Wapentake of West Gilling - Electoral Division of Startforth - Petty Sessional Division of Greta Bridge - County Court District of Barnard Castle - Poor Law Union of Teesdale - Rural Deanery of Richmond North - Archdeaconry of Richmond - Diocese of Ripon.
This parish, which lies on the south bank of the Tees, includes the townships of Startforth, Boldron, and Egglestone Abbey, whose united area is 2,980 acres, and population 730. In the first named township there are 1,110 acres, inclusive of water surface, and 516 inhabitants. The soil is loamy, the subsoil clayey, and the usual cereals, with turnips, form the chief crops. The gross estimated rental of the township is £3,276, and the rateable value £2,878. Timothy Hutchinson, Esq., Egglestone Hall; the Right Rev. Monsignor Thomas Witham, Lartington Hall; and Thompson Richardson, Esq., Barnard Castle, are the principal landowners.
The earliest notice of the place occurs in Domesday Book, which records that "In Stradford are six carucates of the geld, and there may have been six ploughs; Tor had two carucates and Torfin four; this had a manor, the other not. Now Enisan has the land of Tor and Bodin the land of Torfin. There is a church." It appears from this entry that the manor was not co-extensive with the township, and in an assize taken at York, in 21st Edward I. (1293), to determine the right of possession to certain lands, it was declared that the portion of the township called Nether Stretford was in the fee of Burgh, and the other portion, Over Stretford, in the fee of Burton. In 1316, the Abbot of Egglestone and William de Bowes were returned as lords of the respective portions. The monastic lands were confiscated at the Reformation, and the other portions or manor of Startforth was held by John Fulthorpe, from whom it passed in moieties to his two daughters and co-heirs, Anne, wife of Francis Wandesford, Esq., and Cecily, then unmarried. The Brunskells possessed lands in the township at this time, and shortly afterwards, in the reign of Elizabeth, the Feildings purchased the lands of George Wandesford. The representative of this family in 1747 sold Low Startforth Hall and a portion of the lands to William Hutchinson, Esq., ancestor of the present owner. Startforth Hall remains in the possession of the Feildings, now represented by Mrs. Hazlewood and Mrs. Birch, who are joint owners.
The village of Startforth is situated on the south bank of the Tees, opposite Barnard Castle, at a point where the old Roman road from Bowes crossed the river, and hence its name of Stratford (corrupted in later times into Startforth), that is the ford on the street or Roman road. A stone bridge of two arches, supposed to have been built in 1569, and partially rebuilt after the flood of 1771, connects the village with Barnard Castle. On the centre of this bridge, Cuthbert Hilton, who had been trained as a bible clerk under his father, who was curate of Denton, obtained notoriety by celebrating illicit marriages, which be did after this fashion; causing the couple to leap over a broomstick, he repeated the following rhyme:-
"My blessing on your pates, and your groats in my purse,
You are never the better, and I am never the worse."*
* This couplet is given on the authority of Mr. Surtees; but there is reason to believe it was only an effusion of the playful muse of that gentleman.
An ornamental foot bridge of iron, crossing the river from the bottom of Thorngate, was erected in 1882. The most important industry of the place is the shoe thread manufactory of Messrs. Ullathorne & Co., in which about 200 hands are constantly employed. The church of the Holy Trinity was rebuilt on the site of the old one in 1863, at a cost of £2,000. It is in the decorated Gothic style, and consists of chancel, nave, south porch, and tower, surmounted by a spire containing two bells. The east window representing in its three lights the Crucifixion, with the Resurrection and Ascension on either side, is a memorial of the Rev. Henry Kendall, who died in 1867, after an incumbency of 40 years. It was erected by his parishioners and friends. There are three one-light windows, memorials of the Milner family, and other two in memory of Sarah Watson and Isabella Bowness. The reredos is a very handsome piece of carving, the gift of Miss Milner (now Mrs. Birch, of Leeds). It is composed of Caen stone, granite, marble, and alabaster, In the centre is represented a cross, and in the side panels are the Agnus Dei, and the Pelican feeding her young with the blood of her own breast, a mediæval symbol of the Blessed Sacrament. There are some memorials of the Feilding family. On an old monumental slab is a curious carving, representing the full length figure of a lady with a crucifix in her hand, and her feet resting on an animal very like a cat. It is supposed to be the tombstone of Lady Helena de Hastings, who, in the reign of Henry II. gave the church to the abbot and convent of Eggleston. The interior is neatly furnished with open benches of pitchpine, varnished, capable of seating 270 persons. The living is a discharged vicarage worth £140, including 25 acres of glebe with residence, in the gift of the Earl of Lonsdale, whose ancestor, Sir John Lowther, Knt., purchased the advowson in 1629, The Rev. Hartley Jennings, of London University, is the present vicar. The registers date from the year 1665. The vicarial tithes are commuted for a rent-charge of £115 15s. 8d., and the rectorial for £66 16s.
The Morritt Memorial Schools (mixed) in High Startforth, form a handsome block of buildings, erected in 1877, as a memorial of the late Mrs. Morritt, of Rokeby. There is accommodation for 170, and an average attendance of 112.
The reservoir which supplies Barnard Castle with water is in this township. It was constructed about 15 years ago, and covers three acres. It receives its water from a spring called Levey Pool, at Stoney Keld, on Bowes Moor, about four miles distant.
The poor have £3 0s. 4d. a year left by Mr. Longstaffe, who was part owner of the Bridge End mills.
BOLDRON is a township and village in this parish containing about 1,300 acres and 152 inhabitants. The rateable value is £2,275, nearly one-half of which is assessed on the North Eastern Railway Co., for the portion of their line lying within the township. This railway crosses Deepdale near Raven's Nest, on a light iron bridge laid on stone piers, forming 12 arches of 60 feet span. It is about 130 feet high, and is playfully named Cat Castle Bridge. The largest landowners are the Right Rev. Monsignor Thomas Witham, Lartington Hall; the trustees of Bowes and Romaldkirk Charity; R. A. Morritt, Esq., Rokeby; Joseph Errington, Barnard Castle; Mrs. Hill, Thirsk; the exors. of the late Matthew Hoggett, Thornberry;. Ullathorne's trustees, London; Thomas Hardy, Barnard Castle; Rev. Canon F. Brown, Barnard Castle (for glebe); Rev. W. B. Galloway; C. 0. Allison, Rokeby Grange; and Christopher Coates, Cleasby.
Bolron, as the name was written of old, was formerly a member of the manor of Bowes, and was included with that place in the payment of subsidies in the 30th year of the reign of Edward I. A family bearing the local name possessed lands and resided here in the 13th and 14th centuries, but some of them seem to have followed the ungentlemanly occupation of reaving, and were hanged for house-breaking.
The village, which consists chiefly of a few cottages, stands two miles south of the parish church. A Mission Room was erected here in 1887-8, at a cost of £290, and divine service is held in it by the vicar once a week. The Primitive Methodists have a chapel which was built in 1867, and will accommodate 140. The impropriate tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £80, payable to J. H. Stanton, Esq., Stubb House, Winston.
EGGLESTONE ABBEY township comprises 651 acres (of which 38 acres are woodland), stretching along the south bank of the Tees, and is solely the property of R. A. Morritt, Esq., of Rokeby, who is also lord of the manor. It is valued, for rating purposes, at £772, and, in 1881, contained 62 inhabitants. The river is here crossed by a handsome bridge of one arch, built by John Morritt, Esq.; in 1773. From the battlements, which are 76 feet above the level of the stream, a beautiful view is obtained.
The Abbey, which gives its name to the township, stands in picturesque ruin on rising ground, at the junction of the Thorsgill beck with the Tees, nearly opposite Barnard Castle. It was founded in the reign of Henry II., by Hervey de Moulton and Constance, his wife, for religious of the Premonstratensian Order, or, as they were frequently called from the colour of their habit, White Canons. The Moulton family merged into the Dacres, who became lords of Gilsland and patrons of this abbey. Gilbert de la Leghe gave to the canons the manors of Egglestone and Kilvington, for the support of nine canons for ever, and they had also the churches of Startforth, Arkilgarthdale, Rokeby, and Great Ouseburn. At the Dissolution the revenues of the house were valued at £65 5s. 6d., but the clear income was only £36 7s. 2d., equal to about £360 of present money. In 1549 Edward VI. granted the site of the monastery, three messuages, two cottages, six tofts, two mills, two orchards, 109 acres of arable land, 108 acres of meadow, 70 acres of pasture, 200 acres of wood, 40 acres of juniper and brier, and the rectories and churches of Arkilgarthdale and Startforth, to Robert Strelley, or Starley, and Frediswinda, his wife, who rendered for the same the fourth part of one knight's fee, and a yearly rent of £12 13s. 6d. The manor, with its appurtenances and the above-mentioned lands, &c., were, in the reign of Elizabeth, conveyed by marriage to the Savilles. The next owners were the Smiths, one of whom, in 1604, sold the manor, &c., to Sir Henry Compton, for £400, and in 1625 these lands, &c., were purchased by Sir John Lowther. They were subsequently sold to the Robinsons, of Rokeby, and in 1770 Sir Thomas Robinson, Bart., sold the abbey and other estates to John Merritt, Esq., whose grandson is the present owner.
Leland, who saw the abbey whilst it was in its entirety, thus describes it:- "The priory of Eggleston joineth hard to Thulesgylle bek, and hangeth over the high banke of Tese. I saw, in the body of the church, two very faire tumbes of gray marble, In the greater was buried, as I learned, one Sir Ralph Bowes; and yn the lesser, one of the Rokesbys. Hard under the cliffe by Eglestone is found, on eche side of Tese, very fair marble." The walls of the abbey church remain to a considerable extent, of their original height, and show that the edifice was of the usual cruciform shape, but without aisles. The style is Early English, with very little ornament. The nave has been lighted on one side only, the windows of which are still perfect. Each consists of three elegant lancet lights under a Gothic arch, but the great eastern window, divided by mullions into five lights, appears like a deformity. Part of the conventual buildings has been converted into cottages. Several monumental slabs of polished limestone, or "Tees marble," lie on the green sward within the church, one of which commemorates an abbot; another is thus inscribed:- "THOMAS ROKEBY, BASTARDE Jesu FOR YI PASSIONS SER HAVE MERCY ON YI SINFUL HER" [Jesu for thy passion sair (sore) have mercy on thy sinful heir.] One of the grey marble tombs seen by Leland now stands in the grounds of Mortham Tower. Sir Walter Scott has selected this abbey for the closing scene of "Rokeby,' and thus beautifully describes the ruin -
"The reverend pile lay wild and waste,
Profaned, dishonour'd, and defaced,
Through storied lattices no more
In softened light the sunbeams pour,
Gilding the Gothic sculpture rich
Of shrine and monument, and niche.
The civil fury of the time
Made sport of sacrilegious crime;
For dark Fanaticism rent
Altar, and screen, and ornament,
And peasant hands the tombs o'erthrew
Of Bowes, of Rokeby, and Fitz-Hugh."
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.