Fires and freak storms feature in Askrigg’s turbulent past

Askrigg before the fire which destroyed its magnificent Old Hall

By Betsy Everett

Historian Christine Hallas will continue the story of Askrigg’s colourful and sometimes turbulent past in a second autumn lecture at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes next month.

The first talk last year had a capacity audience, and covered the period until the 19th century. The next, on Friday October 19, examines events from 1800 to 1950, a period of massive social and industrial upheaval.

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Landownership changed with many of the aristocracy selling up, shop numbers grew and then receded and, says Dr Hallas, Christianity, “in all its colours”, was an important part of village life.

“Poverty and self-help  meant that the village set up support systems that continue today,” says Dr Hallas. The Askrigg Friendly Society, for example, continues to thrive and attract new members. 

Transport changed the village, particularly when the train arrived in 1877, and as with all communities the two world wars meant that young men left and never came back.

Her talk will also look at two catastrophic village events in the twentieth century: in 1908 a freak thunderstorm badly affected the east end of the village and in 1935 a pyromaniac rented the 1678 Old Hall, set fire to it, and walked away – an event still remembered by older members of the community.

Dr Hallas would like anyone with old pictures of Askrigg to contact her on 01969 650408, or email

‘The History of Askrigg 1800-1950’ lecture is at the Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes, at 7.30pm on Friday, October 19.