Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Buckrose - County Council Electoral Division of Leavening - Poor Law Union and County Court District of Malton - Rural Deanery of Settrington - Archdeaconry of the East Riding - Diocese of York.
Birdsall is a parish and township extending along and upon the edge of the wolds, which impart to it a hilly character. Its total area is 4,030 acres (estimated extent, 3936 acres); rateable value, £3,391; and the population in 1891, was 366. The soil is various; the subsoil - chalk on the hills, and clay, with a little gravel, in the low grounds. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, and beans. Limestone and freestone are abundant, and are extensively quarried. The latter stone is of excellent quality, and is in great demand for building purposes. Lord Middleton is lord of the manor, and principal landowner. The late Rev. Y. G. Lloyd Greame, of Sewerby, had an estate here.
The village is small, but the last-century style of the cottages gives it a picturesque appearance. It is about five miles south-east of Malton, and three miles south from North Grimston station, on the Malton and Driffield branch of the North-Eastern railway. The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary, was built in 1824-5, at the expense of Henry, sixth Baron Middleton, and stands on an eminence within the park. It is an elegant structure of stone, in the Gothic style, consisting of chancel, nave, organ chamber, south porch, and lofty embattled western tower, adorned with pinnacles. There are three bells in the tower, but they are of modern date. The chancel is divided from the nave by a screen of carved wood, surmounted by a cross; and behind the communion table is a very fine reredos of the same material. The east window, consisting of four lights, with oriel, representing the Stem of Jesse, by Kemp, was erected by the tenantry and friends, in memory of Henry, eighth Baron Middleton, who died 20th December, 1877. In a recess in the north wall of the chancel is the recumbent effigy of Lady de Briddesale, in stone, which was removed from the old church. There are several handsome marble monuments on the walls; amongst them is one by Rysbraeck, an eminent Flemish sculptor, to Thomas Southeby, Esq., a former owner of Birdsall; another, by Westmacott, to the founder of the church, Henry, sixth Baron Middleton, who died in 1835. There are also other monuments to the Willoughby family. The restoration of the chancel was commenced by the late Lord Middleton, and completed by his widow and children in 1879. Over the south doorway are the arms of the founder, in bronze.
The old church, which was in a very dilapidated condition, stood nearer the hall. Four arches and a portion of the tower remain, picturesquely ivied. On one of the walls is the Southeby crest, with the date 1601, and the initials T. S.
The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £62, in the gift of Lord Middleton,. and held by the Rev. Lawrence Stafford Gresley, M.A., Exeter College, Oxford, domestic chaplain to his lordship. The great tithes were purchased by the late Lord Middleton, in 1858, at which time they were worth about £530 per annum.
The parochial school was erected by Julia Louisa, Lady Middleton, in 1871,. at a cost of about £1,000. It is a handsome Gothic structure of stone, comprising main room, classroom, and teacher's residence. It is mixed, and under the care of a master. There is accommodation for 80 scholars, and an average attendance of about 60.
BIRDSALL HOUSE, the seat of Lord Middleton, is an extensive mansion of stone, pleasantly situated in a well-wooded park of 160 acres, and approached through an avenue of very fine trees.
Lord Middleton's foxhounds are kept at Birdsall. The pack was taken over from the late Sir Tatton Sykes in 1853, and kennels were erected, which are reputed to be amongst the finest in England. The stables are also worthy of notice.
Lord Middleton, whose family is of very ancient lineage, is descended, in times less remote, from Thomas Willoughby, second son of Sir Thomas Willoughby,. who was elevated to the peerage as Baron Middleton, of Middleton, county Warwick. The said Thomas married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Thomas Southby, Esq., of Birdsall, by whom he had three sons and four daughters. James, the third son, was rector of Guiseley. He married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of James Hobson, Esq., of Kirby Moorside, and their eldest son, Henry, succeeded to the title and estates on the death of his cousin, Digby, seventh baron. He married Julia Louisa, only daughter of the late A. W. Bosville, Esq., of Thorpe and Gunthwaite, county York, and Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye. He died in 1877, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Digby Wentworth Bayard Willoughby, the present baron.
At Aldro are the remains of an ancient British encampment, and several tumuli.
Henry Burton, a noted Puritan divine, was a native of this parish. He was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, but took his degree of B.D. at Oxford. He published several controversial pamphlets and seditious sermons. For the latter he was sentenced to pay a fine of £5,000, to be placed in the pillory, and then imprisoned for life. He was, subsequently, liberated by Parliament, and died in 1648.
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