When I was at Giggleswick School 1959-66 one of my kinder nicknames was ‘Fourth Peak’. This was partly my 6’3” but partly through the tale of my illustrious forbear and great-great uncle ‘The Craven Giant’, 22 stone, 7’6” Francis Twisleton (1812-75) whose grave lies in Stainforth Churchyard. ‘Fourth Peak’ was a good title for a Twisleton since we derive from folk who lived historically in the neighbourhood of Whernside and Ingleborough where you can still find Twisleton Scar, Hall and Glen. There is one other claim to our homeland: Twiston (previously Twisleton) near Blackburn. The name itself means a settlement (‘ton’) on the fork of a river (‘twisla’).
In Settle we all know Twisleton’s Yard and one of the reasons I am writing is to gather any stories people have about the origin of the yard. All I can find so far is a reference in the 1871 and 1881 census returns as the residence of our Giant’s Aunt Mary and her son, Francis’ cousin, Attorney’s Clerk James whose grave (1902) is in Settle Churchyard. James’ nephew Gregory (1864-1937) ran a store in Settle Marketplace where his son, my own father Greg (1900-74) was born. Again any memories of that store, just up from ‘Car & Kitchen’ would be helpful in recovering local and family history.
At Easter this year, when I enjoyed worship at Holy Ascension with my mother Elsie, I caught the special exhibition at The Folly. This featured among other things two more Twisletons who add colour to our Settle heritage, the craven poets Tom (1845-1917) and Henry Lea (1847-1905). I have copies of their works but not of the exhibited ‘Splinters struck off Winskill Rock’ (I will pay good money for any redundant copy!). My father used to read me his favourite from their joint work ‘Poems in the Craven Dialect’ which was ‘Lines composed on Seeing a Woman Intoxicated in Settle Streets on a Market Day’. Our forbears the poets were ardent supporters of the temperance movement. My friends at Settle Social Club know that I am not averse to a pint on my occasional visits. I hope though that any intoxication I get is mainly from the Holy Spirit!
Settle Twisletons trace right back. The West Riding Victoria County History mentions William of Twyselton (1316) holding lands near Ingleborough. Thomas Brayshaw’s parish history of Giggleswick refers to Twisletons residing at Sherwood House on the brow beyond Stainforth heading for Horton before 1600. A Robert Twisleton is listed as an enrolled bow man for the battle of Flodden (1513). You can still see the initials RAT 1703 over the porch of Sherwood House referring to Robert and Alice Twisleton who were married ‘sexdecimo die Maii 1694’ (Giggleswick register). They are pretty certainly my great-great-great-great-great grandparents. My father’s poetic great uncles lived up at Winskill (hence ‘Splinters struck off Winskill Rock’). It was a pleasure to be reacquainted recently with the current resident of Lower Winskill, an old friend, Tom Lord who inspired me to write this piece to contribute to our local history.
How do the Twisletons of Horton and Settle relate to people like Captain Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes? There is no easy answer to this. My father and I have kept in touch with Ranulph’s uncle, Lord Saye and Sele of Broughton Castle near Banbury and his late brother David Fiennes. Together we are aware that the Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes gained their Twisleton through a London goldsmith who worked for Henry VIII, John Twisleton who had a Yorkshire, maybe even a Settle connection. My own middle name is Fiennes which affirms our association with the southern branch of the family.
Another question I would like answering myself is whether one of my great uncles was the first man to follow the French explorer E.A.Martel down Gaping Ghyll on 3rd August 1895. My late father always claimed that a Twisleton followed Martel down the rope to become the first Englishman down the 300 foot hole but I can find no confirmation in the official accounts. Is this our invention?
Family history studies like my own are a resource that can remind us of our history as a community. If we forget it we shall all be the poorer. I end with a quote from ‘Stainforth – Stepping stones through history’ (2001) which is an excellent production full of great stories. My great-great grandma and great aunt gain a mention: ‘In January and February of 1842, there must have been very heavy snowfalls as many villagers lent a hand at a rate of one shilling (5p) a day. Even Nanny Twistleton, a widow 56 years old, living at what is now Fountain House and farming about 34 acres, was probably glad to earn 9d (4p), and he daughter Isabella must have struggled through the snow to get to Langcliffe Mill where she worked as a papermaker’. I myself worked at the same paper mill as a student!
I hope to keep an ongoing link with the local history group and would be grateful for any feedback on what I have written – challenges, additions and memories renewed of Settle in times past. Please contact me at 27 Gatesmead, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1SN 01444 414658 or firstname.lastname@example.org or contact my mother Elsie Twisleton at 5 Whitefriars Court behind The Naked Man.