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Wapentake of Gilling West - Electoral Division of Startforth - Petty Sessional Division of Greta Bridge - County Court District of Barnard Castle - Poor Law Union of Teesdale - Rural Deanery of Richmond North - Archdeaconry of Richmond - Diocese of Ripon.
This parish, comprising 2,162 acres, is situated on the southern bank of the Tees, and extends southwards to Hutton Magna. The surface is varied and the soil fertile. There are no dependent townships. Its estimated value, for rateable purposes, is £3,241, and its population 175. Wycliffe estate, containing 1,395 acres, is the property and manor of Sir F. A. Talbot Clifford Constable, Bart., of Burton Constable, near Hull, and Scargill Lodge. It formerly belonged to a family that took its name from the place, several of whom lie buried in the church. Eventually the family merged into those of Witham and Tunstall, and through the latter this estate has descended to the present owner. Wycliffe Hall, their old residence, stands on a wooded eminence overlooking the Tees. Here, it is said, was born John Wycliffe,* who has been called the "Morning Star of the Reformation." His translation of the Bible, finished in 1383, very closely resembles in its language the dialect of this part of North Yorkshire. Mr. Raine, in his "Lives of the Archbishops of York," assures us that he has often heard his father, who was born within a mile of the village of Wycliffe, say that, at the beginning of the present century, the dialect of the neighbourhood was so identical with the language of the Reformer's version of the New Testatment, he would undertake to read any chapter of it to an old person, and it would be understood thoroughly, with the exception of a word or two.
The village of Wycliffe consists of the church, rectory, saw mill, and two cottages, picturesquely seated on the bank of the Tees, five miles E. by S. of Barnard Castle, and 11 miles N. of Richmond, The name is said by some to be compounded of the old British word wy or gwy, water, and the Saxon clif; but it is much more probable that both parts of the name are Saxon, viz., wic, a camp, and clif (Wic-cliff), and near the village are still to be seen the remains of an ancient camp.
The church is an ancient foundation, but was thoroughly restored in 1850, by the late rector, the Venerable Archdeacon Headlam. It consists of chancel and nave, with small belfry, containing two bells. The old leaden roof remains, and some of the ancient stained glass is preserved in the windows, In the nave are numerous fragments of ancient sculptured stones, of various periods, which have probably belonged to a very early edifice. In the chancel are several interesting memorials of the Wycliffe family. The sacramental vessels were presented to the church in 1781, by Mrs. Zouch. The registers date from 1681. The living is a rectory, valued in the King's Books at £14 12s. 1d., and now worth £456, derived from tithes and 40 acres of glebe. The benefice is held by the Rev. John Erskine, M.A., who is also the patron.
The Rectory House, which stands close to the Tees, was built in 1733, at the sole expense of the Rev. Thomas Robinson, M.A., a former rector. Here is a fine portrait of John Wycliffe, by Sir Antonio-a-More, which has recently been restored and covered with glass by the present rector. It was presented by the Rev. Dr. Zouch to his successors in the rectory, with the request that they would "preserve it as an heir-loom to the Rectory House."
The Catholic Church, dedicated to St. Marie, is a plain but neat stone structure in the Early Decorated style of Gothic architecture. It was erected in 1848-9, by Sir T. A. Clifford Constable, Bart., and Cuthbert Watson, Esq., and consists of sanctuary and nave, with west porch and bell turret. The sanctuary is lighted by a fine Gothic window of five lights, on which are depicted the Blessed Virgin, bearing the Divine Infant, in the centre; and in the side lights St. Charles Barromeo, St. Cuthbert, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Henry, Emperor; whilst below are the four Evangelistic symbols, with the Agnus Dei in the middle. The head of this window is filled in with geometric tracery, bearing representations of the Crucifixion, St. Elizabeth, with miraculous roses, and the coronation of St. Henry, by the Pope. The altar is of carved stone, supported on three arches, painted and gilt, and on either side stand the statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Aloysius.
qc * Leland, however, tells us "they say that John Wiclif, hæreticus, was borne at Spreswell, a poore village, a good myle from Richmond." As there is no village of that name near Richmond, Whitaker thinks that Hipswell must be the place meant by the antiquary. In the immediate neighbourhood is Whitcliffe, pronounced exactly like the reformer's name, and amongst the possessions of the Grammar School, in 1701, is mentioned a close, called Whicklyffe Intack. Probably the Wycliffes of Richmond were a junior branch of the old family of this place.
This mission was founded in 1748, in which year a chapel was erected as a wing to Wycliffe Hall. This continued in use until the completion of the present edifice. During the operation of the penal laws the Catholics of the district were wont to meet secretly in the garret of an ancient Elizabethan hall, now a farmhouse, in order to comply with the duties of their religion. The Rev. George Brunner is the priest at present in charge.
Thorpe is a hamlet and manor in the parish, containing about 767 acres, belonging to Christopher Cradock, Esq., J.P., Hartforth Hall, whose ancestor, Sheldon Cradock, married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Christopher Wilkinson, lord of the manor of Thorpe. This place is mentioned in Domesday Book, and at the Conquest was held by Raven, whose posterity assumed the name of Thorpe. The hall, a plain building, at present unoccupied, stands near the Tees, which is here crossed by a suspension bridge, erected in 1829, at a cost of £1,200. A short distance below is a spring, said to possess petrifying qualities.
Little Hutton, the residence of Mr. F. A. S. Raine, is in this parish for all civil purposes, but in matters ecclesiastical is under Forcett.
CHARITY. - The poor have the interest of £50, left by Marmaduke Tunstall, in 1790.
[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.