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The Ancient Parish of COWTHORPE

[Transcribed information mainly from the early 1820s]

"COWTHORPE, a parish-town, in the upper-division of Claro; 3 miles N. of Wetherby, 7 from Knaresborough, 13 from York. Pop. 120. The Church is a rectory, dedicated to St Michael (see Churches for photograph), in the deanry of the Ainsty, value, ~4. 15s. 10d. p.r. !111. Patron, the Hon. Edward Petre.

Cowthorpe is remarkable on account of an enormous Tree, called the Cowthorpe Oak; the circumference of which, close by the ground, is 60 feet, and its principal limb (which is propped) extends 48 feet from the bole. This venerable oak is decaying fast, the trunk and several of the branches appearing to be completely rotten, except the bark; tradition speaks of its being in decay for many generations. The intermixture of foliage amongst the dead branches, show how sternly this giant struggles for life, and how reluctantly it surrenders to all conquering time. "Compared with this," says Dr. Hunter, in Evelyn's Silva, "all other trees are children of the Forest." The leading branch fell, by a storm, in the year 1718; which, being measured with accuracy, was found to contain five tons and two feet of wood. Before this accidental mutilation, its branches are said to have extended their shade over half an acre of ground; thus constituting, in a single tree, almost a wood itself. --Hist. Knaresborough.

The church at Cowthorpe appears to have been built by a Brian Roucliffe, and consecrated in 1458. In the choir, on a large flat stone, are the effigies, in brass, of a man and his wife, bearing betwixt them the model of a church, and supposed, from the inscription, likewise in brass, now scarce legible, to be in memory of the Founder and his wife."

[Description(s) edited from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson 2007]

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