Historical Snippets of Shepley


Shepley (or Scipelei) is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. So we can be sure there had been some kind of settlement in the village before the Norman Conquest.

Indeed, the name Shepley, meaning a `clearing where sheep are kept', indicates that the village's first settlers were Anglo-Saxons.


In the 19th century Shepley was know as the “Richest village in England – a tailor’s paradise!” Shepley Higglers were tailors, with shops at the back of their houses, a team of 8-12 girls would cut the cloth to match the orders collected during the day and stitch the suits.

The newly opened railway of 1850 meant that Shepley ’Higglers’ could travel further in a day selling completed suits to customers through extended finance schemes. This meant that a finished suit costing a few shillings would actually cost a few pounds at the end of the finance period. No wonder Higglers houses in Shepley had substantial safes fitted inside internal walls!

The tailoring trade, starting when tailors could get cloth from the mills. In 1901 there were 16 tailors employing a team of 8 to 10 girls would stitch the suits behind the “Higglers” handsome house. The Higgler was a shrewd man, travelling to sell suits and cloth often on credit. He would see a customer, measure him up and supply the suit on an instalment plan. He would travel by train, with a pack on his back and a neat leather case of samples.


Shepley had a number of quarries, producing a very high quality stone called “Sovereign Blue” used in Buckingham Palace, Windsor castle and Westminster. The quarries used to have a traction engine with bogies for hauling stone, the law said that a man must walk in front of the traction engine waving a red flag.


There used to be a Shepley Feast taking place on trinity Sunday, when children used to walk around the village and sing hymns at various points. Children were then given their tea, buttered white teacake and potted meat.


Milk used to be delivered using a horse and float, and milk churns which he would use to measure out into the customer’s jug


During the reign of King George V, the King and Queen Mary were due to pass through the village by car, an enormous block of stone was quarried and positioned at the side of the road so the royal pair could see it.


Before the days of inside toilets Newspaper was cut into squares and threaded on a string and hung outside the privy (you can still see privies outside some older houses in the village) on Hall Syke.


Beating the Bounds was an old custom whereby people would walk the boundaries of the village, Shepley Cricket Club organised such a walk. You can see the cricket club which was founded in 1871.


Shepley Co-op used to give out “divi”, three shillings in the pound. People used to race to get their divi, often called the “Shepley Races”.



Seth Senior founded the Sovereign Brewery in 1829. It is said that Seth borrowed one sovereign, a gold coin worth £1, to buy his first ingredients to begin brewing and so called his beers Sovereign Ales.


Cliffe House was built for James Senior, Seth’s son and his family in 1889. James was a very rich man and needed a house, which would show people just how wealthy he was.

Toll Bar Cottage appears on the left just after the main gates of Cliff House. The cottage marked the place where gates once stood across the Barnsley and Shepley Lane Head Turnpike which was built by Blind Jack of Knaresborough in 1825 following an Act of Parliament passed two years earlier.



Legend has it that a golden cradle also lies buried in the Round Wood above the quarry at the Sovereign.