AMPLEFORTH: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Ryedale - Electoral Division, Poor Law Union, County Court District, and Rural Deanery of Helmsley - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.

This parish comprises 2,703 acres of land, situated in the most beautiful and romantic part of Ryedale. It is valued for rateable purposes at £2,760, and contains 708 inhabitants. The principal landowners are the Prior of Ampleforth College, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (who are also lords of the manor), Miss Jane Smith, Ampleforth; George Sootheran, Haxby; and the Rev. J. T. F. Hicks, Gilling. The parish is within the liberty of St. Peter, and also partly within the Wapentake of Birdforth.

The earliest mention of Ampleforth occurs in Domesday Book, where it is called Ambreforde, and at that time Ulf, the Saxon, had here one manor; the Archbishop of York, eight acres of meadow, and a wood pasture half-a-mile in length and the same in breadth; and Copsi, the Saxon, had one ploughland. Some time after the Conquest, Ampleford was in the possession of the family of De Ros, of Helmsley, and the Abbot of Byland. A De Ros heiress married Robert de Manners, of Etal Castle, Northumberland; and in 1513, George Manners, Lord Ros, bequeathed the manors of Ampleford and Oswaldkirk to his son, Thomas Manners, who died seized of the same and other estates in Yorkshire.

The village of Ampleforth is pleasantly situated on the south-western slope of the Hambleton Hills, along the foot of which stretches the beautiful Vale of Mowbray. It is distant about miles S.S.W. of Helmsley, and about two miles from the railway station. The church (St. Hilda) was, with the exception of the tower, rebuilt and enlarged by the addition of two aisles in 1868, at a cost of £1,400. The old Norman doorway on the south side, which forms the entrance to the church, stood on the north side of the old church, and has been rebuilt in its present position; and another old doorway, of the same style, with beak or dog tooth ornamentation, has been inserted on the north side and bricked up. Built into the wall are the effigies of a mail-clad knight and his lady, the latter being in a position unusual in sepulchral memorials. The inscription which would have revealed the knight's name is gone, save the faint traces of WILELMVS DE. The monument is commonly supposed to be that of some knight slain at the battle of Byland, if the rout of the English on that occasion deserves such a name, which was fought on the heights above Ampleforth.

The church was an ancient rectory belonging to the Prebendary of Ampleforth, in the cathedral church of York, to which it was appropriated, and a vicarage ordained therein, in 1304. In the King's Books the living is rated at £4 6s. 5½d., but is now worth £300. It is in the gift of the Archbishop of York, and held by the Rev. J. T. F. Hicks. At the inclosure of the common, in 1806, an allotment of 199 acres was made in lieu of vicarial tithes, and there are, besides, 30 acres of old glebe.

The National school, built in 1831, is attended by about 60 children, and the Catholic school, by 40. There are also in the village, chapels belonging to the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists, the former erected in 1819, at a cost of £200, and the latter in 1854, at an expense of £110.

A short distance from the village, in a picturesque situation, is the Benedictine Priory and College of St. Lawrence, more generally known as Ampleforth College. Some time in the latter part of the 18th century, the Hon. Anne Fairfax built a small chapel on the spot where the college now stands, for the use of the Catholics, in lieu of the one in her castle at Gilling; and at her death, in 1793, she left it to the priest, the Rev John Bolton, to be devoted to religious purposes. Soon after, the French Revolution broke out, and the religious orders were robbed of their property, and expelled from the country. Some of the Benedictine fathers of the Monastery of Dieulard, near Pout a Mousson, in Lorraine, fled to this country, and were hospitably received by the Rev. J. Bolton into his house at Ampleforth. The Benedictine Order had, for centuries, been famous as a teaching body, and before the Reformation the priory attached to each cathedral in England, except Carlisle, belonged to that Order,

Soon after their arrival, they erected a school for the education of young gentlemen, which was completed and opened in 1802 with two pupils. Since that time, large additions have been made to the building, and now there is accommodation for considerably more than 100 students. The interior is furnished in a superior style, with spacious and elegant corridors, study halls, libraries, dormitories, and lavatories. A handsome collegiate church was built in 1856-7, from a design of C. Hansom, Esq., architect. It is in the Gothic style of the Geometrical period. The sanctuary and choir are spacious, and are lighted by a handsome east window of five lights, and three smaller ones of three lights each, on the north and south sides. The aisles are separated from the nave by pointed arches resting on clustered columns, In the south aisle are three private chapels, and in the north aisle two. The roof of the church has been chastely decorated by the artistic labours of some of the fathers. The sanctuary, choir, and chapel, are all inlaid with rich encaustic tiles. A portion of the church is appropriated to the public.

The interior arrangements of the college are most complete. The rooms are lofty and well ventilated, and baths, both indoor and outdoor, have been provided for the use of the students. The school and lecture rooms are furnished with every educational appliance to smooth the path of knowledge. Nor is the physical training of the youths overlooked; there are extensive playgrounds, ball alleys, covered gymnasium, &c.

The library is well stocked with the works of both ancient and modern authors. There are several ancient illuminated manuscripts, and a good collection of books printed in the 15th and 16th centuries. One rare old book, "The Sermons of St. Leonard," is dated 1446. Only three copies of this book are now extant.

The Priory and College are governed by a prior (The Rev. Thomas Anselm Burge), five monks, and twelve priests (professors). There are at present upwards of 100 students in residence. As we write the newspapers record the death of one of its most distinguished alumni, the Most Rev. Dr. Ullathorne, who, on resigning the bishopric of Birmingham on account of his age, was created titular Archbishop of Cabasa. He was prefect of the college in 1830-1, and after his ordination he laboured for several years in Australia. He was a laborious writer and an energetic worker, and chiefly through his exertions the pernicious system of transporting to the Colonies all the worst criminals of this country was abolished. The deceased prelate was a native of Pocklington, in the East Riding.

On the heights above the village there is an ancient British encampment, called by the country people Studford's Ring. The outer embankment surrounding the camp is of considerable extent. There are other earthworks in the neighbourhood, and also several tumuli.

CHARITIES. - Sir Richard Vaughan left to the poor nine small rent-charges, amounting to 40s. per annum. They also receive the dividends of £278 13s. 6d., in the three per cent. consols, left by Mrs. Comber and Jordan Sturdy; and rent of land and garden, £6 10s. Dividends amounting to £9 4s. 8d. have been left for educational purposes.

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


  • 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.