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BILBROUGH: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.

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Wapentake of the Ainsty of York - Rural Deanery of Bishopthorpe - Archdeaconry of York or the West Riding - Diocese of York.

This parish adjoins Askham on the south, and consists of one township, which is co-terminous with the parish. There are within its limits 1,390 acres of land, nearly the whole of which belongs to the Fairfax family, of Newton Kyme, the present head of the house being Guy Thomas Fairfax, a minor. Mr. Edward Brown, of Bilbrough Lodge, owns 56 acres, and the trustees of Hemsworth school have also some land in the parish. The rateable value is £2,352, and the population, in 1881, numbered 198.

The village is small but pleasantly situated, six miles from York and four from Tadcaster, The Manor House bears the date "1670," with the initials "T. F.," said to be those of "Black Tom Fairfax." Admiral Robert Fairfax, who was M.P. and lord mayor of York in 1715, lived here. Subsequently the house was much injured by a fire; in 1832 it was renovated, and converted into a farmhouse.

The present church is a handsome stone edifice, in the Norman style, consisting of nave, chancel, and north porch, above which rises a tower. It was erected in 1876, at the sole expense of the late Thomas Fairfax, Esq., on the site of a former church which had been built by a former Fairfax. There is no dedication - the edifice having been erected for the use of the tenants. The ceiling is of open timber work, and the benches of pitchpine, A chantry chapel was founded here by John Norton, lord of the manor, in 1492, who ordained that £4 6s. 8d., in land and inclosure, should be paid to Sir William Dryver, priest, and his successors, to pray for the souls of the founder, his wife, and children. In this chapel is the monument of Lord Fairfax, the celebrated Parliamentary general. On the sides of the tomb are shields of arms, &c., and on the black marble slab are the family arms and motto, FARE FAC, beneath which is inscribed:- "Here lye the bodyes of the Right Houble. Thomas, Lord Fairfax of Denton, Baron of Cameron, who dyed November ye xii., 1671, in the 60th yeare of his age. And of Anne, his wife, daughter and co-heir of Horatio, Lord Vere, Baron of Tilbury. They had issue Mary, Duchess of Buckingham, and Elizabeth. 'The memory of the just is blessed.'"

The tithes, which had belonged to the living in Saxon times, were taken possession of by Ralph de Paganell, one of William the Conqueror's barons, who handed them over to the Abbey of Marmontre, in Touraine, and this church was thenceforth served by the canons of the priory of Holy Trinity, York, which was a cell to that abbey. At the Dissolution these tithes were granted to Sir Leonard Beckwith, and were ultimately bought, in 1556, by Sir William Fairfax, Knight, of Steeton. In this family they remained as private property till they came into the hands of the great Lord Fairfax, who gave them to his domestic chaplain, Thomas Strellon - a non-conforming minister - on condition of his finding "a preaching minister to officiate at Bilbrough." Lord Fairfax, by his will, left these tithes in trust for ever with his family for a preaching minister.

In 1867 the present preaching minister was, under the District Church Titles Act of 1865, declared to be rector. The chantry endowment of £4 6s. 8d. is still paid, at present by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, formerly by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and before that by the King's Receiver, so that the rector of Bilbrough is both "Mass Priest" and non-conforming minister in one. There have been two tithe suits (1782 and 1829) relating to the produce titheable, and the amount. In 1888 the tithes were commuted for £270. The present rector, the Rev. Joseph Powell Metcalfe, M.A., Sidney College, Cambridge, was instituted in 1854.

The school was built by Thomas Fairfax, son of Thomas Lodington Fairfax, Esq., and is now rented by the School Board at a mere nominal rent. The Wesleyans have a chapel in the village, a plain brick building, erected in 1836.

The great Lord Fairfax was born in Bilbrough, within a stone's throw of the place where he sleeps in the Norton chantry. Though the stones have been removed the ground plan of the old hall may still be traced. The terraces round the mansion were built of red sandstone, from the "Red Hill," the quarry and cave still marking the place of supply.

To the west of the village lies a slight elevation called Ingle Edge Hill (generally pronounced Ingredge), from which, on a clear day, can be seen the fields of Marston Moor and Towton, and the whole of the original extent of the Fairfax property, which once stretched from Faudey, in Wharfedale, into the heart of York.

Close to the spot where the great Lord Fairfax first drew breath, sleeps, in a tumulus of considerable size, an unknown British chieftain, looking towards Loidis, the modern Leeds; and a stone's throw to the south Ainsty Cliff, with its present stately beeches, where the great lord in his latter days spent many a quiet hour pondering on his country's perils and his country's future.

Through the village runs the ancient "drynge" or pack horse road - a narrow causeway, paved with cobble stones. After passing over Bilbrough Moor, which was inclosed within the present century, it appears again in Catterton - the line running straight between Eboracum and Calcaria, in Newton Kyme.

Christopher Wright, of Rawdon, late of Bilbrough, left some land in Westow lordship to the poor of Bilbrough. The Wrights have been resident in the parish for many generations.

[Description(s) from Bulmer's History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890)]

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  • Transcript of the entry for the Post Office, professions and trades in Bulmer's Directory of 1890.


Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.