Pickering Parish information from Bulmers' 1890.


Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.

Wapentake of Pickering Lythe - Petty Sessional Division of Pickering Lythe West - County Court District and Rural Deanery of Malton - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.

This is an ancient parish and market town and the head of a poor law union. The parochial limits enclose an area of 31,010 acres, according to Ordnance measurement, and include the townships of Pickering, Kingthorpe, Marishes, and Newton, having a total population of 4,779. The extent of the township of Pickering is 13,968 acres, including about 4,500 acres of moorland; the rateable value is £14,392, and the number of inhabitants, 3,959. It forms an electoral division under the Local Government Act, 1888, for the North Riding County Council. The principal landowners are James Mitchelson-Mitchelson, Esq., J.P.; S. H. Loy, Esq., J.P.; John Kitching, Esq., J.P.; W. Watson, Esq., and a number of freeholders, The manorial rights are vested in the Duchy of Lancaster.

The town is pleasantly situated on the side of a hill, the summit of which is crowned by the castle, and at the foot the Pickering beck, whose sloping sides are studded with patches of woodland. It is distant about 9 miles from Malton, 18 from Scarborough, and 26 from York. Though now but an insignificant country town, it was once a place of much greater importance - returning two members to parliament; and, if we may credit a tradition, imbedded in the Saxon Chronicle, more than two thousand years have rolled away since it was founded by Peridurus, a British king, who reigned two centuries before the Roman invasion, and was buried on the brow of the neighbouring hill of Rawcliff. The name it bore in those far-off times is not recorded, nor has the origin of its present appellation been ascertained with any degree of certainty. According to a local legend it was so named from the recovery of a ring, lost by the founder whilst bathing in the Costa beck hard by, and found in the belly of a pike. Another surmise is that the name signifies the ing, or river-meadow near the pik, or peak; and Pika, Norse, a maiden, and hringr, a ring, has also been suggested.

The early history of Pickering is enveloped in a veil of obscurity. In the reign of Edward the Confessor the manor belonged to Morcar, Earl of Northumberland, and after the Conquest it remained for many years in the possession of the Crown. It was probably at this time that the castle was built, but the date of its erection has escaped record. One of its earliest governors appears to have been Sir George Fothergill, who, according to a pedigree preserved among the records in the Tower of London, was one of the Conqueror's generals, and assisted at the siege of York. He married the heiress of William de Lucy, and obtained with her the manors of Pickering, Granton, Hovingham, Fryton, Slingsby Castle, Burniston, Sedbury, and other lands. He had five sons; the eldest of whom was Lord Marshall of England; the third Chief Justice; the fourth Bishop of Winchester, Dean of Windsor, Provost of Eton College, Chancellor of York, and compiler of the English and Norman laws. Pickering was Crown property when Henry I. granted his charter for founding a hermitage in Goathland; and King John issued a grant to the nuns of Wykeham from Pickering on the 1st of February, 1201, from which we may infer that the castle was then in existence, and occasionally a royal residence. Henry III., in 1248, appointed William, Lord Dacre, sheriff of Lancashire, and custodian of the castle of Pickering; and seven years later it was committed to the care of William, Lord Latimer. Subsequently, in 1267, it was granted by that monarch to his youngest son, Edmund Plantagenet, first Earl of Lancaster, under the style of the manor, castle, and forest of Pickering. The latter, in 1290, obtained from his brother, Edward I., a charter for a fair every year, on the "eve, day, and morrow" of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, at his manor of Pickering. This prince at his death left the castle and manor of Pickering to his son, Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster, who in the following reign was the leader of the nobles that conspired against the royal Gascon favourite, Piers de Gaveston,. and afterwards against the De Spensers. His forces were defeated at Boroughbridge; he was taken prisoner and beheaded at Pontefract. His estates were forfeited to the Crown, and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, was appointed governor of this castle. The attainder was afterwards reversed by Act of Parliament, and the honours and estates conferred upon his brother, Henry, who became Earl of Lancaster, and appointed John de Kylvyngton governor of his castle of Pykeryng. He was succeeded by his son, Henry, who was created Duke of Lancaster; and left at his death two daughters, one of whom, Blanche, married John of Gaunt, Earl of Richmond and afterwards Duke of Lancaster, and received all the estates of her father in the counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Richard II. was imprisoned here for a short time previous to his removal to Pontefract, where he was cruelly murdered; thus Hardyng, the old rhyming chronicler, says:-

"The Kyng then sent Kyng Richard to Ledes
There to be kepte surely in privitoe,
Fro thens after to Pykeryng went he needis,
And to Knaresborough after led was he,
But to Pountefrete last, where he did dee."

Henry, eldest son of John of Gaunt, succeeded to the Duchy of Lancaster on the death of his father, and on the deposition of Richard II. he seized the Crown, became king by the title of Henry IV., and the honour of Pickering has belonged to the Crown ever since, as a member of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Leland, who visited Pickering in the reign of Henry VIII., thus describes the castle:- "The castelle stondith in an end of the town not far from the paroch chirch, on the brow of the hille, under the which the broke runneth. In the first court of it be 4 toures, of the which one is caullid Rosamonde's toure. In the ynner court be also 4 toures, whereof the keep is one. The castelle waulles and the toures be meatly welle. The loggings yn the ynner court that be of timbre be in ruins. In this inner court is a chappelle and a cauntarie preste. The castelle hath of a good continuance, with the town and lordship longgid to the Lancaster bloode; but who made the castelle, or who was the owner of it, afore the Lancasters, I could not lerne there. The castelle waulles now remaining some to be of no very old building. As I remember, I hard say that Richard the thirde lay sumtyme at this castelle, and sumtyme at Scardeburgh castelle. The park by the castelle side is more than 7 miles in cumpace; but it is not well wooddid." The work of decay was already in progress amongst the timber when the royal antiquary wrote, but it was the cannon of Cromwell that shattered the walls and completed the ruin. The Roundhead soldiers in their wild fury and fanaticism seized the archives of the castle and strewed them about the streets where they were irrecoverably lost.

The following survey, made by order of Cromwell in 1651, which we take from Mr. Belcher's "Scenery on the Whitby and Pickering Railway," describes the state of the castle at the siege

"The capital messuage is situate on the north side of Pickering town, and known by the name of Pickering Castle; the entrance thereof lyeth on the south, through a Gate House, which is somewhat ruined, in respect that all the covering is taken away. The outwall only remaineth, and in good repair; being passed through the said gate, you enter into a spacious court, containing one acre and three roods, more or less, in which (on the east side), close adjoining the gate, standeth a ruinous house, partly covered with slate, in which were lately three several rooms below stairs and as many above; but in the time of the late wars all the floors for the chambering have been pulled down by the soldiers, in so much that the whole house is ready to fall, there being hardly anything left to support the roof. The outwalls, being partly built of stone and part of timber, and the spars which are fastened to the main wall of the castle do still remain. Further eastward to the said house, along the wall, standeth a tower, known by the name of Dyet Tower, in which there hath been three several rooms, with their conveniences thereunto belonging, which, with little cost, may be made habitable; but the lead, wood, and iron was, by Sir Hugh Cholmley (as we are informed), carried to Scarborough Castle. Further along the said wall, standeth another tower, north to the foresaid house, and known by the name of Rosamund's Tower, the walls in good repair, but the wood, lead, and iron taken quite away. On the west side of the aforesaid gate, along the wall, standeth another tower, known by the name of Milne Tower, built, within, all of hewn stone, with a staircase of the same, containing one room below stairs, heretofore used for a prison, with a room above, lately used for a lodging chamber; but within these six or seven years all the iron, lead, and wood have been taken away, and nothing left beside the outwalls, which are in very good repair, and one rotten beam which lyeth across the top of the tower. On the north side of the said court, opposite the said gate, standeth another gate, which is the entrance over a decayed bridge into the middle castle, and leading into another spacious court, containing two rods, more or less. On the north-east of the said gate standeth a fourth tower, known by the name of Colman Tower, containing two rooms, but the floors, covering, and all the wood are taken away. On the west side of the said court standeth a large ruined hall, almost all fallen to the ground, nothing of the timber remaining. At the north end of which hall, eastward, standeth one house, covered with slate, and in indifferent good repair, containing one room, and known by the name of the Chapple, which is now used for keeping of courts for the honour aforesaid. On the back side of which lyeth a third court, containing two roods, more or less, in which hath been diverse buildings, but now ruined and fallen to the ground. In the midst of the whole castle standeth a mount containing one acre, on which there is a spacious ruined old decayed building, being nothing but ruined walls, which in many places begin to fall down. The said building is commonly known by the name of the Moat. The Moat walls of the said castle (which are there now remaining), as the timber, hewn stone, and slate, we estimate to be worth, in ready money (besides the charge of taking them down), £200."

The ground lying within the walls and ditches of the castle aforesaid, contain, in the whole, three acres and three roods, which is worth, upon improvement, per annum £5. Memorandum that all the aforesaid premises are (as we are informed) in the occupation of Sir John Danvers, Knight, but nothing has been shewed us to verify the same."

More than 200 years have elapsed since this survey was made, and some of the walls have since fallen; all the principal features therein described still exist, but in a more ruinous condition. The "spacious ruined old decayed building" that "standeth on a mount" was the keep, the basement storey of which still remains, with arrow slits for windows, about two inches wide. This is the oldest part of the castle, and was defended by a moat. Rosamond's Tower is still nearly complete, with its winding staircase leading to the top. Here, according to a local tradition, Fair Rosamond, the beautiful daughter of Lord Clifford, and mistress of Henry II., was confined a prisoner. To the north is the ruined Devil's Tower, probably identical with that named in the survey Dyet Tower. The Mill Tower, at the south-west corner, is still of considerable elevation. The other towers may still be traced. The old chantry chapel, mentioned by Leland, and also in the Cromwellian Survey, though much modernised still retains a few interesting architectural features.

The castle had its park, but it has long been dis-parked and cultivated. The liberty or forest of Pickering Lythe extended northwards to Goathland and eastwards to the coast. "A forest", says Manwood, on Forest Laws, "is a certain territory of woody grounds and pastures, privileged for wild beasts and fowls of forest chase, and warren, to rest and abide in under the protection of the king, for his princely delight and pleasure." The Forest Laws, like those of Draco, were written in blood, and were enforced with the utmost rigour. For killing a stag, the penalty was death. King John, Henry III., and Edward I. mitigated the severity of this Draconian code; but still all offences committed against "the vert and the venison" were visited with heavy penalties. The before-mentioned writer tells us that the forest laws, as administered at the Assize of the forests of Lancaster and Pickering, were the most perfect model of forest jurisprudence.

The castle and grounds were leased from the Duchy of Lancaster by the Pickering Local Board, for a term of thirty years, commencing Lady Day, 1888, and converted into pleasure grounds. A little below the castle, on the right bank of the beck, are the remains of an ancient camp, consisting of a central conical mound 20 feet high and 190 feet in diameter at the base, and a circumscribing ditch about 10 feet broad and 6 feet deep.

The manorial courts are held in the Court House (a modern erection within the grounds) twice a year.

The church, dedicated to St. Peter, is a large and venerable edifice, occupying the site of one erected in Saxon times, some relics of which were discovered during the recent restoration. This Saxon structure was replaced after the Conquest by a Norman one. This has been subsequently restored in the styles of architecture prevailing at the period, but throughout all its changes it has retained its two arcades of Norman pillars and arches; the one having circular, the other clustered columns. The transepts and chancel are of the Early English and Decorated styles. On the south side of the chancel is a transeptal annexe of two stories, in the Perpendicular style. This was the chapel of the Bruces, which Leland thus mentions in his "Itinerary;" "In Pykering chirche I saw 2 tumbes of the Bruses, whereof one with his wife lay yn a chapel on the south side of the quier, and had a garland about his helmet." The porch is large and approached by a flight of steps. The square tower at the west end contains three bells and a clock with chimes, and terminates in an octagonal spire. All the walls are surmounted by embattled parapets.

The church was thoroughly restored in 1877 at a cost of upwards of £8,000, which was raised by subscription. The expense of the chancel was defrayed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the owners of the great tithes. The foundations of the tower were removed and new work inserted, but the old tower remains as before. In the chancel is a triple sedilia with sculptured canopies in tabernacle work. In the same wall is a piscina, and also one in the south transept; and another relic of pre-Reformation times may be seen in the old holy water stoup just within the entrance from the porch.

The Bruce chapel was long used as a school (it was such when Camden wrote), and the double monument mentioned by Leland was removed into the church. It has now been replaced in its original position, and consists of the effigies of a knight and his lady sculptured in alabaster, and once richly gilt. The former is habited in complete mail, with his feet resting on a lion, the lady is robed in a richly figured mantle. Both Leland and Camden ascribe them to the Bruces, but the arms appear to indicate the Rockliffe family. On the north side of the chancel arch is the recumbent effigy of a cross-legged knight clad in chain armour, with sword, shield, and armlet. The arms are those of Bruce, and the monument is probably the one which Leland saw "in a chapel under an arch of the north side of the body of the quier." This is the effigy of Sir William Bruce, who founded a chantry in the north aisle in 1337, and endowed it with one messuage and two bovates of land in Middleton. A copy of the original license granted by the Abbot of St. Mary's, York, to the said Sir William Bruce, was discovered by the present vicar in the Bodleian library, In the south transept is the mutilated trunk of another white marble effigy, which is supposed to represent one of the Lascelles family.*

* The hall of the Bruces stood on the spot now occupied by Beck Isle, The last of the Pickering branch of the family was Sir William Bruce, who died in the early part of the 15th century, leaving three daughters co-heirs, the eldest of whom married Sir William Marshall. Beck Isle was built by William Marshall, the eminent agriculturist and author of "A Survey of the Rural Economy of England," the last representative of the family. The Lascelles had, according to Camden, a "Manor Place" at Keld Head,

There are tablets to the memory of members of the families of Fothergill, Marshall, Wood, Piper, and Robinson of Riseborough.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the church are the frescoes on the walls. During some repairs in the chancel in 1853, the accumulated coats of whitewash were displaced, revealing two beautiful wall paintings representing the "Last Supper" and the "Crucifixion." Great numbers of people visited the church to inspect the disentombed pictures; but the retention of such relics of Catholicity was too much for the Protestant scruples of the vicar, and "he refused," says Mr. Grainge in his "Castles and Abbeys of Yorkshire," "to preach any longer in the church unless they were again hidden beneath a coat of whitewash;" and "they were again consigned to the darkness from which they had been accidentally brought." But these have been again brought to light by the removal of the whitewash, as has also a whole series of frescoes covering the walls of the nave on either side between the arcading and the clerestory windows, which appear to have been executed about the middle of the 15th century. Through the commendable zeal of the present vicar, these paintings have been renovated and restored with great taste and care. The following are the subjects represented in the nave, on the north wall, St. George and the Dragon, St. Christopher, King Herod's Feast, the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, the Martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury, and the Martyrdom of St. Edmund. On the south wall, Scenes in the life of St. Catherine, S.S, Cosmas and Damian, the Passion and Crucifixion, the Taking Down from the Cross, the Entombment and Descent into Limbo, and another which appears to be the Administration of the Last Rites of the Church and the Burial. The church will accommodate 600. The registers date from 1549.

The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Archbishop of York, of the yearly gross value of £310, including 39 acres of glebe and residence. The present incumbent is the Rev. G. H. Lightfoot, M.A., who has held the benefice since 1881.

CHAPELS. - The Independent chapel, in Hungate, was built in 1789, afterwards enlarged, and in due time a school-room was added. The congregation worshipping here was an off-shoot from Middleton Parish church. The secession took place in 1788, through dissatisfaction with the new vicar, whose predecessor had been a man of marked piety and zeal. During the century of its existence eleven pastors have presided over the church and congregation. The chief of these was the Rev. Gabriel Croft, who was minister of the chapel for nearly 34 years. For a considerable period Mr. Croft kept a small Dissenting academy for the training of Nonconformist ministers. He also conducted a free day school for the benefit of the poor of the parish. Several legacies have at various times been left to the chapel, and now form part of the endowment; the principal donors were George King, £500; Robert Kitching, £450; and Matthias Sidgworth, £500. The chapel will accommodate 400 persons. Present minister, Rev. A. Goldsbrough, M.A.

The old Wesleyan Chapel in Hungate, having done duty for about 80 years, and being in a very dilapidated condition, was taken down in the spring of the present year, and a larger and more ornate edifice is now in course of erection. It will be in a semi-Gothic style, with an imposing front towards the street. A schoolroom, two classrooms, lecture room, and two ministers' houses are also included in the plan, the total estimated cost being about £2,800.

The Primitive Methodist Chapel in Potter Hill is a handsome stone structure, in the Italian style, erected in 1885, at a east of £3,500, including site and caretaker's house. A gallery runs round the four sides, which adds largely to its accommodating capacity. The chapel will seat 600 and the Sunday school 400. The old chapel in Bridge Street was sold to the Railway Company, for £1,700. The circuit includes Kirbymoorside, and comprises 18 chapels and one preaching room.

The Society of Friends have a meeting house, with burial ground, in Castlegate, where the Friends meet every third Sunday in the month. An adult first day (Sunday) school is held every week.

SCHOOLS. - The Grammar School Charity estate, belonging to the township of Pickering, consists of 26 acres, which now lets for £60 a year. Of this sum £40 is paid to the master of the Grammar School, for which 30 boys are taught gratuitously; the remaining £20 is given to the support of the National School. The latter is a neat stone building in the Gothic style, erected in 1857, at a cost of about £1,000, and enlarged during the present year by the addition of an infants' room, at a further expense of £300. There is also a Wesleyan day school, erected in 1856, and attended by 250 scholars.

The town is long and straggling, but surrounded by some beautiful scenery. The chief industries are agricultural implement making and ironfounding, brickmaking, and quarrying. The market is held on Mondays, a cattle market every second Monday; and fairs on the Mondays preceding February 14th, May 13th, and November 22nd, and on the 25th of September. Four lines of railway unite here, affording an easy means of communication with any part of the North Eastern system. The line from Pickering to Whitby (24 miles), was completed in 1836, at a cost of about £120,000, and passes through a district full of beautiful and romantic scenery. It was at first a single line, on which the carriages were drawn by horses. In 1845 a junction was made with the York and Scarborough line, at Rillington, and on the branch engines were used. The line between Gilling and Pickering (19 miles) was completed in 1875, and that from Pickering to Scarborough (20 miles) in 1882.

The Local Board was formed in 1863, and consists of nine members. The town was formerly lighted with gas by the Railway Company, but in 1876 a Gas and Water Company was formed, with a capital of £10,000, in £10 shares. The gasworks were purchased from the Railway Company, and a pumping engine erected at Keld Head spring, which yields upwards of 500 gallons of water per minute.

The Pickering Poor Law Union comprehends 27 parishes and townships, comprising an area of 96,329 acres, a rateable value of £59,879, and a population of 10,678. The Workhouse was erected in 1838, enlarged by an east wing, for an infirmary, in 1874, and a vagrant ward added in 1878. It is beautifully situated a little out of the town, on the Whitby road, and commands fine views of the surrounding country. There is accommodation for 100 paupers. Mr. Robert Simpson, master.

The town has its Conservative and Liberal Clubs, and the Pickering, Lythe, and Ryedale Agricultural Show is held here every third year. A Dog, Poultry, and Flower Show is held yearly.

KINGTHORPE is a township in this parish containing 2,760 acres, of which 1,134 are under assessment. The township comprises three farms and two or three cottages, containing in all 50 inhabitants. The estate, the property and manor of Miss Jessie Harcourt, was long associated with the Fothergills, to some of whom there are monuments in Pickering Church. The district is well wooded, the soil limy and sandy, and the subsoil limestone rock and freestone. Rateable value of the township, £897 10s.

On the moors, near Mr. Hart's farm, are some dykes, which are probably a continuation of, or have had some connection with, Oswy's Dykes at Ebberston. Several flint arrow heads have been turned up on the farm. Kingthorpe lies about three miles N.E. of Pickering.

MARISHES is a low marshland township of 2,857½ acres, lying on the north bank of the Derwent. The soil is generally of a rich alluvial nature, and is chiefly the property of Mr. John Creaker, Mr. Thomas Fawcett, and James Lund, Esq., J.P. and D.L. The last named is lord of the manor. The rateable value is £2,781, and the number of inhabitants 270. The Pickering and Rillington railway passes through the township. School House Hill is a hamlet containing a chapel-of-ease - a red brick building in the Early English style, built in 1860, at a cost of £400 - a school, and several farmhouses and cottages. The Wesleyans have a chapel in the township erected in 1848.

NEWTON, sometimes called, by way of distinction, Newton-upon-Rawcliffe, is a township containing 2,397 acres, lying in a narrow dale, enclosed between two ridges of hills, 500 feet in height, and broken in their upper part into bold precipitous scars. One of these rocky escarpments, known as Killing Nab, or Killingnoble Scar, was long famous for its large breed of hawks, and the farmers of Goathland, in the olden time, held their lands by the tenure of protecting these birds for the king's use. The breed has only recently become extinct. The dale is traversed by the Costa beck and the Whitby and Pickering railway, and as they wind their way pass through varied and attractive scenery. The soil is sandy with an admixture of limestone, resting upon limestone rock and greystone. The usual cereals are grown, also turnips and clover. The township is valued for rateable purposes at £1,650, and had, in 1881, 247 inhabitants. The principal landowners are John Woodall, Esq., J. Mitchelson-Mitchelson, Esq., and the exors. of G. W. M. Liddell, Esq. The Rev. J. R. Hill is lord of the manor.

The village is situated on an eminence overlooking the dale, and is distant four miles from Pickering. The church (St. John), originally a wooden structure, erected as a chapel-of-ease in 1689, was rebuilt in 1870, and a consolidated chapelry formed, of which the population, in 1881, was 510. The living is a perpetual curacy, worth £250, in the gift of the Archbishop of York, and incumbency of the Rev. Frederick Jackson.

There are chapels belonging to the Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists, the former built in 1848 and the latter in 1878. The school, rebuilt about 30 years ago, is endowed with 25 acres of land for the free education of 20 scholars, left by the Rev. Richard Poad, who also bequeathed a cottage and 1½ acres of land for the relief of the poor.

At the foot of "Killingnoble Scar" is Dale Well, the waters of which were once reputed to possess salutiferous properties, and formerly crowds of people from the surrounding district used to resort thither to partake of their beneficial influence.

[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.