WELL: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of East Hang - Electoral Division of Masham - Poor Law Union of Bedale - County Court District of Ripon - Rural Deanery of Catterick East - Archdeaconry of Richmond - Diocese of Ripon.

This parish consists of the townships of Well and Snape, the united area of which is 6,451 acres, and the population 791. Of these, 2,000 acres and 322 inhabitants belong to the first named township. Its rateable value is £1,870. The entire township, with the exception of about 140 acres, belonging to the Messrs. Almack, is the property of Sir F. A. Milbank, Bart., who is also lord of the manor. The soil is a variable mixture of loam, clay, and lime, and, in addition to the usual cereals, turnips are largely cultivated.

Well has received its name from the presence of a never failing spring, which our Saxon ancestors, in the exuberance of piety and trust in God, reverently dedicated to St. Michael. The water issues from a rock, and was formerly believed to possess curative properties. The village is situated three miles east of Masham, 4½ south of Bedale, eight north of Ripon, and about two miles N. by W. of Tanfield, the nearest railway station. The church, which is dedicated to St. James, is a substantial stone edifice in the Decorated Gothic style, consisting of chancel, nave, with north and south aisles, south chapel, north porch, and embattled western tower, containing three bells and a clock. It was thoroughly restored in 1854, at the expense of Charles Chaplin and M. Milbank, Esâ. The organ and eight stained windows were presented at the same time by Henry John Milbank, Esq., and four others by the Earl of Stamford and Warrington, Mark Milbank, senr., Esq., Mark Milbank, junr., Esq., and Mr. Warrington, the artist, of London. Two more were presented in 1860, and one in 1872, all memorials of the Milbanks. At the east end of the south chapel is an altar tomb, with recumbent effigy of Sir John Neville, the last Baron Latimer, who died in 1577. On a tablet belonging to the tomb is inscribed:- "HERE LYETH BURIED SR IHON NEVELL KNIGHT LAST LORD LATTIMOR WHO DIED THE 23 OF APRILL 1577 WHO MARED THE LADY LVCY THELDEST DAYGHTER OF THERLE OF WORSETER AND SHE LYETH BVRIED IN HACKNE CHVRCHE BY LONDON AND BY HER LEFT 4 DAVGHTERS AND HEIRES WHOES MATCHES ARE HERE VNDER EXPRESSED." The family alliances here referred to are indicated by armorial bearings on the sides of the tomb. Roughly cut on the monument are the names of several of Cromwell's officers, Ireton, Charles Fairfax, Thomas Hardy and others, and also the names of some members of the Danby family, formerly of Masham. There is a tradition that this monument lay at Snape Castle for upwards of 150 years. In the floor near this monument is a slab, charged with a cross, having on one side a sword, and on the other a hammer reversed upon a horseshoe, probably indicating the tombstone of an armourer or a farrier. There is an altar tomb with brass to Lady Dorothy Neville, dated 1526; and in the floor of the chancel is a large blue marble slab, measuring 12 feet 1 inch long by 4 feet 8 inches, from which the brasses have been torn, In the south aisle is an alto-relievo mural monument in white marble, by Wesmacott, in memory of Lady Margaret Milbank, the wife of Henry Milbank, Esq. A portion of the original stone altar, bearing three crosses, has been recovered, and now lies on the top of the communion table. The porch retains a Norman arch in good preservation, and the old sanctus-bell turret bestrides the gable of the nave. The living is a vicarage, valued in the Liber Regis (Henry VIII.) at £8 13s. 6d., and now worth £300, including 40 acres of glebe, with residence. It is in the gift of Sir F. A. Milbank, and held by the Rev. Frederick Dashwood Ruxton, L.Th., of Durham University, The register dates from 1549.

A Hospital, dedicated to St. Michael, was founded at Well in 1342, by Sir Ralph de Neville, lord of Middleham, for a master, two priests, and 24 poor brothers and sisters. At the dissolution of religious houses, the revenues were valued at £65 5s. 7d. per annum. Fortunately the endowment escaped the royal clutches, and the benefits of the charity were continued. Subsequently it was refounded and endowed with a rent-charge of £132 11s. 4d., by Brownlow, Earl of Exeter, whose ancestor, Thomas, the first Earl of Exeter, acquired the lordships of Snape and Well, by his marriage with Dorothy, daughter and co-heir of John Neville, Lord Latimer. There are sixteen almspeople, eight men and eight women; the former receive 4s. a week each, and the latter 3s. 6d. Each beneficiary also receives a coat or a gown yearly and 36 bushels of coals. Sir F. A. Milbank, as lord of the manor of Well and owner of the estate out of which the rent-charge is paid, is master of the hospital and appoints the almspeople. To this office belongs the patronage of the vicarage of Well and of Trinity Church, King's Court, York.

A school was founded or probably re-founded here in 1605, by Thomas, Earl of Exeter, and Dorothy his wife, daughter and co-heir of John Neville, Lord Latimer. It was endowed with land, producing £30 a year, for the maintenance of a master and mistress and twelve poor girls from the townships of Well and Snape. In 1788 the sphere of the charity was extended, and rendered more generally beneficial by converting it into a free school for each township, to which each house has the privilege of sending a boy and a girl between the ages of six and fourteen as free scholars. The lands have been sold, and the money invested with the Charity Commissioners. Out of the interest £58 a year is allotted to the school at Well. The school premises, with master's house, were rebuilt in 1867, for the accommodation of 80 children; the average attendance for 1888-9 was 46.

CHARITIES. - Tn addition to the Hospital mentioned above, there is the Poor's Land, consisting of 18 acres 22 perches of land in Carthorpe, given by Richard and Anthony Benson, in 1670, five-sixths of the rent of which are given to the poor of Well, and the remainder to those of Snape. Those who lately acted as trustees of this charity are dead, and no others having been appointed in their places, Benson's dole is on the point of extinction. Hutchinson's Dole, an annual rent-charge of 20s. out of land at Galpha, left to the poor of Well by William Hutchinson, in 1719, is vested in the overseers of the poor of the said township.

Well Hall, an ancient building, now a farmhouse, was the seat and property of John Strangwayes, Esq., about the year 1700, and was sold by his descendant to Mark Milbank, Esq., in 1820. Holly Hill is a castellated building near the village, the residence of Miss Edith D. Milbank, second daughter of the late Mark William Vane Milbank, Esq. It was formerly the property of the Strangwayes. Mowbray Hill, the residence of Mr. James Gothorp, is seated on an eminence commanding a good prospect; and Acclom House is a good dwelling in the village, occupied by Mr. William Gothorp.

Well Institute, containing reading and recreation rooms, was erected in 1888, at a cost of £100, chiefly contributed by Sir F. Milbank and Miss Milbank, of Holly hill.

Whilst putting down a hydraulic ram, about 28 years ago, the workman came upon a tesselated Roman pavement lying in situ, which was carefully removed, and is now in the church; and recently, near the same spot, a Roman bath, in perfect preservation, was discovered, from which it may be inferred that Well was the site of a Roman villa. Another evidence of Roman occupation, is the Vervain plant, which grows here. It was introduced by the Imperial soldiers, and is said to be found only on Roman settlements.

SNAPE is a township in this parish, containing 4,652 acres, belonging solely to Sir F. A. Milbank, Bart., who is also lord of the manor. The soil is variable, and chiefly under the plough. Both stone and limestone are quarried in the township; the latter is of good quality, and used for building and agricultural purposes. The rateable value is £4,289, and the number of inhabitants 469. The village stands about two miles N.W. of Well, and three miles S. of Bedale. In the days when woolcombing was performed solely by hand, many of the villagers were engaged in the work. Baines' Directory of the North and East Ridings, published in 1823, gives the names of five woolstaplers and woolcombers carrying on their business in Snape at that time; but with the invention of woolcombing machinery, hand woolcombing was abandoned, and the trade was relegated to the populous centres of the West Riding.

The most interesting feature of the place is Snape Castle or Hall, an ancient castellated structure, part of which is in ruins, and the remainder tenanted by Mr. Henry Webster, and James Greaves, farmer. The castle was originally built by the Fitz Randolphs, lords of Middleham, and earls of Exeter, in the twelfth century, from whom it passed, by the marriage of an heiress to the Nevilles. Sir John Neville was summoned to parliament as Baron Latimer in the reign of Henry V., and his descendant, Lord Latimer, a staid widower, is said to have been married to Catharine Parr, afterwards the sixth wife of Henry VIII., in this castle. His son, Sir John Neville, the last Lord Latimer, who died in 1577, left a daughter and heiress, Dorothy, who married Thomas Cecil, first earl of Exeter. It was, probably, by this nobleman that the rectangular towers were grafted on the structure rebuilt by the Nevilles. There were, originally, five of these towers, but only four remain - two in good preservation, and two in ruins. The date 1587, with the coat of arms, which appears in the west wall, probably refers to their erection, and the general restoration which took place about that time. The castle stands at the west end of the village, and was described by Leland as a "goodly castel in a valley belonging to Lord Latimer, and two or three parks well wooded." One of the rooms, formerly the domestic chapel, was fitted up as a chapel-of-ease by the late Mark Milbank, Esq., in 1836, and restored and remodelled by that gentleman in 1875, in memory of Lady Augusta Henrietta Milbank, his wife, who died the previous year. The ceiling contains the remains of a fine, but somewhat obliterated fresco representation of the Expulsion of the Angels, painted by Verrio. The windows have been filled with stained glass, and life-sized figures of several of the apostles adorn the interior. The reredos, which extends across the east end, is a fine piece of oak carving; and on each of the other three walls is an oaken tablet carved in a similar style, the whole exhibiting eight scenes in the life of our Lord. On the east wall is a handsome ancient Dutch carving in oak, depicting several events in the Book of Genesis, with a brief description in old German.

The park, 400 acres in extent, and formerly stocked with deer, was walled round, and the avenue by which it was approached, formed and planted in 1701, by one of the Cecil owners.

The Wesleyan Methodists have a chapel in the village, rebuilt in 1885. During the erection of the first chapel in 1799, the disciples of Wesley encountered great opposition from the youth of the village, who, on one occasion, pulled down the walls, when they had been raised about three feet, and carted away the material.

Snape Endowed School was founded by the Nevilles, and receives £35 a year from the Neville Charity. - (See Well Endowed School). Snape reading room and library is a neat brick building with stone facings, erected by Miss Edith Milbank in 1885.

Thorp Perrow, about a mile N. of the village, is a handsome modern mansion, the seat of Sir Frederick Acclom Milbank, Bart., J.P. and D.L. It stands in a well wooded park of 300 acres, and is surrounded by gardens and pleasure grounds, covering about 40 acres. The immediate ancestor of the Milbanks of Thorp Perrow, and of the Milbanks of Halnaby, was Mark Milbank, a wealthy Newcastle merchant, an alderman of the town and high sheriff of Northumberland, in the time of Charles I. and Charles II. He was descended, it is said, from a certain Ralph Milbank, cup-bearer to Queen Mary of Scotland, who, having slain his antagonist in a duel, fled to England to avoid the consequences. Mark Milbank, son of the Newcastle merchant, was created a baronet in 1661. He married Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of John Acclom, Esq., of Moorby, and from John Milbank, of Thorp Perrow, the fourth son of this marriage, the present owner is descended. Sir Frederick Acclom Milbank was created a baronet in 1882, and succeeded to the estate on the death of his brother, the late Mark William Vane Milbank, Esq., in 1884. He represented the North Riding in parliament from 1865 to 1886. He married Alexina Harriet, daughter of Sir Alexander Don, Bart., and has issue two sons and two daughters.

Park House, pleasantly situated within the park of Thorp Perrow, is the residence of Powlett C. Milbank, Esq., J.P. and County Alderman, the second son of Sir F. A. Milbank, who married Edith, fifth daughter of Sir Richard Green Price, Bart., and has issue one son and three daughters.

Opposite the entrance to Thorp Perrow stands a memorial cross, erected by the tenantry, to the Lady Augusta Milbank, who died 17th September, 1874.

Langwith is a hamlet in this township, containing 650 acres.

[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.