BOWES: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


Wapentake of West Gilling - Electoral Division of Startforth - Petty Sessional Division of Greta Bridge - County Court District of Barnard Castle - Poor Law Union of Teesdale - Rural Deanery of Richmond North - Archdeaconry of Richmond - Diocese of Ripon.

This extensive parish comprises an area of 18,347 acres, and is 43 miles in circuit. It lies in the north-western part of the Riding abutting on Westmoreland, and includes a large portion of the high and extensive moorland called Stainmore Forest, The parish includes the townships of Bowes and Gilmonby. In the former there are 12,000 acres of common and moor, and 5,103 acres of inclosed land. Lead ore, ironstone, and coal are known to exist in the moors, but the deposits are too small to be of any commercial value, The South Durham railway, which crosses Stainmore to the London and North Western line at Teebay Junction, passes through Bowes and has a station here. The gross rental of the whole township is £15,797, rateable value, £11,449, and the population, 672.

Bowes is a place of very considerable antiquity, though no mention is made of it in Domesday Book. Soon after the survey, the manor was granted by the Conqueror to Alan, Earl of Richmond, and it continued in the possession of the successive earls until 1435, when, by the death of John, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Richmond, without issue, it came into the possession of his nephew, Henry VI. It remained with the Crown until James I. sold it to the citizens of London, and it was shortly afterwards purchased from them by the freeholders of Bowes, The manorial rights are vested in trustees for the benefit of the freeholders. The most valuable of these rights is that of shooting over Bowes moor, which is let to five lessees who pay £1,400 a year. The moor is an unenclosed regulated pasture, and each landowner claims all the manorial rights over his own property. The freeholders are Sir John and Lady Cowell, Clifton Castle, Bedale; John Harrison Stanton, Esq., Stubb House, Winston; Chris. Cradock, Esq., Hartforth Hall; John Bousfield, Esq., Bowes; John Emerson Wharton Headlam, Esq., Gilmonby Hall; Rev. W. Poole, Hentland, Ross, Herefordshire; the trustees of Bowes and Romaldkirk Charity; Right Rev. Monsignor Thomas Witham, Lartington Hall; Exors. of J. D. Holmes, Barnard Castle; John Wilson, Crossriggs, Penrith; Joseph Errington, Barnard Castle; John Allison, South Bank, Stockton; Thomas Other Burrill, Masham; Sir Henry A. Clavering Bart., Axwell Park, Blaydon-on-Tyne; the trustees of Mrs. Pritchard; R. A. Morritt, Esq., Rokeby; Rev, John Milner Walton, Low Field, Bowes; Thomas Ewbank Winton, Kirkby Stephen; W. Lipscomb, Esq., Beech Lawn, Heath, Wakefield; J. J. Spedding, Esq., Greta Bank, Keswick; the Earl of Strathmore; Rev. Joseph Stephenson, Crowle Vicarage, Worcestershire; J. F. Green; Dr. W. Copeland, Staindrop; W. H. Scarre, Lartington; Messrs. Buckley and Leigh; Thomas Alderson, Romaldkirk; Richard Dent, Barnard Castle; Messrs. Davis; Mrs. Pinkney, Gainford; Mrs. Alderson, Bowes; Matthew Hoggett, William Hoggett, Mrs. Laidman, Michael Morland, Kirkby Stephen; Ralph T. Scott, Messrs. Rutson, Newby Wiske; and Mrs. Brown, Corn Park, Cotherston.

The castle of the ancient lords of Bowes, of which, a square tower - probably the keep of the original fortress - still remains, occupies an elevated position on the steep of an eminence descending abruptly to the Greta, and has been defended by a deep ditch. No foundations remain whereby the outlines of the castle as it stood in its entirety can be traced, but judging from the existing fragment, it must have been a fortress of considerable strength and extent. This tower is nearly a square, measuring 75 feet by 60 feet, and is about 53 feet in height. The walls are 12 feet thick, and have been faced with dressed stone, which has been stripped off in many places leaving the inner grout work visible. Narrow passages may be seen in the walls, and in one corner are the remains of a spiral staircase. The principal apartment appears to have been on the second storey, the large round-headed windows that lighted it still remaining. Beneath this was an apartment with a groined ceiling, supported by a central column.

There is a tradition recorded in a MS. which belonged to the monastery of St. Mary, York, and related in the Bowes pedigree, that Alan Niger, Earl of Richmond, in defence of the honor against the men of Cumberland and Westmoreland, who rebelled against the Conqueror, and with Gospatric, Earl of Northumberland, adhered to the King of Scots, built for himself the tower of Bowes, and placed therein his cousin William with 500 archers, and gave him a shield with the arms of Brittany, and three bows over them; and a bundle of arrows for his crest, whence this William was afterwards called William de Arcubus. This done into English is Bowes (bows) which became the surname of his descendants. Unfortunately for the truth of the tradition, there is a glaring anachronism. Crests and coats of arms did not come into use in England till long after the time of Earl Alan. From the researches of General Harrison among the Pipe Rolls, it appears that the castle was begun by Henry II. in 1171, and completely finished in 1187, at a cost of £353. Osbert, son of Fulco de Bowes, was one of the King's commissioners for superintending the erection of the castle, and this appears to have been the only connection the family had with the fortress. They were, however, possessed of lands in Bowes at an early period, but it is from this Fulco de Bowes, rather than the traditional William de Arcubus, that their pedigree is to be traced. Sir Adam de Bowes, fourth son of Stephen de Bowes, who was fourth in descent from the above Fulco, was a man "learned in the lawes," whom Edward III., in 1331, appointed Chief Justice of the King's Bench. He was also Steward of Richmondshire and Seneschal to the Bishop of Durham. Through his wife Agnes, sole heir of Sir John Trayne, Knight, he became lord and owner of Streatlam Castle, county Durham, which henceforth became the family seat. Sir William Bowes of Streatlam, the fourth descent from Sir Adam de Bowes, and sole surviving heir of the whole family, married Jane, daughter of Ralph, Lord Greystock. Before a twelvemonth the young wife died, leaving him an infant son, ere she had attained her twentieth year; and Sir William mourned her loss by living a widower for the rest of his life. He was engaged for twenty years in the wars in France, and was knighted at the battle of Verneuil in 1424. He was subsequently Warden of the Middle Marches and Governor of Berwick, and died in 1465, at the age of 86.

William, his son, was Sheriff of Northumberland and Warden of the Middle Marches towards Scotland, under John, Marquis of Montacute. He married Maude, daughter of Henry, Lord Fitz-Hugh, of Ravensworth, and by her had issue five sons and seven daughters. Six of the latter married into the families of Hilton of Hilton Castle, Bulmer of Wilton, Conyers, Lisle, Swinburne, and Wycliffe. Sir William, the eldest son, married Isabel Clifton, but, dying without issue, was succeeded by his brother, Ralph Bowes, of Streatlam and Dalden Tower, who, through his wife, Margery, daughter and co-heir of Sir Richard Conyers, Knight, came into the possession of the manor and estate of South Cowton and other lands, in Richmondshire. Richard Bowes, Esq., the fourth son, married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of Roger Aske, and, through her, became Lord of Aske and Marryk. His son, Sir George Bowes, by the failure of the elder male line, succeeded to the family estates. He was knighted in 1558, and was appointed Governor of Barnard Castle. He distinguished himself in the suppression of the Rising of the North, in 1569, and earned for himself an unenviable notoriety for the relentless cruelty with which he pursued the fugitive and defenceless rebels. There was scarcely a village in the north in which there were not executed one or more of the inhabitants for participation in the rising. Sir George was twice married and left a numerous family. From Thomas, fourth son of the second marriage, the present family of Bowes of Streatlam is descended.

The castle of Bowes was given by Henry III. to Peter de Savoy, and subsequently it passed through other hands, but had become utterly ruinous and untenable in the reign of Edward III. The ruins are now the property of Sir John and Lady Cowell. Among other privileges belonging to this castle was that of a toll, exacted for all cattle passing through the manor of Bowes. In the reign of James I. these tolls were leased from the Crown by Christopher Baynbrigge, of London, and Roger Alderson, of Bowes, at a yearly rent of £20 0s. 4d. They still attach to the ownership of the castle.

The village, which consists principally of one long street, about half a mile in length, is situated on the edge of the moorland, 4 miles S.W. of Barnard Castle. There was formerly a weekly market held here, but it has long been abandoned. A fair is held yearly on the Tuesday before the famous Brough Hill Fair. The church, which is dedicated to St. Giles, is a low cruciform structure, dating from the Norman era. It was almost rebuilt in 1865, at a cost of £1,500, raised by subscription, and the sale of the old leaden roof, which has been substituted by one of high pitch. The arches leading into the chancel and the transepts, which belong to the 12th century, and also the pure Norman one inside the north porch, were left intact, and many other ancient features have been carefully preserved. The font is also 12th century work, but bears a much later date (1662), which, however, only refers to the restoration of the church that year. Further repairs were effected in 1694. The communion plate is supposed to be about 400 years old. There are many Early English gravestones and slabs, once adorned with brasses; and still more interesting relics of an earlier age may be seen in a Roman altar, a large stone coffin, and a Saxon font, upon the shaft of a Roman altar. This font indicates the existence of an earlier church than the present Norman one. After being superseded by the font new in use in the 12th century, it was placed upon the shaft of a Roman altar and converted into a tombstone. It lay buried for a century or two in the churchyard, but was unearthed a few years ago, and placed upon a new pedestal. The churchyard was enlarged and improved in 1875. A memorial tablet has been erected in the church to the late T. E. Headlam, Esq., Q.C., and M.P. for Newcastle-on-Tyne. It bears the following inscription:-


Upon the death of the Right Honourable Thomas Emerson Headlam, late of Gilmonby Hall, near this place, his friends desired to record both the love they had borne him, and their admiration of his sterling upright character, his powerful intellect, his many endearing qualities, his honourable beneficent life.

"The memorial they determined to choose was one of such kind that it would link their remembrance of the friend they had lost with the neighbourhood in which, as a resident both thoughtful and generous, he used to love doing good.

"They determined that the fund representing this sentiment of affection should be called the Headlam Memorial, and applied by that name to augment the living of Bowes.

"The sum of £1,000, which now constitutes the Headlam Memorial, has been handed over accordingly to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and they, on their part, have augmented the Bowes living yet further by a grant of equal amount, A.D. 1878."

The advowson, with the site of the manor of Bowes, was given by Conan, Earl of Richmond, to the Hospital of St. Leonard, York, with which it remained till the suppression of religious houses. Henry VIII., in 1546, sold the rectory, the site of the manor of Bowes, lately belonging to the Hospital of St. Leonard, and then in the tenure of John Warde, with other mansions and lands in divers counties, to Thomas Dalston, Esq., of Carlisle, and Elienor, his wife, for the sum of £1,085 4s. 2d. John Dalston, their son, sold the rectory, advowson, and site of the manor of Bowes, in 1594, to Philip Brunskell, Esq., and after passing through six generations of Brunskells, they came into the possession of Cornelius Harrison, Esq., of Stubb House, Winston, County Durham, by his marriage with Anne, eldest daughter and heiress of Philip Brunskell, Esq., in 1766. This gentleman died in 1806, leaving his estates to his youngest son, Thomas Harrison, and an annuity of £50 to Marley Harrison, his eldest son. The former, dying without issue in 1842, bequeathed his possessions to Philip Holmes Stanton, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, whose son, John Harrison Stanton, is the present owner of the tithes, patronage, and site of the manor of Bowes.

The living is a vicarage worth £165 a year, including 28 acres of glebe, with residence, and held by the Rev. Charles Bradford Wardale, M.A., of St. Catherine's College, Cambridge.

Among the many interesting objects in the church and churchyard there is perhaps not one that invites the attention of the general tourist so much as the grave of Rodger Wrightson and Martha Railton, whose touching fate suggested Mallet's beautiful and pathetic ballad of "Edwin and Emma." In 1848, a simple but beautiful monument was erected to their memory by F. Dinsdale, Esq., LL.D., author of "The Teesdale Glossary" and other works, bearing the following inscription:-

"Rodger Wrightson, junr., and Martha Railton, both of Bowes, Buried in one grave: He died of a fever, and, upon tolling his passing bell, she cry'd out, My heart is broke, and in a few hours expired, purely through love, March 15, 1714-15.'

Such is the brief and touching Record
contained in the Parish Register of Burials.
It has been handed down
by unvarying tradition that the grave
was at the west end of the church,
directly beneath the bells.
The sad history of these true and
faithful lovers forms the subject of
Mallet's pathetic ballad of
'EDWIN and EMMA."'

The Wesleyan Chapel is a good building of stone, rebuilt on the site of an older one in 1878, at a cost of £400. It is in the Barnard Castle circuit.

The Grammar School was founded in 1693 by William Hutchinson, Esq., a native of Cragg, who had acquired considerable wealth by business in London. He devised certain lands and buildings to trustees for the benefit of this school, and an almshouse which he had founded at Romaldkirk. The school was reconstituted by the Court of Chancery in 1845, and again re-modelled by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners in 1877. The premises were enlarged in 1882 by the addition of a new class-room, which is used as an upper or grammar school; there are also an elementary and an infant department. The teaching staff consists of a headmaster (Mr. W. Hood), with a salary of £150 a year, an assistant master at £50, and an assistant mistress at £55. The Rev. Charles Parkin, nephew of the above William Hutchinson, founded an Exhibition at Pembroke College, Cambridge, for the benefit of boys from this school. It is worth £60 per annum, and is tenable for seven years.

A Reading Room and Library was established in 1882, and contains 1,055 volumes. A recreation ground, containing about four acres, was formed in 1865. It is situated on the moor some distance from the village. There are also about four acres of garden allotments, which are let to the villagers at rents varying from 2s. to 5s. per annum, according to the size of the plots.

Bowes Hall, the property of J. H. Stanton, Esq., and residence of Mr. Joseph Sayer, is an Elizabethan mansion, built by Philip Brunskell, who obtained a large estate here by his marriage with Christiana, daughter and heiress of Roger Alderson, Esq. The Manor House is the property of Thomas Walton Sayer, Esq., and the residence of his brother, Mr. James Sayer. Bowes Villa is a neat modern residence, occupied by the owner, John Bousfield, Esq.

Roman Station - The Roman road mentioned in the II. and V. Iters of Antoninus as leading from Cataractonium (Catterick) to Veteræ (Brough in Westmoreland) passed through Bowes, and there is indisputable evidence that the Norman Castle was erected on the site, and probably from the ruins of a Roman station. The form of the latter is still traceable, and many interesting objects of Roman workmanship have been unearthed. The camp is rectangular in form, measuring 500 feet by 400, and in the south-east corner may be seen the remains of a Roman bath. A few years ago, when some of the common lands were enclosed, the aqueduct which had supplied the baths and garrison with water from Levy or Layer pool, two miles distant, was discovered. Among the numerous inscribed stones that have been found there is one which evidently refers to the reparation of this bath. The inscription is thus given by Horsley:- "Deæ Fortunæ Virius Lupus Legatus, Augustalis Proprætor. Balineum VI. ignis exustum Cohors Prima Thracum restituit Curante Valerio Frontone Præfecto Equitum alæ Vettonum." (To the Goddess Fortune. Virius Lupus, Legate and Proprætor of Britain, The first cohort of Thracians restored this bath, destroyed by fire, under the superintendence of Valerius Fronto, prefect of Horse, of the ala Vettonum.) Another stone, bearing a votive inscription to the Emperor Hadrian, served as the communion table in the parish church in Camden's time. Coins bearing the impress of Nero, Vespasian, Faustina, Severus, &c., have been found; and in January, 1850, six massive gold rings were discovered lying close together, with what was thought to be the remains of a bag. The ends were disunited, and their dilated edges extended to the inner side of the rings in a way that must have rendered them exceedingly uncomfortable if worn as armlets. The rings varied in weight from 6½ ounces to one ounce. There is little doubt that many interesting relics still lie buried beneath the turf, and an effort is now being made to raise subscriptions to cover the expense of a systematic exploration of the baths.

It is admitted by almost all antiquaries that this station is the Lavatræ of the Antonine Itinerary, which seems to have been occupied by the first Thracian Cohort, in the reign of Severus; and later by the Numerus Exploratorum, and their prefect, under the Dux Brittanniæ. Its identity is proved by inscriptions found here, and the name of the neighbouring stream, Layer, or Levy pool, may be accepted as corroborative evidence. But how or when it ceased to be called by its Roman name is not known. Camden tells us that the place was destroyed by fire, and that it was, in consequence, called Boeth, which, in the ancient British language, signifies "that which was burnt." That the town had been burnt down at some time or other was a current tradition two hundred years ago, and we may add that in the grout work of the castle walls, which were probably built out of the ruins of the Roman station, many of the stones have evidently been subjected to fire.

The following hamlets are within this township:- Bowes Cross, Stoney Keld, Gallow Hill, Low Field, Mellwaters, Sleightholme, Spital Houses, and part of Tan Hill, extending from 2 miles E. to 6 miles S. and S.W. of Bowes.

About 2 miles west of the town is God's Bridge, as the country folk aptly name it, a natural bridge of limestone rock, spanning the channel which the river Greta has scooped out for itself. The arch is 16 feet in span, and 20 feet wide in the crown, over which is the common carriage road. A little below the bridge the Greta flows through a subterranean passage for nearly half a mile, in a straight line, and then breaks again through the cavities of the rocks. Above the bridge the stream is also lost to view for a short distance. A little further west up the Greta valley is Spital, which marks the site of a hospital that stood here in Catholic times. It is said to have been founded by a noble thane, named Acehom, about the middle of the 9th century; but it may be doubted whether its origin was so early. It was given by Ralph, Lord Moulton, in 1171, to the Priory of Marrick, and it continued to perform its benevolent office of sheltering wayfarers until the Reformation, when its endowments were seized by the Crown and sold. The house was subsequently converted into an inn, where guides could be obtained to accompany travellers over the dreary wastes of Stainmore. The site is now occupied by a farmhouse.

Beyond Spital, on the border of Westmoreland, is Rear Cross, which stands by the road side, about 5½ miles west of Bowes. The fragment now remaining (a portion of the shaft standing in a socket) is 3 feet 10 inches in height. It was erected, according to Bœtius, a Scottish writer, who died in 1536, as a boundary mark between England and Scotland, when Cumberland was ceded to the latter country by William the Conqueror. Some of the ancient chroniclers assert that the cross was erected by a British king, named Marius, to commemorate a victory he gained here in the year 73 or 87 (both dates are given) over Roderic, King of the Picts; and they further add that on the stone was engraven MARII VICTORIA. Holinshed's account agrees in the main with that of Bœtius, but he further adds that "the King of England's image was graven on one side of the cross, and the King of Scotland's on the other, to signify that one is to march towards England and the other to Scotland. This cross was called Roi-cross, that is the Cross of the Kings."

The cross stands within the remains of a large entrenchment, defended by banks of earth, to which it gives the name of Reycross Camp. The eastern and western ramparts, about 270 paces in length, have had four openings in them, and the north and south ramparts three and two respectively. Each gate was guarded by a mound of earth. The Roman road ran through the camp, and in the highest part of the area is a tumulus, about 50 paces in circumference.

Stretching from the hamlet of Bowes Cross to Gallow Hill, on the south side of the old Roman road, is a rocky ridge, about a mile and a quarter in length, and covered in some places with trees. It is called Kilmond Scar, and it is said by local gossips to have been, in days gone by, the haunt of robbers, who preyed on travellers that business or pleasure compelled to cross the wilds of Stainmore.

GILMONBY, or GILMONDBY, is a township in this parish containing 2,244 acres, including moorland, and 108 inhabitants. It is valued, for rating purposes, at £1,683, and belongs chiefly to J. E. W. Headlam, Esq., Gilmonby Hall; the trustees of Bowes and Romaldkirk Charity; the Misses Lambert, Seaham Harbour; Mrs. Stephenson, Cotherston; Peter Imeson, Tanfield, Masham; Joseph Turner, Thomas O. Burrill, and Thomas Stobbs.

The manor of Gilmonby was given by Alan, Earl of Richmond, to the abbot and convent of St. Mary of York, in exchange for a certain wood near Richmond, called Earl's Orchard, and Richard de Gilmonby gave to the same monastery all the lands which he had in Gilmonby. The manor remained in the possession of the monks till the dissolution of religious houses, when it was granted, with all its members and appurtenances, rights and privileges, to John Halylee, gentleman, for a payment of £209 l0s., and a yearly rent of 23s. 7d. In 1624 it was purchased by Christopher Whytell, Esq., and descended, through four generations of the family, to Charles Lowe Whytell, who sold the manor and estate to Joseph Lyon, in 1786. Some thirty years afterwards they were purchased by the Ven. John Headlam, Archdeacon of Richmond, and grandfather of the present owner.

The village, which is small, stands on the south bank of the Greta, about a quarter of a mile from Bowes.

[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.

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