Herbert Banks of Fleensop

We are well on with writing the texts for the exhibition panels for our Dales Countryside Museum show in September now. We’ve reached the period of the First World War and it’s been fascinating following up some more of the research that Val Slater and Geoffrey Keeble of the Middleham & Dales Local History Group have been doing. One character they sent me information about was Herbert Banks whose family lived and worked for the Listers at Fleensop, a remote farm in Coverdale.

Herbert Banks during the First World war. Courtesy of Carolyn Ormston

Val Slater shared the following biography of Herbert Banks with us:

“Herbert was born at Fleensop near Gammersgill on 6 June 1896, the youngest child of Hammond Banks and his wife Elizabeth nee Mawer.

A year after Herbert’s birth his parents were presented with a teapot with the following inscription – “ Mr and Mrs Banks from S Lister, IN RECOGNITION OF 14 YEARS OF FAITHFUL SERVICE AT FLEENSOP Dec 10th 1897.” The working relationship between the Lister and Banks families would flourish for many years, with Herbert’s brother Ned also a member of the Fleensop team.

The 1901 Census recorded Herbert living at Fleensop with his parents and older siblings. He attended Horsehouse school. In 1911 he was living at Swinton near Masham in the household of a farmer, George Atkinson. Herbert gave his occupation as “ any kind of farm work” – suggesting he was a versatile worker.

As the war progressed Herbert was called up to serve. He enlisted in the Northumberland Fusiliers but due to a heart problem was not considered fit enough for overseas service. He was sent to the Sunderland area and spent many nights on look out duty – a task he did not enjoy!

Fortunately, it was decided to use Herbert’s farming skills in support of the war effort. He gladly transferred to East Butterwick in North Lincolnshire to help on the farm of George Sayles Brunyee. The interesting variety of farm work was not the only attraction for Herbert as Mr Brunyee had a charming daughter, Gladys. The young couple were soon courting and although Herbert returned to Yorkshire after the war, he and Gladys married in Lincolnshire in 1922.

Back in Coverdale Mr William John Lister was developing a farming enterprise on the Fleensop site which also had a stone quarry. Herbert was employed as the foreman organising twenty men to build a private tarmac road from Gammersgill to Fleensop. It was a job he enjoyed as his granddaughter reports he was quite bossy and had a loud voice!

Herbert became the farm manager as Mr Lister set about installing his model farm which had a miniature railway to carry goods to and from the site. A round milking parlour was built – a new innovation for the day. Herbert travelled with Mr Lister in his Rolls Royce to research facilities such as Cockle Park near Newcastle and Aberystwyth investigating developments in drainage, grass drying plants and the latest seed varieties.”

View of Fleensop. Attribution: Malcolm Street / Fleensop / CC BY-SA 2.0
View of Fleensop. Attribution: Malcolm Street / Fleensop / CC BY-SA 2.0

Herbert’s granddaughter Carolyn Ormston nee Banks updated the story for us as follows:

“My Granddad failed his Army medical, ‘dicki ticker’, Granddad said, he did guard duty at night on the coast, like Sunderland, and was asked if he would like to go and work on a farm and went to Hardwick Grange in Lincolnsire, for the Brunyees. He met my Grandma there, and they married in 1922, and then Granddad’s profession was given as road foreman at Fleensop, Coverdale. He told me that he was in charge of 22 men making the road up to Fleensop. I think he must have stayed at Hardwick Grange after the war, but do not know, only that he did not marry Gladys Brunyee until 4 years after the end of the war.”

She also told us that she thinks that milk from Fleensop went to Coverham Dairy and that “My little Grandma had to make lots of cheeses at Fleensop!” She also told us that, “…we visited Beamish with my Grandma’s nephew, Digby Wall, and he said the tiled green pantry-come-dairy was like the cheese store at Fleensop, he stayed there a lot as a young man.”

We really hope to catch up with Carolyn before the end of the project to see if we can add more fascinating details to the story.

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