ravenstonedale. It was a small 25 acres farm with fell rights. It seems very likely that the Hewetson told The Franklands that Newhouse was for sale. The two families were in close touch and how else, but through local friends, would a Birmingham University Professor of Chemistry come to know of it's availability?

People working these small farms often supplemented their income by 'working off'. The Uldale flag quarries, upstream on the Rawthey, were conveniently placed for this purpose for Fell End farmers. At least one Newhouse farmer worked there. I know this because the Ravenstonedale Post Mistress, Mrs. Wilkinson, already an old woman when I was a child, had been brought up at Newhouse and, as a child, used to take her father's dinner to him at the quarries, walking through the fields via Needlehouse, the next farm to Newhouse, and up through Uldale Wood. (Another of her recollections was seeing a man being led along Baugh Fell side opposite Newhouse, on his way to being transported to Australia for sheep stealing.)

A year later, in 1910, Percy Frankland was able to buy Needlehouse, the next farm up dale from Newhouse, and also Uldale beyond. He put Needlehouse and Newhouse together, detached the allotment, Great Pasture (the whole of the south side of Swarth Fell) from Uldale, and attached it to Needlehouse/Newhouse. Taking on a very good head man, always known as 'Old Holme', he became a farmer as a recreation from his professional job as Professor.

My father, Edward Percy Frankland, a lecturer in Chemistry at Birmingham University, was, at the time of the acquisition of the farm, a bachelor living at home with his parents and therefore took an active part in the whole project. Immediately, in 1910, they set about enlarging the farmhouse at Needlehouse, building an extension designed by my father, to provide accommodation for themselves on their frequent long visits and also for their many visitors (who were expected to take part enthusiastically in such ploys as haymaking and scrambling up gills in the beck from stone to stone with the aid of 'gill poles'). The result of this extension is, substantially, the house you see today, though two additions were subsequently made. In about 1923, a third storey was built over the old farmhouse by building two gables across the original line of the old house's roof tree. In 1928 the single storey front door porch to the extension of the house was raised and carried forward on two pillars. The dressed stone for these pillars, by a twist of fate, came from Hwith, which was, at the time, being



Once the Franklands were established at Needlehouse, they soon became friends with the Metcalfe-Gibsons of Coldbeck House in Ravenstonedale and in 1915 my father married the second daughter, Maud, who became my mother. Soon after he was married, ill health forced my father to give up his academic career and he was recommended to go and live in the country. My grandfather thereupon gave Needlehouse and the land to my father who became the farmer, with Needlehouse as his permanent home. Accordingly, my brothers and I were born and brought up there.

My father was a novelist as well as a farmer. Some of his books were contemporary, others historical, most notably 'The Bear of Britain', a more factual and less romanticised version than most of the stories of King Arthur. Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, is associated with Pendragon Castle in Mallerstang. He is reputed to have tried to get the river Eden to fill the moat round the castle. There is a verse recording this

Let Uther Pendragon do what he can,
The Eden will run where Eden ran.
Let Uther Pendragon do what he will,
Eden will run where Eden runs still.

In 1918, my father extended the farm by buying Ellerhill, a hitherto independent farm bordering the down-dale side of Newhouse. Ellerhill included Whitegreen, a house, hay loft and byre in an island field on the fell above Ellerhill. Whitegreen house had already become the farmhouse of Ellerhill because the Ellerhill house had fallen into a pot hole - fortunately after the King family who farmed there, had wisely removed themselves to Whitegreen.


Another house was created on the farm in 1938 when the East Laithe at Needlehouse was made into a house so that we could have a farm man living at the farmstead This became the farmhouse when my father retired from farming and let the land in 1955.

Unusual features created by my father include the belfry on the gable end of West Laithe in the yard at Needlehouse. It is based on belfries seen on farms in Scandinavia. We used the bell to summon people to the house from the fields. The tower at Newhouse was built, again, to my father's design, primarily for use as a clipping house and wool loft above.


My father planted all the woods on our land, except for the much older Uldale Wood and the natural woodland in the gills. Scandinavia held a strong fascination for my great grandfather, grandfather and my father. By skillful placing of relatively small, largely coniferous woods, my father managed to create a landscape that looks more wooded than it actually is and therefore, has echoes of Scandinavia. This is entirely appropriate since Viking blood runs strongly in Dalesmen and Westmorland dialect and place names also show lasting affinities with Scandinavian language.

Dr. Helga Frankland
February 2005