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Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Birdforth - Electoral Division of Thirsk - Poor Law Union, County Court District, and Rural Deanery of Thirsk - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.
SOWERBY was part of the ancient parish of Thirsk, and the village, from its proximity to, may be considered a suburb of, that town; but for all purposes, both civil and ecclesiastical, Sowerby is now a separate parish. The final syllable of the name, by, is generally indicative of Danish origin, and the first portion of the word may probably point out the southern position of the village with regard to Thirsk, as there is a Norby on the opposite side. So also there are Norbiton and Surbiton similarly situated with regard to Kingston-on-Thames. The name has been variously written at different times. In Domesday Book it occurs as Sorebi, where Orm had two carucates of land to be taxed. In later documents it is spelt Sourebie, Sourby, Soureby, and finally as at present, Sowerby. The area of the township and parish is 2,528 acres, its annual value for rateable purposes £12,509, and its population in 1881 was 1,743.
The manor of Sowerby was held in the reign of John (1199-1216) by William de Lascelles, and remained in the possession of that family until the 42nd of Elizabeth (1601), when it was assigned, by Sir Thomas Lascelles, Knight, and William Lascelles, his son and heir, to the Meynells, of North Kilvington, for a term of 2,000 years, subject to a small yearly rent in money and hens. It is now the property of Edgar John Meynell, Esq., Durham, but the land chiefly belongs to Lady Payne Frankland, Thirkleby Park; Reginald Bell, Esq., Thirsk Hall; Quintin Rhodes, Esq., Thirsk; R. T. Buckle, Esq.; and Miss Buckle.
The mansion of the Lascelles has disappeared, but it is supposed to have stood on the site now occupied by Manor Farm house.
John Lockwood, a native of this parish, was executed at York in 1642, for the "crime of popery." He was the son of Christopher Lockwood, Esq., of Sowerby, by N. Lascelles, daughter of Sir Robert Lascelles, of Breckenbrough. He was born in 1555, and, whilst still a young man, he voluntarily gave up an estate of four hundred pounds a year to devote himself to the service of God and his persecuted co-religionists. He was twice apprehended and imprisoned, but was either released or made his escape. He was taken the last time whilst cultivating his little garden at Wood End, then occupied by Mrs. Catenby, a widow, with whom he had resided several years. The pursuivants were his near neighbours from Thirsk, led by Cuthbert Langdale, a wretch whose name has been handed down to posterity with deserved infamy. Mr. Lockwood, or, as he was also called, Lascelles, had, amidst a life of vicissitude and peril, reached the ripe old age of 87, and his only crime was his firm adhesion to the faith of his fathers and the exercise of his priestly functions. His venerable age, which might have commanded sympathy and forbearance, had no effect on the stony heart of his captor. Enfeebled by his years the aged priest was unable to ride, and, Pizzaro-like, he was laid across the horse's back and thus conveyed to York. He suffered death along with another priest, named Catherick, also a Yorkshireman. After their execution they were taken down and disembowelled, and their heads and quarters placed above the several gates or bars of the city.
The village of Sowerby adjoins Thirsk on the south, and may be regarded as a suburb of that town. The main street, which is lined on either side by many large and well-built houses, opens out towards its southern extremity into a long green, along which extend two rows of trees, planted in 1887, in commemoration of Her Majesty's Jubilee. The Church (St. Oswald) was restored and enlarged by the addition of transepts and a new chancel, in 1842, at a cost of £1,100. The tower, which contains three bells, was also heightened at the same time. In 1883 about £900 was spent in renovating the fabric, and making several internal improvements. Sowerby had its chapel as early as A.D. 1145, in which year it was given, together with the mother church of Thirsk, to the Priory of Newburgh, by Roger de Mowbray, The Norman arch of the south doorway, with its beaked heads and zig-zag mouldings, is a portion of the early edifice. The nave is also ancient, and in the restoration the original Norman style has been preserved throughout the whole building. At the intersection of the nave and transepts are four large semi-circular arches, resting on four circular columns, and springing from each of these piers are two smaller arches, instead of the walls. Above the centre rises a lantern turret, glazed on its four sides, thereby admitting a flood of light to this part of the church. Most of the windows are stained glass memorials, and on the walls are several neat tablets to the members of the Strangewayes, Brooke, Vavasour, Cayley, and Milburn families. The font, resting on five slender columns, is beautiful, both in design and workmanship. It was the gift of Sir Robert Frankland Russell, Bart., whose initials are carved around the base. In the outer wall, near the old Norman door, and also on some of the stones in the tower, are numerous grooves, or scorings, which are supposed to have been made by our feudal ancestors in sharpening their weapons. A new organ and organ chamber were added in 1881, at a cost of £300, raised by subscription.
The registers date from 1569, but the earlier entries are not very legible.
The living is a vicarage, worth £250 a year, with 20 acres of land and residence, In the Liber Regis it is valued at £14, and in 1760 at a similar sum. Subsequently the living was augmented by a benefaction of £200, left by George Wright, of the city of York, gentleman, for which the curate was to perform divine service every Wednesday and Friday, and by £400 from Queen Anne's Bounty. In 1817 the value of the benefice from all sources was returned at £120. The great tithes were commuted for £560, and the small tithes for £270. Patron, the Archbishop of York; incumbent, the Rev. L. George Maine.
The National Schools, containing two departments, were rebuilt by voluntary subscription, in 1872, and are attended by about 290 children.
The Wesleyan Chapel is a neat building, fronted with white brick and freestone facings, and surmounted by crocketed pinnacles. It was erected in 1865, and a Sunday School added in 1871. Total cost, £1,230.
CHARITIES. - John Dinmore, by will, dated 26th March, 1693, left the rent of 1 acre 1 rood of land to be distributed in coals among the poorest families; and George Wright, in 1721, left a rent-charge of 20s. to be given away in coals also. And the late William Sinclair, of Thirsk, amongst numerous other charities, gave to the poor of Thirsk £500, and the same sum to Sowerby.
A Roman road passed near the village, and may still be traced in a few places. Near this is an artificial mound, popularly known as "Pudding Pie Hill," the origin and purpose of which was long a matter of dispute among writers; but the much-debated point was finally settled in 1855, by an excavation undertaken by Lady Frankland Russell, and continued by the Yorkshire Antiquarian Club, The result of these excavations was the discovery, in the centre of the mound, of the skeleton of a warrior, apparently above the ordinary stature; his legs and arms were crossed, and his sword and buckler had evidently been buried with him, though nothing was left of them except the handle of the former, and the central boss of the latter. Two more skeletons and the fragments of others were also found in other parts of the mound, besides masses of calcined bones, pieces of pottery, portions of broken urns, three Roman coins of a late age, the jaws of a boar, the antlers of a deer, the tooth of a horse, cows' horns, and the bones of other animals. These discoveries set at rest the question of the origin of the mound. It was a Sepulchral Tumulus, and if its size (160 yards in circumference at the base, and 16 or 18 feet in height) be an indication of the quality of the warrior buried beneath, he must have belonged to a family of distinction. Though three Roman coins were found, the remains of the weapons discovered proved decidedly that the interments were Saxon; and, as there was evidence of cremation as well as interment, the tumulus may be referred to the sixth or seventh centuries, when the Saxons, on their conversion to Christianity, discontinued cremating their dead.
[Description(s) from Bulmer's History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890)]
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.