Sedbergh lies in the top left hand corner, as we geographers say, of the West Riding. It is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and is on The Dales Way (see Places). However, it is now in the administrative area of Cumbria. (See Yorkshire is Yorkshire).

So we are a long way from Leeds and Sheffield here. From the south, go up the A65 through Skipton, Settle and Ingleton and at Kirkby Lonsdale turn right up the A683. Or one can come west from Hawes in Wensleydale. To the west of Sedbergh are the M6 motorway, Kendal, or Kirkby Kendal as it used to be, and the Lake District. To the south are Dent and Dentdale, to the east are Garsdale and the Settle-Carlisle railway and to the north is the waterfall Cautley Spout.

Four rivers meet at Sedbergh as do four dales. An old turnpike road ran from Kirkby Stephen to Kendal through Sedbergh. Towering above the town are the Howgill Fells, Yorkshire’s only slate mountains with summits like domes. At their highest point they rise to 2220 feet. To the west one can see the Irish Sea and the Lakeland fells, to the south are Whernside and Ingleborough.


Saxons, Vikings and Normans made their mark. Sedbergh is probably Viking for flat-topped hill. The town obtained market rights in 1150. Cobbled streets date back to when knitting and woollen making flourished. There are street names like Joss Lane, Finkle Street, Back Lane and Castlehaw Lane. At Castlehaw the Normans built a defensive castle to take on the Scots. The remains can be seen. St Andrew’s Church dates back to the Normans. There is a Quaker meeting house dating from 1675; George Fox preached here.

Sedbergh School is a well-known Yorkshire public school and is perhaps the town’s greatest claim to fame. (Others include Ampleforth and St Peter’s, York). It was founded by a Roger Lupton who was born in 1456 and obtained a law degree from King’s, Cambridge in 1483, the year Richard III, of Middleham Castle, became king of England. The school dates from 1525 and it became a grammar school in 1551.

Most pupils board. The school is arranged in Houses where they eat and sleep. The Houses are Evans, Hart, Lupton (of course), Powell, Robertson, School, Sedgwick and Winder. Each House has 55 members, two being girls’ Houses, each with their own flag, motto and colours. I’ve always liked the House system at schools; it fosters identity, loyalty and competition.

Kirkby Lonsdale

In the school cloisters, mirrored in other schools across the country, are the names of 249 Old Sedbergians and staff who died in the Great War and 192 who died in the Second World War. That awful sacrifice by two generations.

In the nineteenth century until she died in 1860, boys’ treats were catered for by Mother Dilworth’s tuck shop. She was very generous, at the expense of a decent profit, with her parkin, jumbles, cakes and toffee. These weren’t made in a sterile factory in Slough and delivered by a huge lorry which had thundered up the M6. The term ‘home-made’ hadn’t been invented because everything was.

The Howgill Fells

So that’s Sedbergh. Sedbergh in Yorkshire. A fish and chip shop there proudly calls itself White Rose Fisheries to emphasise where it is. Politicians and bureaucrats, damn them.