Ian Spensley's Blog

Welcome to My New History Blog

For 50 years I have been researching the history of the Yorkshire Dales, mainly Wensleydale and Swaledale. Although lead and coal mining is my main area of expertise I have also looked at social history and other industries of the dales.

As part of my work I have transcribed most of the 16th to 18th century Wills and Inventories for Swaledale, Wensleydale and tributary dales. This has been a full time task over the last 6 or 7 years. Work is still still in progress and I have extended my area to the east as far as Scorton and Bedale. I have recently finished all the wills for Richmond in the 18th century. As time allows I can continue moving forward in time to the 19th century.

Sadly my wife was diagnosed with cancer (8th Jan 22) for the second time in four years and she died on the 8th of Feb 2022. I have managed do some work but it is a slow process getting back into my stride.

From the 1st to the 29th April I have transcribed (in part) 400 more sets of Wills, Inventories and Letters of Administration. They are mostly of people at the lower end of the dales including Richmond. You will also find wills for people in Thorpe under Stone filed with Hudswell. I have also added Winterings and Potting to the Gunnerside File.

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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14 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.


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