LEAKE: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Allertonshire - Electoral Division of Osmotherley - Poor Law Union and County Court District of Northallerton - Rural Deanery of Thirsk - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.

Leake, or Leek, is an extensive parish, stretching northward from that of Thornton-le-Street to that of Over Silton, and from Crosby, on the west side of the Codbeck, eastward to the Hambleton Hills; and includes the townships of Leake, Borrowby, Crosby, Knayton-with-Brawith, Landmoth-with-Catto, Gueldable, and Nether Silton. The last-named two are in Birdforth Wapentake, and the Thirsk and Malton Parliamentary Division. The total area of the parish is about 6,600 acres, and the population 1,017.

The township of Leake, comprising 210 acres, inclusive of roads, &c., contains the Church and one farmhouse, all that now remains of what is said to have been in Saxon times a large and flourishing town. Whatever may have been its condition in that far distant age, it has wholly escaped the notice of the ancient chroniclers; but tradition, ever ready to supply the omissions of history, avers that it was destroyed by the Danes; and, as contributory evidence, it is pointed out that a road near the Church still bears the name of "Danes' Lane." Be this as it may, it is certain that Leake was devastated by the Normans, and is thus recorded in Domesday Book: "In Lece, Gamel had one manor of three carucates. It is waste." The people of the north offered the most stubborn resistance to the Conqueror, and nowhere did he meet with more determined opposition than in North Yorkshire; but that district soon felt the full force of his vengeance. From the Humber to the Tyne, the land was all laid waste, and the towns and villages given to the flames.*

* We are informed by the Rev. E. A. Haughton that "in a field to the north of the Church are the remains of a regularly paved street, from which many cartloads of paving stones have been sold by the tenants of the field as road metal, to mend the highways in the neighbourhood; and in another field, east of the Church, foundations of houses can be distinctly traced by the green ridges; and, by digging, fragments of walls and stones are found." Near the house, in 1555, a number of silver coins, mostly of the reign of Edward I.; were dug up. They were all found in one place, where they were probably hidden during one of the Scottish raids.

A little later, three carucates in Leche and the lands of the church were given by William Rufus to William de Carilepho, Bishop of Durham, In the 16th and 17th centuries, the manor of Leake was held by a family of the name of Danby, by one of whom it was sold, in 1697, to Edmund Barstow, Esq., of Northallerton, from whom it was purchased by George Smith, Esq., of Burn Hall, Durham; and on the marriage of his daughter with Anthony Salvin, of Sunderland Bridge, in 1756, it was transferred to that family, with whom it remained until 1788. In 1803, it was purchased by Warcop Consett, Esq., of Brawith, who, being unmarried, willed the estate, after the death of his brother, also unmarried, to his grand-nephew, William Preston. This gentleman, in coming into possession of the estate in 1860, assumed the surname of Consett, instead of Preston.

Leake Hall, the ancient seat of the Danbys, though modernised and converted into a farmhouse, still bears traces of its former gentility. The wide oak staircase, with its massive steps black with age, still remains, and two of the rooms retain their old oak wainscotting, carved and ornamented with armorial shields.

The Church (St. Mary) is a venerable and interesting edifice, dating from Norman times, and still retains a considerable portion of its original workmanship. It consists of chancel, nave with north and south aisles, porch, and tower. The restorations, which have taken place at different periods, are visible in the architecture. The tower and north wall of the nave are of Anglo-Norman workmanship, and probably part of the original edifice; the south wall of the nave was rebuilt, in the Early English style, in the 12th century; and at a still later date, the chancel end was taken down and rebuilt in the Perpendicular style. The dissimilarity of the arcades on each side of the nave forms a peculiar and striking feature of the interior. The arches on the north side are semicircular; those on the south, pointed. Each tier rests upon columns alternately round and hexagonal, the capitals of the columns being different one from the other. Two of the old oak stalls in the chancel exhibit some very delicate carving. The tops terminate in well-executed finials, and in front of each is an advanced pillar, crowned by the figure of a nondescript animal. One bears a shield charged with crossed keys, and on the other is the figure of a monk, bearing a book and Agnus Dei, and standing on a tun with the letters HAMP , which we may suppose to be the rebus for "Hampton." A Latin inscription tells us that "This work was done in the year of our Lord, 1519." In the floor of the nave is a brass, on which are engraved two figures, male and female, with the following inscription: "Of yor Charitie, p'y for ye Soules of John Watson, Su' tyme Auditor to ye Lord Scroope of Upsall, and Alice his wife, and their child. Whose soules Jesus p'don." A very handsome brass has been placed in the chancel to the memory of the late vicar, by his widow. The tower contains three bells; the largest one bears the following legend in Lombardic capitals: "0 PATER AELRED GRENDALL MISERI MISERA." Aelred Grendale was the third abbot of Rievaulx; and it is supposed that this bell was brought from that abbey after the dissolution of religious houses. The other two bells were cast in 1618; but one, having been cracked, was re-cast a few years ago.

The Church was restored internally in 1854, at a cost of £370, when a piscina was discovered in the wall of the south aisle, where, consequently, there must have been an altar.

The benefice was a rectory until 1344, when it was appropriated to the bishop of Durham for the support of his table, and a vicarage ordained, In the Liber Regis (A.D. 1534), the total value of the living is stated to be £16; in 1760, the income from all sources, including the curacy of Nether Silton, was £72 11s. 4d. It is now worth £350. The patronage was formerly vested in the bishops of Durham, but on the formation of the bishopric of Ripon, in 1836, it was transferred to the bishop of that diocese. The present incumbent is the Rev. E. A. Haughton, B.A. The registers commence in 1570, but some of the pages between 1676 and 1695 are imperfect, and others lost. The tithes of the township were commuted in 1850 - those belonging to the rector, for £55; and those to the vicar, £18 3s.

Stone coffins have been frequently found in the churchyard by the sexton when digging graves, from which we may infer that many persons of consequence have been buried here. Near the churchyard is Danes' Lane, before mentioned, where, according to a local tradition, a number of Danes, one account says 500, were massacred in one night by the women of Leake. This may possibly have had some connection with the impolitic and cowardly massacre of the Danes throughout the country, on the festival of St. Brice, A.D. 1002. The discovery, during the draining of the churchyard in 1852, of a great quantity of human bones, which had not been, apparently, buried in separate graves, but thrown indiscriminately into a pit, seems to lend some colour of probability to the story. Another legend tells us that the original intention of the builders of the church was to erect it on the top of Borrowby Bank, but the materials carried thither during the day were transported by unseen hands at night to the spot where the church now stands.

BORROWBY is a village and township situated on the Thirsk and Stokesley road, to the south of Leake. Its superficial extent is 1,280 acres, and its rateable value £1,996. The village is situated on the side of a hill about five miles S.E. by E. of Northallerton. In Domesday Book and other early documents it is written Berghebi and Berghby, a name descriptive of its situation, the by, or village, on the bergh, or hill. At the time of the Conquest Berghby was a berewic, or small manor, subject to the manor of Northallerton, and was given, with the whole of Allertonshire, to William de Carilepho, bishop of Durham, by William Rufus. It remained in possession of that see until 1836, when it was given, with other manors and lands in Allertonshire, to the endowment fund of the new diocese of Ripon, and is now held in trust by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The land is held by copyhold tenure, the principal owners being W, W. P. Consett, Esq., London: Rev. J. Oxlee, Cowesby Rectory; J. W. Coates; Mrs. Addison, Darlington; Mr. G. B. Morton, Leake Hall; and B. Warner, Esq.

The village is situated on the edge of the township adjoining Gueldable, and many of the houses are in that township. On the green, in the centre of the village, stands an ancient stone cross, which is said to mark the boundary between the two townships and the two wapentakes. The Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyans have chapels in the village, built respectively in 1878 and 1882. Weaving and bleaching was formerly extensively pursued in Borrowby, but both these industries have now been abandoned for many years. The poor of the township receive two rent-charges, amounting to £3, which is distributed every New Year's Day.

GUELDABLE is an adjoining township to Borrowby, and contains part of that village. Mr. Grainge, in his "Vale of Mowbray," derives the name from the Saxon Gueld, or Geld, a tax or tribute, and supposes that this township was charged with the payment of a tax, from which the adjoining lands were exempt. The land here is freehold, and that in Borrowby copyhold. The principal owner is W. W. P. Consett, Esq. Rateable value, £501; population, 81. This township is in the Thirsk and Malton Parliamentary Division.

CROSBY is a township of 1,430 acres, containing a few scattered houses. At the time of the Domesday Survey the manor of Croxbi was in the possession of the king, and Tor had here one carucate of land to be taxed. In later times the township belonged to a family named Dent, from whom it was purchased by the trustees under the will of the late Warcop Consett, Esq., and is now held by William Warcop Peter Consett, Esq. The cross, from which it has evidently received its name, has long disappeared, nor are we aware of any traditions preserving the memory of its site. Rateable value, £726; population, 40.

NETHER SILTON is a township and chapelry in the parish of Leake, Birdforth wapentake, and Thirsk and Malton Parliamentary Division. The chapelry includes also the township of Gueldable, and comprises an area of 2,610 acres, of which 1,481½ belong to Nether Silton. The soil is clayey, the subsoil clay and gravel, and the crops wheat, oats, and barley. The township is valued, for rating purposes, at £1,690, and had, in 1881, a population of 176. The principal landowners are the exors. of the late Richard Machell Jaques, Esq. (lords of the manor), St. Martin's, Richmond; Mrs. Edith Hinde, Over Silton; and the Dean and Chapter of York. The Hall is an ancient structure, but was partially rebuilt and modernised in 1838. It is now occupied by George Jaques, Esq., whose mother was the only daughter and heiress of Fowler Hicket, Esq., lord of the manor of Nether Silton.

The village lies about eight miles from Thirsk, and seven from Northallerton. The chapel dates from mediæval times, and was appropriated to the priory of Guisborough. The chapel was rebuilt in 1812, by the bishop of Durham, and thoroughly restored in 1877, at a cost of £450, raised by subscription. The altar rails formerly belonged to the old Dreadnought Training Ship, and were presented by the late R. M. Jaques, Esq. The living is a perpetual curacy, consolidated with Leake. There are about 28 acres of glebe land in the township. The School was built in 1874, at a cost of £468, exclusive of the site, which was the gift of R. M. Jaques, Esq., and is supported by voluntary contributions.

In a field in front of the chapel is an upright stone, bearing an inscription even more hieroglyphical than that on the stone discovered by Mr. Pickwick, in one of his antiquarian rambles, as related by Charles Dickens. It is as follows

A.D. 1765
A W, P S A Y A A

This monument, it appears, was a whim of the late squire Hickes, to mark the spot where the old manor house had stood. Each letter is said to be the initial of a word, and the following is said to be the interpretation of the first three lines

"Here the grand old Manor House stood,
The black beams were oak, the great walls were good;
The walls at the east wing are hidden here."

We were unable to obtain any explanation of the remaining lines.

KNAYTON with BRAWITH forms a united township, containing 1,390 acres, of which 150 acres belong to Brawith estate. Knayton was part of the patrimony of St. Cuthbert, and is thus entered in Domesday Book; "In Chenevetun to be taxed four carucates, and there may be two ploughs. St. Cuthbert had it, and has it for one manor." About the middle of the 14th century, Sir John Darcy appears to have held some land here, probably by subinfeudation. He married the heiress of the Meinells, of Whorlton. Knayton continued in the possession of the bishops of Durham until 1836, when it was transferred to the bishop of Ripon, to whom all manorial rights belong. The land is copyhold, and held by W. W. P. Consett, Esq., Mrs. Faint, Mrs. Lloyd, Mrs. Ambler, John Kirby, and others. Gross estimated rental, £3,227; rateable value, £2,898; and population, 344.

The village of Knayton is situated on an eminence about four miles from Thirsk, and six from Northallerton. Its name is supposed to he derived from the Saxon Cnafa, a knave or servant, and ton a dwelling; we may, therefore, infer that it was the place allotted for the residence of the bishop's servants who worked on this manor.

Brawith estate, a tract of rich meadow and pasture land, lies on the east bank of the Codbeck. It was formerly the property of the Consetts; but the direct male line failing by the deaths of the brothers Warcop and Peter Consett, unmarried, the estate was demised by the will of the former, to his grand nephew, William Preston, the youngest son of the Rev. J. D. J. Preston, The hall is situated in the low ground near the river, and is surrounded by luxuriant woodlands. It is now in the occupation of Mrs. Anne Shawe.

The older orthography of the name was "Braythwath," from Braith and Wath (Celtic), signifying the spotted or party-coloured ford, or it may be from the Scandinavian Braith With, that is Broadwood.

Leake Parish school is situated in this township, and was erected in 1873, at a cost of about £1,000.

LANDMOTH-WITH-CATTO is a small township, consisting of two hamlets and about 766 acres of land. It occupies the elevated ridge lying between the Codbeck and Cotcliffe Wood. Landmoth Hall is an old Tudor building, with quaint gables and black oak joists and beams, but its mullioned windows have been replaced by less picturesque modern ones. It is now the homestead of a farmer. Landmoth occurs in ancient documents as Landmote, Landmot, and also Landmouth, and has probably had some connection with the motes, or meetings of the Saxons for purposes of polity. These assemblies were invariably held on some elevated spot, and few places were better adapted than this.

Ox Bank or Marygold Hall, now a farmhouse, appears to have been formerly a residence of some consequence. In front, carved in stone, is a large marygold, and the date 1679, with the initials M. W. A.

Cotcliffe Wood, a long precipitous cliff on the east side of the Codbeck, is included in this township. It is the property of W. W. P. Consett, who purchased it from the bishop of Ripon about 20 years ago. Landmoth and Catto belong respectively to George Marwood, Esq., Busby Hall, and the Earl of Harewood, and Ralph Jackson, Esq., of Amersham, Bucks, who owns the whole of Catto.

[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.