Well that was a fight and a half!

My husband’s great great grandfather, Thomas Pickering, was a farmer at Keysbeck on the North Yorkshire Moors at the time of the 1841 census. He lived there with his wife Jane and his children John, Ann and William. William is my husband’s direct ancestor. 10 years later, he was working as an agricultural labourer, living with his family at Newholm Cum Dunsley, near Whitby, on the North Yorkshire coast.

We had been on the hunt to track down the location of Keysbeck last year, without success. However, I received instructions from two of my husband’s newly found distant cousins in Canada confirming that we had been looking in the wrong area!

“The house and farm buildings at Keysbeck no longer exist, but from memory it was on the right hand side (east side) of the road that heads straight north out of Stape leading to Goathland. About a mile north of Stape, you come to a point which is just about before the highest point on the road, and on your right there is a stone gatepost, about a meter high, and that is all that is left. You know if you have found the site, because there are few bits of broken roof tiles scattered around. The house was fairly close to the road, I suspect, but I couldn’t see any foundations remaining. To the left side of the road, it is all moorland, and there are no dwellings for at least a mile in all directions”

“When you are heading for Keysbeck and are north of Stape, you will go around a curve in the road and over a wee beck, and then soon you will come to a gate, which sometimes is open, sometimes closed. If closed just open, go through, then close it again. Keysbeck is on the right side of the road as David says not too far north of this gate. Good luck. Using my picture – look under the tree to the left in the photo and behind the tree and hopefully you will find some roofing tiles.”

These are the images she sent.

So off we set, but none of the instructions gave which way we were to head for Stape. I thought that this would be from the direction of Pickering but, no, my daughter headed out on the road from Guisborough, in the direction of Goathland. We went over hills and down hills, and at one point we had to check where we were on the map.  We carried on and went past three or four houses, then turned around and came back. Well, we did this about four times and in the end my daughter said, “Mam, you’re just going to have to forget about it”. So off we set in the direction of Pickering, where I spotted a tractor pulling over to the side of the road. I told my daughter to pull over too.

The driver of the tractor was a lovely old farmer with a proper Yorkshire accent and a coat tied with string. I asked him if he knew Keysbeck, and he replied, “Aye not there now though!” Well, “I knew that,” I thought, and showed him the paper and picture which the lady in Canada had supplied. He laughed and asked how long ago it was taken, to which I replied, “Pass!” He then went on to say, “Go back though Stape t’over old cattle grid and 150 yards further on, on your right hand side t’you will see gate”. Thanking him I said, “Oh, you’re a proper Yorkshire man with that accent”, to which he tapped me on arm and said “t’get away lass!”. Ah, but he was lovely and I just wanted to give him a hug, bless him.

So we turned around, and lo and behold, just before the houses was a sign to Stape that we hadn’t seen before. We followed the road, going down a small bank, past a stream and back up a bank again. We drove past a gate, but as it didn’t look like the one in the picture supplied, we carried on past it. As we went so far, my daughter stopped and turned around saying, “No, its got to be back at that gate”.

Well, we got out of the car and, yes, across this small field there were trees that could have matched those on the photograph but, for goodness sake, at what angle had this picture been taken? Just at that point my daughter said, “Mam, there’s another gate.” I replied, “Don’t be daft, where?” She prompted me to move along to the other side of the gate where she was standing and, sure enough, there was another gate. Oh my goodness, had we found it?

Now we were left with one big problem – I had my leg bandaged from toe to knee and couldn’t get it wet and my daughter had low heeled shoes on. It had already poured down twice really heavily while we had been driving up and down the hills, and this field was full to waist height with grass, nettles and other wild plants. It was then that we noticed a group of hikers down the road having a rest. So my daughter said jokingly, “Let’s go and ask that couple for help”, and as she set off I shouted after her, “No!”

Anyway, she comes back with this young man and lass who said that they would help us find what we were after. So they set off to under the trees, with the instructions, and came back with some photos and a roof tile for us. These are shown below.


They told us that they were from a school in Harrogate and were doing a Duke of Edinburgh Award. So we are going to write to that school telling them of how these two went out of their way to make an older member of the public happy (and cry).


© borobabs 2009