Ancient history of Farnley Estates

3000-2000 BC

People were trading in and around Farnley Estates when the Ancient Egyptians were contemplating the Great Pyramid of Giza in 2,500BC.

Evidence to back up this claim has been found by Kirklees Young Archaeologists, who often visit the Estate for their digs. On several occasions they’ve found Neolithic axe heads and other artefacts from places further afield that indicate trading was taking place in the area around 2,100 years ago.


The Roman Conquest

It’s thought that a fort on nearby Castle Hill was originally constructed prior to the Roman invasion, and was abandoned in the 4th century BC.

A Roman fort, at Slack near Outlane, was subsequently erected, and appears on the oldest map of the area.



Fast forward 1,000 years to the reign of Edward the Confessor, his successor, William the Conqueror, and the Domesday Book. Completed in 1086, the Domesday Book was the first known survey of England and parts of Wales, and contained the records for 13,418 settlements, including Farnley Tyas.

According to local historian Dr George Redmond, John Kaye acquired the Manor of Farnley Tyas in 1379*, following the death of Sir William Finchenden.

The land surrounding the Estate at this time was predominantly moorland, but during this period in history, the land was cleared for farming.


Tudor times

A prominent local figure in Tudor times is John Armytage, who lived during the reign of Good Queen Bess. A yeoman, clothier and exporter, John came from Farnley Tyas and married Elizabeth Kaye. In 1565, John purchased Kirklees Hall and Kirklees Estate, from which the Kirklees region takes its name. It’s widely believed, and reported that Robin Hood’s grave lies in the grounds of Kirklees Hall today.

The Estate can trace its ancient woodlands back to this time, and it was during the reign of Henry VIII that the Kaye family substantially re-built Woodsome as we know it today. The Hall and surrounding land is now home to, and owned by, Woodsome Hall Golf Club.


House of Stuart

During the reign of King James I, the Kaye family was instrumental in founding King James’s School in Almondbury to educate local children.


A change of ownership

In 1726, Sir Arthur Kaye, then the owner of Farnley Estates, died leaving no male heir. The Estate went to Viscount Lewisham, eldest son of the Earl of Dartmouth, who married his daughter, and ownership of the Estate passed into their family.


The agricultural revolution

Around the middle of the 18th Century, the agricultural revolution happened. New farming systems, involving crop rotation, land reclamation by draining wetlands and clearing woodlands, and more intensive farming methods, allowed the population to grow to unprecedented levels.

Farnley was quick to respond to the new opportunities, and employ these new methods of farming.

Dry stone walling became commonplace in the area, as villagers broke up the sandstone boulders, taken from the ground while clearing it for ploughing, to mark out the boundaries of their fields.


Capability Brown

This was a time of great estates and great country houses: landscape gardening flourished. Possibly the first ‘celebrity gardener’ was English landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. His work can still be seen today in the grounds of many country estates and parks, including Chatsworth, Blenheim Palace and Warwick Castle.

It’s rumoured that Capability Brown worked on Woodsome Hall, and there is still evidence of trees planted in his style on the land surrounding the golf club.


1805 Terrier

This historic document is a detailed record of life in Farnley Estates in 1805. As well as historic maps of the area, it records all tenants and farmers, and details the rent paid at this time.

Some of the farms detailed in the Terrier, including Ludhill Farm, Sycamore Farm and Roydhouse, still exist today. View the maps below to see how the area has changed over the past 200 years.

See the map of Farnley Tyas in 1805.

See the map of Farnley Estates in 1805.

See the map of Farnley Tyas in 1907.

See the map of 1805 Farnley Estates overlaid on Huddersfield today.

See the map of Farnley Tyas today.


The Industrial Revolution

One reason that Farnley remains as beautiful today as it was before the industrial revolution, is that the main river, canal and railway systems by-passed the village.

Textile mills built near to rivers and the canal system through Huddersfield, the Holme Valley and the Colne Valley, now sprung up in ever greater numbers thanks to railway network. Meanwhile, Farnley Tyas remained predominantly a farming community. In fact, it’s reported in 1805 that the Earl of Dartmouth discouraged the building of mills around Woodsome Hall, for fear of spoiling the countryside.

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, many of the people living in Farnley worked as domestic weavers and farmers. There was also a small amount of coal mining taking place in and around the Estate at this time. 

One of the first steam powered mills, however, was developed within the grounds of Farnley Estates. The ruins of the mill still exist today near Penistone Road.

The area's fortunes changed dramatically with the building of the turnpikes, linking Huddersfield to other major conurbations. The Sheffield Turnpike was the M1 of its time, built by famed roadbuilder, John Metcalf, also known as Blind Jack of Knaresborough. 

This was one of the six important trading routes that allowed Huddersfield to grow into a thriving high-end textile manufacturing town.

John Nowell was a renowned 'colour chemist' who successfully experimented with colourings, lived in Farnley Estates. It was a result of his work that helped the growth of Huddersfield’s textile industry.


A growing community

Dedicated in 1840, St Lucius’ church in Farnley Tyas was a gift from William, Fourth Earl of Dartmouth. In 1864, the Earl and Countess of Dartmouth also donated the school to the village.


World War I

There are records of three young men from Farnley, who were killed in the Great War. Although there is no official war memorial in the village, their names appear on a memorial in nearby Thurstonland, which suffered a greater number of casualties.


World War II

During the Second World War, Farnley Tyas received its quota of evacuees from London. But a more tragic event also occurred during the conflict. While on a training exercise, a bomber plane crash-landed on the Estate’s land. The accident ripped the roof from a cottage and killed the young Australians who were on board the aircraft.

The cottage was rebuilt and was nicknamed by locals as Phoenix Cottage.


History today

In 1968, the Sykes family bought Farnley Estates from the Earl of Dartmouth, and it remains in the care of brothers John and Paul Sykes today. The rest, as they say, is history.


Share your knowledge

Do you have any facts, stories or photos regarding the history of Farnley Tyas or Farnley Estates that you’d like to share with us?

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Farnley Facts:

The name Farnley Tyas means ‘meadow of the Tyas family’.