GREAT AYTON: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


Wapentake of Langbaurgh (West Division) - Poor Law Union and County Court District of Stokesley - Petty Sessional Division of Langbaurgh West - Electoral Division of Great Ayton - Rural Deanery of Stokesley - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.

This parish comprises the townships of Great Ayton, Little Ayton with Tunstall, and Nunthorpe, the united area of which is, according to the rate books, 5,656 acres, and population, 2,020. The surface is greatly diversified, presenting, in some places, patches of charming pastoral and picturesque scenery. The township of Great Ayton includes one-half of the far-famed hill called Roseberry Topping (described under Newton-in-Cleveland), and has, according to Ordnance Survey, an area of 3,589 acres, of which 2,999½ are under assessment. A branch of the N.E. railway, from Middlesbrough to Ingleby Junction, passes through the township. Gross estimated rental, £8,397; rateable value, £7,256. The soil is loamy, resting on a subsoil of clay.

Ayton Magna, at the time of the Domesday Survey, contained three distinct manors. These were subsequently united, and in the reign of Stephen, Great Ayton was held by Robert de Estoteville. It remained in the possession of this family until the reign of Henry III., when it passed in marriage to the family of De Wake. The next owners were the Nevilles, Earls of Westmoreland, but this, and all the other estates belonging to the sixth earl, were forfeited to the Crown upon his attainder for the very prominent part he took in the Rising of the North. James I. granted the manor of Ayton to his countryman, Sir David Foulis, Bart., who sold it in the following reign to Christopher Coulson, citizen of London. From the Coulsons it descended, by marriage, to the Scottowes, and is now the property of the Exors. of Mrs. E. Procter. The land belongs to several owners, of whom the principal are E. H. Wynne Finch, Esq., J.P., of Manor House, Stokesley, who succeeded his uncle, the late C. G. W. Wynne, Esq.; Henry C. A. and George R. Jackson, Esquires; the Trustees of Thomas Graham, Esq.; J. B. Hodgkin; G. F. Marwood, Esq., J.P., Busby Hall; and the Trustees of the late Mrs. E. Procter.

Great Ayton, or, as it is locally called, "Canny Yatton," is a large and handsome village, consisting principally of one broad street, divided into two parts by the Leven rivulet. It is situated about one mile from Roseberry Topping, and three miles from Stokesley, and is frequented in the summer as a health resort. An extension of the village of recent date, is known as California. Here lived Mr. John Wright, better known as the "Bard of Cleveland," a self taught votary of the Muses.

The Church (Christ Church) is a handsome freestone edifice, built in 1876, by public subscription, at a cost of over £5,000. It is in the modern Gothic style of architecture, and consists of chancel, nave, with north and south aisles, and tower, surmounted by a spire. At the west end is a Narthex porch, in which are eight trefoil stained lights. The east window is filled with stained glass, in memory of the Marwood family. In the tower are ten bells, two of which belonged to the old church; the other eight are of the tubular type, and were added in 1887, by the parishioners, in memory of Her Majesty's Jubilee. The church will accommodate about 480 worshippers.

The old church (All Saints'), now disused,is an ancient foundation, probably dating from Saxon times. The tower, which has been taken down, and part of the nave, were rebuilt in 1852, at the cost of the late G. Marwood, Esq., patron of the living and impropriator of the tithes. The organ, now removed to the new church, was also presented by the same gentleman. In the chancel is a marble monument to Commodore Wilson, who died in 1795. He was a native of Ayton, and a gallant naval commander in the East India Company's service. This church, to which were formerly subject the chapels of Newton-under-Roseberry, Little Ayton, and Nunthorpe, was given, with its dependencies, at an early period, to the Abbey of Whitby, by Robert de Meinell, and the living became thenceforth a perpetual curacy. The benefice is now a vicarage, the value of which, according to the Diocesan Calendar, is £272. In 1880, the township of Easby, with its chapel-of-ease, was separated from Stokesley, and annexed to Ayton, increasing the area of the ecclesiastical parish to 7,953 acres, with a population of 2,156. Since this annexation, the patronage has been invested in the Archbishop of York and G. F. Marwood, Esq., to be exercised alternately. Vicar, Rev. Rd. Marsden Withington, M.A.

The Nonconformist interest here dates back to the times of the Commonwealth. Originally it was Presbyterian. A Scotch minister, chaplain to the lord of the manor, was the first to gather a congregation together. For a time they worshipped in Ayton Hall, subsequently a small meeting house was built. During the troublesome times that followed, the church was often without a minister; many too of those who had charge of the community became tainted with the prevailing Socinianism of the time. Gradually the polity of the church became more Independent than Presbyterian, and the last minister having any leaning towards the latter body, a Rev. Mr. Logan, was succeeded by the Rev. W. Hinmers, an Independent minister stationed at Guisborough. The present church, a neat and commodious building, was erected in 1853, re-pewed and internally renovated in 1876, and a new school and class-rooms, with caretaker's house, added in 1880. The present minister, the Rev. E. H. Reynolds, entered upon his charge in 1877.

The Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists have each a chapel in the village. That belonging to the former body is a commodious brick edifice built in 1862, and seated to accommodate 300 persons.

The followers of George Fox are a numerous and respectable body in the parish. Their meeting house is a commodious building, with a pretty graveyard attached. Adjoining is the Friends' North of England Agricultural School, founded in 1841 by the voluntary contributions of members of the Society of Friends, the largest donor being Thomas Richardson, Esq., of Ayton, who gave the handsome sum of £5,000. A gentleman' s residence and an estate of nearly 70 acres were purchased for the purposes of the school, and many additions have since been made to the premises, which occupy a beautiful and salubrious situation, with large and well sheltered recreation and play grounds. The school was established for the maintenance of 36 boys and the same number of girls belonging to or connected with the Society of Friends; others are admitted at a charge representing about the average cost of each child per annum. There is now accommodation for 80 boarders. The course of instruction embraces Latin, French, Euclid, Geometry, Algebra, and various scientific subjects - Agriculture, Chemistry, Physiology, Botany, &c. The girls are trained either for domestic work or a higher sphere of life. The management is vested in a committee of ladies and gentlemen, members of the Society of Friends; Ralph Dixon, superintendent, who is assisted by an efficient staff of teachers. A little distance from the school are the Cleveland Cottages, a block of four very neat brick dwellings, erected and partially endowed by the trustees of the late Thomas Richardson, Esq., in pursuance of his oft expressed intention had his life been prolonged. They are for the reception of four poor families belonging to the Society of Friends, who, besides a free house, receive £12 per annum.

Few villages possess so many educational facilities as Great Ayton. In 1704, a small school-house was built by Michael Postgate; this was again rebuilt in 1785. It was in this humble seminary that Captain Cook received his school education, at the expense of Thomas Scottowe, Esq., for whom Cook's father was then hind or farm bailiff. This school was superseded by a handsome stone structure, built at the sole expense of G. Marwood, Esq., of Busby Hall, in 1851, and was chiefly supported by that gentleman during his lifetime. It was originally known as Marwood's Grammar School, but is now a Public Elementary School in connection with the parish church. The British School was erected by subscription, in 1843, at a cost of £500, for the education of 50 boys and 50 girls. It receives £100 per annum, the dividends of four railway shares left by the late Mr. Thomas Richardson for the education of poor children in Great Ayton, without respect to religious creed or pursuasion, provided the school or schools be conducted on the system promoted by the British and Foreign School Society.

The Cemetery, covering two acres, is situated a little out of the village, and was opened for interments in 1882. The grounds are tastefully laid out. The entire cost was £2,000.

CHARITIES. John Coulson, in 1674, bequeathed to the poor of Great and Little Ayton, a yearly rent-charge of £1 15s.; and in 1678, William Young left to the poor of Great Ayton another rent-charge of £6. To the poor of the same township Eliz. Bulson bequeathed the rent of three acres of land at Falsgrave, near Scarborough. Postgate's old school, with other buildings belonging thereto, is now converted into a dwelling-house, let for £10, which is given in equal shares to the support of Marwood's and the British Schools.

LITTLE AYTON with TUNSTALL contains, by ordnance measurement, 1,378 acres, of which 1,290 acres are under assessment. Gross estimated rental, £1,581 ; rateable value, £1,437. The principal landowners are the trustees of the late Mrs. Procter and Jonathan B. Hodgkin, Esq.

The village of Little Ayton is a scattered hamlet between Great Ayton and Roseberry Topping. There was formerly a chapel here, built by Sir William Malabisse, in 1215, but no remains are now left to tell where it stood.

NUNTHORPE township comprises an area of 1,427 acres, of which the gross estimated rental is £2,011. This manor belonged at an early period to the De Brus family, Lords of Skelton, from whom it passed by the marriage of an heiress to Marmaduke De Thweng, Lord of Kilton. Subsequently it was held by the Percys, Conyers, and in the reign of Charles I. by the Constables, one of whom built the hall. It afterwards came into the possession of the Bradshaws, by whom it was sold in 1779. The manor and estate now belong to Isaac Wilson, Esq., J.P. and M.P., Nunthorpe Hall. The other proprietors are G. F. Marwood, Esq., Busby Hall, whose ancestors have possessed lands here since the middle of the 16th century; W. T. Hustler, Esq., Acklam Hall; Miss Staveley, Slenningford Park, Ripon; and Appleton's Trustees.

The village is distant 3½ miles N.N.E. of Stokesley, and receives its name from a Cistercian Nunnery, first founded at Hutton Lowcross, by Ralph De Neville, about 1162; afterwards removed hither, and subsequently to Basedale. After the suppression of the priory in the 27th of Henry VIII., the premises called Nunhouse Grange were granted in estate tail to King's College, Cambridge. The site is now included in the grounds of Nunthorpe Hall. The church (St. Mary's), which adjoins the hall, was partially rebuilt in 1824. A chapel was founded here at an early period, and given with the mother church to the monks of Whitby. There was formerly a chantry in it, founded some time previous to 1358. After the dissolution, the living was a stipendiary payment of £10 per annum, but was augmented by grants from Queen Anne's Bounty fund in the early part of the present century, and a perpetual curacy established. The benefice, now a vicarage worth £46, is in the gift of Isaac Wilson, Esq., and the owners of Grey Towers, and is held by the Vicar of Ayton.

The school, a small building with accommodation for 35 children, was erected in 1855, at the joint expense of Isaac Wilson, Esq., and the late Mr. J. Richardson, and is largely supported by the former gentleman.

Grey Towers is a large imposing structure built of whinstone with freestone dressings. It was erected in 1865 by Wm. R. Innes Hopkins, who had purchased the estate from the late Mr. Richardson. It is now owned by Mr. Hustler, of Acklam Hall, and occupied by Mr. Railton Dixon.

[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.