It is thought that the area around the village of Grewelthorpe was settled by the Danes coming from the East.
The Romans built what was probably a look out post at Camp Hill, a site that can still be identified on the Masham road out of the village. Camp Hill is shown as “Enclosure” on this map. There is a very nice aerial photograph of Camp Hill here. The encampment is to the top right of the photograph.
What’s in a Name
In the Domesday Book it is noted that the Saxon landowner Gospatric (Earl of Dunbar) had 7 carucates (approximately) 840 acres at TORP. Many of the older residents still refer to the village as Thorpe and of course the road leading to Grewelthorpe from Masham is “Thorpe Road”. The word thorpe comes from Danish and means farm or secondary settlement (hamlet). The word “Grewel” is open to speculation, it could refer to the gravel found locally or to the finely ground flour milled in the area.
1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales said “Grewelthorpe or Gravelthorpe”.
Try doing a Google search for Gravelthorpe and you will see the name was in use in the period 1850-1870.
We know that Oliver de Buscy “gave half a carucate of land here, with all the men living thereon and followers, to the Monks of Fountains Abbey.”
In 1379 according to the Poll (hearth) Tax records there were 81 taxpayers living in Grewelthorpe. The plague came to the village four times in the 14th century.
In the mid 19th century the village was famous for its cream cheese, villagers winning prizes at cheese shows and selling their products to shops and outlets as far away as London. In the 1851 and 1861 census Thomas Handley was a butcher in Grewelthorpe, he was a well-known cheesemaker. In 1861 more cheesemakers were James Watson, Robert Firby and Henry Lofthouse. Later in 1881 cheesemakers included Elizabeth Firby (Robert’s daughter) George Atkinson, William Metcalfe and still Henry Lofthouse. Peter Lofthouse, a descendent of Henry, is still a dairyman to this day.
Another Grewelthorpe industry was straw-hat making. Women and children usually did the plaiting of the straw. The 1851 census gives us the names of four straw-hat makers, William Rayner and his wife Elizabeth, Maria Jackson and Elizabeth Burton. In the 1861 census William had progressed to a straw bonnet dealer with his unmarried nephew John Banks Lee as his assistant. The industry died out with the introduction of cheaper, more flexible and hardwearing straw from abroad.
In the late 19th century the village was almost self sufficient with butchers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, a tailor, masons, builders and many more. Carters would travel to Ripon and Masham.
Now at the beginning of the 21st century there is an organic flour miller, a dairyman, a public house, several builders and joiners and several types of accommodation for tourists. The village has kept its school started in 1876. A new school building was completed in 2003 after a successful fundraising campaign by the village.