The History of Clifford
The village of Clifford is very old, taking its name from ‘Clyf’, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ford, referring to the crossing of the River Wharfe at Boston Spa which was then within the Manor of Clifford. The village is characterised by the use of magnesian limestone visible in many of the older buildings.
It is mentioned in the Domesday Book, 1086, as follows:
In Clifford, Ligulf had 1 manor of 6 caracates taxable where 4 ploughs are possible. Nigel has (it) from Count Robert. In lordship 2 ploughs: and 3 villagers with 2 ploughs. 1 mill, 2 shillings; underwood, 4 furlongs long and 3 wide. The whole manor, 1league long and ½ wide. Value before 1066, 40 shillings; now 10 shillings. (modern translation)
As well as being a farming community, in the 19th century, the old corn mills down Old Mill Lane were transformed into Flax Mills, making chiefly patent yarn and shoe thread. The mills were owned by the Grimston Brothers who were the main benefactors of St Edward’s Catholic Church. In its hey-day, the business employed upwards of 300 workers many of whom lived in the stone terraced cottages in Albion Street.
In the 1850s there were 3 additional pubs to the ones at present in the village; these have now been converted to private houses.
Boston Spa Archeology and Heritage Group
The group was formed in 1999 and is active in this area.
We have a varied programme of monthly talks, walks, visits and social events.
Our fieldwork includes excavation, surveys, buildings archaeology, archaeobotany, and field walking, looking for evidence of earlier settlement. We have found evidence from Mesolithic (9000-4000 BC) through to modern times. In recent years we discovered and excavated a prehistoric flint industry site with ceremonial pit-alignment. The pits contained Neolithic carved rocks (4000-2000 BC) and cremated animal bones from the Bronze Age and Iron Age. The report can be ordered from the Group. It also includes an account of the unusual ‘sheepwash’ we excavated in Wray Wood, which may have been connected to the later medieval sheep industry centred on Clifford.
We recently completed a report for Boston Spa Parish Council on the heritage of the riverside area between Deep Dale and Holgate (its archaeology, ecology, history and some geology, with a special focus on the riverside woodland). Recently we have been investigating Dam House by the weir, which may have been connected with Clifford’s flax industry, and last year we began investigations with Clifford History Group of the Clifford Mill Pond system where it begins at Willowgarth.
At the request of West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service, we are drawing up a list of local heritage assets which people value in the LS23 area, including archaeology, ecology, history and geology. It is hoped that Parish Councils will refer to the list as they develop their neighbourhood plans.
We keep a folder in Boston Spa and Wetherby Libraries, where interested members of the public can keep in touch with work carried out and read our published reports. Membership is open to adults. We are also interested in the wider district and draw members from further afield as well as locally. Our website service was interrupted last year, but is now being re-published at www.bostonspaheritage.co.uk