The history of Addingham can be traced back to late Mesolithic
early Bronze Age
. Since the glaciated
valleys of the Aire
created an easy route between the east and west of the Pennines
across the Rombalds Moor
which is the highest point between Skipton
and Addingham. Along this route there are remains of early man in the form of flint
tools. Although the only evidence of a settlement was from the Iron Age
when major tree clearance took place in approximately 700 B.C. There are remains of hand querns
which are known to have been used in the Iron Age
to ground corn
. These have been found on the Addingham Moorside
There is a Roman road between Skipton and Addingham that was used up until 200 years ago which has since been replaced by Moor Lane.
In 1315 is when the first corn mill was mentioned and is one of the oldest medieval structures in the village although it was destroyed in a storm in 1776 and rebuilt the following year.
The main occupation of the village in the 14th century was agriculture and some iron smelting and blacksmithing. During the War of the Roses a record states that nine men were mustered up to fight at Floden Field. In 1452 Henry Vavasours Esq., was lord of the manor and his family continued there until 1714.
Following the Protestant Reformation in England, Henry VIII shut down nearby Bolton Abbey. The citizens of Addingham accepted the Reformation, although a person named Richard Kirkman who had been educated in France remained faithful to Catholicism and consequently was arrested and executed in 1578 at York. The Roman Catholic church "Our Lady and of the English Martyrs" was built in 1927 dedicated to him and all the Catholics who were persecuted by Henry VIII.
During the English Civil War, Addingham was most probably mainly Royalist as a number of men from the village helped defend Skipton Castle from attack by the Parliamentarians.
Cloth fulling had been carried out for more than five centuries. As far back as 1568 the will of William Atkinson of Addingham states that he left to his son-in-law one loom. After a slump in cloth making during the late seventeenth century, a revival took place when the trade became rather different to what it had used to be. Wool buyers brought wool back to the warehouse where it was sorted and send out to be combed (worsted) and spun.
John Cunliffe, cloth manufacturer, and John Cockshott, glazier and woolstapler, leased land on the side of the River Wharfe and built a spinning mill in 1788 - 1789. This would enable yarn to be spun quicker than by hand and would increase the production of cloth. A weir was constructed on the river and a wheel to provide power. High Mill, Town Head Mill and Fentimans (later a saw mill) were built shortly afterwards, all for spinning and hand loom weavers.
In 1831-41, there was said to be a decline in Addingham's population and the census returned state saying that this was due to the closure of Low Mill. In the 1851 census so many houses at Low Mill were empty that it must have remained closed until after that time. And by 1861, hand loomers had practically disappeared. Samuel Cunliffe Lister reopened Low Mill bringing back prosperity to the town. Piece Hall carried out the commercial side of the village's wool trade. At the end of the 19th century there were five textile mills working, three of them, with the largest part of the workforce, were owned by the Listers.
The directory of 1837 describes Addingham as a large village and township of 3,500 acres.
In 1875, Addingham which had been at a standstill for a long time, was now thriving again. The Lord of the Manor, Richard Smith of London, had proposed the construction of 20 streets, each with 40 to 50 houses. The only problem was that the Town Head Mill had to be closed down to make room for the new development. Although it was soon reopened by Mr. Prior, the former owner.
Small shops still lined the Main Street, grocers, greengrocers, butcher etc. An Addingham co-operative society was formed it prospered sufficiently to buy land on Bolton Road and build new premises and a row of cottages. The old Ferry which brought the parishioners from Beamsley was replaced by a suspension foot bridge, and around about the same time a horse drawn bus service to Ilkley was introduced. Addingham became part of the Skipton Rural District of West Riding, and the Parish Council was formed in 1894.
After World War I, Addingham never recovered, a weaving shed was constructed by Messrs Adams, but shut down in 1958. The Listers entered a partnership with Peltzers of Crefeldt to avoid tariffs. During World War II, Coventry was bombed and consequently production of the carburettor's was switched to Addingham to the Low Mill factory. 1000 people were employed at Low Mill, so houses had to be built in nearby Ilkley to house these people. The closure of the railway in 1969, led to the development of a modern housing estate which was built by Jack Clay.
After the war, the carburettor production ceased and Low Mill returned to textiles. For a short while the mills were working hard due to a shortage of textiles but unfortunately the machinery was out of date, and as the Continental factories re-equipped the British textile industry found itself on hard times. This led to a major closure of the textile mills and many of Listers Mills shut down and Addingham's last mill Low Mill weaving shed in 1976. In 1998/99, textiles returned to Addingham at Low Mill, in the form of a Norwegian based company Straum (UK), who started production of scoured wool. Unfortunately the business was shut down in 2002.
The Old School was built in 1669 by Anthony Ward. The school started as a single storey two roomed cottage but another storey was added in 1805 when the school moved into the upper room. The school remained as it was until 1845 when it was replaced by the Church of England school (the 'Low School' in North Street in 1845).
In 1874, on Chapel Street, the Wesleyans built a day school which in turn became the National School in 1891. This remained as the infant and junior school up until the building of the First School and Middle schools in the 1960s.
The First School was closed when the two tier education system was introduced in 2000 and consequently was demolished in 2001, therefore the Middle School became Addingham Primary School.