Wapentakes of Bulmer and Hallikeld - Petty Sessional Division and County Court District of Easingwold - Poor Law Unions of Easingwold and Great Ouseburn - Rural Deanery of Easingwold - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.
This parish comprises the townships of Brafferton, Helperby, Thornton Bridge, and a small portion of Fawdington, comprising in all a land surface of 4,954 acres, and a population of 994. The soil is chiefly a sandy loam and clay, and remarkably fertile, producing very fine barley. In the township of Brafferton there are 1,920 acres of land, the whole of which, with the exception of 49 acres, belongs to the Christian Faith Society, but the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are lords of the manor. The rateable value is £3,333, and the population in 1881 was 242.
Brafferton, or, as it is written in Domesday Book, Bradfortune, was so named from the broad ford which crossed the Swale at this point; and Bradfortune, by an easy corruption, has become Brafferton. A village sprung up in Saxon times, and a church was built, but little is known of the place until after the Norman Conquest. Local tradition affirms that it was here that St. Paulinus baptised 10,000 converts in the Swale in one day. Such a number of baptisms got through in so short a time appears incredible; but the difficulty is entirely removed by Camden, who, quoting from an epistle of Pope Gregory the Great to St. Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria, says that the bishop, having hallowed and blessed the waters of the Swale, commanded the people to go in two by two and baptise each other in the name of the Holy Trinity.
When Domesday Survey was made Gospatric had six carucates of land in the manor of Bradfortune, and Halton had one carucate. Gospatric was a noble thane who, after the defeat and death of Harold, at Hastings, made his peace with the Conqueror and purchased the earldom of Northumberland; but afterwards revolting, he lost both the title and his land. This manor afterwards became part of the Mowbray fee, and was held of that family by the Riparias, called, in later times, Rivers, one of whom, Richard de Riparia, granted to the Abbot of Byland common of pasture in 300 acres of moorland in Pilmoor. Subsequently it came into the possession of an offshoot of the Nevilles, and was carried, by the marriage of Catherine, daughter and sole heir of Sir Ralph Neville, of Thornton Briggs, to Sir Walter Strickland, Knight, of Sizergh Castle. Sir Thomas Strickland, the fourth in descent from this marriage, was created a knight banneret on the field of battle, by Charles I. He was privy purse to Charles II., and privy councillor to James II., whom he followed into France, and died there in 1694.
In 1691 the Hon. Robert Boyle, the distinguished philosopher, bequeathed the residue of his estate, amounting to £4,500, for the propagation of the Christian religion amongst infidels. With this sum the Brafferton estate was purchased, and in 1693 the trustees (the Bishop of London and the Earl of Burlington) directed that the proceeds should be given to the William and Mary College, in Virginia, for the education of a certain number of Indian children. After the declaration of American Independence, the Court of Chancery approved a new scheme for applying the income "for the conversion and religious instruction and education of the Negro slaves in the British West India Islands," under the direction of a society to be incorporated by royal charter. After the passing of the Negro Emancipation Act a scheme was propounded and approved by the court in 1835, by which the whole revenue (subject to a rent-charge of £90, to a society for propagating the gospel in New England) should be applied by the Christian Faith Society for advancing the Christian religion in the British West India Islands and elsewhere, within the diocese of Jamaica and of Barbadoes, the Leeward Islands, and the Mauritius. The income derived by the society from this estate is about £2,000 a year.
The village of Brafferton is situated on the east bank of the Swale, adjoining its larger and handsomer neighbour, Helperby. It is distant about 3½ miles from Boroughbridge, and six miles from Easingwold. A branch of the North Eastern railway passes near the village, and a station has been provided for the convenience of the inhabitants. The Church (originally dedicated to St. Augustine, though its modern ascription is St. Peter) is said to stand on the spot where St. Paulinus preached the gospel to the heathen Angles. We have no account of its foundation, but, as it is mentioned in Domesday Book, it must have been erected previous to the Conquest. It was rebuilt about the time of, or a little before, the Reformation, by Ralph Neville, and in 1832 it was again rebuilt, with the exception of the tower and the south wall of the chancel, at a cost of £1,300, raised by subscription. It was restored in 1886 at a cost of £900, when the gallery, which disfigured the south side of the church, was removed, and the tower opened out to the nave. The interior is now both light and handsome. In the centre of the chancel window, in stained glass, are the arms of the Neville family; and on the outside of the Neville chapel, on the south side of the chancel, are the bearings of the same family quartered on three shields, and underneath, cut in old black letter characters, is this inscription: "Orate p'aia Radulfi Nervell, fundatoris istius cacellarii (Pray for the soul of Ralph Neville, the founder of this chancel)." In this chapel is a memorial window to Joseph Brotherton, the only stained glass one in the church. In the west wall of the nave is a neat marble monument, inscribed to Laton Frewen Turner, Esq., of Brafferton Hall, who died in 1777, and Mary, his wife, the representative and heir, through his mother, of the Latons of Laton. The pulpit is a very handsome memorial of the Rev. Robert Springett, late vicar of the parish, who died 1876, the gift of clergymen and other friends of the deceased. A flat tombstone in the aisle, bearing a crozier incised, is supposed to have once covered the remains of a prior of Newburgh. The font is ancient, but does not otherwise possess any special feature of interest. The tower contains a clock and six bells, three of which were added two years ago, at a cost of £275. The other three are coeval with the Reformation, and bear the following inscriptions:- 1, "Radulphus Neville, Armiger, 1.H.S., 1598." 2, "Hujus Sci Augustini." 3, "Jhu fili Dei mis 'ere nobis."
The benefice was an ancient rectory until Henry de Riparia gave it to the priory of Newburgh in 1311. After the dissolution of that house, the impropriation was transferred to the archbishops of York, but is now vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The living, worth about £250 per annum, is in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and held, since 1876, by the Rev. Norman Frederick MeNeile, who, notwithstanding his blindness, is an earnest preacher, and an M.A. of Trinity College, Dublin. There are 126 acres of glebe.
The Vicarage house, near the church, is a neat brick building, erected on the site of one burnt down in 1798, when all the registers and documents relating to the church were consumed.
The National School, a very excellent brick building with stone dressings, was erected by subscription and grant from Privy Council in 1859, at a cost of £1,200; In the front is a clock. A school for infants, similar in design and material, was built in 1882, at a cost of £500, by voluntary subscription, and grant from Government.
Adjoining the churchyard is Brafferton Hall, standing within a walled enclosure, containing about five acres. The present hall is a small modern structure, the property of Capt. Herbert Lawson, of the Staff Corps, Madras.
Pilmoor Hall, formerly called Brafferton House, distant about two miles from the village, is a good mansion, the residence of Capt. Philip Payne Gallwey.
Brafferton Spring, or, as it is also called Spring Wood, is a noted fox cover, containing 270 acres, 1½ miles N.E. of the village.
At Pilmoor is a mission church, erected in 1878, at a cost of £300, of which, £30 was given by the York Diocesan Church Extension Society, and £100 by the Christian Faith Society. It is open, weekly, for Sunday school and afternoon service.
CHARITIES. - The poor of the parish receive the rent of 10 acres of land at Sowerby, near Thirsk, which was purchased in 1789 with £232 15s. given by various donors. They have also the interest of £65 raised by the sale of timber on this land, and an annual rent-charge of 10s., left by an unknown donor. Mr. James Dibbs left a yearly rent-charge of 40s. in 1723, for schooling four poor children of Helperby.
FAWDINGTON township. See Cundall parish on a subsequent page.
HELPERBY TOWNSHIP contains, exclusive of roads and water, 1,826 acres, and is rated to the poor at £3,484. The principal landowners are the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who are also lords of the manor; Robt. Tusker, Esq.; Jas. Coates, Esq., Helperby Hall; Major Stapylton, Myton Hall; Benjamin Brotherton, Esq., Helperby; and the trustees of Mrs. Coates. The land is mostly copyhold. When Domesday Survey was made there were eight carucates of land here to be taxed, and there belonged to this manor the soke of Youlton, Tholthorpe, Myton, &c. In the reign of William Rufus (1087-1100) Thomas, archbishop of York, gave the town of Helperby to the canons of the church of St. Peter, York. In the 44th of Edward III. (1370), the Dean and Chapter obtained the king's precept, directed to the sheriff of Yorkshire, to deliver to them the possession of the manor of Helperby, which their predecessors had granted in tail, to Bego de Bajacis, and which now, for want of an heir, reverted to them. The township is partly in the liberty of St. Peter.
The village of Helperby, which adjoins that of Brafferton, is of Danish origin, and may have derived its name from Helper, one of the Norse gods, or more probably from some Danish chief who possessed the district, and erected his by or habitation on this spot. It presents a neat and respectable appearance; the mud and timber houses of fifty years ago have nearly all disappeared, and many elegant and well-built ones have been erected, In the centre of the village is a handsome block of buildings, comprising four almshouses, with a large reading room and caretaker's house on one side, and a cottage hospital on the other. It was erected by James Coates, Esq., of Helperby Hall, in 1873, at a cost of £2,000, in memory of his parents, Jonathan and Anne Coates. The four almspeople receive, weekly, through the bounty of Mr. Coates, half-a-crown each and coals; but the hospital has not, so far, been brought into requisition, and the premises are at present used as a post office. Another handsome building is the new Wesleyan chapel which has recently been erected at a cost of £1,600. The material used is brick, with white freestone dressings, and the style, Perpendicular Gothic. From the north-east corner rises a square tower, carrying four crocketed pinnacles at its angles.
A Court Leet and Baron is held yearly at the Golden Lion, under the presidency of Mr. Robinson, of Easingwold, steward for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. At this court a jury of 12 men is empannelled, whose duty is to inspect the ditches, becks, and watercourses of the township. If any of them are found obstructed, dirty, or overgrown with weeds, the farmer on whose land they are is laid under a penalty; some one is appointed to clean them out, and the negligent farmer has to defray the cost.
THORNTON BRIDGE or BRIGGS, for there are two bridges, gives name to a township on the west side of the Swale, and in the Wapentake of Hallikeld, and liberty of Richmondshire. It comprises an area of 1,078 acres belonging to the Crown. Thornton Briggs Manor house was rebuilt in 1804. The old mansion had been successively the seat of the ancient families of Courtenay, Neville, Tancred, and Strickland.
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