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Wapentake of Ryedale - Electoral Division of Hovingham - Poor Law Union, Petty Sessional Division, and County Court District of Malton - Rural Deanery of Helmsley - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.
This parish is situated close to the old Roman road or "street" which ran from Malton through Hovingham and Gilling, past Easingwold to Aldbrough, the Iseur of the ancient Britons, the Isurium of the Romans, and the Burgh and afterwards the Aldburgh of the Saxons. Its superficial extent is 2,363 acres, which form a single township, the rateable value of which is £3,372. The inhabitants in 1881 numbered 596, and are chiefly employed in husbandry. The soil is loam and clay, and the principal crops wheat, oats, barley, and turnips. The Malton and Thirsk branch of the North Eastern railway intersects the parish, and there is a station near the village. The Earl of Carlisle is lord of the manor and principal landowner; Valentine Kitchingman, Esq., of Slingsby Hall, and Miss Ireland have each a small estate here, and there are also a few small freeholders.
The earliest notice of Slingsby occurs in Domesday Book, wherein it is recorded that "In Selungesbi there are fourteen carucates of land to be taxed. Two thanes held this for two manors. There is a priest there with eighteen villeins having ten ploughs and twenty acres of meadow. It was valued at 70 shillings; and is now worth 30 shillings." The Conqueror having ousted the two Saxon thanes, assigned these lands to his relative, the Earl of Morton, whom he enriched with 196 manors in Yorkshire, besides a large number in other parts of the kingdom. "The manor," says the Rev. A. S. Brooke, in his "Slingsby Church Monthly Magazine," was the territorial unit of the country. It was an estate held by a lord with a village community generally depending upon it. Land in those days was "held" not owned. The king was supposed to be the owner of all the land in the kingdom, and he granted out manors or estates to great nobles, on the condition of their furnishing him in time of war with so many knights or soldiers. If a nobleman got a very great estate, he would become a sort of king himself, and would divide his land again among his underlords on the same condition, that they would follow him to battle and fight for him; and these under-lords would perhaps have sub-tenants under them. But everybody in the country who held land, retained it only on condition of rendering the services which were involved in the tenure." The military and other services exacted from the grantees have been abrogated, and an absolute ownership with all its attendant evils established.
The following spellings of Slingsby occur in old records:- "Eslingesbi," "Selungesbi," "Selingesbi," "Slengesbi," "Slyngesbi," &c. The first of these. suggests the possible derivation of the word to be from "Ezzlinc," a proper name in use at the time of the Danish invasion; and "bi" or "by," originally in Danish a "building," afterwards an "abode," "farm," "village." So that Slingsby probably means the village of Ezzlinc, after the first Danish settler. In the neighbourhood there are other places of similar origin. Thus "Brandsby" is the town of Brand; and " Thirkleby" the town of "Thirk'l or Torquil." Samuel Lewis, in his topographical dictionary (1831), says: "Here was a castle belonging to the family of Lacy before the time of the Conquest." Whether this is a correct. and reliable historical fact or not, Slingsby must have been a place of some importance in Saxon times, for we find it twice mentioned in Domesday Book,. once as before stated, and again when recording the result of the survey of the "Land of Hugh, son of Baldric." It says "Manor." - "In Hovingham, Orm had 8 carucates of land to be taxed. There is land to 4 ploughs. Hugh, son of Baldric, has them now, 2 ploughs and 10 villeins having 4 ploughs. There is a church and a priest."
"Berewicks." - These belonging to this Manor, Wad (Wath), Frideton. (Fryton), Holtorp (Howthorpe), Eschalchedene (Scackleton), Haunade (Heworth), Coltune (Colton), Grimeston (Grimston), Neutone (Newton), Nesse (Ness), Helme (Holme), Eslingesbi (Slingsby), Butruic (Butterwick), Aimundrebi (Amotherby), Brostone (Broston), Newhuse (Newsome); to be taxed together 32 carucates of land. There is land to 15 ploughs. Two of Hugh's vassails have now these 2 ploughs and a half. There are at present there 42 villeins having 14 ploughs and and 32 acres of meadow. The whole manor with the places belonging to it were in King Edward's time valued at 12 pounds, now 100 shillings." It will thus be seen that at the time of this ancient survey, the land of Slingsby was held by two Norman lords, Earl Morton, and Hugh, son of Baldric; the former having "14 carucates of land to be taxed," and the latter "a Berewick" or detached portion of his Hovingham Manor.
A "carucate," or ploughland, was the amount of land that could be cultivated each year by one caruca, or eight-ox plough; varying in size according to the system of agriculture prevalent in the place. There were two systems, the simpler one being the two-field system, by which half the arable land of the manor was under the plough, and the remainder fallow. Under this system a carucate was equivalent to about 160 acres. In the other, or three-field system, the whole arable of the manor lay in three nearly equal portions - one fallow, and the other two under cultivation. A carucate under this system consisted of about 180 acres. It is mentioned in Domesday Book that "there was a priest" in Slingsby, but no mention is made of any church, as in the case of Hovingham, although it is a fair deduction to make that there would hardly be a minister without a building in which to officiate. "There were 18 villeins having 10 ploughs." A villein was a small farmer, who, for certain manorial services, had one-eighth of a carucate of the common land lying around the village, and the right of pasturing his cattle over the fallow-field. A large part of the township was in cultivation, "there being only 20 acres of meadow." Owing to the devastation caused in Northumbria by the Conqueror giving orders for laying waste the country from York to Durham, in consequence of its resistance to his troops, neither spade nor plough was put into the ground for nine years, and the land tax of the township which was 70 shillings in the time of the Confessor, fell in 1086 to 30 shillings.
After the Earl of Morton's time his possessions came to the Mowbrays, who had a castle at Slingsby, and the Wyvilles and others held lands under them. the castle and manor of Slingsby passed from the family of Mowbray to that of Hastings about 1322, when John de Mowbray was beheaded for being in arms against the king at Boroughbridge. The domain remained in the ancient family of Hastings till 1600, when it was purchased by Sir Charles Cavendish, in whose family it remained for about a century. The manor was afterwards held by the Duke of Buckingham, but on his death, in 1735, without issue, it came into the possession, by purchase, of an ancestor of the present noble proprietor. As the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Carlisle were both originally descended from the Mowbrays, they appear to be its legitimate possessors. The first castle erected was by Roger de Mowbray, but this appears early to have gone to decay, for in the 18th of Edward III. (1345), Ralph de Hastings had license to make a castle of his house at Slingsby. Dodsworth, the antiquarian, who visited Slingsby in 1619, observes of this castle:- "There is engraven on stone a maunche, over the castle gate, which castle, manor, and park was the ancient possession of the Hastings, earls of Huntington, now sold to Sir C. Cavendish. There hath been a church in the castle."
The castle of the Mowbrays was probably only a forest lodge; that of Hastings might aspire to the dignity of a manor house, not intended for a fortress or place of defence, being built on a plain, and destitute of all the advantages of situation. One or both has been surrounded by a moat or dry ditch, 30 feet deep and 90 wide; three sides of it are now in pasture, and the fourth has been converted into gardens. There does not appear to have been any means of filling it with water.
In 1603 Sir C. Cavendish removed the castle of the Hastings, and erected on its site the present structure of quadrangular form, with towers on the eastern and western sides, in the style of Inigo Jones. A stone, formerly in front of the building, but now removed, bore this inscription:- "This house was built by Sir C. Cavendish, son of Sir C. Cavendish, and brother to William, Duke of Newcastle. he was a man of great virtue and learning. He died in 1653, and this is placed here by order of his nephew, Henry, Duke of Newcastle, in the year 1691." The ruins of this castle do not possess those features of antiquity and gloomy strength presented by many of the Yorkshire castles, neither has it any historical interest for the student.
The plan of the castle is about 40 yards in length by 30 in breadth. The greatest height of the walls is 40 feet, divided into three stories. The basement (containing the kitchen, store-rooms, and other offices) being strongly arched, and the second and third stories being intended for the state and other rooms. The state rooms have been on a large scale, and the windows and doors of magnificent proportions. There is some elegant carving on the tops of the windows and doorways. At all the corners of the castle, and in every story, there is a small room, five feet by four and twelve high, arched over, and having two small holes for windows. The whole building is of oolitic limestone; no part of it has perished by exposure to the weather, and the ruins are not defaced by any wanton desecration.
The village of Slingsby is situated on the Malton and Thirsk railway and near a tributary of the Rye, seven miles west by north of Malton, and 28 miles north of York. This is one of the very few Yorkshire villages that retains its Maypole, a mast of fir, rising 80 feet above the ground. The church, dedicated to All Saints, is an ancient foundation, and though not mentioned in Domesday Book, it probably dates from Saxon times. It was rebuilt in 1869, at a cost of £5,000, defrayed by Lord and Lady Lanerton. The former died in 1880, and a beautiful monumental cross of the Irish style, erected to his memory, stands in the churchyard. At the top is a figure of our Blessed Lord represented as blessing the world, whilst an angel stands on each side swinging a censor, the fumes from which typify the prayers of the just which they are offering to God. The church is in the Early English style, with perpendicular windows, and consists of chancel, nave, with north and south aisle, south porch, and tower, with crocketed pinnacles, containing a clock and three bells. The nave is separated from the aisles by three pointed arches. The chancel retains its ancient sedilia and decorated piscina. In the south chapel is the mutilated effigy of a cross-legged knight, supposed to represent one of the Wyvill family, who is said, by a fabulous tradition, to have slain a monstrous serpent that infested the neighbouring road, and preyed upon the passers by. The chancel window is a stained-glass memorial to George, sixth earl of Carlisle; and on the south side is another to the memory of the Rev. William Walker, who died in 1855, having been rector of the parish for 32 years. On the opposite side is a brass to the Rev. William Carter, late rector, who died in 1882. The west window is a memorial of the Rev. Charles Hardwick, archdeacon of Ely. In the nave is a mural tablet to the memory of Dr. Robert Lascelles and Mary, his wife. It is a beautiful specimen of mosaic work, executed by Salviati, of London. The reredos is of alabaster, but plain. The font has an octagonal bowl, resting on marble shafts. An organ was added in 1870, at a cost of £166. The register dates from the year 1687. The living is a rectory, worth about £500 a year, including residence and 90 acres of land, in the gift of the Earl of Carlisle, and held by the Rev. Arthur Sinclair Brooke, M.A., Trinity College, Dublin, The tithe rent-charge is £369.
The patronage was vested at an early period, probably by one of the de Mowbrays, in the abbot and convent of Whitby, and was exercised by them till the Reformation, when it was seized by the Crown. The last presentation by the Crown was in 1618, by James I. The right was afterwards transferred to the Cavendish family, owners of the estate, and the successive lords of the manor have since been the patrons. The list of rectors is very complete from 1303.
The Wesleyan chapel is a plain stone building, erected in 1837, and a Sunday school was added in 1881.
The National school is a good stone building, with a teacher's residence attached, situated on the Green. It was erected in 1860, for 150 children. It is endowed with a rent-charge of £5 a year, left by the Rev. Robert Ward, rector, in 1712; and the Earl of Carlisle also subscribes £20 a year towards its support.
The poor widows of the parish receive the rent of 10 acres of land, which is distributed at Christmas.
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.