Bolton Hall from a circa 1867 Stereoview photograph
Bolton Abbey from a 1904 postcard
Earlier Houses: The ruins of an Augustinian priory, founded in 1154, sits near the current house.
House & Family History: The land at Bolton was granted to the Augustinian Canons in 1154 by Lady Alice de Rumilly. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 the nave of Bolton Priory was allowed to continue as a parish church, while the other priory buildings were stripped of their lead roofs and the stone from their walls, the latter of which ended up in buildings throughout the Wharfe Valley. The house today called Bolton Abbey started out as the gatehouse of the Augustinian priory; after the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was converted into a small shooting house, and later subsequently enlarged, primarily by the 6th Duke of Devonshire. The Estate came to the Cavendish family (dukes of Devonshire) through a marriage with the Clifford family. Bolton Abbey is surrounded by an estate of 30,000 acres.
Garden & Outbuildings: Perched on the banks of the river Wharfe, 10 miles outside of Skipton on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the ruins of the 12th century priory are the focal point of the Bolton Abbey Estate. Owned by the Chatsworth Settlement Trustees, the Estate consists of 30,000 acres and provides over 80 miles of footpaths covering a diverse range of terrain. Parking is available, in the village or within the Estate on the grassy banks of the river Wharfe. On a recent visit, I parked in the village and from here walked the short distance past the rather grand residence of the duke and duchess of Devonshire (largely rebuilt by the 6th Duke of Devonshire) to the majestic ruins of the old Priory standing on the banks of the river. Dating to the 12th century, most of the Priory now stands in a ruinous state, however part of the building has been restored and remains a place of community worship. Legend has it that the Priory is haunted by the ghost of a monk; unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen during my recent visit. First opened in 1810 by clergyman William Carr, Strid Wood contains such a diverse range of animal and plant life that the area is now protected as a site of Special Scientific Interest. Several color-coded trails wind their way through the woods taking you upstream approximately 1.5 miles to an area known as "The Strid"; a deceptively dangerous part of the river due to it's great depth and strong undercurrents. Originally, the water here would have run over the rocks in a waterfall, but erosion over the years has led to a deep and narrow chasm producing lethal undercurrents. Many have met a watery end in the Strid; most recently, a couple on their honeymoon disappeared at the Strid. Their bodies were found several days later. So be warned, and don't fall into the trap of thinking that it looks narrow enough to jump across. It is possible to walk beyond the Strid and up to Barden Tower; another imposing ruin which was once the principal hunting lodge in the forest of Barden. The tower was rebuilt in the 15th century as a fortified dwelling, and the adjacent Priest's House is now home to a restaurant and tea terrace. From Barden Tower, it is normally possible to cross over the river and make your way back down the other side, crossing back across the river at either the Cavendish Pavilion (at the entrance to Strid Wood), or at the Priory. The Cavendish Pavilion, which houses a rather nice tea room, complete with roaring log fire (on the day I visited) makes a good stopping off point for tea and cakes. The Pavilion also contains a restaurant (which I haven't sampled). Before leaving, it's well worth taking a walk through the tiny, picturesque village of Bolton Abbey. Here you will find a rare and second-hand book shop, together with an antique country furniture store and yet more tea rooms. Just a little further down the road from the center of the village is the luxurious, four star Devonshire Arms Hotel, which as the name suggests is owned by the duke and duchess. You might need to take out a bank loan to stay there, but if you're looking for somewhere special, you'd be hard pressed to find somewhere nicer. (This history of the Bolton Abbey Estate grounds kindly provided by Samantha Lord).
J.B. Burke: Vol. I, p. 41, 1852.
Title: Chatsworth Visitor Guide
Author: Duchess of Devonshire
Year Published: 1997
Publisher: Derbyshire: Derbyshire Countryside Ltd
Book Type: Softback
Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
Author: Colvin, Howard
Year Published: 1995
Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
Book Type: Softback
Title: Hardwick Hall Guidebook
Author: Girouard, Mark
Year Published: 1996
Publisher: London: The National Trust
Book Type: Softback
House Listed: Grade II*
Park Listed: Not Listed
Seat of: Peregrine Andrew Morny Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire; Cavendish family here since 1748.
Past Seat of: Lady Alice de Rumilly, 12th century. Clifford family.
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home
Ownership Details: Owned by Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement; the Yorkshire residence of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.