Giggleswick School had a good record for providing a charitable education for children in difficulty. This could transform the life prospects of the boys who were lucky enough to get a place.
John was one of four children of William Armitstead and his wife Isabella Robinson. They lived at Halton Gill in Littondale. William and Isabella both died in the 1830s, leaving the four young children orphaned. Their maternal grandfather, John Robinson, worked in Settle as an agricultural labourer, living on Constitution Hill, and he took the children in and raised them.
John Armitstead’s sisters Mary and Elizabeth died in their early years and are buried together in the Holy Ascension graveyard. John Armitstead was sent by his grandfather to be educated at Giggleswick School, and was then articled to the law. When his grandfather died in the 1840s, John’s sister Jane continued to keep house for him while he worked as a solicitor’s clerk.
Jane married William Bell, a Scottish linen draper who worked in Skipton. 18 months after the wedding, on the birth of her second child, Jane died. John then lived with his brother-in-law William and the two children. William eventually remarried and moved to Darlington.
In the meantime, John decided to change career and found work at the Craven Bank, also in Skipton. He also became a director of the Ben Rhydding Hydropathic Establishment, which provided leisure facilities for up to 160 residents visiting to use the spa waters.
John was eventually promoted to Manager of the Craven Bank in Ilkley, where he served for 20 years until his death in 1891.