A look at the history of Crackpot Hall, Swaledale, with Dr Emma Wells

in Crackpot, North Yorkshire

Surrounded by breath-taking natural beauty, Crackpot Hall is a tumbledown 18th-century farmhouse (though likely houses 16th-century origins) set amidst the rugged terrain of the Yorkshire Dales. Located specifically near the village of Keld in Swaledale, it is shrouded in folklore and mystery.

The hall’s architecture, with its sturdy stone façade and traditional Yorkshire vernacular design, reflects the resilience of its inhabitants against the harsh elements of the embracing landscape. The name, “Crackpot” adds to its allure, as though its origins remain uncertain, it likely derives from the Old Norse word “Pot” meaning deep hole and the word “Crack” with Olde English origins and which translates to crow—also the name of a nearby cave.

The property is thought to have once been the home of the Duke of Wharton’s deer keeper, then later turned into a farmhouse which was forced into abandonment in 1953, owing to subsidence caused by nearby lead-mining at Beldi. Those visiting today will still be greeted by a fireside iron range and a rusty tin bath plonked on the stone floor before the fire.

Stories of hidden passages and ghostly apparitions add an air of mystery to the already enchanting atmosphere. One local myth surrounding the house involved a four-year-old child named Alice, who was “discovered” by authors Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartley roaming “wild” and barefoot with her dogs in the countryside near Crackpot in the 1930s. The travel writers declared her language an unknown dialect and sparked national speculation. However, Alice Eleanor Harker was later discovered to be a local farmer’s daughter, and lived her later years in Carlisle. Listen to the BBC coverage here.

Today, Crackpot forms part of the Gunnerside Estate, but continues to beckon adventurers setting forth from Upper Swaledale.

Books by Dr Emma Wells

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3 thoughts on “A look at the history of Crackpot Hall, Swaledale, with Dr Emma Wells”

  1. I had relatives who lived at Crackpot Hall, the name was Garth. There was a Sarah/Susan Garth who went to the Slade School of Art, I think in 17th or 18th century.
    When my mother was alive we went to Crackpot Hall and spoke to a lady who lived up there and she told us a little.
    My grandfather also lived with relatives in Reeth when he was a boy.

  2. My grandmother was born in crackpot Hall.
    Her name was Mary Harker they later moved to birh Hill View in Keld.


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