Bedale is known as the Gateway to the Dales, and with good reason, as it lies at the foot of Wensleydale. It is easily accessible as it is only a mile or so from the A1, and it is midway between Northallerton, the county town of North Yorkshire, and Leyburn in the Yorkshire Dales. It holds a regular Tuesday market and the Market Place (Henry III granted the town its market charter in 1251) is full of interesting shops and buildings. There’s also lots to see and do in the town and nearby.
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Bedale developed as the centre point of trade routes from Ripon, Wensley and Northallerton. When Northallerton was on the Great North Road (the Roman Dere Street) it was of prime importance for livestock sales and drovers would bring their sheep down from the Dales, through Bedale, and on to Northallerton. Later it assumed importance as a coaching stage before the coming of the railways.
Bedale lost its railway in the 1960s under the "Beeching cuts", but recently regained it when the Wensleydale Railway line was reopened, linking Bedale to Leeming Bar and Leyburn.
Bedale started to prosper in the latter half of the 18th century and some of the newly generated wealth was spent on replacing existing buildings with brick-built dwellings. Much of Bedale’s current stock of buildings is Georgian as a walk down the long Market Place reveals. The Market Place is an exceptionally broad and sweeping cobbled street and is the centrepiece of the town.
The 14th century tower of the Church of St Gregory holds a commanding position overlooking the town. One of its eight bells was taken from the ruins of nearby Jervaulx Abbey. It is believed that this is one of the oldest bells in the country still in regular use. St Gregory’s is built in Gothic style of architecture.
There used to be a castle at Bedale, to the south-west of the Church, built by Brian Fitzalan, Lord of Bedale, around 1300, but this fell into gross disrepair and what few remains there are have been completely overgrown.
Bedale Hall, standing in parkland at the north end of the Market Place, is a splendid building built early in the 18th century and extended and improved towards the end of the century by John Carr. It is host to Bedale Museum with a fine collection of local artefacts including farming and dairy equipment, tools, household appliances, memorabilia from the two world wars, and a wooden, hand-drawn fire engine which dates back to 1748. The Hall had its own Ice House - built in the 18th century and used for storing ice before the days of refrigerators. The Ice House still stands in the grounds of Bedale Hall.
Bedale has several other interesting properties in or near the town - where else in this country would you find a Leech House, a place used by the local apothecary for storing the ‘tools of his trade’, so to speak? The answer is ‘nowhere’ as the Bedale Leech House is the only surviving one of its kind. It dates back to the 18th century and is now a Grade 2 listed building.
In addition to Bedale tourist information, check the Hello Yorkshire blog.
St Gregory's Church