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. When the Estate was put up for sale following the death of Elizabeth Lodge, in July 1920, who had inherited the estate on the death of her brother, in August, 1917, the only male heir. The Trust that administered the Liddon-Lodge estate after Elizabeth's death decided to sell the whole estate, some 4,098 acres, with shooting and grazing rights over an additional 1,027 acres. In addition to the Rookery House and Gardens, there were plantations, the school, eleven farms, gardener’s cottage, school house cottage, shooting on High Scarr and Wassett Fell. It is not surprising that the estate agents details described it as a: "Fine Sporting, Residential and Agricultural Estate, known as the Rookery, Bishopdale" (see the sale of the Rookery Estate, 1921). SEE LAST PARA. and END OF AN ERA. B&W to Colour pg.1.






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. They have recently been re-planted, so they will be available to view once more.


During Robert Lodge's lifetime, life at The Rookery was on a grand scale, with an indoor staff of six women and a butler, plus a coachman (see photo of carriage below), two gardeners and a gamekeeper (10). 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. However, Following Robert's death, life at the Rookery was scaled down a little with only 6 staff in total during the time of his son John William, and his daughter Bessie Liddon-Lodge, after which time it was a country farmhouse mansion owned by the John Bryan Fawcett (1863-1936) of Scar Top, the house that can be clearly seen in the photograph below. John's widow can be seen still living at The Rookery in the 1939 ID Register, Bishopdale, with her two daughter's, Selina and Catherine, in fact Selina celebrated her 21st Birthday there in 1923 and their eldest sister Elizabeth (Betsy), (1898-1998), was married from there, at Aysgarth Church, to Percy Robinson, a farmer from Danby Wiske.

(VISIT - PHOTOS - TAKE TO SHOW HER. Christine Tuer - interview Margaret before Selina - politics!)



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 once again SOLD and quite unbelievably 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) - 

(Margaret's father-in-law was John Bryan Fawcett (1863-1936) - The new owner of The Rookery from 1921-1940s - check with Christine Tuer - interview Margaret before Selina - politics!)

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. ADD THESE PHOTOS.

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. Everything was tasteful and of the highest quality, but looks 'out-dated' now.

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 (Who?) 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. They have recently been re-planted, so they will be available to view once more.

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 [six] 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." (See the section about Bishopdale school). 

The Rookery - Journey into Bishopdale - Dalesman, 1957 Vol. 19 pp.274-277 by William R. Mitchell

(Courtesy of the Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes)

“HALF an hour later, having travelled down the narrow, winding road, admiring the U-shape of Bishopdale, a legacy from glacial times, I stood on a heap of rubble - all that remains of the valley's stateliest home. The Lodge family built The Rookery, but it was demolished [1952] again in less than a century.

At a nearby farm named New Houses - it has the date 1635 above the door and is really the oldest in Bishopdale! - I was told that father and son, both named Rowland Fawcett, had "gone up the pastures fencing." They were not expected back before evening. So I was content to look up at the chimney, into which all the flues of the house pour their smoke. The centre inside wall, which houses the complicated flue system is over five feet thick.

It was Mr. Thomas Heseltine, of Newbiggin who told me about The Rookery; of how Ralph Lodge, an ordinary farmer, had a son called Robert, who married a Miss Wilkins from Manchester, daughter of a family who were dry-salters and very well off financially.

Robert began buying up land and property until he owned almost the whole dale, and the big house was completed about 85 years ago. Thomas Heseltine's father, who was also called Thomas, worked on it and regarded the place as the "grandest built house in the North." The original estimate was for £8, 750. William Hammond, of West Burton, was the contractor for the masonry, and a Manchester firm handled the woodwork.

Boer War Veteran

WITHIN living memory life there was on the grand scale, with an indoor staff of six women, butler, coachman, two gardeners and a gamekeeper. Robert and his wife had one son and three daughters. 

The son, Colonel John William Lodge, a veteran of the Boer War and first world war, took over after the death of his parents, and he died on 14th August, 1917. He never married.

Colonel Lodge's eldest sister, the widow of a Major Liddon, was the next to preside over The Rookery, and she became Mrs. Liddon-Lodge. She died in the early twenties [1920], to be succeeded by her son, who only had it a short time before it was sold [1921]. 

John Brian Fawcett bought Rookery, Scar Top and New House, and he lived in the big house until his death [1936].

During the war it became a private school [1940-1945]. For a time it was a youth hostel [1946-1950]. In 1952 the house was demolished, and its stone and timber is now to be found in various parts of the Dales. A layer of rubble and the stables survive.”

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 Aygarth.

© 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 1942 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."