The Marketplace at Masham
Masham shown within North Yorkshire
Population 1,235 (2001) OS grid reference Parish Masham District Harrogate Shire county North Yorkshire Region Yorkshire and the Humber Country England Sovereign state United Kingdom Post town RIPON Postcode district HG4 Dialling code 01765 Police North Yorkshire Fire North Yorkshire Ambulance Yorkshire EU Parliament Yorkshire and the Humber UK Parliament Skipton and Ripon List of places: UK • England • Yorkshire
Masham ( // mass-əm) is a small market town and civil parish in the Harrogate district of North Yorkshire, England. It has a population of 1,235. Situated in Wensleydale on the western bank of the River Ure, the name derives from the Anglo-Saxon "Mæssa's Ham", the homestead belonging to Mæssa. The Romans had a presence here, but the first permanent settlers were the Angles. Around 900 AD the Vikings invaded the region, burning and laying waste to the church and causing great suffering in Masham. They also introduced sheep farming, something for which the town is well known today.
St Mary's Church was most likely founded in the seventh century and stood somewhere near the present town hall on what used to be known as Cockpit Hill. The graveyard yielded 36 burials in a recent excavation. The present church — while having some Anglo-Saxon stonework and the stump of an eighth-century prayer cross — is mainly Norman with fifteenth-century additions. Masham was given to York Minster in the mediaeval 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 peculiar.
The market place is by far the largest in the district. It is tightly bordered on its south and west sides by ranges of two and three storey buildings. To the south-east, lies St Mary's Church with its large churchyard.
Of note for a relatively small town is that it is home to two working breweries, Black Sheep Brewery and Theakstons, situated a few yards from one another. It is also home to one of the oldest markets in the UK, receiving its first market charter in 1250. Wednesday and Saturday are market days, popular among both locals and visitors. Masham's importance as a major sheep market is the reason for the huge market place and its beautiful Georgian houses. The market originally thrived because of its nearness to Jervaulx and Fountains Abbeys, with the monks' large flocks of sheep. The annual Sheep Fair is in September.
Masham is home to the Masham Steam Engine & Fair Organ Rally. It was started in 1965 to try to raise money for the local town hall and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. The organisers are the Masham Town Hall Association. The Black Sheep Brewery sponsors popular annual folk festivals; previous performers have included Hugh Cornwell (of The Stranglers). A cultural highlight is Masham Arts Festival every two years. The next one will take place this year during October Half Term. The annual Sheep Fair is in September.
- ^ Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : Harrogate Retrieved 25 August 2010
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