An interesting feature of Skipton is the yards and their history. They developed because the most of the land around the town was owned by the castle which would not not sell it for housing and offered leases of only 40 to 60 yards which people were reluctant to accept. The only development possible was the building of houses in the yards and gardens behind the houses bordering the the High Street and Newmarket Street which together with Swadford Street was largely the extent of the town in 1700.

It is sometimes stated that the yards were constructed so they could be easily defended against Scottish raiders but the raids ceased in the 14th century and the yards were not developed until after 1700.

The yards were usually named after the owner of the property on which they built, for example Kendall’s Yard was named after John Kendall who was the landlord of the Hole in the Wall Inn. This was one of the first yards to be developed around 1720 when a malty kiln and malt chambers were converted into houses. Much later these cottages were incorporated into Ledgard and Wynn’s store and more recently into Craven Court. An old theatre was down this yard and a plaque informs us that Edmund Kean and Harriet Mellon played here. A well in the yard was excavated and finds are in the Craven Museum.

Higher up the High Street, running from Barclay’s Bank towards Court Lane was Bank Yard, so named because it was behind the Skipton Bank which later was to become Barclay’s. In 1771 there were nine dwellings here. Later it was known as Andrew Finley’s Yard and was not demolished until the mid 20th century.

Rackham’s store (currently unoccupied) was built on the site of the Old George Hotel and behind it was a rope-walk that stretched as far as Rectory Lane. Between Rackham’s and Cooper’s shoe shop is Bradshaw’s Yard which took its name from Benjamin Bradshaw, a shoe maker and landlord of the Black Horse Hotel. It still exists but is closed by a door.

A little further north was Chancery Lane so called from the legal family of the Alcock’s who owned it. The Craven Pioneer newspaper was first printed in a cottage here in 1858. There were 16 houses up to 1962 when they were abolished.

Thompson’s Yard took its name from Thomas Thompson, a hatter who lived at 7 High Street and built some houses on land behind his house, the clinic stands there now (demolished in 2014 and since redeveloped for retail purposes). The entrance from the High Street was a narrow passage.

Across the High Street is Mount Pleasant where there were 16 cottages in 1865. In 1900 the retaining wall collapsed and a child was killed and others injured.

Tindal’s Yard is located between the library and Slater’s shop (Currently Harry Garlick’s). It is named after the Tindal family, Edward Tindal kept the Post Office in the yard around 1840. And the Pioneer Steam Printing Works was here at one time.

The Bay Horse Yard is behind the old Yorkshire Bank building which replaced the Bay Horse Inn that was demolished in 1898. The yard was the right-of-way to give access from the High Street to allow water to be obtained from Eller beck.

Manby’s Yard leads from the top of Sheep Steet and led to to Manby’s property including a very old house. Adjoining it is Hallam’s Yard, perhaps the best remaining example of a Skipton yard.

Albert Street was formerly known as Spencer’s Yard after the owner, William Spencer, a merchant. On the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert it was renamed as Albert Street and likewise Stirk’s Yard, named after stonemason John Stirk, became Victoria Street.

Leading of the lower part of Sheep Street is Roger’s Yard named after Roger Smith who was a currier. To avoid confusion with other Smith’s Yards his Christian name was used instead of his surname. There were up to 30 houses in this yard. Nearby is Cook’s Yard named after a nailer who occupied it.

Queen’s Court was on the site of Woolworth’s (Currently Yorkshire Trading Company) and was name after Queen Caroline. Thomas Spencer of Marks and Spencer partnership lived here.

Birtwhistle’s Yard – Reproduced by kind permission of the families of Mr K Ellwood, Mrs V Rowley and North Yorkshire County Council, Skipton Library – www.rowleycollection.co.uk

Near the HIgh Street end of Newmarket Street was Birtwhistle’s Yard; this ran south behind Mr. Birtwhistle’s house bordering Caroline Square. Mr. Birtwhistle came from Halton East to teach in Skipton, his advertisement included “for learning of manners, 2d extra”. At the bottom of the yard was the school, at one time known as the Watkinson’s academy. Later Peter Lee had a locksmith’s shop here and there was a dressmaker above it.

Next to Birtwhistle’s Yard was Quaker Place so called because it was owned by the Hall family, well known Quakers. The original way to the Friend’s Meeting House was down here and along a raised footpath along Waller Hill Beck. At one time it was nicknamed Botany, derived from Botany Bay. In the 1820s poorer people lived in this area. The name was changed to Brookside in 1901.

Several yards ran from Newmarket Street. The Ginnel was formerly known as Mr. Hardcastle’s Ginnel but by 1951 it had become Mr. Carr’s Ginnel.

On the north side of Newmarket Street is Providence Place which still connects High Street with Court Lane. There was a rope-walk here in 1822 belonging to MR. Buck. In 1860 it was known as Bobby Smith’s Yard after Robert Smith, a painter, who did much to improve it. A row cottages was demolished there in 1960.

Further along Newmarket Street on the north side was Carr’s Yard on the site of Crete House. Also here was Bartle Home’s Yard. On the south side of Newmarket Street was Brown’s Yard and Petyt’s Yard; there were four houses her and later it was known as Stephen Wilkinson’s Yard. It was to the east of Dyneley House.

The yrads declined when the Castle Estate became willing to sell land or allow longer leases. By this time the High Street shops wanted to extend into the yards or required or required the cottages fro storage purposes.

A report dated 1857 states that the yards were overcrowded and insanitary. Often the windows had been designed not to open. Ten houses shared one privy and a family of ten, shared one room. Life expectancy was less than 35 years. Much of the property was demolished in the 1950s and 60s.

Arthur Smith , SCHS member, c. 1990