Weston is a village and civil parish in the Harrogate district of North Yorkshire, England. It is 1.2 miles (2 km) north west of Otley and near to the River Wharfe which forms the boundary between North and West Yorkshire in the area. The name is from Old English and means western enclosure, farmstead or village.
The village of Weston should not be confused with the nearby Weston Estate, a housing estate between Newall and Weston within Otley and West Yorkshire.
Weston Hall is the Manor estate located south east of the village and adjoining the north bank of the River Wharfe.
The church in the village is recorded in the Domesday book, although their is evidence of Christian worship before this time (most notably that of a 9th century cross that was found in the graveyard). The church is mostly Norman with some 17th and 19th century additions and was Grade I listed in 1966. The church bells were stolen in March 1990 and when they were eventually retrieved, expert analysis revealed them to be amongst the oldest bells in Britain, with one dating from at least the year 1200. Heritage Lottery Funding was successfully applied for and after careful restoration, the bells were re-hung in the church in October 2016.
Weston village is north west of Otley and north of east of Burley-in-Wharfedale, being separated from both by the River Wharfe. Access to the village is on unclassfield roads from Otley and the north, with no direct access across the river to Burley-in-Wharfedale. Drivers have to either go the short distance to Otley and turn west as the next bridge upstream is at Ilkley some 5.6 miles (9 km) further upstream. The Six Dales Trail edges along the woods at the north western end of the village. The trail is 38 miles (61 km) long and runs between Otley and Middleham in North Yorkshire.
Farming has been the main occupation of the inhabitants of Weston for many centuries and the appealing rural nature of the area has been noted as part of the Nidderdale Area of Outsanding Natural Beauty, which was signified in 1994.
Land at the eastern end of the village (known as Gallows Hill) which adjoins the Weston housing estate, was used during the Second World War and beyond until 1948 to house German Prisoners of War. Most of the site was destroyed to make way for the new housing estate.
Before the Domesday book was collated, the area was originally part of Otley Manor, but was then separated off north of the river. After Domesday, the estate was granted to Berenger de Tosny. According to the national archives, the archived documents for Weston "relate chiefly to the Yorkshire estates of the Vavasours of Weston from whom they have descended to the present owner. The property was built-up by Sir Brian de Lisle (latinized as de Insula), who died in 1234, and by his nephew Sir Robert de Stopham (died before 1275). The Stophams seem to have originated in Sussex and Dorset and the Yorkshire branch to have been established by the Lisle inheritance." "Sir Robert de Stopham's daughter Maud married John le Vavasour of Denton, to whose descendents the property passed on the failure of the Stopham line in the middle of the fourteenth century. It then comprised the manors of Weston and Newton (in the parish of Nidd) and other lands at Burley-in-Wharfedale and Baildon. The last of the Baildon property appears to have been sold c.1700 and that at Newton in 1795."
In 1833, William Vavasour died and the estate passed onto his nephew (William Elmsall Carter) who was an attorney from Lincoln. Carter died the following year in 1834 and his daughter (Emma Carter) inherited the estate. Emma Carter married Christopher Holdsworth Dawson, whose grandfather was one of the founders of the Low Moor Ironworks. Through this marriage, the estate passed down through the Vavasour Dawson line to Herbrand Vavasour Dawson.
Herbrand Vavasour Dawson, who was better known locally as Colonel Dawson, was the owner of Weston Hall since the 1960s.Born in London, Lt Col Dawson’s family also had a long military tradition, and his father, Jack Vavasour Dawson, was a major in the 13th Hussars. He was educated at Sandhurst and Winchester and, while an infantry officer, became known as a skilled horseman. After escaping from Dunkirk in 1940, he served with the 1st Liverpool Scottish and then joined, in 1943, the 5th Camerons in North Africa. He went on to fight with them in Sicily and then in the final push into Germany in 1945.
He held staff appointments after the war, and in 1954 captained the 1st Camerons ski team to victory in the Army Championships. He was also appointed to HQ Scottish Command, during which period he was an assistant producer of the Edinburgh Tattoo. When he moved to Weston Hall, he managed an estate of more than 2,000 acres, farming dairy cows and sheep. In addition there was an 800-acre grouse moor. He died in December 2011 at Weston Hall, at the age of 93. The house is still privately owned by his heirs.
When Colonel Vavasour Dawson died, the Wharfedale Observer said; "A Dunkirk survivor who escaped France on the last hospital ship during the evacuation, he served with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders during the war and retired from the army in 1968. He inherited the ancient family seat of Weston – an estate of more than 2,000 acres with an 800-acre grouse moor– shortly afterwards, upon the death of his uncle, Captain William Dawson, and soon became very involved with the local community."
He went on to become a governor of Askwith Primary School and a president of Otley Show and Wharfedale Agricultural Society, and was a member of North Yorkshire County Council – and its chairman from 1989 to 1990 – for 20 years. He also chaired the National Parks Committee Association of County Councils, and in his spare time enjoyed skiing and shooting. Lt Col Dawson was married to Grizelda, the daughter of Major G M Richmond of the Black Watch Regiment, who died in 2001. He is survived by his children, Christopher and Catherine, and five grandchildren."
The main house is made up of many grand rooms, one of which is called the dragon room due to the plaster sculpting in the ceiling. There is a second building, mainly used by the men of the estate for playing snooker and telling tales. There is also a small church on the property, built in the 1200s and holding many old records.