Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Birdforth - Electoral Division of South Otterington - Poor Law Union, County Court District, and Rural Deanery of Thirsk - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.
This parish, comprising 2,871 acres, lies on the northern outskirts of Thirsk and includes, in addition to the township of its own name, those of Thornbrough and Upsall, having, according to the census returns of 1881, a population of 414. In the township of South Kilvington there are 982 acres of land under assessment, which are valued, for rating purposes, at £1,821, and contain 261 inhabitants. The soil is of a loamy character, resting on a subsoil of clay. Sir Charles Edward Smith Dodsworth, Bart., lord of the manor, Thornton Watlass; William Allison, Esq., London; Charles Elsley, Esq., of New Building, Kirkby Knowle; Reginald Bell, Esq., Thirsk Hall; and the rector of the parish in right of the glebe, are the principal landowners.
William the Conqueror gave all the land in Chilvinctune (Kilvington), Upsal, and Hundulfthorpe to his half brother, the Earl of Morton, who held no less than 793 manors and lordships in various parts of England; and we find, from Domesday Book, that it was waste, and that one Waitheof, apparently from his name a Saxon, held the manor under the earl. A little later the Mowbrays became possessed of the superior lordship; and, in 1277,* the manor was held of the heirs of Baldwin Wake, who held it of Roger de Mowbray. At the same time there were five oxgangs of land in the township belonging to the parish church, and six oxgangs which had been given to Newburgh Priory by another Roger de Mowbray. In 1637, Sir Arthur Ingram, of Breckenbrough, was lord of the manor, and held his courts regularly; but the township has long been divided into small freeholds, and, though Sir C. E. S. Dodsworth is nominally lord of the manor, no courts have been held for many years, and the rights and privileges attached thereto have fallen into abeyance.
* Kirkby's Inquest.
† Grainge's "Vale of Mowbray."
Kilvington is a pleasant, well-built, but ill-drained village, situated on the east bank of the Codbeck, one mile N. of Thirsk, and was included in that parliamentary borough until the recent Redistribution Act deprived it of its member. The Church, dedicated to St. Wilfrid, is a plain venerable fabric, seated on an eminence to the north of the village green. It consists of chancel and nave, to which a modern bell turret has been added on the west gable. The windows and other architectural features show that the church was erected about the reign of Henry III. (1216-1272), but the recent discovery of an old stone cross, in fragments, identical with those in the wall of Kirkdale church, prove that a Saxon edifice previously occupied the site. Though it has undergone many alterations, it still retains many of its early features. An ancient pointed arch divides the nave from the chancel; near the south door may be seen the holy water stoup, and in the south wall of the chancel the ancient piscina. The east window retains some of its ancient stained glass, representing, on a shield, the arms of Geoffrey de Upsall. In clearing the old massive oak pews from the chancel, the remains of the old prayer desk were found and have been used in the designing of the new work. An antique brazen alms dish, bearing an inscription in raised capital letters, is still in use here. But the most interesting object in the church is the old stone font. It is octagonal in shape, and stands 42 inches in height with a bowl 25 inches in diameter, and the following inscription in bold relief round the base of the stem:- Dns Thomas le Scop et Elizabeth Uxor Ejus
On the eight facets around the bowl are sculptured nine shields of arms, including those of the archbishop. A minute description and a drawing of the font appeared in the 16th volume of the "Archæologia," from the pen of Dr. Waddilove, Dean of Ripon, who thus described the heraldry on the shields:- "The first shield is Scrope of Upsal, with a label of three, as a younger son of the house of Bolton; the second and third are Scrope also, the second quartering Wanton; the fourth is Scrope, impaling a lion rampant with two tails, which may be Cressy, Sutton, or Warsop, or Lord Wells's; the fifth is Chaworth quartering Statham; the sixth is Scrope, in a border which appears to be composed of the bearing of Wanton; the seventh is Scrope quartering Chaworth, and Scrope quartering Fitzwilliam; the eighth is Scrope quartering Wanton, with another shield of arms, probably that of Redman. It may be added, that the font much resembles in shape and sculpture, yet of a better design, the font at Bolton, of which a representation is given at page 106 of Dr. Whitaker's 'History of Craven."' Local tradition avers that the font was removed to its present situation from the chapel of Upsall Castle. It bears no date, but the inscription enables us to assign the period of its construction. The fifth and sixth Barons le Scrope were the only ones that bore the name of Thomas. Thomas, sixth Lord Scrope, married Elizabeth Neville, and died in 1494. To this Thomas and his wife Elizabeth the inscription, therefore, most probably refers.
The benefice is a rectory in the gift of the Master and Fellows of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and was valued in the King's Books at £17 10s. 10d. There were at the same time belonging to it one cottage in Upsall, one cottage in Thornbarght, and four cottages in Kilvington. The cottages in Upsall and Thornbrough were sold by the patrons many years ago to redeem the land tax charged on the glebe. Mr. Grainge, in his "Vale of Mowbray," tells us on the testimony of an old man then living, that there were formerly four "lighthouses" in the parish, two on the village green, one in Thornbrough, and one in Upsall, which had to provide lights for the church on festivals, &c. Probably they were those referred to above, and may have been held on the condition of providing candles or wax for the church. The tenure must have been a very easy one after the Reformation had abolished ceremonies, in which candles played an important part.
The tithes were commuted many years ago for rent-charges, the present aggregate value of which is £508. The rectory is now held by the Rev. William Towler Kingsley, B.D. The registers commence in 1572, and under the date 1666, record the death of Matthew Carter, of Thornbrough, at the age of 112.
The parish school was erected by subscription in 1874, and is attended by about 60 children, who pay a uniform fee of 2d. per week.
THORNBROUGH is a small township containing 532 acres, divided into three farms, and valued for rateable purposes at £622. It appears to have been called at the time of the Domesday Survey, Hundulfthorpe, i.e., Hundulf's thorpe or hamlet, a name characteristic of Danish ownership in the latter part of the Saxon period. The whole township, with the exception of 6 acres 1 rood 30 porches belonging to the exors. of the Parker family, is the property of Captain Edmund Henry Turton, Upsall Castle. Around Mr. Cleminson's farm is an avenue of trees six or seven yards wide which, it is said, no one can claim. Another piece of land, known as the Lord's Ing (field), was formerly much frequented by the lovers of football, and here many a rough and closely contested game has been played. The inhabitants number 29.
UPSALL is another township in this parish, lying on the N.E. side of Thirsk, from which it is distant about four miles, and contains 1,194 acres of very fertile land. The gross estimated rental is £1,404, and the rateable value £1,260. The population is small and chiefly employed in agricultural pursuits, though 200 years ago the glove manufacture was carried on to a considerable extent. Capt. E. H. Turton is the sole proprietor and lord of the manor.
Nothing is recorded of Upsall previous to the Norman Conquest; though some writers, basing their arguments on the etymology of the name, assert that it was a place of note in Danish times, and that this was one of the "high places" in which they were wont to offer up sacrifice to Odin. Worsaæ, an eminent Danish antiquary, in his work on the "Danes and Norwegians in England, Scotland, and Ireland," says, "Even the name of the most important sacrificial places in the Scandinavian north is to be found in Yorkshire, in Upsal (from Upsalir, the high halls)." As a corroboration of this statement, there is a huge block of granite now in the courtyard of the castle, whereon, it is said, the Norsemen offered their sacrifices. It weighs several tons, and is evidently one of those boulder stones, torn from its parent rock on Shap Fells, and carried hither by glacial action at some remote period.
Mr. W. Grainge, author of "The Vale of Mowbray," communicated with T. Wright, Esq., F. S.A,, the eminent Saxon scholar, on the derivation of this name, and received the following:- "The derivation of Upsall is either from 'Up,' an upland, and 'Sall,' a hall; or else what I consider more probable, from Upper Hall, in contradistinction to some other Hall or Castle, or as we now say, 'High Hall' and 'Low Hall.' Sall being the Anglo-Saxon name for a Hall (the French Salle is derived from the Teutonic Franks). Amongst all the Teutonic and Saxon races, the hall was beyond all comparison, the most important and remarkable part of a chief's house, and except perhaps the earthworks around, that of most distinction. The whole residence was spoken of as 'the Salle,' now 'the Hall,' as is the case with many manorial houses."
When Domesday Survey was taken, Upsall was part of the land which the Conqueror had given to his half brother, the Earl of Morton, and is entered thus: "In Upsale three villanes have one plough. Richard has it of the Earl. Wood and plain one mile and a half long, and the same broad." Soon after the Conquest, this district was in the possession of the Mowbrays, who have impressed their name upon the vale, which occupies a considerable portion of North Yorkshire. Some time later, in 1296, Upsall was in the possession of a family bearing the local name, who held it by sub-infeudation of the heirs of Baldwin Wake, who in turn held it of Roger Mowbray, and he of the king in capite. The Upsalls also held Kirkby Knowle, but resided in their castle here. Geofrey was the last of the name that lived at Upsall. He was one of the 24 knights who in the time of Edward II. were, on the complaint of Oliver Sandbus, ordered to inquire, survey, and certify the accustomed bounds of the fishponds on the river Foss, and ascertain the profits belonging thereto. He died some time after 1349, and the castle and manor came into the possession of the Scropes, who resided here for many generations in almost regal splendour.
According to the Domesday Book the le Scrope family was first settled in Worcestershire, The Yorkshire Scropes are mentioned in the reign of King John as possessing lands at Bolton, in Wensleydale. Henry le Scrope was bred to the law, and attained the highest judicial post in the kingdom. His son and successor, John, Lord Scrope, married a daughter of that Roger de Mowbray who died in 1299, by whom he had two sons. The youngest, Geoffrey, inherited the maternal estates, and was the progenitor of the Scropes of Masham, Upsall, and Flaxtead. He also was bred to the law, and was Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench in the reigns of the second and third Edwards. He, subsequently, exchanged the gown for the sword, and fought in the wars in Flanders, where he was knighted on the field of battle. He died in 1340, and left issue, by his wife, Ivetta, Henry, and John.
Henry le Scrope succeeded to the estates. He fought in the wars of Scotland and France, and was also at the battle of Neville's Cross, in which David of Scotland was taken prisoner. He was summoned to parliament as Baron Scrope, of Masham, in 1334, and this branch of the family subsequently became known as the Scropes of Masham, Upsall, and Flaxtead. He died at the age of 76, leaving by his wife, Joan (or Philippa de Brien, according to Mr. Grainge), five sons and three daughters. Other particulars of the family are given under Masham, to which the reader is referred.
Geoffrey, the last Lord Scrope of Masham and Upsall, was a Carthusian monk, and with him terminated the male line of this branch of the family. The estates reverted to his three nieces, and the title fell into abeyance. In the partition Upsall castle, estate, and manor were allotted to Elizabeth, wife of Sir Ralph Fitz Randolph, whose daughter and heiress married Sir Marmaduke Wyvill, M.P. for Ripon in 1553. Their son, Christopher Wyvill, Esq., inherited Upsall and the family estates. For some reason, which has not been ascertained, Upsall shortly afterwards became Crown property, and was granted by Queen Elizabeth, in 1577, to John Farnham, who was to render for the same £40 per annum. This rent-charge was purchased from the Crown, in 1623, by one of the Tancreds, of Arden, and is still payable to his descendant by the owner of Upsall.
Early in the reign of James I. Upsall estate passed to one of the Constables, of Constable Burton, but whether by purchase, marriage, or inheritance does not appear. John Constable, who possessed it in the time of Charles I., espoused the cause of the king in the parliamentary wars, and raised and equipped, at his own expense, several troops of horse in support of royalty. After the fall of the king he fled the country, and died, in exile, near Antwerp. The castle and estate remained in the possession of this family till 1768, when they were sold by William Constable, Esq., to William Chapman, of Stockton-on-Tees, who immediately resold them to Dr. John Turton, of Brastead Park, Kent. Dr. Turton was a man of commanding abilities, and was physician to the royal household. He died in 1806, without issue, and bequeathed all his Yorkshire estates, together with Brastead Park, to Edmund, the youngest son of his friend, the Rev. William Peters, LL.D., F.R.S., who, thereupon, assumed the name and arms of Turton. He was, for some time, M.P. for Hedon. He married Marianne, daughter and heiress of Robert Bell Livesey, Esq. (second son of the late Ralph Bell, Esq., of The Hall, Thirsk), and at his death, in 1857, his estates, with the exception of Brastead, descended to his eldest surviving son, Edmund Henry, formerly major in the 3rd Dragoon Guards, born 1825, and married Lady Cecilia Mary, daughter of the Earl of Milltown.
The present castle is a modern structure, built by Capt. E. H. Turton in 1875, from the designs of the late George Goldie. It is an elegant stone mansion, in the Gothic style, with a noble entrance of Aberdeen granite. Carved on a slab, near, is this pious reflection, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it."
The ruins of the old castle, which had previously occupied the site, were removed for the erection of the present mansion, and now there remains scarcely a trace of the feudal home of the Scropes and the Constables. We have no record of the builder, nor the date, but the style of architecture, of what little remained, indicated the time of Edward III. or Richard II. It was of the usual castle type, quadrangular in plan, with an open court in the centre, and a tower at each angle. One of these was octagonal, the others square. The walls were about three feet thick, and appeared to have been built of dressed stone, both on the inside and outside. The principal entrance was high enough to admit a man on horseback. Before the western front lay the gardens and pleasure grounds, and though many generations have passed away since their destruction, their names still live in local tradition. One was styled "My Lady's Vineyard," suggestive of the time when every castle and monastery grew its own grapes in the open air, and manufactured its own wine. Another was "St. Cecilia's Grove," sacred to the spirit of music; the "Puzzle Bush," a labyrinthan walk; and "Rosalind's Bower."
We have no information of the destruction of the castle, nor of its desertion by its owners. Its decadence probably began with the exile of John Constable; and, if we may believe tradition, its ruin was hastened by John Danby, the puritan, who carried away many of the dressed stones to rebuild his mansion of "New Building."
The park contained about 600 acres, and was stocked with deer. From time immemorial a buck and doe were paid to the rector of Kilvington, and also a horse gate (pasture for one horse). After the division of the park lands into farms a money payment of £3 6s. 8d. was given in lieu, and in 1779, a modus of £5 16s. 10d. was paid in satisfaction of all claims. "At the tithe commutation, July, 1849," says Mr. Grainge "the old custom and modus were alike extinguished, and a money payment substituted for all tithes and moduses."
There are many curious legends and traditions connected with the castle. The oft-told story of a subterranean passage appears among them, and a still stranger one attributes the building of the castle to the discovery of three crocks of gold revealed in a dream. Briefly told, it is as follows:- Lord Scrope dreamed three nights in succession, that, if he went to London Bridge, he would hear of something very much to his advantage. He travelled from Upsall to London, took his station on the bridge day after day without receiving the coveted information, and was beginning to mourn his folly, when a tinker asked him why he loitered so long on the bridge. After some hesitation he related his dreams. The tinker laughing at his simplicity, said, "Why, I too dreamt last night that under a bottery tree in Upsall castle in Yorkshire, there was a pot of gold," and inquired if he knew of any such place. My lord pleaded ignorance, but treasured the information, and returned home. He found the elder tree, and digging down he discovered a pot filled with gold, and on the cover was an inscription in a language which he could not read. He hung it up in his hall, where it was shortly afterwards seen by a learned pilgrim, who translated it to the following effect
"Look lower; where this stood
is another, twice as good."
He dug a second time, and unearthed another pot even more valuable than the first. On the lid was the same inscription as before. He dug again, but this time in vain, and the third crock remains undiscovered. With this treasure, says the legend, he was enabled to rebuild his castle of Upsall.
The village, which consists of a few farm houses and cottages, is situated near the castle. There was formerly a cross in the centre of the green, and tradition says a market was held here.
A Wesleyan chapel was erected is 1887 by subscription, at a cost of £250.
One of the farm houses in the park is named Nevison Hall, and is said to have been the birthplace and occasional residence of the notorious freebooter, Will Nevison, whom Charles II nicknamed Swift Nick on occount of his wonderful feats of horsemanship. His parents were of the better class, the gentlemen yeomen of the day, and the walls of the house were long adorned with mementos of him. After many hairbreadth escapes, he was, at last, captured and hanged at York, on the 4th of May, 1685.
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.