HOWDEN, a parish in the wapentake and liberty of Howdenshire; 9 miles from Snaith, 10 from Selby, and 21 from, York. The population amounts to 2080. Here is a very good market on Saturday. This town is of considerable antiquity, but it contains nothing remarkable except its church, formerly collegiate, and the remains of the ancient palace of the bishops of Durham.

The jurisdiction, called Howdenshire, is a peculiar, under the Dean and Chapter of Durham, and comprises Howden, Laxton Chapel, Barmby Chapel, Eastrington, Hemmingbrough, Barlby Chapel, Holtby, Brantingham, Skipwith, Elleker Chapel, Blacktoft, Welton, and Walkington. The collegiate church of Howden (see Churches for photograph) was dissolved in the 1st year of Edward VI. and the temporalities thereby became vested in the crown. The revenues for supporting the fabric being disposed of into private hands, the choir fell gradually into decay, and at length becoming totally unsafe, the parishioners, in the years 1634, and 1636, fitted up the nave for the celebration of divine worship, in the year 1696, the groined roof of the chancel fell in, and from that time the East end of the church has exhibited the appearance of a magnificent and venerable ruin. The church is built in the form of a cross, with an elegant square tower of forty five yards in height, rising from the centre upon pointed arches, supported by clustered pillars. Over the communion table is a painting of the lord's supper, by Mr. Bell, of Selby, which fills the bows of the closed central arch between the nave and the choir. The most curious, and once the most elegant part of this sacred edifice, is the Chapter-house, built about the middle of the fourteenth century. Its form is octagonal, resembling the chapter-house at York; but its dimensions are greatly inferior, its width being only eight Paces. The style of architecture, however, is superb: It contains thirty canopied seats, separated by clustered pilasters of various members, very small, and extremely delicate, having foliated capitals of pierced work, from which rises rich tabernacle work, ornamenting Gothic arches. The whole is constructed of a fine durable free stone, and had a beautiful octagonal stone spire, which fell in on St. Stephen's day, 1750. The tower of the church is a plain but well proportioned and stately structure, built of a durable kind of stone. Its erection has by all writers been ascribed to Walter Skirlaw, bishop of Durham; but most probably it was only heightened by that prelate, as the following homely couplet asserts:

"Bishop Skirlaw indeed was good to his people,"
"He built them a school house and heightened the steeple."

The present church appears to have been erected from the materials of a previous structure. And it is probable; that as the Gothic-style of building was recently come into fashion, when the prebends were endowed in 1267, the church was finished about that period, excepting the steeple and chapter house, which were built by Walter Skirlaw in the fourteenth century. This prelate died at Howden, and his bowels were buried in the church. The living of Howden is a vicarage, not in charge, of which the king is the patron, and the Rev. Ralph Spofforth, M.A., the incumbent. The church is dedicated to St Peter. There is an ancient palace here which the bishops of Durham formerly made their Summer residence; the palace is supposed to have been erected by Walter Skirlaw, whose arms are yet seen in some parts of the ruins. His successor, bishop Langley, also made several additions to the edifice; the brick arch, through which lies a passage to the orchards, ponds, &c. appears to have been of his erection, as his arms yet remain on a stone placed in the corner of the arch. The venerable ruins of this ancient palace, being patched up with modern building, are now converted into a farm house. It is situated almost close to the church yard, and nearly opposite to the South side of the choir, which presents to the eye a majestic ruin. On the South side of the palace was a park extending to the banks of the Ouse. Howden is situated about a mile from the Ouse, where it has a small harbour for boats, and a ferry over the river. In the Market place there is a large building called the Moot-hall in which the courts for the jurisdiction are held. There are here two meeting houses, one for the Methodists, and another for the Independents; and a Free School, of which the Rev. Thomas Grey is the master. The population amounts to 2080.

The following is the entire data from Langdale's Topographical Yorkshire Dictionary:

Market, Saturday. Fairs, second Tuesday in January, second Tuesday after July 11, for horned cattle and linen; October 2, and the six preceding days, for horses. Bankers, Messrs. Schofield, Foster, and Co. draw on Messrs. Spooner, Atwood, and Co, 27, Gracechurch-street. Principal Inn, Half Moon.

The town of Howden is of great antiquity, but it contains nothing remarkable, except its church; which we find from Burton, in his account of the Monastery of Peterborough, with the town, belonged to that Monastery in the reign of Edward the Confessor; but being wrested from it, and in the King's hands, William the Conqueror gave them to the Bishop of Durham, who soon after conferred the church on the Monks of Durham, but retained the manor. This church was at first a rectory, but Tanner says, that Hugh, Prior of Durham, obtained a bull from Pope Gregory IX. for appropriating this church towards the maintenance of sixteen Monks; but upon further consideration, Robert, the Bishop of Durham, 1266 or 7, caused it to be divided into five prebends, for secular clerks, viz. Howden, Barneby, Skelton, Thorpe, and Saltmarsh, to these were added, in 1279, a sixth prebend, viz. Skipwith. There were also six vicars, besides chantry priests, in this collegiate church, which was dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. It was dissolved by King Edward VI. in 1547. The church is in the form of a cross; east part quite in ruin; its windows superb and elegant, arches pointed, columns adorned with flutings between; tracery of the side windows various. The tower, which is square, and finely proportioned, rises from the centre, was built about 1390, under the auspices of Walter Skirlaw, who built the chapter-house, which is one of the finest specimens of the pointed arch style of that period now in England, but in ruins; nay; Mr. Hutchinson in his History of Durham, says, "we have nothing in this island of such elegant work in stone, except at Melross-Abbey, and in point of symmetry and exact proportion, it excels any part of the Scotch-Abbey."

The church, with all its chapels, lands, and appurtenances, appears to have been given by the Conqueror to William Karilepho, Bishop of Durham, who conferred the same on the Monks of Durham, for ever. The manor and its privileges, the prelates retained, and they still belong to the See at Durham. --Mon. Angl. Hist. Durham.

The Bishops of Durham had a palace near the east-end of the church, which was once their favourite residence; and in which some of them exchanged their temporal for an eternal habitation, particularly Hugh Pudsey, who died in 1195, Walter de Kirkham in 1560, and Walter de Skirlaw in 1405. Bishop Langley, the successor of Skirlaw, made great improvements in it, and built the west-gate, over which are his arms, and some good rooms adjoining. It is now considerably reduced in size, and occupied as a farm-house.

In the market-place stands a large building, called the Moot-Hall in which the Bishop of Durham, as Lord of the Manor, holds four Copyhold Courts in the year.

This place gave birth to the celebrated historian John of Hoveden, who was chaplain to King Henry II. His history begins with the year 732, and comes down to the reign of King John. In 1291, King Edward I. is said to have caused diligent search to be made, in all the libraries in England, for Hoveden's History, to adjust the dispute about the homage due from the Crown of Scotland. This history was published in London in 1595, and at Frankfort in 1601.

Several persons have assumed a local surname from this place, and Leland observes, that John of Hoveden, reputed a saint, was one of the first prebendaries here; another John of Hoveden, was representative in five parliaments for the city of York. The charter for the great Fair held at Howden in Oct. appears to have been granted in the year 1200, by King John. For a more detailed account of this place, which appears to have attracted particular notice from all the antiquaries since Leland's time, we beg to refer the reader to Hutchinson's History of Durham, vol. 3. --Savage's History of Howden Church. --Grose, --Leland, --Tanner, Pennant, &c. -A view of the east-end of the church has been lately published by Mr. Espin, of Loath, Lincolnshire.

[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. ©2010]