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KIRKBYMOORSIDE: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.

Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Ryedale - County Court District and Rural Deanery of Helmsley - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.

KIRKBYMOORSIDE is an ancient parish and market town, the head of a poor law union, and also gives name to an electoral division under the Local Government Act of 1888. It now consists of the townships of Kirkbymoorside, Fadmoor, and Gillamoor, comprising a total area of nearly 10,000 acres, of which about 2,000 are moorland. The inhabitants, according to census returns of 1881, number 2,181. The township of Kirbymoorside contains 4,506 acres, 1,843 inhabitants, and is assessed at £6,850. It includes the town of that name, and the hamlets of Keldholme and Kirby Mill, and, until 1887, the hamlet of Rudlands, which was then divided between Fadmoor and Gillamoor. The Earl of Feversham is lord of the manor and owner of all the land.

The town is pleasantly situated on the western acclivities of Dovedale, and sheltered by the hills which rise on the north and east. The fertility of the alluvial soil, the richness of the meadow lands, and the picturesqueness and beauty of the scenery in the neighbourhood all unite to give a most agreeable surprise to the tourist who has formed a previous conception of the place from its uncongenial name. The views from the elevated points are extensive and beautiful. From the summit of Vivers Hill, which overhangs the town, and is only a few minutes' walk from the church, the eye ranges over a wide and varied expanse, embracing within the prospect a dozen parish churches, Oliver's Mount, the Wold Hills, Gilling Castle, and the top of the Obelisk at Castle Howard, The town is distant six miles from Helmsley and eight from Pickering, and can now be reached by the Gilling and Pickering branch of the North Eastern railway, which was completed in 1875.

Little is known of the early history of the place; but if no other evidence than its Danish name were forthcoming, its antiquity would be sufficiently attested. But there is more cogent proof than this. At the time of Domesday Survey there were only sixteen churches in the wide district extending from Guisborough to Whitby, and of these Kirkbymoorside possessed two, "one in the manor of Torbrand, the other in that of Orm." The latter was, in all probability, the neighbouring church of Kirkdale, then called Chircheby, of which place, according to Domesday Book, Orm was lord, and this is confirmed by a Saxon inscription in the church at Kirkdale. Kirby had also at the same time two out of the eight mills enumerated in a wide extent of country, and these, with its churches, show not only its antiquity but also its importance at an early period.

Torbrand, the Anglo-Saxon owner, was "evicted" by the Conqueror, and his home and lands given to Robert D'Estoteville or Stuteville, a Norman who had accompanied the Conqueror to England. The family rose high in the royal favour, and figured largely in the annals of Norman England. The De Mowbrays appear to have become possessed, in some way or other, of a portion of the lordship, and Henry I. deprived both Roger de Mowbray and Roger de Stuteville of their lands here for rebellion, and bestowed them on Nigel de Albini, who married the heiress of the Mowbrays, and assumed that name. Shortly afterwards a dispute arose between the families as to the right of possession, and the king (Henry II.) restored the barony of Kirbymoorside to the Stutevilles. It remained with this family till Joan, the daughter and heiress of Nicholas Estoteville, conveyed it in marriage to Hugh de Wake.

This Joan, better known as the "Fair Maid of Kent," survived her husband, and, resuming her maiden name, left the barony to her son, Baldwin de Wake. The impression of her seal bore the device of a lady riding on horseback sideway, a style which she is said to have been the first to adopt. The Wake line ended in three co-heiresses, one of whom married the Earl of Westmoreland, who succeeded to the barony of Kirbymoorside, and it remained in the possession of this family until 1570, when, in consequence of the rebellion of Charles, the sixth earl, all his estates were confiscated. The earl escaped into Scotland, and there is a tradition that he eluded his pursuers by having the shoes of his horse reversed, the ground at the time being covered with snow. The descendants of the blacksmith who rendered this service held, for several generations, a house in Castlegate at the rent of a farthing a year.

The manor of Kirby remained in the possession of the Crown until the reign of James I., when it was given by that monarch to his favourite, Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham, who was assassinated at Portsmouth, in 1628. This and other estates were inherited by his son, George Villiers, the clever, witty, and unscrupulous Duke of Buckingham, who squandered in dissipation his rent-roll of £50,000 a year, and died, an outcast of society, in the house of one of his tenants in the market-place of Kirbymoorside. Pope, who had smarted under the satire of his wit, thus describes with a cruel exaggeration and disregard of truth the closing scene of his life:-

"In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half-hung,
The floors of plaster, and the walls of dung,
On once a flock-bed, but repaired with straw,
With tape-tied curtalns, never meant to draw,
The George and Garter dangling from that bed
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies - alas! how changed from him
That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim!
Gallant and gay in Cliveden's proud alcove,
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
Or just as gay at council, in a ring
Of mimic statesmen, and their merry king.
No wit to flatter left of all his store!
No fool to laugh at, which he valued more.
There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends."

The house in which he died adjoins the King's Head Hotel, and does not appear to have been at any time an inn, but rather the residence of some well-to-do tenant of the estate. Though modernised it still retains many of its ancient features. The parish register thus records his death, "1687, April 17th, George Vilaus, lord dooke of bookingam."

The duke previous to his death sold his estates in this neighbourhood to Sir Charles Duncombe, from whom they have descended to the present owner, the Earl of Feversham.

The castle of the Stutevilles stood on the summit of Vivers Hill, overlooking the town on the east. The building is gone, but the moat which surrounded it is still perfect and planted with trees. The Nevilles built another and stronger fortress at the northern extremity of the town, where they occasionally resided; and a small portion of the tower of this castle still remains.

The church, dedicated to All Saints, is an ancient and beautiful structure, which was restored and enlarged in 1873-5, under the direction of the late Sir George Gilbert Scott, R.A., at a cost of about £4,000, more than one-half of which was contributed by the Earl of Feversham. The work has been carried out in a most skilful and artistic manner, with due regard to the preservation of every ancient feature that was worth, and capable of, retention. It consists of a chancel with two chapels, a clerestoried nave of three bays, north and south aisles, porch, and embattled tower. The last named was rebuilt in 1802, and contains a clock and six bells. The porch has a round vaulted roof of stone, a Norman doorway, and an upper chamber or parvise. The massive pillars of the nave date from the 12th century, and the ancient sedilia and piscina (restored) have been preserved in the chancel. Two of the original windows remain in the south wall of the chancel, which are supposed to be of the same date as the lady chapel in York Minster. During some repairs in 1851, a fresco painting of a bishop with mitre and pastoral staff was discovered beneath the plaster, and whilst the late restoration was in progress several Saxon crosses, covered with carved interlace work, were found imbedded in the walls. There are several monumental tablets in the church, but one deserves special notice. It is of Derbyshire granite, carrying a fine brass, on which are engraved the figures of a lady and her six sons and five daughters, all kneeling. It is to the memory of Lady Brooke, who died in 1600, and has the following lines inscribed on it

"Prepare for death, for if the fatal sheares
Covld have bene stay'd by prayers, sighes, or teares,
They had bene stay'd, and this tombe thov see'st here
Had not erected bene yet many a yeare."

The registers date from 1622.

The living is a vicarage in the patronage of the Earl of Feversham, and worth £368 a year net, including 101 acres of glebe. Present incumbent, the Rev. W. G. Ketchley. The vicarial tithe rent-charge is £310, and the impropriate, £781.

The vicarage is a handsome and commodious residence, erected in 1878, at a cost of £2,000, and surrounded by 6½ acres of grounds.

There are places of worship in the town belonging to the Congregationalists, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Friends, and Catholics. The Rev. W. Eastmead was minister of the chapel of the first-named body from 1813 to 1826, and during that time he published his "Historia Rievallensis, or the History of Kirbymoorside, and the most important places in the neighbourhood"

The Board schools are neat buildings, erected by the Earl of Feversham in 1876-7, at a cost of £2,000, and transferred to the School Board on the formation of that body in 1883. The sum of £10 a year is received from Stockton's charity, for which there are 12 free scholars.

A market is held weekly on Wednesday, and a Cattle Market at Candlemas, Wednesday after Palm Sunday, and May-day Wednesday. Fairs are held on Whit-Tuesday, and the 18th of September, for cattle and horses; and a Hirings on the Wednesday after the 5th of November. The Ryedale and Pickering Lythe Agricultural Society's Show is held here every third year; and a Floral, Poultry, and Industrial Show was established in 1884. The old Market Cross remains and near it is the Toll Booth, a two-storied building originally erected, according to tradition, with stones from the old castle of the Stutevilles. It was destroyed by fire on the 13th November, 1871, and rebuilt the following year. The manorial courts are held and the town's business transacted here. The lower story forms a spacious Market Hall.

Kirbymoorside Poor Law Union comprises 23 parishes and townships, extending over an area of 58,631 acres, and containing a population of 5,514. The rateable value of the Union is £33,186. The Workhouse was erected in 1850, at a cost of £1,350, and has since been enlarged by the addition of a fever ward to accommodate eight persons, at a cost of £200.

CHARITIES. - The poor have five small rent-charges left by John Wawne and others, amounting to £3 4s.; a copyhold rent of £7, left by Eliz. Stockton, of Little Barugh; a rent-charge of £3 10s. purchased with £100 left by William Ness; the dividends (£4 8s.) of £160 in the consols left by Mrs. Comber in 1807; the interest of £50 left by Ann Atkinson in 1820; a rent-charge of £4 left by the Rev. W. Comber.

Keldholme is a hamlet about one mile east of the town, Robert de Stuteville, who fought at the battle of the Standard in 1138, founded a priory here for nuns of the Cistercian order, and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin. He endowed it with the cultivated lands lying to the north and south, the adjoining mill which has given its name to the hamlet of Kirby Mills, and pasturage in the woods of Ravenswyke, The convent was enriched by many subsequent grants, and at the dissolution, the prioress and eight nuns had a yearly income valued by the commissioners at £29 6s. 1d. A modern house occupies the site, and the only mementoes of the old priory are a few stone coffins and fragments of pillars built into the garden wall. The priory is now the property and residence of Martin. Crawshay, Esq.

FADMOOR is a township in this parish, lying to the north of Kirbymoorside, embracing an area of 1,791 acres, exclusive of moorland. The Earl of Feversham is lord of the manor and owner of the greater part of the land. Rateable value, £1,018; population, 149. The village is situated near the open moor, two miles N. of Kirbymoorside. There are chapels here belonging to the Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists. About a mile beyond the village is Sleightholme Dale, with its medicinal spring or spa.

GILLAMOOR is another moorland township, containing 1,505 acres of assessable land, the rateable value of which is £994; population, 189. The Earl of Feversham is lord of the manor and owner of the land. The village stands on an eminence commanding a beautiful view of the wooded vale of the Dove below.

The church or chapel-of-ease, rebuilt in 1802, is a plain edifice, restored about five years ago, at a cost of £300. The old font in the church is supposed to belong to the Norman period, The Wesleyan Methodist chapel was erected in 1867, in memory of Joseph Pillmoor. It will accommodate 300 persons, and cost £350. The school was built by the Earl of Feversham in 1875. It receives £15 a year from Stockton's charity, for which there are 18 free scholars, 12 belonging to this township and six to Fadmoor. The poor of each of these townships have two small rent-charges amounting to 20s.

[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.