Wapentake of the Ainsty of York - Rural Deanery of Ainsty - Archdeaconry of York or West Riding - Diocese of York.
The parish of Bilton comprises the townships of Bilton and Bickerton, having an area of 2,950 acres, rated for the poor at £4,058 11s. 1d. The population in 1881 was 376. The parish is situated west of York, on the borders of the Ainsty wapentake. A. Montague, Esq., is lord of the manor, and principal landowner, but there are a number of yeomen in the township.
The village of Bilton is small and straggling, but contains several good residences. It is nine miles W. by S. of York, and five E.N.E. of Wetherby - a little off the road between these two places. The soil is loam, and produces barley, oats, and turnips.
St. Helen's Church stands where the York, Wetherby, and Bilton roads meet. It is an ancient edifice of limestone, in the Norman style of architecture, and was erected in 1166 as an appendage to Syningthwaite nunnery. It consists of nave, with north, south, and central aisles. On the south side is a Norman porch, and a bell turret for two bells, but apparently there has never been more than one. The door on the north side of the north aisle, where the excommunicated were to pass out, is built up, but is still visible.
In 1870 the church was restored under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott, at a cost of £1,300, which was raised by voluntary contributions. During the course of restoration the old material was utilised where possible. The former brick buttresses were replaced by stone, and the gable restored. An open timbered roof took the place of the old one, and the old fashioned pews were replaced with more modern ones of pitchpine. In 1878 an organ was placed in the south aisle of the chancel, and a handsome carved oak pulpit was placed in the church, both being paid for by subscriptions. In 1879 a beautiful east window of stained glass was inserted at the sole expense of John Miles Dawson, Esq., of Brook Hall, Wighill. It is of three lights and oriel, representing Christ blessing little children. In the same year the chancel aisle was rebuilt at the expense of Andrew Montague, Esq., of Ingmanthorpe.
Part of a Runic cross, of great antiquity, found in the west gable end in 1870, now stands on a corbel inside the church. According to Sir Gilbert Scott it belongs to the time of the Confessor. The font also is the work of a very early period. In 1870 part of a massive oak eagle lectern was unearthed, and is now in use. It is supposed to have been the work of the 13th century. In the south aisle of the chancel is the recumbent figure of an abbess, dating from the reign of Edward I.
The living is a vicarage in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Ripon, and is valued at £300 a year. Rev. Bagenal Burdett Newenham, T.A.K.C.L., vicar. Rev. William Wright, B.A., curate.
The vicarage, a large brick building, pleasantly situated in its own grounds near the old vicarage, was built in 1866 by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, at a cost of £1,600.
The Wesleyan Chapel is a neat brick building, with a porch, erected in 1845, with accommodation for 100. Adjoining the chapel is a building erected by the late Mr. Thomas Skilbeck in 1867, with accommodation for 120, and used as a Sunday school.
The school of the church is on the road to Tockwith, and is about equally distant from that village and Bilton. It was built in 1801 by Hall Plumer, Esq., of Bilton Hall. A new school-room was added in 1874. To defray the cost, £154 17s. was raised by rates, and the remainder, £50, was given by A. Montague, Esq. It is built of brick. The old school, except the class-room, has been converted into a teachers' residence.
Bilton-cum-Brickerton National school has accommodation for 60 scholars. No. on books, 61; average, 43. It is supported by Government grant, fees, and contributions. Phineas Bachelor, master.
Bilton Hall is a large plain house, just outside the west of the village, and occupied by C. B. Lamb, Esq.
Bilton Grange, a farm house about a mile from the village, has an interesting stone porch, several stones of which have evidently formed part of some ancient religious edifice, probably from Syningthwaite nunnery, which existed in former times in the neighbourhood. At the north side of the house is a highly ornamented Norman doorway, and several old windows. A few years ago several skulls were dug up near the house, betokening a grave yard in former days, most likely that of the convent, which was called Chapel Garth.
One of the above stones bears the following inscription Under this is a scroll bearing the following letters, which, as yet, have not been explained - In 1150, Bertram Haget here founded the Priory of Syningthwaite, for a Prioress and 12 nuns of the Cistercian order. It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and the grant was confirmed by the lord of the manor, Roger de Mowbray, and by the Archbishop of York, Godfrey de Ludhane. The priory possesses considerable lands, rents, &c., in the county, and the advowson of the church at Bilton. At the Dissolution its revenues were of the clear annual value of £60 9s. 2d., and the site was granted in 1539 to Sir Thomas Tempest, Knight. The remains of this establishment are moated round, and enclose an area of 459 acres 3 roods 21 perches, according to Ordnance Survey.
CHARITIES.- Lord Wharton's gift of bibles and prayer books given annually to the poor. Lady Hewley's charity was cancelled in 1870.
BICKERTON TOWNSHIP is in the parish of Bilton. The hamlet, situated about four miles from Wetherby, contains several good houses, and a Wesleyan Chapel, built of stone in 1826, with accommodation for 100. It has a gallery at one end, and the seats are old fashioned, In the hamlet are but two farmers, the rest being cowkeepers or labourers. A. Montague, Esq., is lord of the manor, and owner of all the land and property, except the Wesleyan Chapel.
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.