SKELTON IN CLEVELAND, a parish in the wapentake and liberty of Langbargh; 3 miles NE. of Guisborough. Skelton castle was built by the second Robert de Brus, the son of Robert de Bruss, a Norman Baron, who accompanied William the Conqueror to England.
This nobleman, from whom some of the kings of Scotland, and the illustrious family of Bruce, Marquis of Ailesbury, are descended, was a person of such valour, and so much confided in by William the Conqueror, that he rewarded him with no less than forty three lordships in the East and West Ridings of Yorkshire, and fifty-one in the North Riding of the county; whereof the manor and castle of Skelton were the capital of this Barony. In those days the Lords of Skelton had the privilege of a market, which, however extraordinary it may now appear, was held weekly on Sunday, when the people generally assembled in the morning to attend divine worship, and in the afternoon to transact their business, and regale themselves with oat ale, the homely beverage of our ancestors. This market continued to be thus held till the 13th of Edward II. when Lord Fauconberg obtained a licence from the king for changing it from Sunday to Saturday and also for an annual fair at Whitsuntide; but both the market and fair have been long discontinued. From the Bruces this castle passed through the families of Fauconberg, Neville, Conyers, and Trotter, to that of the Whartons. In the mansion, which underwent a complete modern renovation in the year 1794, we find few traces of the ancient castle, except in the back part, now converted into kitchen offices. It presents an elegant extended front, situated on the brink of a rivulet, which, by being collected into a reservoir with sloping banks, adds greatly to the natural beauties of the place. In the middle of the last century, when this celebrated seat was in the possession of John Hall Stephenson, Esq. the author of Crazy Tales, it was the resort of the literati of the North, and Sterne, the early and intimate friend of the proprietor, drew his Eugenius from his character. A lady of considerable worth of character, but withal of great eccentricity, was closely allied to this family - we allude to the late Mrs. Margaret Wharton. This lady, whose habits were of the most saving kind as far as her own personal expenses were concerned, possessed a fortune of £200,000. and amongst the rest of her oddities she chose to become her own executrix, and actually made a present, during her life time, of £100,000. to her nephew, the present worthy possessor of Skelton castle (Hutton's Trip to Coatham). The church of Skelton is a neat modern edifice, dedicated to All Saints; and the living which is a perpetual curacy, is in the patronage of the Archbishop of York. Population, 791.
[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. ©2010]