Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of East Gilling - Electoral Division of Croft - Poor Law Union and County Court District of Darlington - Rural Deanery of Richmond East - Archdeaconry of Richmond - Diocese of Ripon.
This small, but interesting, parish is situated on the south bank of the Tees opposite Piersebridge, where the old Roman road - Watling Street - crossed the river. The surface is undulated and picturesque. The parish comprises the townships of Manfield and Cliffe, covering a total area of 3,454 acres, and containing 348 inhabitants. The parish extends into the Wapentake of West Gilling, in which there are about 700 acres. Manfield township comprises 2,400 acres, and 276 inhabitants, and is valued for rating purposes at £2,847. The landowners are Colonel John Gerald Wilson, J.P. and D.L., who is also lord of the manor; and J. T. D'Arcy Hutton, Esq., J.P.
The village is situated a little to the east of Watling Street, about nine miles north of Richmond, The first portion of the name is apparently the British or Celtic Maen, a stone, or pile of stones, to which, in after times, the Saxons added a word in their own language, signifying the open country. Cade describes the village as "anciently a very considerable place of great extent . . . . and probably once a British oppidum, being everywhere strewed with small hillocks resembling tumuli."
The Church, which is dedicated to All Saints, is of unknown foundation, but probably dates from Saxon times. The style of the present edifice is Early English. The fabric was thoroughly restored in 1855, when a "Priest's door," a piece of Norman work, was preserved on account of its antiquity. The tower is massive, and contains three bells, each of which bears the date 1664. The clock was presented by Mrs. Wilson, of Sea Croft Hall in 1841, and the east window, representing the four Evangelists, by Miss Sarah Wilson. There are also two stained glass windows in the south aisle to the memory of Richard Bassett Wilson, of Cliffe Hall, and Anne, his widow. The latter, representing the Raising of Jairus' Daughter, is a beautiful piece of work by Meyer, of London and Munich. There are some other stained glass memorials, and also several tablets to the Witham family, former lords of the manor, who were seated at Cliffe Hall from the middle of the 16th to the early part of the present century, when the estate was sold to the late John Wilson, Esq., grandfather of the present Colonel J. G. Wilson, The roof of the nave is open, with four clerestory windows on each side. The pulpit and font, both of white stone, were the work of Mr. Priestman, of Darlington, and a handsome, carved oaken screen and reredos, erected, in 1876, by Colonel Wilson, were executed by Henry Harwood, of Manfield. The lectern, also of oak, was the gift of Miss Yeoman, In the churchyard are several old tombstones, supposed to belong to the 13th and 14th centuries.
The living was formerly a rectory. In 1335, it was appropriated to Easby Abbey, by Robert de Wodehouse, Archdeacon of Richmond. It is valued in the King's Books at £6 1s. 3d., and is now worth £370, with six acres of glebe and residence. At the Reformation, the patronage came to the Crown, but is now vested in the bishop of Ripon. The late vicar, the Rev. 0. B. Yeoman, who died on the 4th of the present month (April, 1889), held the benefice 29 years, and his predecessor, the Rev. J. Swire, to whom there is a memorial window in the north aisle, 37 years.
The School was rebuilt in 1857, at a cost of £800. It is attended by about 40 children, and possesses an endowment of £1,000. There is also a reading room in the village, with a small library attached.
CLIFFE township, containing about 700 acres, situated in the wapentake of West Gilling, is the property of Colonel Wilson. Rateable value £960, and population 72. The village, which is small, stands on the south bank of the Tees, and derives its name from the cliffs which here margin the river. Hard by is the old Roman road, Watling Street; and on the opposite side of the river, on the spot where Pierce Bridge now stands, was a Roman station, part of the western vallum of which remained till 1822, when it was demolished by the then occupant, James O'Callaghan, Esq., M.P.; and the stones, except the few that retained fragments of inscriptions, were used in the erection of farm buildings. Horsley and Hodgson identify this station with the Magis of the Itinerary, and from its position we may assume that its purpose was the protection of the ford by which the road from York to the Great Wall here crossed the river.
Cliffe Hall, the seat of Colonel Wilson, is a neat mansion, rebuilt in 1859 by the present owner's father. Cliffe estate was for several centuries the property of the Withams, who resided at the hall. It came into their possession by the marriage of George Witham, Esq., with Margaret, daughter and co-heir of John Wawton, of Cliffe. She died in 1479, and is buried at Manfield. The hall and estate were sold by the representative of the family in 1825, to John Wilson, Esq., grandfather of the present Colonel John Gerald Wilson, J.P. and D.L. In the park is a tumulus; and an old inscribed stone, supposed to commemorate a Roman soldier, was dug up within the grounds a few years ago.
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