Wapentake of Langbaurgh (East Division) - Electoral Division of Skelton - Petty Sessional Division of Langbaurgh East - Poor Law Union of Guisborough - County Court District of Stokesley - Rural Deanery of Middlesbrough - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.
This parish, usually distinguished as Skelton-in-Cleveland, lies on the south side of the Skelton beck, by which it is separated from the parishes of Marske and Upleatham. It embraces the townships of Skelton, Moorsholm-cum-Gerrick, and Stanghow, covering an area of 11,758 acres, and containing 9,374 inhabitants, of which 4,263 acres and 7,820 inhabitants belong to the township of Skelton. Its rateable value is £35,149. Ironstone is abundant, and is wrought on an extensive scale. The ore is of good quality, yielding fully 30 per cent, of metallic iron; but the numerous feeders of water that are encountered make both sinking and working an operation of more than ordinary difficulty. At North Skelton, the "top seam," 3 feet 6 inches thick, was reached at a depth of 64 fathoms, but so great was the accumulation of water that it had to be pumped out at the rate of 3,000 gallons per minute. The stone here is extra hard, and drilling machines, worked by compressed air, have been very generally adopted to lighten the labour of the miner, and facilitate the operation of boring. The average output is about 200,000 tons a year, giving employment to 250 men and boys. Proprietors, Bolckow, Vaughan, and Co., Limited. Alum was formerly extracted from the shale here, but the manufacture was discontinued many years ago.
Skelton was given by the Conqueror to his trusty follower, Robert de Brus, a valiant Norman knight, who was rewarded with 51 manors in the North Riding and 43 in the East and West Ridings, the whole amounting to 40,600 acres, the manor and castle of Skelton being the head of the barony. This powerful baron died about the year 1090. His son, the second Robert de Brus, was a munificent benefactor to the church, and was buried in the Priory Church of Guisborough, which he had founded and endowed. From Robert de Brus, second son of Adam de Brus, fourth Lord of Skelton, sprang the royal family of Scotland. Isabella, his daughter, married Henry de Percy, ancestor of the Earls of Northumberland, and received with her the manor of Leconfield, near Beverley, for which he and his heirs were to repair to Skelton every Christmas Day, and lead the lady of the castle from her chamber to the chapel to mass, and thence to her chamber again, and, after dining with her, to depart. With the death of the eighth baron in 1271, the male line of the Lords of Skelton terminated, and his vast estates were divided among his four sisters. Agnes, the eldest, married Walter de Fauconberge, and received for her share the castle and barony of Skelton, with the manors of Marske, Kirkleatham, Upleatham, &c. John, Lord Fauconberg, in 1320, obtained the royal license to change the market, which had hitherto been held on Sundays, to Saturday, and also to have an annual fair in Whit-week, but both the market and the fair have been long discontinued.
This family flourished here for several generations, till, through default of male issue, the estate passed, by the marriage of the heiress, to Sir William Neville, afterwards created Lord Fauconberg. He left three daughters, co-heiresses. Alice, the youngest, married Sir John, afterwards Lord Conyers, and in the partition of the estates had the castle and manor of Skelton for her share. John, third Baron Conyers, left at his death, in 1558, three daughters co-heiresses. Anne, the youngest, married Anthony Kempe, Esq., of Slindon, Sussex, whose third part was purchased by Robert Trotter, Esq., and in 1658, partly by purchase and partly by exchange, the remainder also came into the possession of his descendants. In 1727, John Hall, a wealthy Durham merchant, married Catharine, sister and heiress of Lawson Trotter, Esq., and the property became his. From him it descended to John Hall, his relative, who married Anne, only daughter and heiress of Ambrose Stephenson, Esq., of Manor House, Durham, and grand-daughter of Anthony Wharton, Esq., of Gillingwood. Mr. Hall assumed the surname of Stephenson. He was a man of singular genius, and his house was the resort of many of the literati of the age. Sterne, who was his intimate friend and frequent visitor, has depicted his character in Eugensus in "Tristram Shandy." Mr. Stephenson was the author of "Crazy Tales" and other works. He died in 1785, and was succeeded by his son, Joseph William Hall Stephenson, Esq., who only survived his father one year, leaving by his wife, Anne, daughter and heiress of James Foster, Esq., of Drumgoon, Fermanagh, three sons and two daughters. John Hall Stephenson, the eldest son, assumed by sign manual, in 1788, the surname and arms of Wharton. He represented the borough of Beverley in Parliament for 36 years, and spent in electioneering campaigns upwards of £100,000. He also expended a large sum in re-building Skelton Castle, and died in 1843, a debtor, in the Fleet Prison, London. He was succeeded by his nephew, the present John Thomas Wharton, Esq., son of his third brother, the Rev. William Hall Wharton, M.A., Vicar of Gilling, by Charlotte, daughter of Thomas, first Lord Dundas.
The Castle is a spacious and elegant mansion, rebuilt and modernised in 1794. It stands on the brink of a small stream, which has been expanded into a minature lake, before the west or chief front, which is 270 feet in length.
The village of Skelton is pleasantly situated on the north-western declivity of a steep hill, 3½ miles N.E. of Guisborough. It is the centre of a busy iron mining district, but its chief interest is its connection with the ancient home of the Bruces and Fauconbergs. "This small obscure and insignificant village" says Mr. Ord "will for ever stand renowned, not only in the history of Cleveland, but in that of the empire of the world, as the birthplace of a lofty and illustrious line of nobles, and the ancient cradle and nursery of warriors, princes, and kings. From this little nook of Cleveland, sprang mighty monarchs, queens, high chancellors, archbishops, earls, barons, ambassadors, and knights; and, above all, one brilliant and immortal name, ROBERT BRUCE, the great Scottish patriot, who, when liberty lay vanquished and prostrate in the dust, and the genius of national freedom had fled shivering from her native hills, bravely stood forth its latest and noblest champion, and, in defiance of England's noblest chivalry, achieved for Scotland a glorious independence, and for himself imperishable fame."
The village is lighted with gas and supplied with water. At the east end is the handsome new parish church of All Saints, erected in 1884. It comprises chancel, nave with north and south aisles, and tower, and was built from the designs of Mr. R. J. Johnston, architect, Newcastle, The cost was £9,090, (exclusive of the site, which cost £500, contributed by J. T. Wharton, Esq., and the late rector), which was raised by subscription and sale of some glebe land. The tower with the clock and six bells was erected at a further cost of £4,000 given by J. T. Wharton. The nave is seated with open pitch pine benches, and is separated from the aisles on each side by fine elegant Gothic arches. A low screen divides it from the chancel; the latter is furnished with carved oak stalls, and elegantly carved reredos. The organ - a fine instrument - was presented by the late rector, Dr. Gardner, through whose exertions the church was chiefly built. Accommodation 800.
The Old Church occupies a pleasant situation near the Castle. It was rebuilt in 1786, on the site of the ancient Norman edifice, which had been given to Guisborough Priory by Robert de Brus. Stone coffins of an early type have been frequently found in the churchyard, but they were without inscription or heraldic device. There are in the church a few quaint memorials of the Trotters, and an old monumental slab from which the brasses have been torn.
In Catholic times the church was served by the Monks of Guisborough, but on the suppression of that house, the patronage and impropriation with the Chapel of Brotton were granted to the Archbishop of York, and a Perpetual Curacy ordained. In 1868, Brotton was constituted a distinct parish, and Skelton was made a rectory. The living is now worth £570 per annum, with a grant of £330 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners towards the stipends of the curates. In addition to the two churches above mentioned, there are chapels at Boosbeck and Moorsholm, and a Mission room at North Skelton.
The Wesleyan Chapel is a handsome and spacious brick building, with Sunday school, three class rooms and caretaker's house attached. It was erected in 1877 at a cost of £3,800, and superseded the old chapel (now converted into a Drill Hall), built in 1813. It will seat 1,200 persons.
The educational affairs of this and the adjoining township of Stanghow are managed by a School Board, who have schools at Stanghow, Lingdale, Boosbeck, Margrove Park, Skelton, North Skelton, and Skelton Green, affording a total accommodation for 1,907 children. Number of names on the books, for quarter ending June 30, 1888, 1,613; average attendance, 1,194.3
In consequence of the overcrowded and insanitary condition of the old parish churchyard, a Burial Board was formed in 1873, and two years afterwards it was amalgamated with the Local Board. Its authority is confined to the parish of Skelton. A suitable cemetery, covering about 5½ acres, with mortuary chapels for episcopalians and non-conformists, has been provided at a total cost of £3,500.
Lingdale is a large village in this township, built in the prosperous days of the iron trade for the accommodation of the workmen employed at the neighbouring mines; but since the depression set in, some ten or twelve years ago, the place has been half abandoned, and tenantless houses meet the eye everywhere. The Primitive Methodists have a chapel here, built in 1874. The Wesleyan chapel was erected the same year. It is a spacious brick edifice, capable of holding 700 persons. The Congregational church, a large brick building with accommodation for 400, was erected by public subscription in 1884. The Miners' Institute, built by Messrs. Pease and Partners for the benefit of their workmen, is a fine freestone structure, containing Reading, Smoke, Recreation, and Class Rooms, and Library. Science classes are held in the winter months.
New Skelton, North Skelton, and Boosbeck are also new villages in this township; and at the last named is a station on the Guisborough and Saltburn line. There are also chapels belonging to the Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists, and a Board school.
A Local Board was formed in April, 1866, for the township of Skelton, and in 1879, by a Provisional Order of the Local Government Board, confirmed by Act of Parliament, the adjoining townships of Moorsholm-cum-Gerrick and Stanghow were included in the Skelton Local Government District. Finally, by another Provisional Order, confirmed by Parliament in 1884, Skelton and Brotton were amalgamated under a joint Board of 21 members. The district under the jurisdiction of the Board contains a population, according to the census of 1881, of 13,559, and has a present rateable value of £76,441. Many considerable public works have been carried out for the comfort and health of the inhabitants, yet, notwithstanding the outlay which these works entailed, the Board has at the present time no public debt whatever.
MOORSHOLM cum GERRICK township comprises 4,260 acres, at the southern extremity of the parish. The surface is elevated, and much of it is of a moorland character. The principal landowners are J. T. Wharton, Esq., Robert P. Petch, David T. Petch, and John Petch, The manorial privileges belong to Capt. William Linskill, Cambridge, The gross estimated rental of the township is £2,798, rateable value, £2,566, and population, 392. The village of Moorsholm (the holm, or meadow by the river on the moors) lies between two rivulets 5 miles south of Skelton. Mr. Ord described it thirty years ago as a "dismal prototype of Goldsmith's Deserted Village, undecorated by any appliances of modern civilisation or recent improvement;" but the old dilapidated thatched cottages, as we remember them in those days, have given place to well-built houses with all the usual domestic conveniences. Yet Goldsmith's epithet is again partially applicable, for since the depression in the local industry, rows of houses have been vacated and now stand unoccupied, inviting tenants at a mere nominal rent.
There is in the village a Mission Boom belonging to the parish Church; and the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists have also chapels here. In High Street are six stone drinking troughs for cattle, which some wag has named "Moorsholm Docks."
Gerrick is a small hamlet, consisting of five farms, two miles east of Moorsholm. The scenery around is very beautiful.
About a mile south of Moorsholm is Freeborough Hill, a curious mount, rising cone-like out of the plain to a height of about 400 feet. On the summit are the faint traces of a British village, and on the east side a tumulus or ancient sepulchral mound, 45 yards in circumference. When opened about a century ago there was found a large earthern vessel full of calcined bones. Mr. J. Hall Stephenson, the author of "Crazy Tales," calls it "Freebro's huge mount, immortal Arthur's tomb;" but its connection with the illustrious and mythical Arthur exists only in the imagination of the poet. Its name, though evidently Saxon, is of doubtful import. By some it is said to be derived from Friga or Frea, the northern goddess of love, and beorh, a hill; and, like our Friday, was dedicated to the worship of the Saxon Venus; whilst others suppose it was the place where the Fridboch or Frithbock (from frid or frith, peace) was held - a court or assembly of ten men, for the settlement of disputes and litigations.
STANGHOW is a wild moorland township, comprising 3,235 acres, the property of J. T. Wharton, Esq., Mr. Isaac Scarth, and others. Ironstone forms its chief wealth, and is wrought at Slapewath, where 200 hands are employed; South Skelton, where 190 are employed; Ayesdale Gate, Margrove Park, and Spa, the three last named being at present idle. The gross estimated rental of the township is £9,830, rateable value, £8,487, and population 1,162. Stanghow, Margrove Park, and Charlton's Cottages are considerable villages inhabited chiefly by miners.
CHARITIES. - The poor of Skelton have four small rent-charges amounting to £5 9s. 4d., and the dividend of £250, left by Medd Scarth, as noticed under Carlton-in cleveland. The poor of Moorsholm and Stanghow have jointly four acres of land in Moorsholm, left by Robert Barwick, and the dividends of £250, left to each township by Mr. Scarth.
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.