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Masham

Masham

Masham, Abigail, Lady, d. 1734, favorite of Queen Anne of England. Her maiden name was Abigail Hill. A plain, intelligent person, she became (1704) bedchamber woman to the queen through the influence of her cousin Sarah Churchill, duchess of Marlborough. In 1707 she married Samuel Masham (later a baron), a groom to Anne's husband, Prince George of Denmark. Mrs. Masham gradually supplanted the duchess of Marlborough in the queen's affection and became the instrument through which Robert Harley, her kinsman, exerted his influence on Anne. In 1714, however, Mrs. Masham quarreled with Harley, secured his dismissal as lord treasurer, and assured Viscount Bolingbroke (Henry St. John) of supreme political power. After Anne's death (1714), she lived in retirement.
Masham (pronounced Massam) is a small market town in Wensleydale in Harrogate borough of North Yorkshire, England, situated on the western bank of the River Ure. The name derivates from the Saxon Maessa's Ham, the homestead belonging to Maessa. The Romans had a presence here, but the first permanent settlers were the Saxons. Around 900 AD the Vikings invaded the region, burning and laying waste to the Church and causing great suffering in Masham. They also introduced sheep farming, something for which the town is well known today.

St. Mary's church was most likely originally founded in the seventh century and stood somewhere near the present Town Hall on what used to be known as Cockpit Hill. The graveyard yielded 36 burials in a recent excavation. The present church - while having some Saxon stone work and the stump of an eighth century prayer cross - is mainly Norman with fifteenth century additions. Masham was given to the York Minster in the medieval period but, as the Archbishop did not wish to make the long journey north to oversee the town's affairs, the parish was designated a Peculier.

The most important feature of the town is, without doubt, the Market Place, by far the largest in the District. It is tightly bordered on its south and west sides by ranges of two and three storey buildings. To the south-east, lies St. Mary's Church with its large churchyard. This is no doubt the most important focal point in Masham, the stone tower and steeple providing one of the most cherished views in the whole of the Harrogate District.

Of note for a relatively small town is that it is home to two working breweries, Black Sheep Brewery and Theakstons, situated a few yards from one another. It is also home to one of the oldest Markets in the UK, receiving its first market charter in 1250. Wednesday and Saturday are market days, popular among both locals and visitors. Masham's importance as a major sheep market is the reason for the huge market place and its beautiful Georgian houses. The market originally thrived because of its nearness to Jervaulx and Fountains Abbeys, with the monks' large flocks of sheep. The annual Sheep Fair is in September.

Masham is also home to the Masham Steam Engine & Fair Organ Rally. It was started in 1965 to try and raise money for the local Town Hall and it has gone from strength to strength from then on. The organisers are the Masham Town Hall Association.

Visitors mainly enjoy browsing in the town's shops, workshops and galleries, and visiting the two breweries, ancient church and Masham's rich architectural heritage. The area also abounds in pleasant walks, from gentle riverside strolls to more demanding excusions into the surrounding moorland.

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