Historic Landscape Project

Medieval Embsay and Eastby and the historic landscape

The early development of two Dales townships.


We aim to increase our understanding of the early history of the parish through transcription and analysis of early sources and fieldwork to record features in the landscape, then showing the relationship between the two elements.

The earliest accurate map of the parish is the tithe map from 1848. We are lucky that one of the original copies survives in the North Yorkshire County Record Office.  This map shows owners and occupiers of all the cultivated land in the two villages, the field names used at the time, and identifies residents and farmers of many of the properties in the two townships. 

Landscape History

Although hardly anything remains of the Augustinian priory that once stood in Embsay, there are still many features in the landscape which can provide clues to the history of Embsay and Eastby.


The landscape itself can be studied to identify early settlements and agricultural practices. Parish boundaries and field boundaries are expected to be able to support the documentary research.

Embsay and Eastby have distinctive boundary markers across Embsay and Eastby Moors, and many field walls from the pre-enclosure period still survive. There are also hollow-ways up to the moors which are evidence of long-established cattle drovers’ routes through the parish.

Our desktop research is based on a wide range of archival documents including those from the North Yorkshire County Record Office, the Duke of Devonshire’s collection at Chatsworth House, the Borthwick Institute at the University of York, and YAHS collection at the Brotherton Library in Leeds.

The Early Development of Embsay-with-Eastby


Embsay and Eastby have a documented history that dates back to the Domesday book in 1085. Originally separate townships, the two villages have been part of the same parish for many centuries.


Monastic Estate Management

An Augustinian priory was founded in Embsay in 1120, before it was translated to Bolton Abbey about 35 years later. The old priory site continued to be maintained as a chapelry, probably until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th Century.


Crisis in the 14th Century

The transcription of about 750 references in the Bolton Priory accounts, the “Compotus”, has enabled us to study how the agricultural economy of the villages was  managed during the 14th Century when both villages suffered from famine and livestock diseases, and were then almost destroyed by an invasion from Scotland.



The ancient boundary stones have now been recorded in detail, and we have embarked on a complementary study of the field walls in Embsay and Eastby. The aim is to be able to create a typological time-line for the construction of the walls and field boundaries that define the historic landscape of the parish.

Articles :


Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group:  www.uwhg.org.uk


Embsay-with-Eastby Historical Research Group at: http://embsay-research-group.blogspot.com


Contact us:

Project Co-ordinator :  Chris Lunnon : chris@cjlunnon.plus.com


Historic Landscape Project Team Members:

Chris & Jane Lunnon

Jennifer, Sue & Tony Stearn

David Turner

© 2020 by Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group.

For further information email uwhg.enquiries@gmail.com