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Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Allertonshire - Electoral Division of Brampton - Poor Law Union, County Court District, and Rural Deanery of Northallerton - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.
This parish comprises the townships of Birkby and Little Smeaton, containing 2,204 acres and 139 inhabitants. The soil is clayey, and more than one-third of the land is laid down in pasture. The main line of the North Eastern system passes through the parish, but the nearest station is at Cowton. The township of Birkby contains 1,203 acres and 64 inhabitants, and is assessed at £2,213. The principal owners are the exors. of the late J. R. W. Hildyard, Esq., who are also lords of the manor, the exors. of Hy. Hood, Esq., and Lieut.-Col. Godman.
The village, if such it can be called, consists of the church and three or four houses, and was so named from the birk or birch trees that grew in the neighbourhood. The church (St. Peter) is an ivy covered brick structure, built in 1776. Many improvements have been recently made in the interior; and during the progress of the work the bases of two Norman columns were discovered under the floor of the chancel, and others were found under the nave, which had evidently formed part of a much earlier and more beautiful edifice than the one that now occupies the site. A part of the shaft of an old Saxon cross was also unearthed, and is now built into the wall of the west end. In the church is the capital of a Norman column which is supposed to have been part of a font. It was found in the churchyard. The two bells in the campanile, at the west end, belonged to an earlier church, and date from pre-Reformation times, The chancel window of three lights is a memorial of the late Rev. T. W. Morley. The tithes are commuted for a rent charge of £206, besides which there are four acres of glebe. The living is a rectory, valued at £276, with residence. The present patron and rector is the Rev. Hy. Comber Holmes, M.A.
LITTLE SMEATON is a township of 1,000 acres, lying on the south side of the river Wiske, opposite Great Smeaton. It contains 75 inhabitants, and is assessed at £841. Lieut.-Col. Godman, Great Smeaton Manor; M. H. Horsfall, Esq., West-thorpe; Miss S. G. Horsfall, Hornby Grange; exors. of H. Hood, Esq.; the trustees of Guisborough Hospital; Mr. R. Bulmer, Manor House Farm; and James York, are the owners.
West-thorpe, the property and residence of M. H. Horsfall, Esq., was partially rebuilt by the present owner in 1865. During the progress of the work several flint arrow heads, fragments of weapons and some ancient horse shoes were found. Whilst excavating the ground at the back of the house, a number of human and horse bones were found mixed together, and among them one human skull. At the front of the house are several acres of broken ground, where many fragments of Roman pottery have been discovered.
This estate formerly belonged to the Hewgills of Hornby Grange, from whom it was purchased by the father of the present owner in 1850.
[Description(s) from Bulmer's History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890)]
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.