Bewerley was entered in the Domesday Book as BEVRELEI, and the holder in 1066 was GOSPATRIC. It was then valued at 50 shillings, but in 1086 the holder was ERNEGIS and we are told it was waste.
In the 12th century Bewerley Manor was in the possession of Roger de Mowbray, whose father was the first Lord Mowbray who had died in 1136 leaving his son still a minor. Consequently the king took over his estates until he became of age. Although the date of the earliest chapel in Bewerley is not known there was certainly one there long before 1175, because in that year Roger de Mowbray gave Bewerley along with the land between Dacre and Killinghall to Fountains Abbey. The actual confirmation from the Fountains Chartulary describes it thus:-
"….grant as the stream of Beuerlai falls into Nid where the old chapel was….."
This grant was in return for £80 in aid of his journey to Jerusalem. After a dispute it was found the land south of Dacre belonged to the Stutevilles, lords of Knaresborough, and so in recompense Roger gave the land on the east side of the Nidd subsequently known as Fountains Earth. He added Brimham and Hartwith and then granted all mineral rights in the lands held by Fountains, in compensation for the corn which his men took from the monks at Ripon, and for 83 marks which they had given him in his great necessity and for the health of his soul, his father's, mother's, wife's and sons' souls. He died living the life of a cistercian monk in 1195 and was interred at Byland Abbey which he had founded.
The monks were left to pasture, mine, build and develop the land as they liked. Lay-brothers from the abbey were sent out to establish a grange at Bewerley. This would consist of outhouses, chapel and other buildings for shelter. The hedges and ditches had not to be too high as Roger de Mowbray retained the right for his foresters to hunt. This grange at Bewerley, like those at Ramsgill, Dacre and Brimham, flourished until the time of the Scottish Raids, when the Scots made their headquarters at Fountains Abbey for a few days. The monastery for papal taxation had been valued at £343 in 1291, but after the Scottish Raids in 1318 was only valued at £100. A document of 27 July 1318 refers to the Fountains Granges and outside places as destroyed. Mainly as a result of these raids and later the Black Death (1348-1375) abbeys had to start from scratch again in their granges. The numbers of lay-brothers had been so reduced that granges had to be let off to paid servants and later still, tenants. The number of lay-brothers at Fountains had been 200 at one time but after the Black Death there were none.
In 1362 Bewerley had been attached to the Prebend of Studley for tithe purposes and therefore the Prebend received all the tithes. From a mandate dated 25 February of that year, made by the Archbishop of York to David de Wollere, canon of the collegiate church of Ripon and prebendary of Studley, we read:-
"Since some of the faithful of Christ, of either sex, have begun to inhabit the places of Dacre and Bewerley, formerly waste, a moor, and lacking human dwellings which are known to be situated outside the boundaries of any parish church, and may not be completely bereft of ministers of the church by whom the sacraments ought to be administered to them and the prescribed services celebrated without grave scandal and danger to their souls,…..being fully aware that in the said places there is neither a church nor any place that could be appointed for the celebration of Divine Service, and that the entire yield of all kinds of tithes and offerings there….is not enough for the maintenance of one newly appointed priest….and because those places are adjacent to…your prebend of Studley….we assign the faithful now living in Dacre and Bewerley to your prebend of Studley….and we grant in perpetuity all great tithes of the said faithful…their animals and any other things of whatever sort….The small tithes offered from the said places are to be applied wholly to the common fund of our….church of Ripon."
One wonders just how faithful the people of Dacre and Bewerley remained after a few treks from their homes to Studley for Divine Service.!
The present chapel was built in the time of Marmaduke Huby, who was abbot of Fountains from 1494-1526. The initials "M.H" can still be seen on the exterior of three of the walls as well as the inscription "SOLI DEO HONOR ET GLORIA" (To God Alone Honour and Glory) on the east wall. Externally the building is probably very little different from the original. Bewerley Grange remained in the possession of Fountains Abbey right up to the dissolution of the monasteries when it was valued at £16.16s.8d. Henry VIII had this valuation of church property carried out for the purpose of taxation. The tenants at the Grange at this time were William and Joanna Darnbrook, Marmaduke Hardcastel, William Collyer and John Darnbruk. The Dernebruks or Darnbrooks (several spellings) had long been seated at Bewerley at the Abbey Lodge and in the Forest of Nidderdale. The Poll Tax of 1378 has, in Thornton and Nidderdale, Johes Derenbroke et uxor. For six years after 1451 Thomas Darnbrooke was paid for management of the lead mines. It was during his tenancy of the Abbey Lodge that John Greenwell, Abbot of Fountains was entertained at the house on 3 May 1454 whilst on a journey to the Wapentake Court of Craven. Abbot Greenwell was a man of very great influence and authority in his day.
It was he who, by virtue of a writ of Privy Seal, dated 26 April 1464, was selected to prorogue the Parliament, assembled on 5 May following in the great hall of the Archbishop's Palace at York. Abbey Lodge was also visited by royalty in the previous century. King Edward II in the Autumn of 1323 travelled from Kirkby Malzeard through Nidderdale by way of Ramsgill and Bewerley to the royal hunting lodge in Haverah Park where he spent several days. He spent the night of 24 September at either Dacre or Bewerley Abbey Lodge and most probably the latter.
After the dissolution the king gave Bewerley Manor to Sir Lewis Mordaunt, a knight, who in turn, sold it to Thomas Benson in 1537. Thomas Benson leased some mines and the monastic chapel which by this time was used as a dwelling house for £5 a year. On 1 November 1522, half of Bewerley Grange was leased to William Colyer for 40 years from the end of a former lease made to William Hardcastle for a rent of £4 .8s. 4d. a year. The five tenants at the dissolution paid their yearly rent of £16.16s. 8d. at Martinmas and Pentecost. Rents and dues from the farms were paid on Saints Days and therefore the Feast days coincided with the farming seasons. From each saints day the farming pattern could be interpreted. For example, the animals were taken to the monastery for killing and salting at Martinmas. The Nidderdale farmers resented the closing of the monasteries and rose up and went to Middleham to join Lord Scrope in defiance. Lord Scrope of Middleham had finally to flee from the district.
In the 16th century the collegiate church of Ripon was dissolved and the revenue of the canons was confiscated and the prebend of Studley was leased off by the Crown in 1613 to Sir William Ingilby and Thomas Ingilby of Ripon, so they were entitled to collect the tithes. The Bewerley farmers refused as they had been tenants of Fountains and had old agreements about the rents. Consequently disputes followed and there were several Chancery suits. One outcome was that Chancery gave Greenhow to Sir Stephen Proctor who acquired the Manor of Bewerley in 1618.
In 1547 the Yorkes bought some Byland property in Nidderdale. They extracted money because they needed it to pay fines in the Star Chamber imposed because they were Roman Catholics. This increase in rent was often a security as in Bewerley when in 1613 a yeoman paid £180 for the right to occupy his farm for ever at a rent of 44 shillings and 4 pence a year.
Catholic actors travelled through Yorkshire in a company from 1598 doing Shakespeare etc., in country houses. This often took place at great feast days and was secretly a cover for mass. At Christmas 1609 they appeared at Gouthwaite Hall and played to about 100 people. They acted a skit about Anglican curates and the Pateley Bridge curate was so cross he informed Sir Stephen Proctor who in turn reported Sir John Yorke. Sir John was arrested and fined for being rude to the established church.
In 1614 Sir John Yorke was fined £1000, his wife £1000 and his three breothers £500 each as well as others. These fines were later reduced to £1200 and were paid by instalments. Sir John and his wife were imprisoned in Fleet Street, London, until they agreed to pay the fine and took the oath to conform.
John Armitage bought Bewerley Manor from Thomas Benson in 1600 for £2700 thinking he had the mineral rights but Sir Stephen Proctor bought Bewerley mines in 1597. The Hearth Tax of 1664 tells us that Bewerley had 53 houses with 71 hearths. Then in 1674 Dame Mary Yorke, widow of Sir John, bought the manor of Bewerley from John Dove and his wife Anne for £300. The bargain included Bewerley Pasture with appurtenances, six messuages, three cottages, eight barns, six gardens, sixty acres of land, thirty acres of meadow, a hundred and fifty acres of pasture and two thousand acres of moor. The conveyance did not include rights to mines of lead and coal on common and wastes of Bewerley.
On 6 July 1678, Dame Mary Yorke, together with six others, gave Bewerley Chapel and Chapel yard "for the use of a school house and convenience of a schoolmaster."
His salary was to be £10 a year paid in equal portions at Candlemas and Lammas and his scholars were 12 boys. The subjects were English, Latin, Greek and, if qualified, the Hebrew tongue and such other rudiments of learning as were proper and necessary for a schoolmaster to teach. Archbishop Herring's report of 1743 reported a public school in Bewerley endowed by Richard Taylor. Thomas White, a governor, had withdrawn his payment to the schoolmaster for the past six years or more and told the trustees that unless they took legal action he would pay no more. The trustees had nothing on that account to defend it and so the charity dropped. From 1737 onwards the school was maintained by the Yorke family of Bewerley Hall. It was Richard Taylor of Wallingwell who repaired the chapel and built a house for the schoolmaster. He added the porch and introduced the fireplace. For a period of 140 years the little chapel was used as a school until, in 1818, Mr. Yorke gave two cottages in Bridgehousegate to be used instead. These with many alterations and additions were used until the late 20th Century and are now the Auction Rooms.
The chapel and grounds were bought by Mr. Edward Roberts when Bewerley Manor was sold piecemeal on the departure of the Yorke family. He willed the property to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings on his death in 1960. In the meantime it has been restored and leased as a chapel of ease. The Bishop of Ripon conducted the Blessing and Dedication Service on Saturday, 31 July 1965. Inside, two of the original altar columns are used for the present altar, the others being used as a credence and flower stand. The altar and sanctuary are the work of E. Foxton and Sons in memory of Edgar Foxton. The altar cover is said to be mediaeval embroidery and the candlesticks are copies of the 15th century ones at St. Hilda's, Whitby. The heraldic lights in the East window are the Huby family crest flanked by the arms of Canterbury and York. The two heraldic lights on the North wall window are the arms of the Vyner Family and Fountains Abbey. The cross is Nidderdale oak and the corpus was carved in Italy. The font is built around a mediaeval oil lamp from Fountains Abbey which was in the care of Ripon Cathedral. All the furnishings are gifts.
(The parish council is indebted to Miss Muriel Swires, the author of the above, and the Nidderdale Museum Society – minor amendments and updates made by Angela Barrand).