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 includes the townships of Gilling, Cawton, and Grimstone, containing collectively 4,547 acres, and 385 inhabitants. Of these figures 2,500 acres and 254 inhabitants belong to the first-named township, which is valued, for rateable purposes, at £2,062. C. H. Fairfax Cholmeley, Esq., is lord of the manor and principal owner.
Gilling is a place of considerable antiquity, but its history previous to the Norman Conquest is wrapt in obscurity. From the Domesday Book we learn that the manor of Ghellinge was held in the time of Edward the Confessor by one Barch, but he was dispossessed by the Conqueror, and his lands here given to Hugh, the son of Baldric, a German knight in the service of William I. Soon afterwards we find the manor in the possession of Roger de Mowbray, but whether he obtained it by grant or purchase is not stated. It was held under the Mowbrays by the family of De Etton, The De Ettons intermarried with the Fairfaxes of Walton about the year 1350, and the estate, failing issue by this marriage, was entailed on the latter family. Subsequently an alliance was formed with the Nevilles, and "Alexander de Etton dying without issue in 1447," says the author of "Vallis Eboracensis," infeoffed Gilling Castle, &c., to Sir Thomas Neville, who bequeathed it to his son, Humphrey Neville, of Brancepeth. The latter was attainted in 1465, and the property was seized by the Crown. It remained in the royal possession until 1492, when Thomas Fairfax made good his claim as heir of Thomas Fairfax to whom the estate was entailed in 1350, as stated above. Gilling passed from Fairfax to Fairfax in the male line through many generations down to Charles Gregory Fairfax, the tenth and last viscount, who was succeeded by his only surviving daughter and heiress, the Hon. Anne Fairfax. That lady died unmarried in 1793, and the estate passed to her cousin, Charles Gregory Pigott who, thereupon, assumed the name of Fairfax. He married Mary, sister of Sir Henry Goodricke, Bart., and had issue Charles Gregory, his successor; Lavinia, who married the Rev. Mr. Barnes, rector of Gilling; and Harriet, who married Charles Cholmeley, Esq., of Branaby Hall; but neither lady had issue.
Mr. C. G. Fairfax married Mary, daughter of Michael Tasburgh, Esq., but died without issue, in 1871, and was succeeded by his elder and surviving sister, Mrs. Barnes. On the death of this lady, in 1885, the estate devolved, pursuant to the will, on Thomas Charles Cholmeley, Esq., of Bransby Hall, who assumed the additional name of Fairfax. He died on the 11th April, 1889, and was succeeded by his son, H. C. Fairfax Cholmeley, Esq., the present owner.
Gilling Castle, at present in the occupation of Major Legard, is seated on an eminence overlooking the village, but from which it is almost hidden by a dense mass of luxuriant trees. The eastern end is the most ancient, probably dating from the Edwardian period. The embattled keep, seventy feet high, is still perfect, "touched, indeed, but little injured by time, or mutilated by ignorance." Here a massive doorway, now walled up, communicated with the rambling passages and dungeons in the lower part of the castle. The walls of this basement story vary from eight to fifteen feet in thickness, and testify to the immense strength of the ancient fortress. In that adjoining the court is a staircase, seven feet wide, but now closed up, which probably led up to the hall. This lower story has a pointed barrel roof of stone. At the eastern end are two other projections, one containing the original staircase, and the other several tiers of oriel windows. The other parts of the castle were remodelled and adapted to modern tastes and requirements, by Sir John Vanbrugh, the celebrated architect, in the latter years of the 17th century. Of the interior apartments the most interesting is the old oak dining room, a magnificent specimen of the taste and refinement of the Elizabethan period. The floor is of black polished oak, and the walls to the height of twelve feet are wainscotted with oak, panelled, and richly carved. It is lighted by three beautiful stained glass windows, inserted when the room was refitted in 1585, or a little later, bearing the arms of the Fairfaxes, the Stapyltons, and the Constables; with the two latter the Fairfaxes were allied by marriage. On the panels of the walls above the wainscotting is painted a series of genealogical trees, on which are the armorial shields of all the gentry in the several wapentakes of the county in the reign of Elizabeth, The arms of the four ladies who designed the above, quartered with their husbands, Vavasour, Curwen, Belasyse, and De Roos, are preserved over the chimney piece, above which are the royal arms of the same period.
The village is situated at the entrance of a narrow valley, from which circumstance it is said to have received its name of Gilling, that is the ing, or river-meadow in the gill, or ravine; but it is much more probable that both this and the Richmondshire Gilling have derived their names from the Anglo-Saxon sept or clan of Gilling, which has also left its impress at Gillingham in Norfolk, Gillingham in Dorsetshire, and at Gillingham in Kent. The village is situated on the Thirsk and Malton branch of the North Eastern railway, and is about 18 miles from York, The church (Holy Cross) is an ancient stone edifice, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, a north and south porch, and an embattled western tower, containing a clock and three bells. Though there is no mention in Domesday Book of a church at Gilling, there are a few architectural features still remaining which point to the transition Norman, or perhaps Early English period as the time of its erection. It was restored in the Decorated and Perpendicular styles, which prevailed in 1300-99; and again in 1753, when the roof of the nave was lowered, an alteration effected from churchwardian principles of economy, but most fatal to the beauty and proportions of the building. Another restoration took place in 1854, and again in 1876. On the latter occasion it happily fell into abler hands, and it is now "one of the most perfect and interesting churches of the district." Some of the windows are memorials of the Fairfaxes, and there are also several interesting monuments of the same family and their connections in the church. The oldest of these is the tomb of a knight under an arch in the north wall of the chancel, supposed to belong to the 14th century. It is a curious combination of the monumental cross, as seen on ancient tombstones, and recumbent effigy. The head and feet of the knight only are shown, the former in a quatrefoil opening, which forms the top of the cross, and the latter in a trefoil at the foot. On one side of the cross are carved the sword and belt of a knight, surmounted by a shield of arms; and on the other the rude figure of a horse's head. It is not known to whom the monument belonged, but, says the author of "Vallis Eboracensis," "the horse's head would seem to indicate a Malbys, especially when viewed in connexion with the marriage of the Malbys with the Fairfax family, and also with the fact recorded by Torr, that the arms of Malbys were to be seen in the east window of Gilling church, associated with those of Manley, Fairfax, and Etton." In the chancel floor is a monumental slab bearing a brass plate, inscribed in Latin, which may be thus read in English:- Pray for the soul of Master Robert Kellington (or Wellington?) formerly prebendary of the prebend of Ulleskelfe, rector of Bolton Percy, and rector of this church, who died 15th February, A.D. 1503. It was this Robert Kellington who gave a bell to the steeple of the church then being built, and ordered his executors to insert "a window on the south side of the church where his body lyeth." The south, or Fairfax aisle, was the burial place of that family, and was restored at the expense the late Mrs. Barnes. At the west side stands an altar tomb to the memory of Thomas Fairfax, Esq., who died in 1828. On the top is the figure of a female, representing Piety, in white marble, reclining on two urns. This beautiful piece of artistic work was executed by Joseph Gott, Esq., of Rome. Another monument of the same family is that of Sir Nicholas Fairfax, Knt., three times high sheriff of the county, who died in 1570. The recumbent effigy of the knight rests between those of his two wives on an altar tomb. The bells in the tower bear the dates 1667, 1701, and 1775; and the communion plate, 1598. The registers date from the year 1573.
The living is a rectory, net value £590, in the gift of the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, and held by the Rev. Thomas Percy Hudson, M.A., succentor and canon of York.
The School was erected in 1837, and enlarged in 1872. It possesses two endowments, left by the Hon. Mrs. Anne Fairfax and the late Mrs. Mary Fairfax, now producing £25 a year.
CAWTON is a township in this parish, containing 1,027 acres of land, chiefly the property of the trustees of W. F. Shepherd, Richard Hicks, and Sir W. C. Worsley, Bart. The manorial rights are held by the trustees of the late James Tindall, Esq. The township is valued for rating purposes at £1,295, and had, in 1881, a population of 67. The soil is chiefly limestone in the higher grounds, and peat, loam, and clay in the low lands. The poor receive the interest of several small benefactions, amounting to £3 2s. per annum.
GRIMSTONE is a small township, containing 987 acres, one-half of which are moor and woodland. It is rated at £579, and had, in 1881, 64 inhabitants. George Wilson, Esq., J.P., is lord of the manor and principal landowner. The soil is sandy and poor.
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.