Monday 9 August 2021

Featherbed Lane and Eastrington church

 I know it is only August but somehow it feels autumnal - maybe because the last few days have been wet and chilly. I was encouraged on Friday when I watched Monty Don on Gardeners' World. He was talking about how some plants we see as weeds can play a part in a garden. I am all for that  as I have some teazles  and like to leave some of the ivy to flower for the bees. But I am afraid we have just chopped down the crop of burdocks as Molly the dog gets the seed heads stuck to her coat.

I have recently been asked about the history of Featherbed Lane near North Howden station which runs through to Eastrington.  Many many years ago I used to ride my pony along it from the Eastrington end  and I remember that cross country runs from Howden School often used to include running along part of it.

It follows an ancient watercourse which was first mentioned in 959 AD and which marked the boundary of  lands  granted to  'Cwen' by King Edgar. Later this watercourse, known as Common End Dyke  formed the boundary of the Bishop of Durham's Howdenshire estate. The  area was poorly drained and eventually became part of a common of around 2000 acres called, from the 17th century, Bishopsoil. This adjoined the larger common of Wallingfen.

Featherbed Lane with Common End drain on the left. It looks boggy in this photo!

Bishopsoil  'encircled'  several villages [see map] and villagers had grazing rights on it. They drove their animals along green lanes and onto the Common which was gated. Some of these gates survive in place names - eg Gate Farm at Balkholme, Newland Gate near Eastrington and Thorpe Lidget [Lidgate] near Howden where there was even a gate keeper. There was a gate too on the end of Featherbed Lane near the road to Brind.

This map showing Bishopsoil is taken from the Howdenshire volume of the Victoria County History

In 1767  the act for enclosing Bishopsoil Common was passed  and each village which had had grazing rights was allocated a piece of land by the commissioners Edward and John Cleaver.  The final award was made in 1777.

But no doubt some people suffered from not being able to graze their animals freely on the common anymore as often the piece of village land was soon sold on to an individual who then built a farmhouse on it.   So even today we have farms such as Asselby, Barmby and Saltmarshe Granges. For many years thereafter the occupants of these farms were listed on censuses with the appropriate village which confuses some whose ancestors they are.

The commissioners in their award also designated roads or highways. Some were 40 feet wide and were public highways but others were 30 feet wide and were private highways giving access to land. So the picturesquely named Hare Rudding Lane was  a private highway and ran alongside the Common End Dyke on the very edge of the newly enclosed common.

At some point the lane became commonly known locally as Featherbed Lane, probably because it was so boggy!!

There was in fact a farm along the lane, accessed from the Wood Lane end,  called Owlet Hall. I am not sure if there any remains today.

But during the First World War it was the home of the Walker family.  William was by then a retired builder and although originally from Yorkshire had lived in many places including London, Liverpool and Hull. Their son Stewart Edgar was a trainee architect in Sheffield. He joined up and served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers and was killed  in 1916.

The family attended Eastrington church and the present pulpit was given by William in memory of their son. It was dedicated by the Archbishop of York in July 1919. This was the report in the Hull Daily Mail

 CHURCH WINDOW DEDICATION.—The Archbishop of York,  on the occasion of his visitation to the parish of Eastrington, dedicated a new stained glass east window in the parish church, which has been erected by public subscription to the memory of 17 men from the parish who lost their lives m the war. His Grace also dedicated a new stone pulpit, which has been given by Mr Wm. Walker, of Owlet Hall in memory of his son, who was killed in France.

Eastrington church interior showing the 'new' pulpit on the right

I do not know how long the family lived at Owlet Hall but the farm was put up for sale in 1925 and described as follows

Yorkshire Post 1925


Messrs Clegg and Moore. are instructed offer for Sale by Auction at the Bowmans Hotel Howden on Saturday May 9th 1925. that Freehold farm, known as Owlett Hall Farm, situate with house, buildings, and land containing 129 Acres in the occupation of the trustees of the late Mr. F. S. Gregory. 

The house contains: Good living Kitchen, Dairy, 4 Bedrooms. Wash House, etc 

Buildings Include : Barn. 4 stall Cow House, 2  stall Stable, 2 Loose Boxes, also Brick Foundation and Wall Shed with 2 Loose Boxes in Field. 

The Land consists of several well-tended rich grass Closes all adjoining each other, with frontages to the Howden and Market Weighton Road, and to Featherbed Lane. The Property also includes Rights into and over Featherbed Lane. 

Featherbed Lane is now a popular walk and is part of the Howden 20 route.