Travel Through Time

In times when roads were neither well made nor well maintained and wheeled vehicles found it almost impossible to make progress, it was much more practical to carry heavy loads in baskets or panniers strapped over the backs of horses. The following article, by Chris Taylor, is still not in final form, but nevertheless provides some interesting details about local travel in the days before modern roads.


Upated January,2014: Pictures to follow


Many early paths and roads used or followed the old Roman roads and the Pannier men’s Ways and some early roads otherwise known as ‘TRODS’ date back to Medieval times .There was a reference to them locally in 12th. Century documents, in 1325 there was mention of a “King’s Carter” in Pickering, one William London who had a Cart and 6 Horses and was paid Four and a Half Pence per day which included an Assistant’s wages.

In general when goods needed to be transported where at all possible the River systems were used as it was a considerably cheaper method. It was reported in 1365 that to transport lead using mainly the river system for approximately 16 leagues the cost was £2 14s but by just using land the cost was nearer £7 4s

Pannierways were extensive in this area particularly on the North Yorkshire Moors and were usually constructed (sometimes on raised banks of earth) using flat stones quarried locally… They frequently connected religious foundations like Rievaulx and were also used to carry goods between important centres like Whitby & Rievaulx, or Rievaulx and the Salt Pans around the Tees, and also along routes linking their various granges and lands

It is interesting to note that as recently as 2012 a ‘Trod’ was discovered in the nearby town of Guisborough when some amateur archaeologists who were looking for the ancient remains of a medieval Leper Hospital came across a very well constructed route which ran North/ South, and in all probability would have linked Rievaulx Abbey with land beside the River Tees where the Abbey held rights for fisheries and salt pans., both being of very high value in the 1170’s.

Additional discoveries have revealed that in later years it was also used to carry coal, iron ore and jet from the Roseberry area by large Pannier trains
(Picture of Kirby Trod)
One of the locally best preserved Trods is up Kirby Bank leading into Bilsdale and beyond to places south of Kirby, and at many places on the Moors there were stone markers showing the direction to Stokesley, with one still standing to this day near Hutton le Hole. Some of these were engraved with the name Stoxla although this spelling of Stokesley may be have been due to the illiteracy of the stonemason doing the carving.

It is interesting to note that in 1170 a “Ryedale Charter” was issued outlining an agreement between a number of religious houses to build bridges and build and maintain Trods and early roads in the Ryedale area.

Many Trods and early roads have eventually developed into today’s roads as evidenced for instance on the Stokesley to Hutton Rudby road where even today one can see a few of the original stone slabs of the Trod just beside the tarmacadam surface of the present day road.


(Possible Aerial Photo of Birkbrow Path Whitby to Guisbrough then on to Stokesley)

As Stokesley was an important town with its regular market dating back to 1223 when it was first granted its Charter and Fairs it certainly had a number of Pannier ways and early roads leading into it but we are slightly uncertain of all the exact routes taken by Pannier men into Stokesley.

We do know that one of the routes they must have taken came down Kirby Bank Trod then made its way by a route which led down to the River Leven, along by the river and over one of the fords - either the one near to the present Packhorse Bridge or the one near the present day Stokesley Motors - and of course when it was built the route would have come over the Packhorse Bridge.

There was also an alternative route which was probably from the Whitby area and would have been via the Pannier way down Birk Brow (See aerial Photograph above)
Another possible route may have been via Carlton in Cleveland as there is a metal ring in a wall beside a farm at which it is rumoured the Pannier men tethered their Pannier Train whilst they had a break in their journey.

There must also have also been a Pannier way from Stokesley to Yarm (which in medieval times was an important Port). and on to Stockton. It is likely that it started from what is now North Road and went down to Neasham Farm, then turned left over to Seamer and on to Yarm and Stockton.

It is interesting to note that the A172 road going northwards from Stokesley is to this day known as “Pannierman’s Lane”.

Pannier men’s ways were still in use in the early 1700’s but had largely died out by the end of the 1800’s.due to the advent of the railways.


(Picture of Packhorse Bridge)

On an important route into Stokesley Town for the packhorse trains, it may have replaced an even earlier Wooden Bridge and it is interesting to note how it is raised up well above the level of the River Leven presumably to avoid flooding which must have been quite extensive in the past, and there is a raised causeway leading from the bridge around Bethel Chapel which is still visible to this day.

The sides of the bridge appear to be slightly higher than they were originally, when they were lower in order to accommodate the panniers slung either side of the ponies.

It is well documented that in 1632 the inhabitants of Stokesley were fined for allowing the early roads in the area used by wheeled traffic to fall into a state of disrepair to such an extent that it was easier for people and goods to be brought in via the Pannier ways and over the Packhorse Bridge..


Ponies and horses were used and the horses were either Galloways or Cleveland Bay horses both of which were known locally as a Jaggers. They were strong and had plenty of stamina and those under 4’ 10’’ were particularly suited to negotiating the local steep paths. Cleveland Bays were actually bred at Rievaulx Abbey which held a licence to breed non-military horses.

Packhorse trains could consist of up to 40 horses although normally there were 12-14 horses with the lead horse being called a “Bell Horse” as it had a collar bearing seven bells which warned people of the approach of the Packhorse train, and after the train had stopped for a rest the lead horse would automatically push its way to the front to lead the train.

Sometimes people travelled on foot although this was a very slow method as a horse could cover 40 to 50 miles per day. Many people very rarely left their own village or town.

Carts and coaches were also used although the latter were only used by royalty and noblemen and must have been incredibly uncomfortable to ride in. Sleds were also used and sometimes these were fitted with 2 wheels placed near the back, when they became known as “Wains”


Due to the fact that Pannier trains carried quite heavy loads, strong men were required to load and unload the Panniers .Some locals referred to the Pannier men as Chapmen

The Pannier men lived off hung beef, fat bacon and thick oat cakes which were fried in the fat from the bacon. The Panniermen also drank two quarts of Ale a day ! They generally wore knee breaches with calf skin waistcoats and they carried large sticks. When en route they stayed overnight in Wayside Inns.

It was recorded that in 1820 there were 5 Carriers in Stokesley although we can’t be certain how many were Pannier men and how many were Carters. We do know however where they started from and their destinations-

Thomas Johnson went from the Three Tuns every Wednesday and Saturday to Guisborough and Whitby.
John Snowball went from the Black Bull every Saturday to Northallerton.
Francis Peacock and John Middleton travelled from their residences every Monday. Wednesday and Friday to Stockton
A Francis Peacock went from his residence each Wednesday and Sunday nights to Thirsk
And an Aaron Reed called at the Three Tuns every Saturday to deliver to Yarm.


Glass from Rosedale

Textiles, cottons and linens from local mills (and in 1823 flax mills) in Stokesley and Hutton Rudby were sending Linen to Newcastle upon Tyne market via a Packhorse train comprising up to 40 Mules based in Hutton Rudby.

Timber from Pickering Forest for house building

Salt and fish from Scarborough and Whitby and the Tees estuary

Alum from local mines to be used by curriers in Stokesley and tanners in Great Ayton.

Goods of all sorts to the many local markets.

Coal and ironstone which was carried in specially adapted Panniers called Hottefs which had hinged bottoms so that the coal and stone could be unloaded by merely undoing the bottom of the pannier. (We do know that coal was being transported from Durham via the Stokesley area up into Bilsdale and being ultimately delivered to recently as 1868).


Packhorse trains were on occasions used to carry smuggled contraband goods on the Pannier ways and it is rumoured that some packhorse trains could carry contraband from Marske near Saltburn all the way to Stokesley unaccompanied by Pannier men so that if stopped by Excise Men there was no one to punish !

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