OSMOTHERLEY: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


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

This parish comprises the townships of Osmotherley, Ellerbeck, West Harlsey, and Thimbleby, containing a total area of 7,628 acres and 1,197 inhabitants, and gives name to an electoral division under the Local Government Act of 1888. The name appears in Domesday Book as Asmundrelac, and in other old documents as Osmunderlawe and Osmunderley, of which Osmotherley is a corruption. Its derivation is very apparent - the ley (field, or land) of Osmund - but a local legend assigns to it a more fanciful and pathetic origin. This story avers that the name of the place was originally Teviotdale, and was changed to Osmotherley under the following melancholy circumstances. When King Oswald's son was born, the wise men and magicians were summoned to court to forecast the destiny of the child. They all declared that he would be drowned before attaining a certain age. The fond mother, in her solicitude to prevent such a mishap, carried him away from the disturbed north to a hill in peaceful Cleveland, called Roseberry, where she hoped to rear him in safety, until the dreaded period was passed. But, alas! the Fates had decreed it otherwise. A fountain of water gushed out of the rock, and fulfilled the prediction. The child was buried in the neighbouring church of Teviotdale, and the loving mother, filled with grief at the loss of her darling boy, pined away and soon followed him to the grave. She was buried, according to her oft-expressed desire, by his side; and thus, from the saying of the people, "Os-by-his-mother-lay," the place got the name of Osmotherley.

The township contains 3,196 acres of land, the property of several proprietors, of whom the following are the principal, viz.: The exors. of the late William Haynes, Esq.; Messrs. Boville; Messrs. Yeoman; the Misses Yeoman; Douglas Brown, Esq., Q.C., Arncliffe Hall; the trustees of the late Mr. James Clark; Mr. John Flintoff; H. Veale & Co.; and George Barras, Bedale.

The manor was in the hands of the king when Domesday Book was compiled. Some time later it came into the possession of the Prior and Convent of Durham, who held it of the king in capite by the service of the third part of a knight's fee. After the suppression of monasteries, the manor and estate were granted to the bishops of Durham; but when the Puritans obtained the ascendancy during the Commonwealth, that see was dissolved, its property sequestrated by Parliament, and portions of Osmotherley were sold to Thomas Todd and Robert Metcalfe. The episcopate was restored by Charles II., and the manor again became the property of the bishops of Durham, in whose possession it remained until the formation of the diocese of Ripon in 1836, when it was transferred as part of the endowment of that see, for which it is held in trust by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

The surface is beautifully diversified by richly wooded hills, and fertile dales with their meandering streamlets. The largest of these is the Codbeck,* which rises in the Osmotherley moors, flows in a narrow valley to the south of the village, thence by Ellerbeck, Crosby, and Thirsk, eventually falling into the Swale a little below Topcliffe. On its banks are the extensive bleach works of Messrs. Boville; and in another romantic spot called Coat Gill is the flax mill of Messrs. Yeoman & Co. The hills abound in excellent freestone, which is largely quarried for building purposes; alum rock is also plentiful, and the manufacture of alum was formerly carried on. The soil is a stiff clay, and is chiefly laid down in meadow and pasture. The gross estimated rental of the township is £3,438; the rateable value, £3,046; and the population, 920.

The village of Osmotherley is large and romantically situated on the slope of one of the Hambleton Hills, about seven miles from Northallerton, and 11 miles N.E. of Thirsk. There was formerly a market held here every Saturday, but it was discontinued some time after 1823. The old market cross was restored in 1874. There are two annual fairs for the sale of horned cattle and sheep on May 3rd and October 18th, and a feast yearly on the 10th and 11th of July.

The Church, dedicated to St. Peter, is, with the exception of the tower, a modern reconstruction, having been partially rebuilt, in the Perpendicular style, in the latter part of last century. It consists of chancel, nave, south porch, and massive western tower, containing three bells, one of which is broken. The original edifice was Norman, and the old porch, with its Norman arch and zigzag ornamentation, has been preserved. In the chancel is a tablet to the memory of the Rev. William Clere Burges, M.A., vicar of the parish, who died March 10th, 1840, at the early age of 37, and four of his children, all of whom died of the same fever within a week. There is accommodation for 200 persons. The register dates from 1696, but is wanting from 1717 to 1722. The living is a vicarage, valued in the King's Books at £8 10s. It was augmented between 1766 and 1795 with Queen Anne's Bounty, amounting to £600; in 1815, with £1,000 from the parliamentary grant † and during the past thirty years the income has been further augmented by the Lord Chancellor, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and private donations, and is new worth about £300 a year, including 65 acres of glebe, with residence. The church came into the possession of the bishops of Durham soon after the Conquest, and the rectory was apportioned among three prebends, who, by an order of William de Melton, Archbishop of York, in 1322, were to pay out of the revenue 15 marks per annum to the support of the vicar. At the Dissolution, the prebendal revenues were confiscated by the Crown, and granted to a lay impropriator, who was charged with the aforesaid yearly payment of £10 to the vicar. The great tithes of the township, amounting to about £210, belong to Miss Masterman, of Little Danby. The living is in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and held by the Rev. Henry Jones, M.A., Trinity College, Dublin.

* The beck derives its name from the Celtic word Coed, signifying woody.

† Grainge's Yale of Mowbray, p. 337.

The Catholics have had a chapel in the village since 1771, when the mission was founded and endowed by a French refugee. It is served from Stokesley. The meeting house of the Society of Friends was erected about 1690. The Friends hold a few meetings in it during the course of the year, and at other times it is used by the Primitive Methodists. There is a burial ground attached.

The Rev. John Wesley preached at Osmotherley on several occasions. His first visit was in 1745, and nine years later a chapel was erected. This building is now used as a Sunday school, occasionally also for worship, and is the oldest chapel in the connexion. A new chapel was built in 1864, at a cost of £353, raised by voluntary subscription. It is a neat building of red brick, with white brick front and circular-headed windows, and will accommodate about 300 persons.

The National School was built in 1857, for 120 children. In 1875 a School Board, consisting of seven members, was formed for the united districts of Osmotherley, Thimbleby, and Ellerbeck; and in 1878 a handsome school, with

master's residence, was erected at a cost of £1,047. The building is of red brick, faced with white. The senior department will accommodate 42 children, and the infants' room, 90.

About 1½ miles from the village are the ruins of the Carthusian Priory of Mount Grace, which has been noticed under East Harlsey on a former page.

ELLERBECK is a small township of 880 acres, the property and manor of the dean and canons of Christ Church, Oxford, who, during the past six years have expended nearly the whole of the rent in draining and improving the land and erecting farm buildings. The gross estimated rental is £711 18s. 6d.; rateable value, £651; and population, 72. The manor of Elrebec is mentioned in Domesday Survey, and was then in the possession of Hugh, the son of Baldric. The village, which consists of a few houses, stands on the banks of the Codbeck rivulet, five miles N.E. of Northallerton.

WEST HARLSEY is a township containing 1,505 acres, lying to the west of Osmotherley, and adjoining East Harlsey. It is very thinly inhabited, there being only a few farmsteads and cottages scattered over the township. West Harlsey was formerly the seat and property of the Strangwais family, one of whom erected a stately castle here, the remains of which are incorporated in the farm house occupied by Mr. N. Smith, The tower or keep stood until 1815, when it was struck by lightning and so much damaged that its removal was deemed necessary. Three large circular vaulted cellars have been converted into stables, &c., and the moat, enclosing about five acres, may still be traced. The Earl of Harewood is the owner of the whole township, and also the impropriator of the great tithe.

THIMBLEBY township is situated on the south bank of the Codbeck, and is partly in this parish and partly in that of Kirby Sigston. Its area is 2,053 acres; rateable value, £1,356; and population, 140. Jet is found in the township, and forwarded to Whitby for manufacture; ironstone, alum rock, and a superior quality of freestone are also met with. An immense mass of rock on Thimbleby bears the name of the Hanging Stone. It stands on the declivity of a hill, and presents the appearance of being ready at any moment to topple over.

The manor of Thimbleby in the 17th century belonged to the great Yorkshire house of Wandesforde, afterwards earls of Wandesford, in Ireland, by whom the estate was sold in 1694 to Richard Pierse, Esq., of Hutton Bonville. It remained with this family till 1838, when it was sold to Robert Haynes, Esq., of Barbadoes, and is now in the possession of the exors. of the late William Haynes, Esq. The Earl of Harewood, Captain Hill, Romanby, and George Plummer, Esq., Maunby, have also land in the township. Thimbleby Lodge, now let for a term of years to a party of gentlemen as a shooting box, is surrounded by beautiful mountain and sylvan scenery.

The village occupies a secluded situation under the Hambleton Hills, about one mile south from Osmotherley. Foxton is a hamlet in this township, but ecclesiastically under Kirby Sigston. Foxton wood hard by affords fine cover for foxes. Nun House, now a farm house, is said to have been the site of a nunnery, and appears to have been formerly known as St. Stephen's Church. Foundations of buildings have been dug up, but nothing is known of the history of the place. Jeater Houses is another hamlet in Thimbleby township.

[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.