The earliest references to Barkston were in 1030 when the spelling was Barcestune which reflected Barkston's early founders who are likely to have been Scandinavian in origin.
Through Norman appropriations in the 13th century when the de Barkeston family featured frequently in records, and also in the Danelaw period of our history, the area prospered. The Barkston Wapentake was huge. It stretched from the river Ouse in the east to the lower reaches of the rivers Aire and Wharfe and then to the boundary of the Roman road, running from Castleford to Wetherby, in the west.
Barkston, therefore, is a village with a history that spans more than one millennium. It lived through both the Wars of the Roses, featuring the Battle of Towton, fought on 29th March 1461, and the English Civil War in the 1640s. The village seems to have escaped without too much change as it moved into the 19th and 20th centuries, and developed a solid basis for weathering the social and economic changes that were about to be unleashed during the First and Second World Wars.
Until recently, the village was called Barkston and signs in nearby Saxton still refer to the village as Barkston and even today the OS maps make a distinction between Barkston and Barkston Ash.
In the 1950s, Barkston could best be described as a working village with nine farms in total. The population of the parish of Barkston was 234 with an area of 1168 acres.
There would have been about six cars only in the village at that time, but thankfully we had a good bus service between Pontefract, Castleford and Tadcaster. There were two shops and a post office on Main Street, although all have now gone, leaving just the Boot and Shoe pub on Main Street, and the Ash Tree pub on London Road just outside the village.
The ash tree that stands on the top of Main Street was often said to mark the centre of Yorkshire. It was replaced in the 1980s because of age and disease and a new tree was planted in its place. A section of the original tree was kept and is still available to see.
Legend has it that anyone who spits at the tree will be struck by lightning a year and a day later, and an apocryphal figure, known as Jack Foll, is supposed to suffered this fate. It is also said that until 1753 the Barkston Ash folly -a form of medieval football involving pigs’ bladders and lighteners (wooden staves) - was played by young men of the village. The game is supposed to have been commemorating Jack Foll.
Barkston Ash was also the name of the Parliamentary constituency of Barkston Ash until 1983 when its boundaries were re-drawn to divide the area into the Elmet and Selby Barkston Ash constituency.
The seat-Barkston Ash- was represented in the House of Commons from 1885 until 1983.
Although traffic has inevitably increased since the invention of the car, the village, thankfully, is still a bit of a rural backwater with a slow pace. Farm vehicles are a familiar sight and you can still hear the birds singing once the traffic has died down. In an effort to maintain this more leisurely pace and to help with safety in the village, the parish council are currently working towards the implementation of a 20mph limit in the village centre.
• The village boasts a small Catholic primary school and two pre-schools - one of which is located in the village hall.
• Two pubs offering food and one providing regular quiz nights and other social events.
There is a vibrant village community with a range of groups:
o Parish council looking after local issues and matters.
o Village hall committee responsible for the upkeep and renovation of the village hall.
o Barkston in bloom. – which coordinates the planting and maintenance of flowers beds around the village.
o WI (the Women’s Institute) - approaching their centenary and one of the longest standing groups of its type in Yorkshire.
o A bi-annual scarecrow festival is held with the next event due in 2020.
o We have an active, Anglican church which hosts a range of religious and secular activities.
o Barkston kiddies club – with an Easter egg hunt, teddy bears picnic, Christmas carol concert and coffee morning.