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Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Pickering Lythe East - Poor Law Union, County Court District, and Rural Deanery of Scarborough - Archdeaconry of East Riding - Diocese of York.
This parish lies to the south of Scarborough, on the north bank of the river Hertford, which here forms the line of demarcation between the North and East Ridings. It comprises the townships of Seamer, East Ayton and Irton, which have an aggregate area of 7,196 acres, exclusive of wastes and shootings, and had in 1881 a population of 1,299. The York and Scarborough branch of the North-Eastern railway passes through the parish, and the branch lines from Pickering and from Hull here converge into the above railway. In the township of Seamer there are 4,691 acres of land under assessment, the rateable value is £7,453, and the population 752. The Earl of Londesborough is lord of the manor and owner of all the land excepting 121 acres of glebe. Limestone forms the subsoil, and is also quarried for building purposes. There was formerly here a large mere or lake, hence the name Sea Mere, but this has by drainage been reduced to the insignificant dimensions of a few yards. It was there in Leland's time, who visited the place 300 years ago, and thus describes it: "Seamer, a great uplandish toune, having a great lake on the south-west side of it, whereof the toune taketh name."
Seamer is a place of very respectable antiquity, and, as it had both its church and priest at the time of the Norman Conquest, we may, by inference, assume that it was then of no mean consequence. The Conqueror gave this and other lordships to William de Percy, and it passed through many generations of that noble family. They had a manor house here, of which Leland writes: "The manor place of the Percys, at the west end of the Chirch Garth, is large, but of no rich building, the chapel only of it is well builded." In 1787 the Duke of Leeds sold Seamer, Irton, and East Ayton to Joseph Denison, Esq., for the sum of £111,000, from whom it has descended to the Earl of Londesborough, the present owner.
The village of Seamer is situated on the Driffield and Scarborough road, about four miles south of the latter town, and near the station of its own name. It was formerly a place of much more importance than at present, and had a weekly market, which was held under a charter granted to Henry, earl of Northumberland in 1383, and a yearly fair of six days, commencing on the feast of St. Martin, was also granted by the same charter. This market interfered with the prosperity of its older and more powerful neighbour, Scarborough, and frequent litigation resulted. They complained that their market was deserted, and that grass had begun to grow in the market place. Eventually it was, after many suspensions, finally suppressed in 1612, but the fair still continues, though now devoted as much to pleasure and merry-making as to business. It is opened at 11 o'clock in the morning of the 15th July by proclamation, the original charter, or rather a parchment copy thereof, being read by the postmaster, and, formerly, during the six days continuance of the fair, the inhabitants were allowed to sell beer, &c., without an excise license; a bush was exhibited over the door as a sign, but recent legislation has deprived them of the privilege. A hirings for servants has been held since 1812, and a cattle and sheep market every fourth Monday. If we may take the number of public-houses as a measure of the prosperity of the village, Seamer must have been a fairly busy place about the middle of last century. In 1760, there were in the village nine inns, which are now happily reduced to two.
The only historic event of any interest connected with the place is the insurrection which was attempted here in 1549 in consequence of the dissolution of monasteries. Burning with zeal to restore the old form of religious worship, and to reinstal the monks and nuns in the houses from which they had been ruthlessly expelled, a handful of misguided zealots attempted to effect what the thirty thousand Pilgrims of Grace had failed to accomplish. The ringleaders were Thomas Dale, the parish clerk, John Stevenson, of Seamer, and William Ombler or Ambler, of East Heslerton, yeoman. By a preconcerted arrangement the lighting of Staxton Beacon was to be the signal for the rising. The conspirators assembled to the number of 3,000 and proceeded to the house of one Mr. White, a gentleman who had rendered himself obnoxious to them. They broke into the house, captured the owner, Mr. Clapton, his brother-in-law, Mr. Richard Savage, sheriff of York, and a servant-man, and carried them off to the Wolds, where they were stripped and murdered. The insurrection, however, was nipped in the bud. A detachment of solders from the garrison at York was sent against them; a free pardon was proclaimed by order of the King, but the three leaders and six others refusing the royal clemency were executed at York.
It is recorded in Domesday Book that there was a church and priest at Seamer at the time of the Norman Conquest, although we have no means of knowing the date of the erection of the edifice by our Saxon forefathers. It is supposed to have been rebuilt by Lord William de Percy about 1100, soon after receiving a grant of this manor and others in Yorkshire from the Conqueror. In one of the Whitby abbey charters, A.D. 1173, a witness to its signature is Richard, dean of Seamer and Cayton. The Torre manuscripts give five rectors to St. Martin's, Seamer, from 1236 to 1322. In 1323, William de Melton, archbishop of York, by the consent of Pope John, "appropriated this church of Semore to the abbot and convent of Whitby, to whom the right of patronage belonged, and ordained this perpetual vicarage," to which also was attached the churches of Ayton and Cayton. Like other ancient churches, it was a sort of minor castle, which could be used as a place of refuge in times of disturbance, or for those needing the safety of the sanctuary, as is shown by the thickness of the older portions of the walls; the small, high-up, clerestory windows; and the strong oak door, with its fittings for barricading, The chancel of the church was originally much smaller, and has been extended from the buttress west of the priests' door on the south side, with the corresponding buttress on the north, probably about 1380. In 1424, John, Bishop of Dromore, was commissioned to dedicate the chapel, with the altars therein erected, within the manor of Seamer belonging to the Right Eon. Lord Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland.
The church underwent a general restoration in 1686, a further one in 1847, and a more complete one in August, 1888. The fine Norman chancel arch, with checkered and nail-head ornamentation, and its pillars of three orders, is an object of admiration to all ecclesiologists. Other portions of the ancient work still remaining are the small blocked-up window, with zigzag moulding, &c., on north wall of chancel; the south doorway; the figures and brackets at the east end of the chancel; and the small, high-up window of the nave on the north side. The architecture of the church, while containing some Norman portions, is chiefly Perpendicular. There is a communication between the nave and the north aisle, through the thickness of the wall. This opening is occupied by the organ. The vestry has a pointed door opening into the chancel. There was formerly an ambry near the fire-place. A fine carved oak screen (Jacobean) divides the chancel from the nave, bearing two shields, on one of which is a crest with a falcon on a cap of maintenance, and in the centre of the top of the screen is a triangular shelf-like projection. In removing the plaster during the recent restoration a piscina was discovered near the pulpit; also a doorway and staircase on the north side of chancel arch, probably the way to the tower. The work of restoration, under the direction of Mr. C. Hodgson Fowler, diocesan architect of Durham, cost £2,500, defrayed by the Earl of Londesborough, the Woodall family, and the parishioners. The church consists of chancel, nave, with clerestory on the north side lighted by round-headed windows, aisles, south porch and square embattled tower on the west, containing clock and three bells, and on the east gable of the nave is the sancte-cot with its bell. It is not uncommon to find the "cot" on old churches, but the be sancte, or sanctus bell, is rarely seen. The altar was raised three steps in 1888, and choir stalls and new oak gilt reredos added. The gallery and nave plaster were removed, and a new flat oak, roof leaded, and new seats put in. The east window of the chancel was filled with stained glass by the Rev. G. E. Welby, rector of Barrowby, to the memory of his mother. A pulpit, on freestone pedestal, with frame and panels of old oak, and a font, were given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Woodall (John and Mary Eleanor). Amongst the tablets is one to the memory of Richard Wilson, of Scarborough, who founded and endowed a mariners asylum there.
The living, which includes Ayton and Cayton, is valued at £400 gross, and is in the patronage of the Archbishop of York, and the incumbency of the Rev. F. G. Stapleton, B.A. (Cambridge), who was inducted in 1885. Contiguous to the vicarage is a parish room, built by Lord Londesborough.
The Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists have chapels in the village. That of the latter was erected in 1858, and a Sunday school was added in 1878, at a cost of £300.
The educational affairs of Seamer have been in the hands of a School Board since 1877, when a Board was formed for the united district of Seamer and Irton. The present school was erected the following year, for the accommodation of 160 children.
At the top of Raincliffe Wood, about 1½ miles from Scarborough, is Seamer Racecourse. The races were first held on Seamer moor in 1758, and were continued yearly till 1789, when, owing to some dissatisfaction or disagreement, they were discontinued. In 1867 the present Race Company was formed, with a capital of £2,000.
The many tumuli or barrows still to be seen on the moors may be taken as a cogent proof of the existence here or hereabouts of a strong colony of Brigantian Britons. One of these was opened in 1848, and was found to contain a kist-vaen formed of massive stones. Inside was a complete human skeleton. Flint arrow heads have been frequently picked up on the moors. A Roman quern or handmill and other remains have also been found, which lead to the supposition that the Romans had a camp or fortress of some kind here. Numerous earthworks of an early date remain on the moor, and the foundations of a wall supposed to be Roman may yet be traced.
In 1857 several gold and silver ornaments were unearthed by some quarrymen in a limestone quarry; amongst them were a beautiful lozenge-shaped gold pendant, a gold pin, portions of a necklace, to which the pendant was attached, formed of platted silver wire, a quantity of broken crockery, glass, and fragments of iron. Near the same spot was discovered an early grave, containing a skeleton, a large bronze ring, which had probably once been attached to the girdle of the deceased, and a small knife. Mr. Thomas Wright, F.S.A., in a paper read before the Archæological Society, says these remains are undoubtedly Saxon, and that they indicate the presence here of an early Saxon settlement, consisting of families of greater wealth and splendour than usual in this part of the country.
EAST AYTON is a township and chapelry in this parish, lying on the east bank of the Derwent, opposite West Ayton, with which it is connected by a good stone bridge of four arches. The course of the river for four miles above Ayton is through the beautiful Forge Valley, so called from a forge anciently erected here for the manufacture of iron. The scenery is of the most picturesque description. The river is well stocked with trout, but is here strictly preserved, and the gentle art can only be pursued with the permission of the Anglers' Club, which may be obtained from Mr. S. M. Patrick, 34 Bar Street, Scarborough. The township comprises 2,490 acres of land, the property and manor of the Earl of Londesborough. It is valued for rating purposes at £2,423, and had in 1881, a population of 399.
Ayton gave name to the Barons of Ayton or Etton, who were possessed of the lordship from the time of Henry I. to the 13th year of the reign of Richard II. Gilbert de Aton married Margery, daughter and heiress of Warin de Vesci, a younger son of William de Vesci, Baron of Alnwick and Lord of Malton, which through this marriage eventually came to the Aytons. William, the son and heir of this Gilbert, gave to the chapel of Ayton a toft, croft, and four acres of land, with pasturage for eight oxen, eight kine, six horses, and 100 sheep, with 30 cart loads of turf annually out of his marsh at Hutton Buscel, for the support of a chantry therein for ever. William, his grandson, styled De Vesci, married Isabel, daughter of Henry, 3rd Baron Percy. He was summoned as a baron in 1371, was sheriff of Yorkshire, governor of York castle, and knight of the shire of Yorkshire in 1734. He founded and endowed a chantry for one priest in the chapel of Ayton, to pray for the soul of his son, who had predeceased his father. At the death of the latter, the estates were divided among his three daughters, who married into the families of De Eures, St. John, and Conyers. Subsequently the greater portion of these lands came by inheritance or purchase to the Bromfletes.
The village is situated on the bank of the Derwent, four miles S.W. of Scarborough, and two miles from Seamer station. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is an ancient building, consisting of chancel, nave, and a western embattled tower, The chancel arch, south doorway, and font, are Norman, which appears to have been the style of the original edifice; the rest is Early English and Perpendicular Gothic. The church was restored recently, and the churchyard formed and consecrated in 1888. The living is a chapelry annexed to Seamer. The Sunday school possesses a small endowment, £10 in the three per cent. consols, left by the late Mr. Robinson, of Derwent Villa.
The Primitive Methodists have a small plain chapel in the village, built in 1842.
The educational affairs of the township are managed by a School Board formed in 1876, by whom the present Board School was erected in 1878, at a cost of £1,040, to accommodate 83 children.
IRTON is a township in this parish, containing 957 acres of land under assessment, chiefly belonging to the Earl of Londesborough, who is also lord of the manor, The rateable value is £1,635, and the population in 1881 was 153. The Pickering and Scarborough railway passes through the township, and the Scarborough Corporation have their waterworks here. An artesian well was bored in 1879-8O to the depth of 550 feet, which yields 1,400,000 gallons of water daily. The village is small, and stands 4 miles S.W. by S. of Scarborough.
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.