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Wapentake of Birdforth - Electoral Division of Osmotherley - Poor Law Union and County Court District of Northallerton - Petty Sessional Division of Allertonshire - Rural Deanery of Northallerton - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.
This is a small and thinly inhabited parish lying to the north of Osmotherley. The soil is clayey but fairly fertile; large beds of ironstone and freestone are known to lie beneath, but agriculture is the principal occupation of the inhabitants. The area comprised within the parochial limits is 3,056 acres, of which, about 1,000 acres form the manor, or reputed manor, and estate of Harlsey Hall, the property of John Beaumont, Esq., of Ravensknowle, Huddersfield. The owners of the other portion of the parish are Douglas Brown, Esq., Q.C., Arncliffe Hall; the exors. of Strangeways; Rev. John Lawson, Seaton Carew; Mr. Jas. Smith, Darlington; Mr. William Whittaker, Brompton; the exors. of Job Garbutt; and exors. of Pettys. The rateable value is £2,866, and the population, 379. Harlsey was anciently a chapelry to the parish of Erneclive (Ingleby Arncliffe), the mother church of which, was given by Walter de Ingelram in the 12th century, to the Priory of Guisburn (Guisborough), A dispute arose subsequently as to the independence of this chapel, the rectory or tithe-right of which, it was claimed, was not included in Walter de Ingelram's grant. Simon de Apulia, Dean of York, Hanco the Precentor, and Bernard, Prior of Newburgh, were appointed to investigate the case; after a minute examination they decreed that this chapel did belong to the mother church of Erneclive, which had been given to the canons of Giseburn; and that Ralph, then chaplain thereof, should pay a pension to the canons of 4s. per annum. This decision was given in A.D. 1196.
The village is situated 6½ miles N.E. of Northallerton, and 2 miles S.E. of Welbury station on the Stockton and Northallerton railway. The Church, dedicated to St. Oswald, is a structure of great antiquity, and supposed to be the fourth one that has occupied the same site. It was restored, in accordance with its original Norman style, in 1885, and a north aisle added from the designs of J. R. Johnson, Esq., of Newcastle. The expense, £1,200, which also included the cost of the organ, was raised by voluntary subscription. The church now comprises chancel, nave with north aisle, south porch and campanile tower, with two bells. The stalls and roof are of pitch pine; the nave is seated with chairs. The east window of three lights representing the parable of the Good Shepherd, is a memorial of the Rev. Jonathan Walkden Steele, incumbent of the parish for 36 years, whose children have also erected the reredos. On the two lights of the west window is depicted the Raising of Jairus' Daughter. It is in memory of Emma, daughter of Myles Soppet, of Northallerton. There is also a stained glass single light in the aisle to the memory of Mary and Thomas Myles of Bruncliffe. Among ancient memorials is the effigy of a knight in armour, said to represent one of the Scrope family, but this is very doubtful. During the restoration several old grave covers were found in the north wall; on one are the letters DE LASC. This was doubtlessly the monument of some member of the Lascelles' family. A large sepulchral slab taken from the floor aisle and now built into the wall of the new aisle, commemorates a man and his wife. It bears two similar incised foliated crosses. Overlying the stem of the dexter cross is a shield bearing three cocks, the arms of Salcock, of Salcock (now Sawcock), a hamlet in this parish. Behind the shield is a fine long sword lying in bend dexter. On the dexter side of the stem of the sinister cross is a pair of shears of the spring type, and on the sinister side, a book. The register dates from the year 1693. The Living is a Vicarage, in the gift of the lord of the manor, and worth £74, derived from the rent of 21 acres of glebe land, and an endowment of £15 a year, the tithe of Sawcock farm, a modus of £1 a year out of Siddle farm, and a further modus of £6 13s. 4d. out of the tithes of West Harlsey estate, left by Geo. Lawson, Esq., of 1717. The same gentleman likewise left to the incumbent and his successors, a library of 617 volumes, and a number of pamphlets. The present incumbent is the Rev. Rd. Jackson Steele, who has held it since 1855, and is also vicar of Ingleby Arncliffe.
The Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyans have chapels in the village; that belonging to the former sect was erected in 1857, and that of the latter in 1862, at a cost of £210, raised by voluntary subscription. The National School was rebuilt in 1857, and is endowed with £3 a year, left by Mrs. M. Watson. It has an average attendance of 54 children.
CHARITIES. - Besides the school charity above mentioned, Mrs. Watson left £2 a year to the poor to be given in bread every Sunday after divine service; and Mrs. Garthwaite, widow of a former incumbent, left 20s. to the curate of East Harlsey, to preach a sermon yearly on the 2nd of May, and 20s. to be laid out in bread to be distributed among the poor after the sermon.
The most interesting object in the parish is the Priory of Mount Grace. These beautiful ruins are situated in a secluded and romantic spot at the foot of a steep and densely wooded hill, about two miles from the village of Osmotherley. This religious house was founded about the year 1396, by Thomas Holland, Duke of Surrey, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St. Nicholas. He endowed it with his manor of Bardelby, and willed, that in future, it should be called the House of Mount Grace of Ingleby. He placed therein a body of Carthusian monks, over whom, Robert de Treadway was appointed the first prior, The little brotherhood were enjoined to pray for the good estates of the King, Richard II., and his Queen, and also of the founder and his wife.
In addition to the manor above mentioned, the founder obtained for this priory a grant from the King of the land and possessions belonging to the religious houses of Hinckley in Leicestershire, Wharham in Dorsetshire, and Carrisbrooke in the Isle of Wight - three alien priories belonging to the Abbey of St. Mary de Lyra in Normandy - to hold the same as long as the war should continue between England and France. The founder was the half brother of Richard II., and after Henry IV. succeeded in filching the Crown from that unfortunate king, he was deprived of his dukedom. He entered into a plot with the earls of Huntingdon and Salisbury to dethrone Henry. Their designs were revealed to the king, and the conspirators fled to Cirencester. The inhabitants were loyal to the throne; the duke and his companions were slain in the fight, or beheaded, and the rebel army put to flight, January 13th, 1400. Surrey's body was buried in the abbey of Cirencester, but twelve years afterwards it was, with the royal permission, removed to Mount Grace, and there interred. The priory buildings were incomplete at the duke's death, and the work of erection was discontinued, as in consequence of his attainder, their possessions was questioned. These things remained until 1440, when the duke's grants were confirmed to them in parliament, and the buildings were forthwith completed.
The Carthusian rule was the most rigid and austere in the whole monastic system. Flesh meat was never permitted, except in sickness, and one day each week was observed as a strict fast on bread and water. A hair shirt was worn next the skin, and the only recreation permitted was a walk within the priory grounds once a week. Their habit was white, over which they wore a black cloak. The gloom and seclusion of the situation of Mount Grace, for the sun could only penetrate this sanctuary of prayer when high above the horizon, accorded well with the severity of such discipline.
There were nine houses of the order in this country at the Dissolution, and the revenues of this one were valued at £382 5s. 11½d, gross, and £323 2s. 10½d. nett. The site was granted by Henry VIII. to Sir James Strangwaies, knight, from whom it descended by marriage to the Lascelles, and was subsequently sold by the Rev. Robert Lascelles to the Mauleverers. Georgina Hellen, the younger daughter and co-heir of the late William Mauleverer, of Arncliffe Hall, married Douglas Brown, Esq., Q.C., who is the present owner.
Thomas Lascelles converted part of the monastic buildings into a mansion of castellated form, and over the entrance door placed his initials, T. L., with the date 1654. But the Mauleverers have always preferred their Arncliffe residence, and Mount Grace has been occupied by workmen. The monastic buildings have occupied about three acres. The ruins of the conventual church are still very considerable. The roof is gone, probably taken off for the sake of the lead; the chancel end and the south side have also disappeared, but the ivy-mantled tower remains, apparently of its original height, and some of the other walls are nearly complete, with windows, in one of which is some tracery. In plan, the church has been of the usual abbey type, cruciform, with a slender tower rising from the junction of the cross. On the north side of the church is the quadrangle, surrounded by a high wall, in which, though now built up, may still be seen the doors that led to the cells of the monks. These have been arranged round it, five on each side of the square. Each cell is about 20 feet square, and has been two stories in height. The entrance to the priory was on the west, though a beautiful Gothic arch, which remains almost perfect. In the wood close by is St. John's Well, which still, as of yore, yields an abundant supply of pure water; and on the summit of the hill about half-a-mile away are the ruins of the Ladye Chapel, founded in 1515; and near it was the burial place of the monks. The body of the noble founder, as already stated, was buried in the priory church of Mount Grace; many other interments are recorded, but the inscribed monuments that once doubtless covered the graves have all disappeared. One of the bells from Mount Grace, recast in 1802, is now in Northallerton Church, and is known as the "Curfew Bell."
The ruined abbeys and priories were long venerated by the Catholics, who regarded as sacred ground every spot hallowed by the Eucharistic sacrifices and the prayers and penances of the holy monks. Robbed of their churches, and forbidden the exercise of their religion under the severest penalties, the Catholics used to assemble occasionally at Mount Grace, in the darkness and secrecy of night, to receive the consolations of their religion from some missionary priest who was travelling the district in disguise. These gatherings were made known to the authorities, and in 1614 a commission was issued by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at York, under the seal of the archbishop, for the purpose of putting in force the penal enactments against Catholics and preventing these assemblies - styled, in the manifesto, "superstitious pilgrimages" - "forasmuch as those persons that doe repare thither come secretlie and closlie, and for the most parte in the night tyme, whose names are not knowne certainlie, the rather for that some of them are thought to come from farr."
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.