Brompton celebrates high-flying achievement of most famous son

A view of Brompton village.
A view of Brompton village.
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Unquestionably the jewel in Brompton’s crown is its most famous resident, Sir George Cayley, (1773-1857), the first person to understand and put into practice the underlying principles of flight.

Although Sir George was its most memorable family member, the Cayleys have lived in Brompton since the 16th century. Indeed, the village is steeped in history.

The old butchers shop in Brompton owned by the Glaves family.

The old butchers shop in Brompton owned by the Glaves family.

Brompton celebrated Cayley’s achievements 150 years after his craft first flew when Sir Richard Branson, dressed in 19th century costume, was launched in a replica of Cayley’s machine. So it was that in July 2003 Branson managed 153 metres before landing on the other side of Brompton Dale. It was a magnificent occasion, transmitted worldwide.

If you want to feel the vibes associated with one of the country’s greatest engineers and inventors, you can ask at Brompton Hall School (owned by the Cayley family until the early 1900s) for the key to Sir George’s workshop, basically a stone garden shed with a modest display to the great man. Of course, if it was Brompton, USA, the village would be raking in the revenue from The Sir George Cayley Museum Experience.

What a shame then that no one is allowed today to visit that same dale where successful flight first occurred due to private ownership. A shame too that the Cayley Arms, owned by the Cayley family before its 1898 rebuild, is no longer functioning. What a shrine it could be to the great man. Talk about turning your back on history!

To some extent, the flourishing Forge Tea Rooms has also filled the gap left by the pub’s demise. Great food, locally-owned and well-patronised, the only grumble would be with the out-of-date website often used by outside visitors.

The refurbished village hall.

The refurbished village hall.

However, most of all the loss of the Cayley Arms has been the Village Hall’s gain. In 2009 every villager in Brompton was canvassed on whether the Hall – then in decline – should be revived by a community effort. (The Hall was given to the village by – yes, you guessed it – the Cayley family). To Brompton’s credit, a comfortable majority said they were prepared to take part in a campaign to restore the building.

In the first 10 years of this century Brompton’s population grew by some 10 per cent according to the official census, but no one seemed able to account for how and where this had occurred. The character of Brompton has certainly changed from consisting principally of local born people spread across all age groups to a more senior demographic including many incomers.

Chris Evans, who has lived in the village for over 50 years, has seen houses grow larger and more expensive. It is a not uncommon in the Scarborough area that younger people move away to find work and more affordable property, he says, but it’s even more the case in Brompton. Chris is secretary to the Brompton Local History Society, with an impressive digital archive of Brompton pictures past and present. He’s also done genealogical research for locals.

Losing the younger generation could result in social stasis whereby everyone stayed in watching TV or journeyed into Scarborough or York for entertainment or social activity. But that is most definitely not the case. A very active Village Hall Committee ensures a lively agenda, including monthly village lunches.

Brompton village primary school.

Brompton village primary school.

Diane Ford takes responsibility for the twice yearly newsletter, a manifest of information printed on quality paper. Containing obituaries, memories, accounts of village events, a village quiz and top notch pictures, this is a newsletter that grabs your attention, rather than one that thuds on the doormat and consigned to the recycling bin

Bob Muir, as the resident quizmaster, brings his musical skills to the fore when they are in demand. The village has a number of resident writers so it is no wonder that spoken word/poetry evenings take place at the village hall. Not just villagers but outsiders come from miles around to attend David Mudd’s domino drives (monthly between September and March).

There used to be a thriving Post Office-cum-Co-op in Brompton, but it has now been replaced by a micro-pub which probably is not quite so dependent upon local trade.

The great commercial success story in the village has to be Glaves the Butcher. Locally-sourced and very much at one with the community it serves, (offering employment to no fewer than 15 locals) they now supply meat at outlets within a 100-mile radius. Indeed, James is said to be searching for the perfect pork pie. Just three years ago, Tom Parker-Bowles, a Daily Mail reporter, came from London simply to test Glaves’ pork pie, having heard of its reputation.

All Saints' Church, Brompton.

All Saints' Church, Brompton.

“Five hundred miles for one pork pie” he said at the time “but I’d travel twice the distance for just one bite”. I think he liked it a lot. Just over three years ago Glaves had to rebuild after a devastating fire. Not dwelling on a huge setback, the owners rolled up their sleeves and set about rebuilding a bigger and better premises and so it proved to be.

The Brompton Village Trail is a fabulous achievement: a walk of two-and-a-half miles with fascinating information about the village and its environs providing regular stopping points. So popular has this venture become that Scarborough schools have been known to bus their pupils to the village in order to explore the trail as part of their learning. The walk is chronicled in a super publication which is sold in aid of the village hall. Author Vivian Bairstow hails from Surrey but has a cottage in the area and is now working on his third book about Brompton.

There are two schools in Brompton: the Primary School, which shares its head – Helen Isaacs – with Wykeham and has obtained good OFSTED ratings; and Brompton Hall School, which was sold by the Cayleys during hard times to be turned into a hotel. Even though its pupils come from outside the village, the school is very much a part of it.

All Saints’ Church is probably Brompton’s most impressive and beautiful building. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is being where poet laureate William Wordsworth (what a great name for a poet) was married to Mary Hutchinson. Now Wordsworth was known to be ‘very close’ to his sister; she who was so overwhelmed by losing her brother to Miss Hutchinson (then a Gallows Hill resident) that she never recovered.

The church is a part of the village trail and the comments in the visitors’ book make it clear that contributors see Brompton as a vibrant village with a powerful sense of community, not just somewhere you pass through on the A170 to Scarborough or Pickering.