"MIDDLEHAM, is a market and parish-town, having no dependent township, in the western division of the wapentake of Hang, North Riding, 234 miles from London, 44 n.w. from York, 10 s.s.w. from Bedale, and between 2 and 3 s. from Leyburn ; situated on a gentle acclivity, rising from the river Ure, and the town is said to derive its name from being the centre of a number of hamlets. The ruins of Middleham castle form a very striking feature in the surrounding romantic scenery, and was once a splendid edifice, built about the year 1190, by Robert Fitz-Ranalph. Edward IV was confined in this fortress, but making his escape, he levied an army, and obtained a decisive victory over his opponent, who lost his life at the battle of Barnet. The constableship of the castle, now merely a nominal office, is vested in the Duke of Leeds. The proprietor or tenant of mills here, called Ulshaw or Ulshey mills, possesses the privilege of compelling persons to grind all corn, grain or malt, used in the town at these mills, a decree to this effect was made in the court of exchequer, in the 8th of Charles 1st, and confirmed by another decree in the 25th of Charles 2nd. About half a mile from the town is Middleham moor, the famous school of the turf, where so many celebrated horses have received their first training. The places of worship are the parish church, and a chapel each for Wesleyan and primitive methodists. The church which is dedicated to St. Mary and St. Alkeld, is a neat structure, in the ancient style of English architecture. It was made collegiate by Richard 3rd, when Duke of Gloucester. The living is a deanery, in the patronage of the crown : the Rev. P.S. Wood, L.L.D. is the incumbent, and the Rev. J. Cockcroft is the resident curate. The market which has been declining for several years, is held on Monday ; and the annual fairs on Easter Monday, Whit Monday, and November 5th, 6th and 7th, for sheep and horned cattle. The parish contained in 1821, 880 inhabitants, and in 1831, 914.
East Witton is a small neat village and parish, having no dependent township, in the same division, wapentake, and riding as Middleham, 2 miles s.e. from that town. About a mile east of the village, are the ruins of Jervaulx abbey, founded about the middle of the 12th century, by Akarius, in honour of the Virgin Mary. These interesting remains were some few years since cleared from the briars and rubbish which concealed them ; when there became visible considerable portions of the abbey church, with its cross aisles, choir and chapter house ; together with several tombs, stone coffins, and the tesselated pavement of the great aisle ; the pavement, however, on exposure to the air, crumbled into dust. The church here is an elegant structure, in the later style of English architecture. The first stone was laid in 1809, and the building completed in 1812, at the sole expense of the Earl of Allesbury, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the reign of George 3rd. The same nobleman, who is lord of the manor, erected a school in 1817. Two fairs are held here, viz. on the 3rd of May and 20th of November, for sheep, cattle, and horses. The parish contained at the last census, 687 persons."
[Transcribed by Steve Garton ©2000 from
Pigot's directory (Yorkshire section) 1834]