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Of Monastic, Agricultural, and Industrial Origins


Glasshouses lies on the northern side of a steep sided, fertile part of the river Nidd valley. This part of the valley was carved by a glacier in the last glacial period. Most of the village sits on a glacial thrust moraine made up of rocks pushed aside as the glacier flowed down towards what is now Ripley. The glaciers have long since gone, but the fine sands left in the river by them were suitable for making glass. This was exploited by the monks and lay brothers of fountains abbey to make glass for the abbey. It is said that this is how the village got its name, though it may well have originally been the singular name of Glasshouse.


The rich, fertile soil has made good grazing for livestock, particularly sheep, which was at one time the staple income for the Abbey.


During the industrial revolution, the drop in the river bed just upstream from the village was exploited by the Metcalfe family to build a dam, and construct the mill pond on the riverside walk from Glasshouses to Pateley Bridge. This powered Glasshouses Mill, via a large water wheel. Today, the Glasshouses water wheel is still in operation on the river Bollin in the National Trustís Quarry Bank Mill near Manchester Airport. The wheel was transported there in the 1970ís.


The Mill processed flax to make linen and rope. Under the factories acts of 1833 and 1844, the mill owners were obliged to educate the child members of their workforce. To meet this obligation, a school was built within the mill. However the demand for linen for the Great Exhibition meant that the space occupied by the school room was needed for production, so the present school building was constructed, though over the years it has been modified.


The mill was also responsible for the growth of the village as rows of cottages were built to house the mill workers and their families. Today the current owners of the Mill are converting it into a number of residential dwellings.


Just above the school playground, the (now much modified) crossing keepers cottage still stands. This was where the Harrogate to Pateley Bridge railway crossed the road that runs through the village.


The focal point of the village is the green. This was left in perpetuity by the Metcalfe family for the enjoyment of the residents of Glasshouses.