Ian Spensley's Blog

Welcome to My New History Blog

My work is still progressing although I haven’t posted any new articles for some time. My wife died in February of cancer which had knocked me for six, she was only 61. Many of you will know someone much younger who has died of cancer, I am hoping next year to walk from Lands’ End to John O Groats for cancer research and am building up for that which takes up much time.

I have continued to transcribe Wills and Inventories and now have 12,500 or so on my web site (I started about 6 years ago working most days of the week, full time). There are still more to do but for the moment I have stopped. I am taking out data and references as well as correcting and expanding some of those will which I had already done. Over time my ability to read the old writing has improved as well as reconising archaic terms and names. Over the last 6 weeks I have worked my way through 3,800 Wills and extracted data from Inventories, working 8 to 10 hours a day. There are a further 7 to 8,000 wills with possible inventories to work through so it will take a long time (as well as correcting my typos).

Future articles will concentrate on the textile and farming industries of the dales, notably the stocking industry. Farming was the major industry of the dales, and the wills and inventories are shedding much useful information on its development and land/farm ownership following the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

House building and the conversion of other buildings into homes crops up regularly within the wills. The change from thatched roofs to slated roofs can be followed. Date stones over doorways can be matched to people in wills and the development of individual houses followed.

All aspects of social life can be seen, from personal relationships to national events and emigration to the New World or within Britain.

A full index would be useful as it would bring out far more detail on the relationship between people and place, the concentration of surnames within areas etc. It would take almost as long as I have spent already and I would really like to get on with making use of the resource myself. To date this year there has been over 25,000 views of my web site from all over the world. Very few have made comments but those who have left one are encouraging.

My new venture is making videos, the first one is a history and geology of Wet Groves Lead Mine in Wensleydale. The second is one is on Booze Wood Mine in Arkengarthdale. Coming next will be a video on the quarries in the Millstone Grit.


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16 thoughts on “Ian Spensley's Blog”

  1. Dear Mr Spensley,

    While researching my Yorkshire ancestors, I came across an online document which I think must be linked to your site – but unfortunately the title page/introduction seem to be missing, Within it, I have found a very interesting reference to my 5 x great-grandfather, John Severs. The text says

    159/40 Robert Blenkinsop Richmond 1802 Admin 1239/188
    Admin 10th May 1802
    Ann Blenkinsop, widow of Robert Blenkinsop late of Richmond, Officer of Excise. John Severs of Hipswell, Gent and John Crake of Richmond Innkeeper
    Ann Blenkinsop Admin of Robert Blenkinsop

    I wonder if you can cast any light on what this means? The link to the whole document is

    https://yorkshiredaleshistory.files.wordpress.com › …

    and the document begins
    14/1 Richard Bagley Richmond 1661 Admin 3007/2 Admin 18

    Many thanks

    Mike Goldsmith


    1. Dear Mike,

      The document is from my website. It is just the details from Letter of Administration of Robert Blenkinsop deceased. John Severs and John Crake I presume were acting as trustees, or possibly they were owed money from the estate of Robert Blenkinsop. (The full document that you downloaded is all Letters of Admin for people with a surname beginning with B).

      If you go to my website and look under Hipswell I have transcribed John Severs will, 170/61 John Severs Hipswell 1818 I don’t know if this yours or not. There is also a will for Christopher Severs at Hipswell in 1802. The severs surname crops up in several other wills.



  2. Hi Ian, I’m hugely appreciative of all the hard work you’ve put into transcribing some many wills, quite a number of which relate to my ancestors: Atkinson, Bell, Braithwaite, Fosse, Hammond, Hillory, Naylor, Wilson, and Morland. The information has helped me enormously. It is due to researchers and collators such as you that so many of us life-long genealogists can further our own research so thank you, very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For an avid (addicted?) family historian with a pile of Yorkshire Dales ancestors, finding your blog is like finding the genealogical motherlode! A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

    I really can’t thank you enough for this extraordinary gift, but I will be a regular visitor to your site, so I’ve made a donation to express my appreciation in advance.



  4. Thank you, Mr Spensley, for making all this research available. It represents very many hours of research and difficult transcription. It is a rare gift!
    My ancestors were Horners, living in Nidderdale and Coverdale from monastic times. John Horner of Carleton in his will of 1616 left land in Nidderdale to his son Francis, which you have quite rightly written as [Aikes] to indicate uncertainty as to the spelling. It does look like an A but is an S. The land and property is still there today, still called Sikes (sometimes Sykes) and is close to the hamlet of Low Lofthouse. It was once owned by the Servant family and remained in Horner/Bayne hands until the end of the seventeenth century.


    1. Thanks Susan.
      I’ll go back and correct that one. Due to the shear number of wills, I have been speed reading and writing so apart from not having much time to consider some names I have made a few typos too.


  5. Hi Ian, around 9 months ago I came across a link to your Excel spreadsheet listing all the wills/admons that you had transcribed. I can’t for the life of me find the link to that file now … please advise. Thanks Bob


      1. Thanks Ian – that’s a monumental task: do you ever sleep?
        The new file is in a different format from the March 2021 file – is there also a copy in the original format?
        Regards, Bob


  6. Bob. I had updated to the new form of Excel. I have now put the file back in an earlier format. I have cut off the remarks column on the new file because at some point some of the comments no longer matched the right will.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ian, no problem. I’ve been through 4,000 out of the 10,000+ wills on your site/spreadsheet and will at some time contact you via FB Messenger with some observations. Keep up the good work!


    1. Thank you Jane, you are very generous and kind. We had hoped it wouldn’t but suspected that it might come back. It seemed to come out of the blue and was very aggressive, just a month from being sort of OK to her death, it has nocked me sideways but I will get back to work at some point. I’m planning a 1,000 mile walk for cancer research, Lands end to John O’Groats. A healing process and something positive. Charlie (Charlotte) was the glue that held a wide group of people together and pulled in a very wide disparate selection of people who she took at face value and everyone loved for it.


      1. Your love for Charlotte is plain to see/read, and I imagine it will be there with you every step of the way. Godspeed to both of you, and I look forward to reading the tales of your adventures.


  7. Hello, Ian, Firstly many thanks for the huge amount of information that you have transcribed. I am researching the direct ancestors of US Senator for Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge, 1850-1924, whose grandfather, Giles Lodge was born at Wath Gill in Downholme Parish in 1770. My American cousins thought that might be related to Cabot, but we are not. I have found several useful probate records from your transcripts, but would be grateful for any more relevant information that you may have. I would be happy to send a copy of my research to date. Best regards, Ian Lodge


    1. Hello Ian, Thank you for your interest in my site. There are quite a few Lodge family members in both Swaledale and Wensleydale and there was quite a lot of movement between both dales. In the 16th and 17th centuries some of the more affluent farmers of both dales had town houses in Richmond. It is a complicated process following them. I am slowly working back through my transcripts making corrections and additions but it will take a long time. It would also be good idea to make an index picking out all the people mentioned in each will, but it would take a couple of years to do. If you give me a bit more info I may be able to find more connections for you. Best wishes Ian


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This site is about the history of Wensleydale and Swaledale area in the main.