A look at the history of Nappa Hall, Askrigg, with Dr Emma Wells

in Nappa, North Yorkshire

Though it has been deemed by Historic England as ‘the finest and least-spoilt’ medieval fortified manor house in the north, architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner had another perception of Nappa Hall. He claimed it was ‘a pity only that hardly anything original survives inside’, yet the Hall still sits rather inconspicuously amongst the undulation of the Wensleydale topography, just 1-mile east of Askrigg, and commanding pastures winding down to the River Ure.

Documentary evidence for the property records that it was constructed for the notorious Metcalfe family in c.1461-5, with James Metcalfe, a veteran of Agincourt, the man behind its initial erection, the remains of which survive in the present service range. The rest is largely attributed to the 1470s and belongs to the era of James’s son, Thomas. The medieval fabric comprises a limestone rubble construction with stone slate roofs and gritstone surrounds. There is a four-storey embattled tower, a single-storey hall range and a three-storey low-end embattled tower then a service range which extends southwards from the lower tower. In fact, the hall was described by John Leland in the 16th century as a ‘very goodly House’, with ornamental gardens, terraces, and fishponds stretching south of the Hall down to the banks of the river (all now gone). There is even suggestion that King James I/VI once visited to hunt in Roedale Forest above Seemerwater.

The Metcalfe ‘clan’, as they were eventually branded, became leading authorities in the area, playing a key role in thwarting Scottish invasions of northern England and securing a prime status among the nobility by taking on various administrative positions. Nappa Hall acted as their family seat until 1756 when their fortunes began to wane. After Thomas (‘Justice’) Metcalfe’s death, the Weddells (Richard Weddell was of Newby Hall) took over the Hall, followed by the Winn family, one member of whom, John Winn, became Vicar of nearby Aysgarth. It appears, however, that this later period (18th and 19th century) saw the Hall occupied by tenant farmers and acting as a hunting lodge which therefore led to a stable and coach house range being added. This work was likely executed by William Belwood, an architect and surveyor from York, who was commissioned by William Weddell to initially adapt the Hall for use as a lodge.

Today, Nappa Hall is in private ownership and in need of renovation, though a public footpath runs directly adjacent and allows great views of the property.

Books by Dr Emma Wells

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