Quiet life in a ‘dead’ village

Sally forth: A Howdens of Hampole wagon fills up at the petrol station
Sally forth: A Howdens of Hampole wagon fills up at the petrol station
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“Not much really happens in Hampole,” said Doug Ken. “It’s a bit of a dead place really, but I suppose that’s half its charm.”

Doug had occupied a farm in the village since 1946. First let’s shock him and possibly a few others by revealing some very interesting, early Hampole history.

Waiting for the train: Hampole station opened on the West Riding & Grimsby line in January 1885

Waiting for the train: Hampole station opened on the West Riding & Grimsby line in January 1885

JR Magilton (1977) mentioned that “the present settlement appears to be a shrunken medieval village.”

Under a section headed Archaeolgy, he adds: “The only known site [in Hampole], partly and badly excavated, is St Mary’s Priory, a Cistercian nunnery.”

He comments that the “House of Benedictine nuns was founded there by 1156; Cistercian nuns founded 1170.”

In an article titled “Hampole’s Vanished Priory”, the Doncaster Gazette of 2 September 1937 informed: “[The Priory was] founded in 115[6] by William de Clairfait and Avicia, his wife, as a house of Benedictine monks. Soon after this it became a nunnery under the rule of a Princess...”

Snow scene: A row of cottages on a winter's day in Hampole as youngsters play in the snow

Snow scene: A row of cottages on a winter's day in Hampole as youngsters play in the snow

The article also mentioned that Hampole Priory’s chief importance derives from its association with Richard Rolle. Apart from the spiritual influence he exerted in his lifetime – through his writings – for long after his death, he was definitely one of the formative influences on English literature in the age of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Rolle arrived in Hampole after wanderings which had taken him from his native Thornton-le-Dale in Yorkshire to Oxford, probably to Paris, to Topcliffe and Richmond and perhaps to Tickhill.

In Hampole he dwelt as a hermit alongside the Cistercian nunnery.

Rolle’s death in 1349 from the Plague or Black Death, which was sweeping through Britain at that time, is thought to have occurred as a result of his attendance on those stricken by the disease.

Later the Hampole nuns took the first steps – never completed – for his canonisation as a saint, and prepared an Officium.

Doubtless, owing to confusion caused by the Black Death, which probably carried off the Princess and other members of the little community at Hampole, the necessary preliminaries to Richard’s formal canonisation were never completed.

In November 1540, the Priory was suppressed, along with other religious houses, their destruction forming part of the plan by Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell for the Reformation of the English Church.

The Doncaster Gazette mentions the following about the subsequent fate of the Priory and its remains: “The building came into private hands, was used for a time as a residence, and eventually abandoned. Its stones became a quarry for all who were building farmsteads and cottages in the neighbourhood, its site became a dump for rubbish, grass grew over its foundations, and for generations past there has not been a trace of the Priory to be seen...”

According to Magilton the present Hampole village: “consists entirely of stone-built structures in an irregular grouping round a curious street pattern.

The earliest surviving buildings do not seem to predate the 17th century.”

During the 19th century, a Swan Inn is referred to in William White (1837). A Hampole Inn is noted between 1861-1868 in other reference sources, with a George Pulfrey being mentioned as one of the publicans.

However, it is possible that these two inns occupied the same building, and at some time a name change occurred. In January, 1885 Hampole Station – a wooden halt – was opened on the West Riding & Grimsby Line, which was constructed in 1866 and ran between Wakefield and Doncaster. The West Riding & Grimsby Railway was a partnership between the great Northern and Great Central Companies.

The Doncaster Gazette of January 16 1885 recorded the following about the station’s opening: “A long-felt need has eventually been met by the opening of a pretty little station at Hampole for passengers, goods and parcel traffic.

“Attempts have been made on former occasions to induce the railway company to open a siding for goods traffic, but without success.

“At length Mr Wightman, of Hampole Priory, took the matter in hand and through his influence and efforts, coupled with Mrs Wightman, the end has been gained.”

Doug Kent recalls that the station was busy even when he went to the village in 1946: “We used to take grain down to the station from our farm in 16 stone bags and load them into the big box wagons. The station closed in the 1950s.

“Much of Hampole was owned by the Brodsworth Estate. But as property became empty, it was sold off. I rent Ivy Farm from the estate. It’s been in the Kent family for about 150 years. My impression of the village when I first went there was that it was very quiet. In the bad winter of 1947 there were 8ft drifts. Horses were still widely used on the farms; we just had one Fordson tractor.

“There were no signs that the war had touched the village, though there was still rationing. But you could always kill a beast and there was plenty of your own produce.

“Everyone used to share what they had with each other. Besides our farm there were four others, and about 20 cottages. Nearly everyone was connected with farming.”