Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of West Hang - Electoral Division of Middleham - Poor Law Union and County Court District of Leyburn - Rural Deanery of Catterick West - Archdeaconry of Richmond - Diocese of Ripon.
Thornton Steward is a small parish lying on the north bank of the Ure, comprising the township of its own name and the hamlet of Danby. Its total area is 2,256½ acres, rateable value £2,617, and population 249. The soil is clayey and loamy, resting on sandstone, and is chiefly laid down in meadow and pasture. The principal proprietors are Lord Bolton, lord of the manor; S. T. Scrope, Esq., and S. Cunliffe Lister, Esq.
The manor of Thornton, Tornentone in Domesday Book, belonged at the time of the Conquest to Gospatrick, whose lands were subsequently forfeited by rebellion. After the Conquest, Thornton appears to have been held by the hereditary stewards of the earls of Richmond, and hence the addendum by which this Thornton is distinguished from other places of the same name in the county. In 11th Edward I. Humfrey de Bassyngburne held two knights' fees in Thornton Steward, but soon afterwards the manor passed to the Scropes, of Bolton, from whom it has descended to the present owner.
The village is situated on an eminence on the north side of Wensleydale, opposite Jervaulx, three miles N.E. of Middleham, and seven miles W.S.W. of Bedale. The church (St. Oswald) is a plain stone building, consisting of chancel and nave, with a porch and open belfry containing two bells. The date of its erection is not known, but it is evidently very ancient, and retains the Norman doorway of an earlier structure. Domesday Book mentions a church at Thornton. That edifice would undoubtedly be Saxon, and a few years ago a portion of a Saxon cross, now in the chancel, was dug up in the churchyard. On one side is apparently the face of Our Saviour, and on the reverse that of a woman. Two ancient stone coffins have also been found, but these are of later date. The font is ancient. The register dates from 1562. The living is a vicarage, net value about £200, including 54 acres of glebe, in the gift of the Bishop of Ripon, and held by the Rev. William Fiddian Peart, M.A., Camb. Lord Bolton is the lay rector. The great tithes are commuted for a rent-charge of £135, and the vicarial for £159.
The school was erected and endowed by George Horn, Esq., in 1815, and rebuilt by subscription in 1866. It is supported by the endowment (£10 per annum), the subscriptions of the landowners, and school fees. There is accommodation for 30 children.
At the west end of the village is the Manor House, new occupied by Mr. H. M. Waddington, In the garden are several monumental slabs and stone coffins, supposed to have been brought from Jervaulx Abbey. A tombstone bearing a finely cut floriated cross, and the inscription:- "GERNAGAN P'SONA DE TANEFIELD," formerly served as a gate stoup, but this has been removed to Wensley Hall, to preserve it from further destruction.
The hamlet of Danby, situated about one mile W. of Thornton Steward, forms a distinct manor, the property of Simon Thomas Scrope, Esq., J.P. and D.L. The hall is an ancient stone mansion, the oldest portion of which is supposed to have been erected in the time of the Plantagenets. On the balustrade round the top of the house is the date 1658, indicating a restoration at that time, and the mansion was again thoroughly repaired and the south front rebuilt in 1855. The grand staircase is of black oak, and lighted by windows filled with heraldic emblazonry. There is a fine collection of pictures, amongst which are many old family portraits, and also portraits of the Pretender and his mother. The park is extensive and well wooded, and from the terrace on the south side of the house there is a wide and beautiful prospect, embracing the higher portions of Wensleydale and Coverdale as far as Penhill and Witton Fell.
Among the great baronial houses which wielded such mighty power in the middle ages, that of Le Scrope or Scrope stands pre-eminent. Two branches of the family were ennobled, the Scropes of Bolton, and the Scropes of Masham; and in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries its members played a conspicuous part in all the great victories and events of the age. They held the most exalted positions in the church and state, and three individuals of the name and blood have been immortalised in the plays of Shakespeare. The Scropes of Danby are the sole representatives of the eldest male line of the family, "having survived," says Whitaker, "every other branch of that illustrious name." This estate came into the possession of the family in the latter part of the 16th century by the marriage of Henry Scrope, of Spennithorne, with the daughter and heiress of Simon Conyers, of Danby, and from him the present owner is descended. This branch of the Scropes has always remained firm in its adhesion to the old faith, and in the days of persecution, many a hunted priest found an asylum in their house.
Near the hall is a Catholic school, established in 1883 by Mrs. S. T. Scrope, by whom it is entirely supported.
At Ulshaw Bridge, on the north bank of the Yore, is a Catholic chapel dedicated to SS. Simon and Jude. It was completed in 1868 by the late S. T. Scrope, Esq., who also partly endowed it. It is a neat Byzantine edifice, with an octagonal turret containing one bell. The altar is of Caen stone, on the front of which is a fine piece of carving representing the dead Christ and two angels. On it is inscribed "Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem." (Christ was made for us, obedient even unto death). The tabernacle is of bronze, highly burnished and surmounted by a cross of the same material. On the walls are the stations of the cross in Mosaic. The vault beneath is the burial place of the Scropes, and on the walls of the chapel are some modern brasses to the memory of that family. Adjoining the chapel is a neat Presbytery. The mission is in charge of the Rev. Francis J. Nelson.
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.