ROKEBY, a parish in the wapentake of Gilling West, and liberty of Richmondshire; 2½ miles SE. of Barnard Castle. The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary (see Churches for photograph), is a rectory, in the patronage of the Crown, and the Rev. James Wilkinson, is the incumbent. The population of Rokeby, including Eggleston Abbey, amounts to 222.
Rokeby hall is described by Pennant, as an elegant house in the Italian style, built by Sir Thomas Robinson, Bart. and Dr. Whitaker says, that the oldest part of the house is indeed the work of Sir Thomas, but that it has been much enlarged by the present proprietor, J. B. Sawrey Morritt, Esq. and by his late venerable father. It is an elegant and commodious mansion, standing on the site of the ancient manor house, but its most interesting feature, is the gallery, 67 feet long, containing a profusion of statues, paintings and sculpture; with urns, altars and inscriptions, the productions of former times, and the admiration of the present age. The park is an angular area, of the richest soil, and shaded by luxuriant woods, bounded by the Tees and the Greta for the space of about a mile upwards from their confluence. Mortham Tower, which is immediately beyond the bridge, adjoins the embattled keep of that name, and was the residence of the Rokeby's in their adversity; these objects, with the Roman statue within the park, and the near prospect of Egglestone Abbey, all conspire to constitute Rokeby hall one of the most enchanting residences in the North of England, and to form a fit retirement, and a theme for a Mason and a Scott. In the vale of the Tees and the Greta are found inexhaustable quarries of marble, which is used, though in no great quantities, to ornament the mansions of the living, and to form the monuments of the dead.
Complete extract from Langdale's Yorkshire Topographical Dictionary:
"Rokeby," says Pennant, "is an elegant house in the Italian style, built by Sir Thomas Robinson, Bart. well known in his day by the name of Long Tom, from a design of W. Wakefield, Esq. in 1724, diverted me a little from my . road. The front extends 96 feet it has a rustic basement, and in the centre four columns and two pilasters support Corinthian ordonance. The entrance is through a low vestibule on the ground floor, in which are several low apartments; more suitable to the warmer climate of Italy, than to our chilly vapory regions, when the sun should meet the fullest welcome. In the principal story is a gallery 67 feet long; in this, as well as throughout the house, is a profusion of statues, busts, sculptures; and most elegant sepulchral urns, collected from abroad; and in a room, called the museum, are piled in disorder, multitudes of altars, inscriptions, sculptors, &c. found either at the adjoining station and burying ground near Gretabridge, and at Bowes Castle, or brought here from the castle of Naworth, in Cumberland, and gathered from the neighbouring stations on the wall." --Tour from Alton Moor.
To these curiosities, may be added some of the finest needle work in the kingdom, in which the paintings of the greatest masters are rivalled; the threads are disposed in such a mode, that at a little distance, even human figures shew all the graces, the tints and beauties of the finest paintings." -Hutchinson.
"This little parish," says, Dr. Whitaker, " rich in natural scenery, adorned by modern elegance, distinguished by the site of a Roman station, and the remains of a religious house, but still more distinguished by a line of patriots and soldiers in its lords, has in latter days been the retirement and the theme of great poets." -Mason and Scott.
[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. ©2010]