Masham Coat of Arms
Masham....meaning homestead or village of a man named Maessa. I've never seen a market square as big as the one in Masham (pronounced 'Massam') it is huge, even bigger than the one at Ripon. In this great square, surrounded by dignified shops, hotels and neat houses, you will find a Maypole and a very old cross. This Wensleydale old market town has an enviable village atmosphere and is a friendly place. During the C18th and C19th, Masham market held a special fair in September, up to 70,000 sheep and lambs would be changing hands, they were brought on foot from Swaledale, Wensleydale and Nidderdale. Every hotel, house and cottage with spare rooms would be filled. Gypsies would camp by the river Ure. Buyers came from miles around. Nowadays Masham has a more reposing air to it.
King' Head Hotel
Perhaps Masham is more famous today for its brewing industry. You will have no doubt heard of 'Old Peculier' made by Theakston's. This is a grand beer that owes its name to the Official of the Peculier of Masham, a Peculier being a parish exempt from the jurisdiction of the diocese in which it lies. It was thus allowed to have its own 'Peculier Court.' You don't have to drink much of the potent Old Peculiar before you're flat on your back! As well as Theakston's there is also The Black Sheep Brewery. Way back in the C17th if you swore, got drunk or didn't attend church - chances were you'd end up before Masham's Peculier Court, which dealt with religious misdemeanours.
The lovely old Church of St. Mary is mentioned in the Domesday Book and dates from the C7th. The church is characterised by some Norman work and octagonal bell-stage, plus a spire. The church suffered from Scottish raids and the tower was used for defence. Inside the plain surroundings are relieved by interesting monuments, including those of the Hancourt, Wyville, and Danby families. One of the gravestones in the churchyard reads: George Thornberry (local bell-ringer) 'Here lies an old ringer, beneath this cold clay, who hath rung many peals, both to serious and gay. Thro' grandsires and triples with ease he could range, till death call'd his bobb, and brought round his last change'.
Near Masham are the abbeys of Fountains and Jervaulx, and Swinton Castle.
Farmer, Auction and St Mary's Church
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