Yorkshire nostalgia: Why did Europe’s most powerful banking family take up residence in a small village in North Yorkshire in the 14th Century?

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As villages go Riccall, just outside Selby, North Yorkshire, is about as English as they come. It has a church, a school, a butchers and plenty of that distinctive Yorkshire stone to qualify as ‘idyllic’. When retired teacher JPG Taylor moved there 30 years ago it was because he couldn’t afford a house in Selby and prices were cheaper.

But the historian, who has also authored a number of other books, always thought it a shame no-one had chronicled its story. “Every village deserves a history,” remarks the enthusiastic 87-year-old. And so he set about ensuring it did.

The result is an exhaustive account through the ages, with one chapter even devoted to ‘before the Romans’, but the most surprising has to be that in the 14th Century, Riccall was colonised by a group of wealthy Italian bankers (the Peruzzi), who took up residence at the fortified manor house Wheel Hall, safely guarded from suspicious locals by its three moats. The family was one of the most powerful in Europe and financed kings, including Edward I, II and III, barons and abbeys. By the 1320s, they diversified into commodity trading, which brought them to Riccall, where they added to the family coffers by buying wool on the cheap and selling it on at a profit in Bruges.

Taylor writes: “They would have been objects of wonder and suspicion to the peasant farmers… Who were these strangers with their flamboyant fress and incomprehensible language, coming and going by water, conducting their business behind triple moats?”

The Peruzzi empire collapsed within the same century and the moats of the hall were filled, the building falling into ruin.

Taylor has gone to some lengths to illustrate the book with pictures of buildings past and present, floor plans, etchings and so on. The book offers a detailed history, pretty much in chronological order and will be of great interest to those who delight in detail.

Contact Mr Taylor on 01757 248513 to buy a copy.

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