A Short History of Harley

Note: spellings are taken from original sources and may vary.


The name Harley first appears in legal documents dated 1297. oldsmallroadIt is of Old English origin and could mean Hare’s Wood or an open cultivated area in a wood. The boundary was Harley dyke, which runs between Tankersley and Hoyland, towards Elsecar. Therefore some parts now counted as Harley (Dyke Hill) were once part of Hoyland.




Employment was largely agricultural.

Much of the land was let out to tenants, although the Marquis of Rockingham, in 1771, retained 23 acres at Harley Spring for his own use, and in 1794 a half acre of waste (or common land) was recorded in Harley.

A list of some of the tenants and the taxes or rents they paid gives us some idea of the people who lived here and possible clues as to the age of certain dwellings.

1297  Thomas de Harley  Tax to Edward 1st to finance war
1379  Johanne de Harley  Paid poll tax
1396  Roberto Rawselyn de Harley
1544  Thornas Hawsyllin  Land tax of £3 to King Henry 8th
1630  Anthony Hoyland  Tenant of Harley Hall £39
1630 Peter Haye  Tenant of a cottage and croft 10  shillings
1672  Williarm Hoyland  Heath tax 4 shillings
1753  William Hoyland  Tenant of land in both Hoyland and Tankersley
1794  William Hoyland  Farm rents totalling £14 ‑ 2 shillings
1801  George Hoyland  Farm rents of £7

Farm labourers could expect to earn 1 shilling a day in the 1770’s. Women and children 8 to 10 pence. Cottage rents were about 25 shillings per year.

Other occupations in the immediate area include:

  • Worsted spinning
  • The growing of flax (A Fairbanks map of 1775 shows this on land tenanted by John Sampson at Hood Hill)
  • Lime kilns at. Elsecar
  • Charcoal making, coal mining and ironworks all at Tankersley, Spring wood and Elsecar
  • There was also the opportunity to work in service at either Tankersley Hall or Wentworth Woodhouse. In the 18th century a maid would earn £2 to £4 per year.

There was also unemployment and poverty. In 1778 William Hoyland, Overseer of the Poor was given 16 shillings and 2 pence to distribute to the poor. During the Napoleonic Wars when the demand for coal for exports to Europe dropped, miners who would otherwise been unemployed were put to work building the Coach Road which runs between Wentworth and Harley.



In 1732 Tom Hauslin is recorded as a Carrier or Carter plying his trade between Wentworth, Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham. In 1758 a Turnpike trust was formed and the new turnpike road was built between Sheffield and Leeds. The pan which passes Harley Road was originally called Longley Lane (See old milestone at Hood Hill) The cottages known locally as “Gaol Bottom’ were originally a resting place for prisoners an their escorts on the way from Sheffield to Leeds or York for trial at the assizes.. Hood Hill Farm used to be a posting station for coaches and the house was originally called The Coach and Horses. In 1792 it was occupied by a Mrs. Burgan. It later became a receiving office for post, the oldest letter known being stamped 3rd Feb. 1837.The postal marking was HOOD HILL’

The following story was printed in the Watch Magazine 1832:

In 1780, John Rental, a highwayman tried unsuccessfully to hold up the London to Leeds coach on the turnpike road, supposedly where it crosses Harley Dyke. He was shot and wounded by a guard but escaped. Following a trail of blood, searchers the next day found him hiding in the outhouse of a farm at Harley. He was taken before the magistrate at Wentworth and then sent for trial at York. He was sentenced to transportation for 7 years.

The Churchyard

Until the building of Harvey Mission most people would attend church in Wentworth and be buried there. The gravestones bear many names still common in Harvey and area. The earliest one to be seen records the death of Ralph Cutt of Harley, December 1670. Also buried there are, The Holland Family of Barley Hole and Hood Hill Joseph Burgeon of Hood Hill The Armitage Family of Hood Hill The Smith Family of Harley from 1813 to the 1880’s The Shaws, Coopers and Holdens of Harley to mention just a few.



Prepared by Linda Hardwick

7th October 2004