Masham & Its History

Located in Lower Wensleydale, Masham (pronounced Mass’em),is a great base from which to explore the rest of the Yorkshire Dales and Moors along with the towns and cities of Ripon, Harrogate, York, Thirsk, Leeds and Richmond. That said, there is plenty to keep the visitor occupied in the town itself. You’ll find a lively and friendly community, along with everything you’ll need right on the doorstep.

Masham today is a vibrant community and with much of its population living and working here, it feels very “real”.  As well as tourism and farming businesses, we have a number of successful manufacturing businesses – two breweries and two mills, with local, national and even international profiles.  The businesses create jobs for local people and this helps the small town of Masham to offer everything you’ll need!

We have two butchers, a bakery, a grocer and a green grocer, a delicatessen, a newsagent, a chemist and a market twice a week. There are galleries and gift shops, sweet shops, clothes shops, and a florist. You’ll find great food and drink – from cafes to traditional fish & chips, from pub grub to fine dining restaurants, from great coffee to unbeatable beers!

Mashamshire’s early history is a matter of conjecture but there are many clues.  There are earthworks at Ilton and on Gregory (Saxon for “watchtower”) Hill beside the churchyard.  There is a field called Standing Stones at Fearby and on Roomer Common there are traces of a Roman marching camp. In addition to these features there are lynchets – a form of early terracing to aid cultivation – on many of the hills in the area.

Masham – originally Maessa’s Ham – probably owed its foundation to the gentle, flood-proof rise on which it stands near an easily fordable part of the River Ure together with its proximity to the course of a Roman road and position on the main route from Wensleydale to York.

Masham Market Place Panorama by Bill TetlowThe present square with its beautiful Georgian houses was created in the 18th century.  The huge market place would originally have been surrounded by thatched cottages and was the site for annual Sheep Fairs with over 80,000 head being sold some years, including animals from the flocks of nearby Fountains and Jervaulx Abbeys.

Masham Market Day by Bill TetlowThe tradition continues on a smaller scale today: each September Masham Sheep Fair takes place attracting many rare breeds and visitors. A plaque by the medieval market cross commemorates the first market charter granted in 1250 followed by two more in 1328 and 1393. Today, Masham market is still going strong 762 years since the first charter – browse around Masham market on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the year.

St Marys Church in Spring by Gary Keat - Feature ImageSt. Mary’s church was originally founded, it is thought, in the seventh century and was mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It stood somewhere near the present Town Hall on what used to be known as Cockpit Hill. In 1988, human skeletal remains were discovered during the building of the new public toilets near this location and excavations yielded 58 burials. The original early Christian burial ground is thought to extend under many of the present surrounding buildings and was in use between 679 and 1011 AD. The skeletons have been given a Christian burial in a marked grave in the present Masham Churchyard. An explanatory leaflet and map is available from the Community Office.

The present church – while having some Saxon stone work and the stump of an eighth century prayer cross – is mainly Norman with fifteenth century additions. In the church are striking stained glass windows, paintings and two particularly fine memorials: to Marmaduke Wyvill in the North transept and to Abstropus Danby in the South. In the churchyard are buried the hymn writer William Jackson and the artists Julius Caesar Ibbotson and George Cuit. Many gravestones have poems on them.

Official Seal of Old Peculier - on Theakston's WallMasham was given to the Minster of York in the medieval period but, as the Archbishop did not wish to make the long journey north to oversee the town’s affairs, the parish was designated a Peculier. This meant it had its own ecclesiastical court and governed its own affairs. After the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII granted jurisdiction of this court to the masters and fellows of Trinity College Cambridge. College House, on College Lane was the former Peculier Court of the Prebend of Masham. One of the oldest areas of Masham, College Lane was once partly owned by Trinity College Cambridge. To this day, the Vicar cannot be ordered to attend the Archbishop but must be formally invited. The Peculier also lives on in the Four and Twenty – the Peculier Court which now functions mainly to aid charitable causes – and of course, in the famous Theakston Beer.

Theakstons Ales.  K HollandTheakston’s Brewery was originally founded in a hotel, The Black Bull, on Silver Street in 1827 and later expanded into the range of buildings in the area known as Paradise Fields which is their site today. Following a short period in the ownership of Scottish and Newcastle, heirs of the original founder, Robert Theakston, bought back the company in 2003 and it continues to produce some wonderful beer at its Masham site.

In 1992 Paul Theakston founded The Black Sheep Brewery and began brewing ales which in a short period of time have become some of the most popular beers produced by an Independent Brewery. Masham is now proud to have two great internationally recognisable breweries and some truly great beer!



Masham has two animal feed manufacturing mills – W.E Jameson & Sons and I’Anson Brothers. Together they employ over 100 local people.

country storeW.E. Jameson was established in 1930 and today is a leading supplier of feeds, seeds and fertilisers to farms throughout the north of England. In 2012 Jameson’s Country Store was opened, adding to the long list of things that you can buy in Masham.

You can now get country clothing, boots and shoes; equine and pet feeds, supplements and health products, DIY, household and kitchen essentials, riding equipment, pet accessories and workwear.


I'Anson WagonsI’Anson Brothers was established over 100 years ago as a supplier of animal feeds to local farmers. Today, it is a major business, run by the fourth generation of the I’Anson family, supplying specialist farm feeds to over 25 countries and employing more than 70 people.

The company’s use of cutting edge technology has been recognised by Microsoft ahead of the likes of BMW and Toyota;  it has also been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise – Innovation, for its products.

All businesses for Masham to be proud of!


Further information on the history of Mashamshire is available from the local history section of Masham Community Library, including the excellent book “Days of Yore” by Susan Cunliffe-Lister.  The Community Library can be found upstairs at the  Community Office.  The Community Office itself can provide information, leaflets and maps to help you explore the area.