"THIRSK, is an ancient market town, township and parliamentary borough, in the parish of its name, which is partly within the liberty of St. Peter, of York, East Riding, but chiefly in the wapentake of Birdforth, North Riding ; 217 miles from London, 78 n. by e. from Manchester, 23 n.w. from York, 12 n. from Boroughbridge, 10 n.w. from Easingwold, and 9 s. by e. from Northallerton ; pleasantly situate on the road from York to Edinburgh, nearly in the centre of the vale of Mowbray, a part of the country remarkable for the fertility of its soil, and the picturesque beauty and richness of its scenery. The name of the town is conjectured to be derived from the two ancient British words Tre Isk, signifying a town and river. In the tenth century it consisted of only a few cottages, built by the vassals and retainers of the haughty Baron de Mowbray, who erected a formidable and extensive castle here, which was completed about 979. Roger de Mowbray, in the time of Henry II, joined the King of Scotland, and erected his standard here, and on the suppression of that revolt, this castle, with many others, was entirely demolished by order of the king. It is said that in the reign of Henry VII, during a popular commotion, Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and lieutenant of this county, was put to death here, beneath an ancient elm tree, which formerly grew on Elm green ; and it was under its branches that members of parliament for the borough used to be elected. The present town is divided into two parts by a small stream called Colbeck, or Cod-beck, over which are two handsome stone bridges. As a place of trade or manufactures, Thirsk does not take an elevated station ; linen weaving is carried on to a limited extent, as are also brewing and malting, and there are some mills for grinding corn. The municipal regulations of the town are vested in a bailiff, chosen by the burgage holders, and sworn in before the steward of the lord of the manor, who holds a court leet annually at Michaelmas, for that and other purposes. Thirsk is a borough by prescription, and first sent members to parliament in the 23d of Edward I, after which no return was made until the last parliament of Edward VI. Before the Reform Bill passed the elective franchise was vested in the burgage holders, in number about fifty, and the borough comprised only that part of the town called Old Thirsk. That memorable act deprived it of one representative. The present sitting member is Samuel Crompton, Esq. of Wood-end ; the bailiff is the returning officer. The limits of the new borough, as defined by the Boundary Act (an appendage to the Reform Bill) comprises the several townships of Thirsk, Sowerby, Carleton-Islebeck or Miniot, Sand-Hutton, Bagby, and South Kilvington. The same act appoints Thirsk one of the stations for receiving votes at the election of members to represent the North Riding.
The places of worship are the parish church, and chapels for independents, Wesleyan methodists, and the society of friends. The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, is a spacious and handsome structure, partly ancient and partly of modern date, with a lofty embattled tower at its western end. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Archbishop of York : the Rev. Robert Lascelles, John Francis Lascelles, Esq. Miss Lascelles, and Mrs. Herd, are the lay impropriators. The charitable institutions comprise a grammar school, one of industry for girls, who are clothed and educated, and a dispensary for the sick poor, supported by voluntary contributions. The market is held on Monday, and the fairs on Shrove Monday, Easter Monday, April 5th, Whit-Monday, August 4th, October 28th and 29th, and the first Tuesday after December 11th. The parish of Thirsk contained, by the returns for 1821, 3,502 inhabitants, and by those for 1831, 3,829, of which last number the (then) borough and township contained 2,835."
"SOWERBY, is a beautiful village and township, in the borough and parish of Thirsk, a short distance south from that town. The chapel of ease to Thirsk is of a venerable and interesting appearance, erected apparently subsequent to the Reformation. Population of the township, at the last census, 756."
[Transcribed by Steve Garton ©2000 from
Pigot's directory (Yorkshire section) 1834]