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Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of East Hang - Poor Law Union and Electoral Division of Bedale - County Court District of Northallerton - - Rural Deanery of Catterick East - Archdeaconry of Richmond - Diocese of Ripon.
This parish is situated between the river Swale and Leeming Lane, and includes the village of Fleetham, and the hamlets of Great and Little Fencote. Its total area, exclusive of water, is 3,126 acres; rateable value, £4,842; and population (1881), 552. Agriculture is the chief occupation. The soil is various, and generally fertile. E. H. Courage, Esq. is the principal landowner and lord of the manor, and the following are also proprietors:- Robert Hutton-Squire, Esq., J.P., Holtby Hall, Bedale; John Walker, Esq., South Fencote; Messrs. Edward and Thomas Strangwayes; Rev. R. H. Taylor, Cleasby (glebe farm); William Osborne, Esq., Ashgill, Middleham; Messrs. John and David Linton, Low Street Brewery; Henry M. G. Coore, Esq., J.P. and D.L.; Edward Fryer, Esq., West Hartlepool; and the exors. of John Mackay Plews, Esq., Fencote Hall.
At the Domesday survey Kirkby and Fletham were two distinct places and manors. The name of the former indicates the presence of a church there in Danish times, but this Danish edifice had disappeared in 1085, and the Domesday Book only mentions "a priest and a church" at Fleetham. All trace of this structure has vanished, and the parish church again stands on the site of the ancient vill and probably of the old Saxon church of Kirkby, a mile further north. The Domesday record tells us that Eldred had one manor at Cherchebi in the Confessor's time. He was one of the few Saxons who retained their estates after the Conquest, holding under the Earl of Richmond "in demesne one carucate of land, with six villeins, and two carucates besides."
The adjoining manor of Fleetham was held by Gamul and Uchtred, but they were dispossessed by the Conqueror, and their lands given to Odo, a Norman, chamberlain to the Earl of Richmond, from whom were probably descended Ernuldus de Fletham and Robert le Chamberlayne, who gave lands in Fletham to the nuns of Marrick.
The next mention of the owner of Kirkby Fleetham occurs about the year 1200, when Conan, son of Helias, lord of Kirkby Fleetham, took part in the castle-guard at Richmond. About the year 1200, Henry Gayner, of Fencotes, granted a toft and croft at Fletham to Marrick Abbey, and the farm called Friars' Garth, where a stone coffin was dug up a few years ago, was probably a portion of the lands and the grange belonging to the abbey. The grant was witnessed by Fraunceys, lord of Fencotes, and Roger de Stapelton. Hence it is inferred that Roger de Stapelton was already lord of the manor of Kirkby juxta Fletham, but there is no evidence to show how he became possessed of it.
Roger Stapelton was succeeded at Kirkby by his nephew, Sir Nicholas Stapelton, the judge, who died in 1290. His eldest son, a Knight Templar, predeceased him, and Sir Miles, the second son, succeeded to the estates. He is said to have resided at Kirkby, which was still a distinct manor from Fletham, though it now began to be called Kirkby Fletham. His manor house is supposed to have occupied the site of the present hall near the church, the heavy tower of which may have served as a refuge for the family in the Scottish invasions, as did that of Bedale. Whether Sir Miles built any part of the present church at Kirkby cannot be decided, but there are certain architectural details which show that a portion of the church was rebuilt or restored about that time. There can, however, be no doubt that the monument of the Knight Templar in the church is due to him. It represents a knight, clad in mail-armour, over which is a long linen surcoat, fastened round the waist with a small girdle. The head is bare, like the effigy of Sir Brian Fitz-Alan at Bedale. The figure bears, on a pointed shield, the arms of Stapelton, arg. a lion rampant sa. surcharged with a label of five points, denoting an eldest son during his father's lifetime. There can be no doubt that this effigy represents the elder brother of Sir Miles Stapelton. He was a brother of the Order of Knights Templars, and belonged either to the preceptory of Templehurst, or more probably to the little house at South Cowton.
On the death of Sir Thomas Stapelton, without issue, shortly after 1373, his estates at Kirkby, Fleetham, Stapelton, and elsewhere, devolved upon his sister Elizabeth, wife of Sir Thomas Metham, and several generations of Methams held the lands in succession.
The next owners of Kirkby Fleetham were the Smelts, but how or when they obtained possession of the property is not known. Two of the family are buried in the church; Matthew Smelt died in 1652, and Leonard, his son, in 1690.
The Aislabies were probably the next owners of the estate. Mr. Aislabie's daughter married Mr. Lawrence, and inherited Kirkby Fleetham and Studley Royal from her father. The late Mrs. Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence, who died in 1845, demised Kirkby Fleetham to her relative, H. E. Waller, Esq., and the estate was purchased from this family in 1888, by E. H. Courage, Esq., the present owner.
The village, with its spacious green, is pleasantly situated 5½ miles N. by E. of Bedale, and about three miles from Leeming Lane Station, on the Northallerton and Hawes branch of the North Eastern Railway. The Church (St. Mary), which stands about a mile from the village, is an ancient stone structure, rebuilt or restored in the Gothic style, but retaining a few traces of an earlier period. It consists of chancel, nave, with side aisles, or rather aisle and transept, south porch, and a lofty tower, containing three bells. It was thoroughly restored in 1872, at a cost of £2,000, at which time the windows - an architectural medley of Gothic and square-headed lights - were replaced by others of uniform shape and size, more nearly in accordance with what the original ones must have been. The east window of five lights is filled with stained glass, representing the Crucifixion. There are also memorial windows to the late Thos. Robson, Esq., of Holtby Hall, and Caroline, his wife, the late Mrs. Waller, and the Revs. T. C. Wilson and W. Lockwood, vicars of the parish. A new organ, by Conacher & Co., of Huddersfield, was placed on the north side of the chancel in 1880, at a cost of £250. The registers date from 1590. There are several monumental tablets in the church, and the effigy of the Knight Templar before mentioned. The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Bishop of Ripon, worth £289 a year, the commuted value of the vicarial tithes, with residence and three acres of glebe. The present incumbent is the Rev. John Shapland Eliott Cockburn-Hood, M.A., Trinity College, Cambridge.
The National School, a brick building in the village, with master's residence attached, was enlarged by the addition of a classroom in 1881. There is accommodation for 104, and an average attendance of 86. Mr. James Barnard Garrett, master.
Kirkby Hall, the seat of E. H Courage, Esq., is a modern mansion, built on the site of the old house of the Stapletons, near the church. It stands in a well wooded park, containing nearly 50 acres. Fleetham Lodge is an old historic house that formerly belonged to the Conyers family. Here rested for a few days the headless body of Lord Derwentwater, who was executed for treason on Tower Hill in 1716, and was permitted to be buried in the family vault at Dilston Castle in Northumberland. The house is the property of the exors. of J. M. Plews, Esq., and is at present unoccupied.
Great Fencote is a hamlet in this parish, about 2¾ miles from Leeming Lane Railway Station. The chapel-of-ease (St. Andrew) was erected in 1847, chiefly at the expense of the late Mrs. Lawrence. It is in the Gothic style, and consists of nave with porch, and bell turret. It was renovated in 1887, at the expense of the late J. M. Plews, Esq., of Fencote Hall, The east window of three lights is in memory of Mrs. Lawrence; there are also memorial windows to the Robson and Sedgwick families and to Ann Oates. The interior is neatly furnished with benches for 180 persons. The churchyard was enlarged in 1877, and has since been used for the interments of the whole parish. The Wesleyans have a chapel in the village, built in 1845. It is in the Bedale circuit.
Little or South Fencote is an adjoining hamlet. Fencote Hall was the residence and property of the late J. M. Plews, Esq., who purchased it from the trustees of the Rev. Leonard Sedgwick, in 1871. The hall was for a short time the abode of Sir Alfred Tichborne, brother of Sir Roger of the famous lawsuit; and here, four months after his death, was born his son, also Sir Alfred, who was the defendant in the above suit.
At the Stud Farm are the kennels of the Bedale Fox Hounds. The pack consists of forty-five couple, and has been located here since 1885. Capt. W. P. Wilson-Todd, master; Fred. Holland, huntsman. The farm is the property of W. Osborne, Esq., and occupied by Messrs. John and David Linton, the successful breeders of Leicester sheep and shorthorn cattle.
CHARITIES - Leonard Smelt, in consideration of £64 benefaction money, gave in 1712, 19 acres 2 roods 28 perches of land to the poor. They also receive the interest of £100 left by Thomas Tennant in 1856.
[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.