Wapentake of Harthill (Home Beacon Division) - County Council Electoral Division of Bubwith - Petty Sessional Division of Howdenshire - Poor Law Union and County Court District of Howden - Rural Deanery of Howden - Archdeaconry of the East Riding - Diocese of York.
This parish lies on the eastern bank of the Derwent, opposite Hemingbroug, and comprises an area of 3,819 acres, exclusive of water. The rateable value is £7,912, and the population in 1891 was 306, a decrease of 69 since 1881. The soil is warp, sand, and clay; and the subsoil, clay. Wheat, oats, barley, and turnips are the principal crops, but a considerable part of the land is in grass. Lord Leconfield is lord of the manor and owner of the whole parish except 204 acres on Newsholme Common, belonging to the exors. of the late Alfred Stopford, Esq., the land occupied by 2 miles 749 yards of the Hull and Selby railway, and 865 yards of the Hull, Barnsley and West Riding Junction railway. For the former the North-Eastern Railway Company are rated at £4,287, and the latter company at £49.
The name of this parish has been variously written Wreshill, Wressil, Wressle, and Wressell; the latter two are the forms that now chiefly prevail. In the Domesday Survey it is called Weresa, and is described in connection with Siwarbi as part of the land of Gilbert Tison, who had here one carucate, sixteen villeins, and five bordars with five ploughs. The whole manor was two miles long and one broad, and had within it a church and a priest. The Tisons were a powerful family whose chief residences were at Alnwick and Malton. How long the manor remained in their possession is not known, but in the Nomina Villarum, taken by the sheriffs of the different counties, in the 9th Edward II. (1315), William de Percy is returned as lord of Wressel and Loftsome. Leland, in his Itinerary, says the manor of Wressell was purchased by Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcestor, who was in high favour with Richard II. The manor was at that time worth little more than £30 a year. Sir Thomas built his castle here. He opposed the pretensions of Henry IV., was taken prisoner at the battle of Shrewsbury, 22nd July, 1403, and beheaded the following day. His nephew, Hotspur, was slain in the conflict. Wressell subsequently passed to the Northumberland branch of the Percys, and, with the exception of short periods of alienation, when they stood in opposition to the Crown, it continued in the possession of this family till the death of Joceline, 11th Earl of Northumberland, in 1670, without male issue, when his vast estates descended to his daughter, the wife of Charles Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Wressell was owned by this family till 1750, when Algernon Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Earl of Northumberland, dying without male issue his estates were separated; those which came from the Percy family were divided between his daughter, who married Sir Hugh Smithson, and his nephew, Sir Charles Wyndham, the latter receiving Wressell and the other Yorkshire estates. They are still in the possession of his descendant.
Wressell Castle was one of the favourite residences of the Percys; here they lived in a state of splendour but very little inferior to that of the royal court, of which, in fact, it seems to have been a very close imitation. Algernon Percy, the fifth Earl of Northumberland, has left us a very minute account of the arrangement and regulation of his household at his castles of Wressell and Leconfield, in a curious volume, begun in 1512. His household was arranged on royal lines, the various officers having their prescribed duties to perform and ceremonial to observe, each of which was to be carried out with the utmost punctiliousness. The establishment at Wressell consisted of 229 persons, daily, whose maintenance cost £1,118 17s. 8d. per annum, equivalent in purchasing power to about £13,000 of present money. There were 11 priests, over whom presided a Doctor or Bachelor of Divinity, as Dean of the chapel, and in the choir, which sang daily at matins, lady mass, high mass, evensong, and complin, there were eleven gentlemen and six children. The principal officers were all gentlemen of birth, and then there were servants of inferior rank to wait on these gentlemen servants.
Leland, who saw the castle as it stood in its entirety, describes it as "one of the most proper beyond Trente." It was all built, both within and without, of "very fair and great squared stone (whereof as some hold opinion), much was brought out of France." There were only five towers he tells us, one at each corner, almost all of like biggness; the fifth contained the entrance gateway, and was five stories high. Further on he says: "one thing I liked exceedingly; in one of the toures ther was a study, caullid 'Paradise,' wher was a closet in the middle of eight squares latisid aboute, and at the toppe of every square was a deske ledgid to set books on cofers withyn them, and this semid as joined hard to the toppe of the closet, and yet by pulling, one or al wolde cum downe briste highte in rabettes, and serve for deskes to lay books on." The castle stood on ground elevated above the surrounding land and was moated on three sides. Three of the apartments were adorned with poetical inscriptions, probably written by Henry Algernon Percy, fifth Earl of Northumberland, who was himself a patron of learning and learned men.
The castle continued in all its splendour till the civil wars broke out, in 1641. The noble owner espoused the cause of the Parliament and garrisoned his castle with soldiers under the command of Major Charles Fenwick, but the fanatical firebrands had little respect for the place, though it belonged to one of their own party, and did damage to the buildings, enclosures, and woods, to the amount of £1,000. In 1648, the Royalists seized by stratagem Pomfret Castle and stood a vigorous siege for ten months, and to prevent any more surprises of this kind, it was resolved to destroy all the castles in that part of England. The Earl immediately repaired to London and exerted all his influence to save the noble seat of his ancestors; but before he had time to accomplish his purpose, an order was sent from York for its demolition. Three sides of the square were accordingly destroyed; the south front, which was the most considerable, and contained some of the state apartments, was left standing. This fragment of the castle was occupied as a farm house till 1796, when it was accidentally burned, leaving nothing but the shell. This front is about 52 yards in length, and flanked by two large square towers, which have been four stories in height, as shown by the fireplaces that remain in the walls on the different stages. The walls are, in some places, about six feet thick, of excellent masonry, and so durable is the stone, that the edges of the carvings and mouldings arc almost as sharp now as when they came from the hands of the workmen. The south-west tower is picturesquely clad with ivy. A winding staircase leads to the top, whence there is an extensive view. There formerly stood here a fire-pan which was used as a beacon to alarm the country in times of danger. The last traces of it were removed by some farm servants, about 12 years ago.
The village of Wressell is small, and stands on the east bank of the Derwent, three-and-three-quarter miles north-east of Howden. The Hull and Selby railway crosses the river here, on an iron bridge of one arch of 70 feet span, and there is a station spelt Wressle close to the village. The church, dedicated to St. John of Beverley, is a building of brick, erected in 1799, on the site of one that was demolished by the soldiers of Cromwell, lest the enemy might occupy it as a coign of vantage. After that, service was held in the chapel of the castle till the destruction of that building in the fire of 1796. The present church consists of chancel, nave, and tower. In the latter are two bells bearing the date 1681. The interior was re-arranged and re-pewed in 1873. The registers date from 1726, but part of them were destroyed by the fire in 1796. The church is very plain in its architecture, but a dense covering of ivy gives it a picturesque appearance.
The living was an ancient rectory till the church was appropriated to the prior and convent of Drax in 1381, when a vicarage was ordaiiied and henceforth held by one of the monks of Drax. Since the dissolution of the priory, the patronage has belonged to the successive lords of the manor, who have also been the impropriators. The net yearly value is £160, with residence, which is derived from a tithe rent-charge of £131 and 20 acres of glebe. The Rev. Rd. Kennedy has held the living since 1875.
The parochial school is a neat building of brick, with master's house attached, erected in 1854 for 75 children. There are about 48 in average attendance.
BRIND, or Bourne, a hamlet in this parish, about one-and-a-half miles east of Wressell, consists of three farms and a few cottages. There is a mission chapel here, converted out of an old blacksmith's shop, in which service is held every alternate Sunday afternoon by the vicar of Wressell.
BRIDLEYS, was formerly an extra-parochial farm, belonging at one time to the Earl of Yarburgh, from whom it was purchased by Colonel Wyndham. The privileges which attached to these exttra-parochial places have been abolished, and Brindleys is now, under the Act 20 Vict., c. 19, annexed for all rating purposes to the parish of Wressell. The farm is about three miles north-west of Howden, and now contains 299 acres, its extent having been increased by the addition of adjoining land.
LOFTSOME, a hamlet consisting of two farms and a cottage, was formerly reputed a separate manor. It lies on the bank of the Derwent, which is here crossed by a bridge, erected in 1800, at a cost of £4,000, raised by 24 shareholders. It is still the property of the company, and a toll is exacted for the passage of man and beast. The floor of the toll-house, at the end of the bridge, is only 22 feet above the level of the sea. The bridge is a swing one, and opens to allow vessels to pass. It was repaired in 1888-9, at an outlay of £1,500. Loftsome is distant about three miles north-west from Howden.
NEWSHOLME, or Newsham, is a hamlet situated about two-and-a-half miles north-west of Howden, and two miles south of Wressell. It consists of seven farms and a few cottages.
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.