A North Yorkshire

St Oswald’s Farnham

Parish Meeting Agenda

The Oastler family first appear in Farnham Parish Records in 1658, with the marriage of a Thomas Oastler to Anne Pickard. The births, deaths and marriages of several generations are recorded - the Thomas Oastler in this account was probably the grandson of the earlier Thomas.  The younger Thomas was a Surveyor and a man of some wealth and position and an active member of the church and the community. In 1754 he was made Master Surveyor for the construction of a road from Harrogate to Boroughbridge.
The second character in this account is Jack Metcalf of Knaresborough and a famous figure in that town. He was born in 1717. He had smallpox as a child and this left him blind, but he developed into a man of great skill and determination.  Although Jack Metcalf was born in Knaresborough there is evidence that he was related to a Metcalf family in Farnham. The family first appear in Farnham records in 1570 and were still present in the 19
th century. They were also members of the church - including the post of churchwarden - and would certainly have known the Oastlers very well.  This association - and no doubt the trust that it brought - probably accounts for the fact that Thomas Oastler - in his role as Master Surveyor - gave the contract for making the Harrogate/Boroughbridge road to Blind Jack Metcalf. The decision must have been justified because Jack Metcalf was later given the contract to build a bridge over the River Ure at Boroughbridge. Metcalf went on build some 500 miles of road between 1754 and 1794.
Blind Jack died in 1810 in his 93
rd year and is buried in the churchyard at Spofforth, where his tombstone bears the following inscription:

Thomas Oastler &

Blind Jack Metcalf

Here lies John Metcalf whose infant sight
Felt the dark pressure of endless night
Twas his, a guides unerring aid to lend
O'er trackless wastes to bid new roads extend

There are full accounts of Blind Jack's life - but they fairly belong to Knaresborough - Farnham can only claim the small part recorded here.
Returning briefly to Thomas Oastler - he was father to eight children, including one Mary Oastler - and in 1765 she was married to a Thomas Bickerdyke and so the connections between the leading families of the time prospered.

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