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The limits of the civil parish of Thornton Dale were re-arranged at Michaelmas, 1887, when the parish of Ellerburn (leaving out Wilton, which remains a distinct township) was incorporated with it. It now includes an area, according to the rate books, of 9,311½ acres, and is assessed at £6,520. The inhabitants number 1,258. It gives name to one of the new County Council electoral divisions, which includes 23 parishes and townships. The soil is various and the scenery picturesque. The manorial privileges belong to the Rev. J. R. Hill, who is also the principal landowner.
The village of Thornton is pleasantly situated in a dale full of beautiful scenery. In Cross Square stands the shaft of an ancient stone cross, from which it has been inferred that Thornton was once a market town. The church, which is dedicated to All Saints', is an ancient structure, consisting of nave, with north and south aisles, chancel, and tower. It was thoroughly restored in 1866, at a cost of £2,500, raised by subscription, The chancel was wholly rebuilt and five beautiful stained glass memorial windows were inserted. The living is a rectory, valued in the King's Books at £20, but now worth £380. The patron is the Rev. J. R. Hill, lord of the manor, and the rector the Rev. Edward William Heslop, M.A., rural dean. The registers date from 1539.
The ecclesiastical parish of Thornton Dale includes only part of the village, the rest being under the jurisdiction of Ellerburn.
Thornton Hall, the seat of the Rev. J. R. Hill, is a large old stone mansion near the centre of the village, The manor formerly belonged to the Lumleys; and in 1656, Elizabeth, Viscountess Lumley, directed her property in London, Hampshire, and Yorkshire, the latter consisting of the manors of Sinnington, Marton, Thornton, and Edstone, to be sold, and the proceeds to be employed in erecting and endowing a hospital in the parish of St. Botolph, London, and a Hospital and Grammar School at Thornton, The hospital forms a neat row of twelve cottages for the reception of as many poor persons, viz., four from Thornton, six from Sinnington, one from Ellerburn, and one from Edstone, each of whom receives £11 10s. and a ton of coal per annum. The school, now managed under a revised scheme of the Charity Commissioners, is endowed with £100 a year for free instruction in grammar to all the children in Thornton and Sinnington, when they can read the English Testament. The school-room is spacious, capable of accommodating 200. The number of scholars at present is 16. The master, who must be a clerk in holy orders, is required to hold service in school every Thursday afternoon for the scholars, pensioners, or any of the inhabitants that may wish to attend. The sum of £20 a year is appropriated to exhibitions.
The estates belonging to the Charity consist of about 220 acres of land at Thornton; 189 acres at Thirsk, Sowerby, and Bagby; 5 acres at Wrelton; and 20 acres at Kirklevington. The trustees are Lord Feversham, chairman; Sir William Worsley, Bart., Sir George Cayley, Bart., Hon. C. Duncombe, Rev. J. R. Hill, Rev. James Hill, Mr. Robert Lesley, and Mr. Henry Hill, treasurer.
There is a good National school in the village, built by the lord of the manor in 1874. There are two departments (senior mixed and infants) which will accommodate 220; average attendance, 136.
There are chapels belonging to the Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists. The former one was erected in 1813, at a cost of £1,500, and about the same sum has been expended since in alterations and improvements. It is a neat stone structure, with circular gallery, and capable of accommodating 400 persons. Behind the chapel is the vestry, which is used as day school for infants and a Sunday school.
About a quarter of a mile from the village is Roxby Hill, where stood Roxby Castle, the seat of the Cholmeleys, but nothing now remains to mark the spot except the inequalities of the ground. Here resided Sir Richard Cholmeley, a distinguished soldier under the Earl of Hertford, and who received the honour of knighthood at Leith, in 1644. Hinderwell, in his "History of Scarborough," says of him:- "He was bred a soldier, and delighted in feats of arms, being tall in stature and strongly made. His hair and eyes were black, and his complexion so swarthy that he was called 'the great black knight of the north.'" * He died in 1578, and was interred in Thornton church, wherein is an old monument with a recumbent figure, supposed to be his wife's.
* Burke, in his "Landed Gentry," gives this title to Sir Roger Cholmeley, whom he represents as the father of Sir Richard.
Further up the dale about a mile above Thornton is the very small village of Ellerburn, the head of an ecclesiastical parish, and, until recently, also of a civil one, comprising the townships of Farmanby and Wilton.
The church, dedicated to St. Hilda, is an ancient stone edifice, of early Saxon foundation, but subsequent restorations in different styles have altered its original characteristics. It is situated three quarters of a mile from the village, and consists of chancel, nave, western tower with one bell, and south porch, and has 100 sittings. It was renovated in 1800. Register dates from 1691.
The church, from an antiquarian point of view, well repays a visit, everything being of the most primitive order, especially the Norman architecture and carving. Outside the south wall of the nave is a fine Saxon cross, the scroll work of which is very beautiful. The entrance to the church is by a Norman arch, and the workmanship of the chancel piers gives evidence of the earliest introduction of that style of architecture. The old font and piscina are well worth notice.
The living is a discharged vicarage, in the gift of the Archbishop of York, and worth £290 per annum. The vicarage house is a handsome stone structure, erected during the present year, at a cost of £1,500. It stands in the village of Thornton, and is surrounded by pleasant grounds.
WILTON TOWNSHIP comprises an area of 2,060 acres, of which 1,724 are under assessment. Rateable value, £1,731, and population, 168. Lord Hotham is the principal proprietor and also lord of the manor. The village is very pleasantly situated on the Pickering and Scarborough road, and commands a good view of the vale of the Derwent. The church or chapel of ease is a dilapidated barn-like building, situated near the lower end of the village. The school, built in 1836 and enlarged in 1875, is attended by about 30 scholars. Lord Hotham contributes £23 a year towards its support. There is also here a chapel for the Wesleyans. Near the village are faint traces of Wilton Hall, formerly a seat of the Cholmeleys.
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.