Lying along a natural break in the long length of the Pennines called the Aire gap the villages of Steeton and Eastburn, have had a strategic location on the ancient east-west route. The fells and moors that overlook our location in Airedale are scattered with the remains of early man in the form of flint tools. The first ‘fixed’ artefacts are the ‘cup and ring’ stones on the expanse of Rombolds Moor from the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. There are Neolithic burial cairns at nearby Bradley Moor. An axe head from this early period was found at nearby Silsden.
Prior to the arrival of the Romans in AD 43. The local tribes had coalesced with others to form the Celtic Briganties. Who ruled most of the north of what we now call England, from defendable locations such as Castle hill at Huddersfield. They spoke an old form of Welsh. They gave the name to the River Aire (strong river) and the wider landscape. Craven is an accent Welsh name for the sounding area.
There is no evidence of Roman settlement in Steeton or Eastburn but nearby at Ilkley and Elslack there were small military outposts. There was a Roman type villa at Gargrave. The Romans also took advantage of the Aire gap route. They built a road from Elslack to link up with another from Ilkley to Manchester. The route still exists to day as Hollins Lane, entering the village of Steeton from the east. Along High Street, Chapel Lane along the present route of Skipton Road through Eastburn to strike out through Crosshills, along Lothersdale Road.
Around our villages there have been finds of the Roman period. Including a horde of coins from the earliest period of the Roman advance northwards in to Brigantia.
When the grip of Rome loosened after 410 AD. The area was part of the Celtic sub-Kingdom of Craven. There are no records to indicate the fate of this period of post Roman Celtic rule. The Angles from northern Germany were the dominant peoples in the locality by the 5th century.
Steeton can trace its origin to the Angles. The name is thought to derive from the township’s first English possessor, Stephen, hence ‘Stiverton’ or ‘Styveton’ – literally “Stephen’s town“. Another possible derivation of Steeton is from the Old English elements: stylic, a stump, and tun, a farmstead – hence a farmstead built of, or amongst, tree stumps
Christianity came to the locality after 600AD by Celtic missionaries from what is now Scotland. They also took advantage of the Aire Gap and possibly the route of the present day A65 to set up the earliest settlement at Kildwick. This was also where the River Aire could be crossed safely.
In 1901 when alterations where being made to the Church of Saint Andrew at Kildwick portions of a Anglo-Nordic Christian cross circa 950 AD where found. The village of Steeton at this time was probably along the side of Steeton Beck near the present Old Steeton Hall.
In the late 800’s AD raiders and later settlers from Scandinavia where all along the Aire Valley. The big influx of Nordic Settlers came after the battle of Contra in 1014. The Vikings lost and where expelled from Dublin. They settled in several parts of the north of England. Some brining their Irish families with them. Nearby Connonley is named after such an Irish settler called Conner.
The Norse settlers gave the names to many of the local natural features, that we still use to day. They lived alongside the local English, at first in their own small farms and settlements.
When the Domesday book was commissioned in 1068 shortly after the Norman conquest. Its records Steeton and Eastburn as belonging to the Anglian Lord (thane), ‘Gamelbar’ of Spofford. He may have been of Norse ancestory.
Gamelbar was an active participant in the attempt to defeat the Normans in 1068-9, but he was forced to submit to William the Conqueror. All of his estates were confiscated and it is probable that his life paid forfeit for his patriotism. William the Conqueror gave Steeton, along much of the land in Craven, to Gilbert Tyson (or Tison), who had been William’s standard-bearer at the Battle of Hastings. By 1118 Tyson had suffered a demotion and all his lands where given to Lord Percy.
Under-lords of the Percys from the 12th century were the De Stiveton’s, perhaps the most famous member of this family being Robert de Stiveton, who accompanied King Richard I on two Crusades to the Holy Land. He died in 1307 and his recumbent statue is still to be seen in Kildwick Church.
From the 15th century the Plumpton family were the under-lords following the De Stivertons.
Between 1600 and 1613 much of the land of Steeton, including Steeton Hall, was sold to William Garforth, by the heirs of the Plumptons. The Garforth family had lived in Steeton Hall for many generations from 1470 to 1811, originally as principal tenants and then as owners.
The only stone bridge over the River Aire in the locality was built in 1305 on the site of the present bridge at Kildwick.
During the English Civil War Skipton castle was the only Royalist stronghold in the north of England until December 1645. The route through our villages played a part in the castles surrender to the Parliamentary forces. After being under siege for three years a raiding party managed to escape and they went to Keighley in search of supplies. They succeeded in getting drunk and the parliamentary forces stationed just outside Keighley followed them. As the Royalists took what was then the main road along pot lane and Lyon Road through Eastburn. The parliamentary detachment took the old Roman road directly to Kildwick bridge arriving about the same time. There was a short engagement, which resulted in the end of the raid and the surrender of Skipton Castle.