Here, Robin Longbottom examines how an area between Silsden and Riddlesden once served as a deer park granted by Edward II
ON the modern Ordnance Survey map there is an area between Silsden and Riddlesden called Holden Park.
It is on the north side of the River Aire and extends across what is now Keighley Golf Club towards Silsden.
From the Middle Ages into the 17th century, Silsden was held by the Clifford family whose principal seat was at Skipton Castle.
The Great Manor of Silsden was divided into four sub-manors – Silsden, Silsden Moor, Cringles and Brunthwaite – the boundaries of which are delineated on the first Ordnance Survey map published in 1853.
Holden Park was a Medieval and Tudor-period deer park granted to the Cliffords by Edward II.
The exact boundaries are now lost but it fell within the ancient Manor of Brunthwaite and extended along the valley bottom and hillside between Upper Holden and the former Holden Park Farm, now the Keighley Golf Club clubhouse.
It was managed by a parker or forester, who would have lived in the park and been responsible for the welfare of the red or fallow deer enclosed in it.
The Cliffords had several other deer parks including Old Park – just north of Skipton Castle – Carleton Park and Haw Park between Embsay and Low Skibeden on the Harrogate road.
Both red and fallow deer were raised in these parks for the purpose of the hunt and when a day of hunt was declared suitable animals were selected and released directly onto open land known as the Chase.
In some cases their antlers would be cut short, so as not to impede them as they dashed through undergrowth.
Holden Park opened onto the Holden Chase which appears to have extended north over Holden Rough, on the edge of Rombald’s Moor, and then across Silsden Moor to Draughton and beyond.
Use of the park and chase at Holden had probably been discontinued by the late 16th century.
Old Park, Carleton Park and Haw Park were more convenient for the Cliffords. They were close to the Crookrise Chase, a large expanse of open country extending north from the castle towards Rylstone and eastwards over Embsay Moor to the Wharfe Valley and the Clifford hunting lodge at Barden Tower.
Place names on Embsay Moor such as Deer Gallows, probably named after the spot where deer were once hung-up to be butchered, and Harts Hill – hart being the old word for a male or stag red deer – are reminders of the hunts that once took place there.
On the day of the hunt an animal would be released and pursued on horseback with hounds until killed or lost.
Butchering the kill was known as ‘the breaking’ and each part of the animal went to members of the hunt in accordance with their rank.
The haunches were reserved for the nobility, whilst the forequarters went to the parson and the parker or forester. The chyne – or back bone – went to the huntsman, and the innards, also known as the umbles, went to poor retainers and were the source of the saying to “eat umble, or humble, pie”.
Lady Anne Clifford’s grandson, Thomas Earl of Thanet, maintained Haw Park into the early 18th century.
In 1717 he sold 100 deer from the park but by this time the Clifford estate had become divided and there was no longer the land available for a long chase.
Today wild deer are wandering back into the Upper Aire Valley and there are frequent sightings of roe deer and occasional sightings of the more majestic red deer.