The village of Westerdale takes its name from the upper reaches of the River Esk which for some reason lost in history is not referred to as Eskdale, that name seeming to start at Castleton. Its a quiet village, with a population of just 149 at the last count in 25 houses. It wasn’t always so. At one time it had two inns, The Horseshoe and The Crown, two shoemakers, two blacksmiths, a wheelwright and a grammar school. Of course in living memory it also had a youth hostel at Westerdale Hall but that is now too a private residence.
Perhaps the most interesting residents were the Knights Templar, a military monastic order established in the 12th century to protect pilgrims en route to Holy places. Sort of mediaeval bodyguards. One theory claims that the Knights Templar are the direct ancestors of modern freemasons. But of course that’ll be a secret.
In the 16th century the Knights Templar lands were handed over to the Knights Hospitallers. This order was founded originally to provide care for sick, poor or injured pilgrims going to the Holy Land. There is archaeological evidence to suggest that their main site was at Westerdale Hall but that building dates from the 1840s when it was built as a shooting lodge for the Feversham Estate. The Knights Hospitallers were otherwise known as the Order of St John and are still in existence today, better known as the St. John Ambulance Brigade.