Brafferton is the older village, the -ton denoting its Saxon origin, but the first settlers were probably Roman, as the Roman road from Hovingham to Aldborough passed through the area of the villages to cross the river Swale at the ford. This gave rise to the derivation of Brafferton, brad – ford – tun, “the town at the broad ford”, and fords were always good places for an entrepreneur to set up in trade….we hope this is still very much the case!

Even before its mention in the Domesday Book, Brafferton was a place of note, for after St Paulinus had converted Edwin, the Saxon king of Northumbria he chose the river Swale at Brafferton as a place of baptism. Reputedly, more than ten thousand entered the river to be baptised and yet in spite of the large numbers, no one was injured; in fact, to the contrary, those who entered with some feebleness and infirmity or deformity were supposed to have returned from the river “whole and reformed”. We cannot promise any such miracles after leaving The Oak Tree…although we hope all guests will feel ‘relaxed and revived after a visit!’.

As for Helperby, it is thought to have been a Danish settlement set up by a Danish chief outside the main Saxon village. As the years have passed, Helperby has grown and is now much larger than Brafferton. Reputedly, the name Helperby comes from the river Swale providing St Paulinus with “help hard by”, or Helper-by, when he needed the water for the baptisms.

Unfortunately due to the Great Fire of Helperby in the 17th Century, all signs of this early settlement were destroyed.

With both villages being at the end of the navigable part of the river Swale, and also on the Dales pack horse trails, the villages flourished and at one point hosted as many as 14 pubs in total…not a reflection of the villagers ‘great thirst’, but due to the busy trade of grain and wool. And while the railway is no longer present, it was its arrival in the villages that effectively killed off all boat trade and saw the demise of this hitherto busy trade centre. It is now possible to walk along the old railway line.


Helperby is beautiful, oozing character and a stroll around the village is a fantastic way to make space for the next meal!

The Oak Tree is also within easy access of many wonderful walks….including a number along the rivers Ure and Swale and along the old railway line in the village itself.

Local Attractions

This is a beautiful area with so much to offer no matter what your interests… culture, history, archaeology, national trust properties, racing, fishing, walking and the famous world of James Herriot…

The inn is well supplied with information from the local tourist board and staff members are very happy to assist.

Before you visit why not take a look at the following:

Yorkshire Tourist Board site | Beningborough Hall | Fountains Abbey | Newby Hall and Gardens | James Herriot Centre | The National Railway Museum | Ghost Hunt, Shambles, York | Jorvik Viking Centre | Lightwater Valley | York Races | Thirsk Races

Whether you want a room for the evening, a bite to eat, or to share The Oak Tree Inn experience with someone special, we have got something for you.


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