Watton Parish information from Bulmers' 1892.


Geographical and Historical information from the year 1892.

Wapentake of Harthill (Bainton Beacon Division) - County Council Electoral Division of Hutton Cranswick - Petty Sessional Division of Bainton Beacon - Poor Law Union and County Court District of Driffield - Rural Deanery of Harthill - Archdeaconry of the East Riding - Diocese of York.

The parish of Watton-with-Beswick comprises the townships of Watton and Beswick. The former contains 4,740 acres of land, belonging chiefly to the Earl of Londesborough, who is lord of the manor; William Bethell, Esq., of Rise Park; and Colonel Grimston, of Etton.

The rateable value is £4,121, and the number of inhabitants 311. A large portion of the parish was anciently marsh land, and hence, in the nomenclature of our Saxon forefathers, which was always characteristic, this place was called Wetadun, or Wet town. By drainage, the marsh has been converted into excellent arable land. The soil is clay, loam, and peat; subsoil, clay. Wheat, oats, and barley are the chief crops.

A convent of nuns was founded here, as we learn from the Venerable Bede, early in the Saxon period, but very little of its history has been recorded. The pious and sainted John of Beverley visited the "monastery of virgins, at the place called Wetadun, where Hereberga was abbess." This was in the year 686, and Bede relates, on the authority of an eye-witness, a wonderful cure effected on one of the nuns through St. John's blessing. Nothing further has been recorded of this convent, and it is very probable that it shared in the destruction which overtook Beverley Minster and many other religious houses in Yorkshire, when the heathen Danes ravaged the north in the year 866.

The next notice of Watton occurs in Domesday Book, wherein the commissioners state that, "In Wattune, Turchil and Milegrim, Orm and Gamel had four manors of thirteen carucates to be taxed, and there may be seven ploughs. Nigel has there three villanes with two ploughe; a church and a priest. Meadow half-a-mile long and the same broad. The whole two miles long and one broad. Value in King Edward's time, £6; now, 6s." The four Saxon owners were dispossessed, and their lands given to Earl Moreton.

The monastery was refounded about the year 1148, by Eustace Fitz John, a powerful Anglo-Norman baron, who was for some time governor of Knaresborough Castle. He espoused the cause of the Empress Maud, against the usurper Stephen, ravaged Yorkshire, and fought with the Scotch at the Battle of the Standard. In his latter years he was smitten with feelings of compunction, and in expiation of his crimes, by the advice of Murdac, Archbishop of York, he refounded this monastery, and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin. He gave the house to the new Order, which had been then but recently established in this country by Gilbert, of Sempringham, in Lincolnshire, an ecclesiastic whom Henricus Chrysostumus, a Cistercian chronicler, calls "a man of apostolical zeal, of most severe and rigid life, in purity conspicuous, illustrious for his gift of prophecy, and the mirific performer of stupendous miracles." The Order consisted of monks and nuns under the same superior, the former professing the rule of St. Augustine, and the latter that of the Cistercian Modification of St. Benedict. The dress of the canons was a black cassock, with a white cloak over it, and a hood lined with lambskin; and the sisters wore a long dress with wide sleeves, a wimple, a black cape with hood, lined and edged with lambskin or fur, and a long mantle. The rules of the Order were strictly enforced, and every breach of discipline subjected the offender to punishment. The two sexes occupied different parts of the convent, which were so arranged as to prevent any communication between the two; and the seclusion of the nuns was always insisted upon. Their rules required the presence of three or more nuns whenever the grand prior of the Order visited the house, and none to be alone with him except to confess, and even then the others were to be in sight.

Eustace Fitz John, who also founded a house of the same Order at Malton, endowed Watton with all his lordship of Watton, whether in lands or wastes, meadows, pastures, or marshes; and all its appurtenances, whether within the domain or without; in pure and perpetual alms; for the salvation of his own soul and that of Agnes de Cestria his wife, for the souls of his parents, children, brethren, servants, and friends; to hold freely for ever, without being subject to any exactions or services. This endowment was for the support of 13 canons and 36 nuns, but subsequent benefactions increased their revenues, enabling them to support a greater number of inmates; and in 1326, William de Melton, Archbishop of York, consecrated 53 nuns at one time. Amongst its benefactors were Henry II., who gave to this house the lordship of Langdale in Westmorland, and the Constables of Flamborough. It possessed the churches of Hutton Cranswick, Sancton, and Skerne. At the dissolution its yearly revenues were valued at £453 7s. 8d., gross, which represented a clear income of £360 16s. 10½d. Robert Holgate, the last prior, surrendered the priory to the King in 1540, and was shortly afterwards appointed Bishop of Landaff. Proving a very subservient tool in the hands of his royal master, he was afterwards advanced to the Archiepiscopal see of York. But though he conformed, and took unto himself a wife, it is evident that he accepted the principles of the Reformation only so far as they conduced to his own aggrandisement.

The site of the abbey and its remains were granted by Edward VI., to John, Earl of Warwick. In the reign of Elizabeth it was in the possession of John Farnham, and King James afterwards confirmed it to Sir Thomas Earlkyn, Knt. It came into the possession of Hugh Bethell, Esq., ancester of the present owner by his marriage with Sarah, daughter and co-heiress of William Dickenson, Esq., of Watton Abbey.

The present Elizabethan structure, with its ivy-mantled towers and medi`val-looking windows, is a building of brick and stone, erected partially out of the ruins of the priory. It exhibits no traces of the old priory, and very few fragments of the conventual buildings now remain above ground. Here, as elsewhere, the ruins served as a veritable quarry for building purposes, and two centuries ago, we are told, quantities of the material were removed to Beverley for the repair of the minster. The priory buildings were surrounded by a moat, enclosing 20 acres of land, one branch of which ran under the convent, and was broad and deep enough to be navigable for a small boat.

The Abbey was garrisoned by the Royalists in the Civil Wars, and was vigorously attacked by the Cromwellians, who are said to have planted their guns on Barf or Barrow Hill, a place about two miles distant. Tradition has preserved the memory of a murder committed here during that unhappy period, which we quote from Grainge's "Castles and Abbeys of Yorkshire." "A chamber is pointed out in the Abbey, said to have been the scene of a most atrocious murder during the Civil Wars. This room is faced throughout with a strong wainscoting of panelled oak, in one side of which is a closet door, corresponding so exactly with the wainscoting as not to be observed, and was doubtless, in its primitive state, a secret entrance, which opened by a private spring, and communicated with a narrow staircase, still in existence, which descended into the moat or river which runs underneath the building. A lady of distinction (so says the legend), during the Civil Wars, secreted herself in this room, with her infant child, jewels, and other property to a great amount. Her retreat having been discovered, a few soldiers, at dead of night, proceeding in a boat to the staircase which led to her chamber, entered it by the secret door, and cruelly murdered both the lady and her child, taking possession of the valuables, and conveying away the bodies by the secret staircase. This legend has given rise to a belief that the wainscoted room is haunted. The lady appears without her head, bearing the infant in her arms, and, placing herself at the foot of the bed, stands for some time motionless as a statue, and then suddenly disappears."

The village is small, and stands on the road from Beverley to Driffield, five-and-a-half miles south from the latter place, and about two miles from Hutton Cranswick Station, on the Hull and Scarborough branch of the North-Eastern Railway. The church of St. Mary is an ancient building of brick, consisting of chancel, nave, south porch, and a low western tower. The fabric was restored in 1888, at a cost of £400, and a peal of eight tubular bells was presented in 1891, by Mr. Charles Beckitt, of Watton Abbey. The church will seat about 150 persons. The registers date from 1558. The living is a vicarage, united with that of Beswick, alternately in the gift of Lord Hotham and William Bethell, Esq., and held by the Rev. Francis Riddell Crowther, M.A., of Caius College, Cambridge. Its gross yearly value is £230, including 42 acres of glebe, with residence.

The Primitive Methodists have a chapel in the village, built in 1887, at a cost of £250, exclusive of the site, which was given by Mr. Bethell.

Burn Butts, a little north-west of the village, reminds us of the days when our forefathers were adepts with the long bow. The farm is in the occupation of Mr. Henry Moore, who has achieved considerable fame as a breeder of hackney horses. His noted hackney stallion "Rufus," which died recently, was well known in all the principal show rings in England, and carried off many first prizes as well as challenge cups.

BESWICK is a township and chapelry, formerly under Kilnwick-on-the-wolds, containing 2,028 acres and 211 inhabitants. The rateable value is £2,421. The land is flat and the soil clay and peat; wheat, barley and beans are the chief crops. The estate was purchased in 1838 by the third Baron Hotham, from whom it has descended to his nephew, the present Lord Hotham, who is also lord of the manor.

The township is in the Beverley Union, in the Holderness division of the Riding, and in the North Hunsley Beacon division of the Wapentake of Harthill.

The village stands on the Beverley and Driffield road, two miles south-east from Kilnwick, six-and-a-half miles north-by-west from Beverley, and two miles north-west from Lockington station, on the Hull and Scarborough branch of the North-Eastern railway. The church of St. Margaret was built on the site of the old thatched chapel in 1871, by the late Lord Beaumont Hotham. It is a neat edifice of grey stone in the Early English style, consisting of circular-ended chancel, nave, south porch, and western turret containing one bell. It will seat about 90 persons. The tithe rent-charge is £75; the great tithe, amounting to £285, belongs to Bishop Holgate school, York. The living is united with Watton.

The Primitive Methodists erected a chapel in 1888, at a cost of £300, exclusive of the site, which was given by Lord Hotham.

BESWICK HALL, a four storey building, now divided into two farmhouses, stands opposite the church.

The Beswick and Watton National school, situated between the two villages, was built by Lord Hotham, in 1858, for the accommodation of 112 children. There are about 64 in average attendance.

WILFHOLME is a hamlet on the west bank of the River Hull, about two-and-a-half miles east of Beswick. The river is here crossed by a ferry.

[Description(s) from Bulmer's History and Directory of East Yorkshire (1892)]


  • Transcript of the entry for the Post Office, professions and trades in Bulmer's Directory of 1892.

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