top of page

The Rookery

The Lodge Family and the Rookery

The Lodge family was already well established in Bishopdale when they were first recorded in 1751 at New Houses. Ralph Lodge changed the name of his home from New Houses to The Rookery shortly before 1851. When Ralph died in 1871, his nephew, Robert, a dry-salter from Manchester, inherited his property. In 1847, Robert Lodge (1816-1888) had married a wealthy heiress, who bore him a son and three daughters and then died young. Robert used his newly acquired wealth to buy up land until he became the largest landowner in Bishopdale. Around 1874, he converted The Rookery into a modern mansion, the extensive conversion work costing the princely sum of £8,750. Looking out towards Wassett Fell, this imposing Victorian Gothic building was the grandest house in the area. 

Robert Lodge had a philanthropic streak which led him, when work was scarce, to employ labourers to drain some of his land. He also planted the five true plantations on the north side of Wassett Fell facing the Rookery in the shape of the name  Lodge and could be seen clearly from the house. Remnants of these stands of trees can still be seen today.


Life at The Rookery was on a grand scale, with an indoor staff of six women and a butler, plus a coachman, two gardeners and a gamekeeper. Lavish social events were sometimes held there, including the July 1919 peace celebrations shown in the bottom left photograph. There were a total of 33 rooms in the house including a morning room, a hall, a dining room, a drawing room, a library,  a billiard room, a well-equipped kitchen, a butler's pantry, a larder, a laundry, a wine cellar and several bedrooms with dressing rooms. The windows were glazed with leaded lights and there was an elaborately carved newel staircase some five feet wide leading to a gallery, (see photo below). Several of the rooms had carved wooden or marble fireplaces and the house had central heating, piped water and internal sanitation throughout. In the grounds there was a large coach house [now a holiday let], with servants' accommodation, stabling for two horses, four boxes, a harness room, kennels and a ferret house. The gardens were laid out in lawns and flower beds with exotic cypress trees, a sunken rose garden, two kitchen gardens, fruit walls, two greenhouses, an orchard, a potting shed and a small paddock.

The Rookery was sold by the Lodge family in 1921 together with eleven Bishopdale farms, two grouse moors, 4,000 acres of land and shooting and grazing rights over another 1,000 acres. The house was used as a private school from 1940 to 1945 (named Kidstones School) with up to 120 pupils. Following the closure of the school, it became a youth hostel and, when the hostel moved to Palmer Flatt at Aysgarth, the Rookery was demolished ,in 1952.


Some of the stone from the demolished Rookery was used to build Thoralby Village Hall.

© Thoralby Through Time


Life at the Rookery during The Lodge Family Residency 

"The Rookery: A House in Bishopdale, by Margaret Fawcett, Scarr Top (1982-83) - 

The Rookery was a mansion which stood in its own grounds in the centre of Bishopdale. It was the home of the Lodge family for over a hundred years and the Lodges at one time owned nearly all the farms in Bishopdale. The mansion was built in three stages with the oldest part at the east end. There was a house there in the seventeenth, the home of Leonard Tomlin in 1690, and known as New House. It was a two storey dwelling with two rooms downstairs, each with a stone flagged floor, and two rooms above. There was a front porch with a small arched window and two iron window guards. The house was roofed with grey flags.

The middle part of the mansion had three storeys and it is believed that the top was added when the west end was built. We have no date for building the middle part but most of the woodwork there was polished pine. It had a blue slate roof. This too was know as New House or New Houses but by the 1850s it was called "The Rookery".

The west end of the mansion was built in the 1870s by Robert Lodge as a very grand house with a fine porch, a hall 24 feet by 22 feet with the floor and doors all of polished pine. To the right of the hall was the dining room, 24 by 18 feet; to the rear the kitchen and scullery, both with stone flagged floors. An open newel staircase (see photo below), 57 inches wide, of polished pine, led from the Hall to the verandah with doors leading off to bedrooms and the drawing room over the dining room. This floor also had a billiard room holding a huge cold water tank. There were cellars below and in one a coke stove for the central heating system. Nearly all the window in this part of the house had plate glass in sliding sashes and panelled surrounds. The staircase had four casement windows with metal frames and leaded lights filled with stained glass. This part of the house had fine quality ashlthar stonework and decorative detail in a style very like that of a Victorian church. Contemporary photographs show the house with its rooms crammed with furniture and fittings and the walls filled with picture game trophies. 

Robert Lodge also built a fine stable with granary, coach house, coachman's flat, and two other rooms, one of which house an acetylene gas engine/generator which lit the mansion. The stable had ceramic tiles around the upper half of the walls. The four horse boxes were divided by pone? partitions, with iron railings above, and the saddle room had wall panelled with pine. 

The Lodge's estate was sold in 1921 and the Rookery became a farmhouse [see 1939 Register] for a time but in 1940 a Mr. Bell from Hull rented the mansion and started a boarding school so that his daughters might escape the city air raids. There were just six pupils to start with but the numbers soon rose and at one time there were one hundred and twenty. The war ended in 1945 and the school closed. In 1946 the house was taken over by the Youth Hostel Association which ran it as a hostel until 1950 when they moved to Palmer Flatt near Aysgarth Falls. Problems with upkeep on a house of this sort led the owner to sell the Rookery for salvage and demolition.

The sale of the Rookery took place on 11th March 1952. Windows, doors, fireplaces and fixtures; timber, stone, lead and slates were all sold in separate lots. The polished pine staircase from the hall made £15, pine doors and frames £7, floor boards from the hall £23, blue slates £105 and lead £625.


A few lots were bought locally and included the doors which went to Thoralby Village Hall. Much of the stone went for house building at Skipton. There was an order for demolition on the house so that after the sale lots had to be taken away the walls were charged with explosives and blown up. Most of the stone was then led away whilst mortar and debris were bulldozed into the cellars until only a heap of rubble remained to mark the site. Seeds from the big cyprus tree, which survived the destruction, rooted on the mound so that today, where once The Rookery stood, a clump of well grown cyprus trees some twenty five feet tall, stands." 

The Rookery 1873-1952 improved 2021
© Thoralby Through Time

"The Lodge Family by Nora Spence, née Tiplady (1984)

Nora Spence née Tiplady, living at Home Farm, Aysgarth, March 1984, when the following article was written. Nora’s family farmed at Dale Head, and she attended Bishopdale School from the age of five in 1924 until its closure on 31st July 1928.

"The Aysgarth Church records show that the Lodge family were in Bishopdale from 1751-1917.

Ralph Lodge, an ordinary farmer who lived at East New House (now demolished) had a son, born 1816 called Robert who married a Miss Wilkins from Manchester, daughter of a family who were drysalters and very well off financially; Robert began buying up land and property until he owned almost the whole dale. He built the “Rookery”, a very fine house around 1874 at a cost of £8,750 (demolished 1952) and planted the five true plantations on the north side of Wassett Fell facing the Rookery in the shape of the name LODGE. 

The family attended Aysgarth Church accompanied by servants and staff who followed the Lodge carriage in a dogcart."



All the staff who lived in at the Rookery were not allowed to go out during the evening. Robert Lodge had a son, born 1856, John William, and 3 daughters, Alice, Isobel and Elizabeth. The son (later Col. John William Lodge, died in WW1) never married nor did Alice and Isobel. Elizabeth married Major Liddon, and had four daughters and one son, Major Liddon Junior, hence the “Liddon and Lodge” trust as it today (1984). Robert Lodge died in 1888 aged 72 years. The Lodge family controlled the Bishopdale situation for about 100 years.

It was custom in those days to build a school so that the children of the estate could be educated. In 1841 by the School Site Act special facilities in the conveyance of land for school purposes were afforded. The Education Act of 1870 among other things charged the Education Department to make provision for the foundation of school boards in every school district." 

Lodge family dog cart, 1890s, courtesy of Clive Torrens

The Lodge family dog cart parked on the small green in front of the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Thoralby. It is likely that it was staff of the Rookery attending chapel, whilst the Lodges were attending the nearby church of St. Andrew's Church at Aysgarth.

© Thoralby Through Time

The end of an era


On the death of Robert Lodge on 12th September 1888 the estate was left to his only son, John William Lodge, and things carried on much as before. However, when John William Lodge died on 23rd August 1917, he was unmarried, so the estate was left to his widowed sister, Elizabeth Liddon-Lodge, who was already residing at The Rookery. When Elizabeth died on 20th July 1920, the estate was left to her son, Major Matthew Robert Liddon.


Following Elizabeth's death, the whole of the The Rookery estate, including eleven farms and various other properties, was put up for sale on 2nd June 1921 (see The Rookery Sale, 1921). Many of the tenants took the opportunity to buy their farms and at the time of the 1941 farm survey only Dale Foot Farm remained in the ownership of Major Matthew Robert Liddon. 

Robert Lodge (1816-1888) - Obituary

"The York Herald - Monday, September, 17, 1888



On Saturday, the funeral of the late Mr. Robt. Lodge, J.P., of the Rookery, Bishopdale, took place amidst every token of respect in the pretty churchyard, at Aysgarth. The deceased was well-known throughout Wensleydale, being a magistrate of the North Riding, while he was an ex-officio member of Bainbridge Board of Guardians. He was also well-known in the district as the owner of a very large proportion of land in Bishopdale, where he resided, and it is related of him that when work was scare he gave employment to the labourers by giving them land to drain. He was an ardent sportsman, and his familiar figure was often seen in the hunting-field and at the annual puppy walk of the Bedale Hounds, while he supported the Wensleydal harriers. When her Majesy's Jubilee was being celebrated last year deceased was very prominent in getting a reading room and Young Men's Institute for Thoralby in order to benefit those amongst whom he dwelt

The deceased gentleman married a daughter of Alderman Watkins, of Manchester, but his wife died some years since, and he now leaves a son and three daughters, all grown up.In politics deceased was a staunch Conservative, while he was a zealous churchman, having been a church warden for Bishopdale at St. Andrew's Church, Aysgarth, for a number of years. His decease was somewhat sudden, as he retired to rest apparently in his usual health on Tuesday night last, but called his relatives early on Wednesday morning, and complained of the difficulty he had in breathing, and although medical aid was summoned he died about half-past ten o'clock the same morning. The funeral took place in the family vault at Aysgarth Churchyard on Saturday, amidst every token of respect, the attendance being the largest which has ever been seen in Wensleydale. At noon 63 of the tenantry and invited friends sat down to dinner at The Palmer Flat Hotel, after which they joined the funeral procession at the school house. The bearers, who were tenants on deceased's estate, were: William Foster, Richard Routh, Matthew Heseltine, Rowland Fawcett, Jeffrey Heseltine, William Dent, William Bushby, and Richard Wade.The coffin, which was made by Mr. Willis, of Thoralby, was of polished oak with brass mountings, and bore a brass plate on which was engraven the following: - "Robert Lodge, born April 6th, 1816; died September 12th, 1888." It was covered with beautiful floral tributes sent by friends and relatives of the deceased. The sides of the vault were covered with evergreens. The funeral service was read by the Rev. F.W. Stowe, vicar of St. Andrews, Aysgarth, assisted by the Rev. C.T. Hales, of Aysgarth School. The choir chanted the 90th Psalm, and sang a hymn in the church, while at the graveside they sang "When our heads are body with woe."

© Thoralby Through Time

The chief mourners were Mr. J.W. Lodge, only son of the deceased, Captain Liddon, son-in-law; Mr.R. Liddon, grandson of deceased; Dr. Lodge, brother; Rev, William Boldison, of The Bridge, brother-in-law; and Mr. W. Boldison, grandson of deceased. Amongst those present we noticed Lord Bolton, Col. Wade-Dalton, Mr. J.C. Winn, and Mr. Robert Chapman, representing the Leyburn bench of magistrates; Hon. Amias Orde-Powlett, of Spennithorne; Mrs. Winn and Mr. William Winn, Askrigg; Dr. Baker, Askrigg; Capt. Other, Coverham Abbey; Mr. Walker, Richmond; Rev. C. Whaley, Askrigg; Mr. G. Broderick, Mr. J. Fryer, Hawes; Mr. Hugh Maughan, Mr. C. J. Burrell, Middleham; Rev. Mr. Whaley, West Witton; Rev. John Chapman, West Bolton; Mr. McQueen, Isle of Wight; Mrs. Hutton, Sorrel Sykes; Mr. and Mrs. T.F. King, Edgeley; Mr. W. R. King; Mr. Wm. Purkiss, Isle of Wight; Mr. Ben. Purkiss, Bedale; Mr. John Chapman, West Bolton; Mr. C. Horner, Mr.G.W. Wray, Superintendent Nicholson, Mr. Thomas Hormer, Mr. William dent, Mr. John Campbell, Mr. Alderson, Leyburn; Mr. W.H. Tomlinson, Mr. W. Stainsby; Mr. Bell, Aysgarth; Mr. Pilkington, Swinethethwaite Hall; Mr. John Chapman, West Bolton; Mr. Ackeroyd Custo Badie, Thornton Rust; Mr. Jaques, Thoralby; Mr. T. Bradley, Bearpark; Mr. R. Wilcock, Scar Top; Mr. Heseltine, Hawes; Mr. M. Lambert, Newbiggin, &c. The funeral arragements were carried out by Messrs. William Dent and Son, of Leyburn, under the personal superintendaence of Mr. William Dent."

© Thoralby Through Time

John William Lodge (1856-1917) - Obituary

"Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 28 August 1917


With military honours, the funeral took place at Aysgarth yesterday, of the late Colonel J.W. Lodge, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Garrison Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, who reside at The Rookery, Bishopdale. The funeral was very impressive. The band of the Alexandra (Price of Wales's Own) Yorkshire Regiment headed the procession playing Beethoven's Marche Funébre, and companies of the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and the 2nd Garrison Battalion Yorkshire Regiment formed a guard of honour. The service in the church, conducted by the Vicar of Aysgarth (the Rev. W.K. Wyley) was choral, the hymn being "Oft in danger." At the graveside the hymn "Fight the good fight" was sung, and after the committal sentences, a firing party fired volleys over the grave and buglers sounded "The Last Post.

The chief mourners were Miss Lodge, sister [Isabella Lodge 1858-1947] ; Miss [Mrs. Elizabeth 1850-1920] Lyddon, sister; Major Lyddon, nephew; Mrs. Warner, Liverpool; Dawson Harlewe, and Mrs. Purnell Edwards, London, nieces; Mr. William Bolderston, Mr. J. Bolderston, Mr. T.R. Lodge and Mr. J.J.G. Lodge cousins; Mr. Warner, Liverpool; and Mr. Purnell Edwards.

Among other present were Lord Bolton, Chairman of the Leyburn magistrates; Sir Henry Beresford-Peirse, Bart. Chairman, North Riding County Council; Col. Peury Williams, M.P., Middlesborough: Col. Purnell, Major R.M. Gladstone, Major J. Walker, Capt. Blenke, Capt. W.K. Walter, Lieut. Riley, Sec.-Leiut. Kershaw, of the 3rd Batt., Yorkshire Regiment; Major H. Levin, Headquarter Staff, Northern Command; Capt. McGee, 2nd Garrison, Yorkshire Regiment; Sec.-Leiuts. Sale, Rouse, Wood, Yorkshire Regiment; Capt. Ryan, Durham R.G.A. (representing Col. Robsob, D.S.O., C.M.G.); and the Revs. F. Whitaker and A. James, Chaplins, Yorkshire Reg.; Sergt.-Major Warren and 160 N.C.O.'s and men of the Yorkshire Regt.; Lt.-Col. Hennah, Col. Caffin, Capt. Williams, and Capt. Williams, and Capt. Hanbury, of the Yorkshire Regt.; Lieut. King, Col. Garnett and Mrs. Garnett, the Rev. W. Beresford-Pearse, Bedale; the Rev. H.G. Topham, Middleham; the Rev. G.T. Whitehead, Thornton Watlass; the Rev. F.M. Squibb, Askrigg; the Rev. H.M. Sharples; the Rev. H. Remmington, late of Aysgarth; Dr. Dunbar, Naval Surgeon Pickles, Mr. Wm. Forster, Markenfield Hall, Ripon; Mr. Jno. Maughan, Mr. Hugh Maughan, Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Winn, Mr. Ritchie, Mr. T. F. King, Mr. John Osborne, Mr. C.K. Blackett, Tadcaster; Mr. M. Spensley, Mr. J. Spensley. Mr. Wm. Alderson, Mr. R. Horne, Mr. E.H. Wilkinson (Clerk to the Leyburn Magistrates), and others."

From a book put together by Diana Summers on the men named on the college [Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge] war memorial.

“John William Lodge of Bishopdale was born in Whalley Range, Cheshire on the 8th August 1855 and was christened in Manchester Cathedral on the 27th September 1856. After his mother, Mary died when he was an infant, he lived with his father and sisters in Southport. His first school was also in Southport. He was admitted to Gonville and Caius College in 1874 where the matriculation book states that he been at Harrow. However, his name does not appear on the Harrow Register. He graduated MA in 1879 and was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1883. 

The records of the Green Howard reveal that John joined the 3rd Battalion, the Princess of Wales Own Yorkshire Regiment. He was gazetted into this volunteer battalion in 1874, was made Captain in 1879, an Honorary Major in 1889 and Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in 1894. On the 1st March 1900, the start of the 2nd Boer War, he sailed with the battalion to Africa on the troopship Assaye but unfortunately, no records of the Battalion survive from that war. The militia records that he was Commandant of Tankara Horse Farm in 1900 and commanded the Battalion from 1906 until his retirement in 1912."

© Thoralby Through Time

In the report of his death, the local newspaper records:

"Craven Herald, 31 August 1917

The death took place at The Rookery, Bishopdale, Aysgarth, yesterday morning (sic.), after a very brief illness, of Colonel J.W. Lodge, of the Yorkshire Regiment. Colonel Lodge had been connected with the Yorkshire Regiment for over 43 years.  He served with the 3rd Battalion throughout the South African War, and was in possession of the Queen’s Medal with three clasps, the King’s Medal with two clasps, and the Coronation Medal. From June 1906 to August 1912, when he retired, he commanded the 3rd Battalion. At the outbreak of the present war he volunteered for service, and was appointed as second in command of a battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, and was afterwards given command of a Special Reserve Battalion, a post which he held until his death. Of a cheery and kindly disposition, always out to do good, Colonel Lodge was loved by all who had the pleasure of knowing him, and particularly by those who served with him.

He was the only son of Mr. Robert Lodge, of Bishopdale, and was born in 1855. He was educated at St. Peter’s York, took his M.A. at Cambridge, ad was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1883. As Squire of Bishopdale, where his family had lived for many years, he took a very deep interest in local and county affairs. Col. Lodge was a J.P. for the North Riding of Yorkshire, a member of the North Riding Council and of the Yorkshire Fishery Board, and also a member of the District Council. He was a staunch Conservative, and well known as a skilful grouse shot and angler, and was for many years an enthusiastic follower of otter hounds. A brave soldier, a keen sportsman, and a gallant gentleman, his loss will be widely felt.

John never married and lived at The Rookery Bishopdale, a house that had been built by the family in mid-Victorian times and was sold by the family in the 1920s and demolished in the 1950s.”