Saturday 18 August 2012 turned out to be one of the more memorable days in an English summer that will not be fondly remembered for it’s weather.
Accompanying cousin Sue and her husband Hugh, I visited The Hermitage at Armitage Bridge in the parish of Almondbury. The Hermitage is home to Mark and Clare Oldfield who fell in love with the property at first sight and bought it some 9 years ago. As they became increasingly interested in the history of their home, they came across The Armitage Family website through which they made contact with Sue and kindly invited her and family to visit them.
Mark and Clare made us most welcome and enthusiastically showed us around the house and gardens of The Hermitage and then took us on a tour of Armitage Bridge.
The Hermitage was built around 1750 and is the oldest property in Armitage Bridge even predating the local church of St Pauls which was originally built in 1848 and rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1987.
Locals have told the Oldfields that as recently as the early 1950’s a disused half-timbered medieval style house/barn stood in the grounds of The Hermitage. Whether this was the original Hermitage is unknown but half timbered houses were built from the 13th century onwards.
There are two bridges in Armitage Bridge, one of which would originally have been Ermitage’s Bridge, so named because it would have been known as a place where a hermit lived or as a resting place on one of the many Almondbury trade routes. The main bridge over the river Holme is close to the church and the smaller bridge over Dean Brook (Tolson Dye House Bridge) is close to The Hermitage. It is not known after which of these the village of Armitage Bridge is named.
George Redmonds, a local historian, in his paper on the origin of the name Armitage speculates that all Armitages owe their surname to the same place-name. He writes that the present bridge in the village of Armitage Bridge is first mentioned in 1817 but the settlement known as ARMITAGE dates back at least 750 years. The present village is situated on the spot where, over 750 years ago, land was granted to the Knights Templar and a deed drawn up between 1236 and 1258 refers to “ a certain messuage with garden and building erected thereupon with appurtenances which was called the hermitage with 10 acres of land”. Certainly the locality, Redmonds writes, gave rise to a family name before very long for a reference of 1258 in the deeds of a priory at Pontefract mentions Richard de Hermitagio living in Almondbury parish.
Mark and Clare showed us a large and ancient stone sited in their garden which is believed to mark the spot where an earlier building once stood. Could this have been the messuage referred to in the deed mentioned by George Redmonds and did Sue, Hugh and I stand on the very spot where the first Armitage stood almost 800 years before us?
Mark and Clare recently acquired The Golden Cock, a very well known pub with restaurant in nearby Farnley Tyas, which has now reopened following extensive refurbishment. Should this article encourage you to tread where many Armitages have trodden before, a warm welcome and excellent food awaits there.