WHORLTON: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


Wapentake of Langbaurgh (West Division) - Petty Sessional Division of Langbaurgh West - Electoral Division, County Court District, and Poor Law Union of Stokesley - Rural Deanery of Northallerton - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.

This parish, situated at the foot and on the northern slope of the Cleveland Hills, presents a diversified surface, rising in some places into wooded eminences, and in others into hilly moorlands. These hills abound with ironstone, which has been worked to a considerable extent in late years. The parish includes the townships of Whorlton and Potto, the united area of which is 8,344 acres; but about one-third of this extent is covered by hilly moorlands. In the first-named township there are 4,054 acres under assessment, out of a total area of 6,846 acres; gross estimated rental, £4,448; and rateable value, £4,049. The population in 1881 was 681, but there has been a considerable decrease since then, in consequence of the stoppage of the iron mines.

Werleton, or Wiruelton, as the name was spelt by the Norman scribes in the Domesday Book, was, at the period of the Conquest, within the soke, or soc, of Hutton. The manor was in the possession of the Meynells as early as the reign of Henry I., about which time Stephen de Maisnell founded a monastic cell at Scarth in this parish, and gave lands at Stainton to the Abbey of Rievaulx. In the 22nd Edward I., Sir Nicholas de Meinell, Knight, of Whorlton, was summoned to Parliament; and another Sir Nicholas de Meinell, his son, was summoned as a baron to the Parliament of the 9th Edward III. (1335). It appears from Escaet 16th Edward III. No. 37 - that this same "Nicholas de Meynill held the manor of Whorlton, &c., of the Archbishop of Canterbury, by serving the said Archbishop, on the day of his consecration, with the cup out of which the Archbishop was to drink that day." About the middle of the 14th century, male issue failing, this manor was carried, by the marriage of a daughter and heiress, to Sir John Darcy, of Knayton. It continued in the possession of the Darcy line about a century, when Philip Darcy died, leaving two daughters, co-heiresses, between whom the estates were divided. Elizabeth, the eldest, married Sir James Strangwayes, knight, of Harlsey Castle, and received the manor of Whorlton and other lands as her share; and Margery, the younger, married Sir John Conyers, of Hornby. Whorlton subsequently passed, in the reign of Henry VIII., from the Strangwayes to the Crown; but in what manner has not been ascertained. It remained in the royal hands until the time of Charles I., when it was granted to Edward Bruce, of Kinloss. In 1641, Thomas Bruce, first Earl of Elgin, was created Baron Bruce of Whorlton. One of his descendants was raised to the earldom of Ailesbury in 1776; and in 1821 his son was advanced to the marquisate. The present marquis has disposed of many of his Yorkshire estates - among them Whorlton, which has been purchased by James Emerson, Esq., Easby Hall, who is now lord of the manor and principal landowner.

The Castle, of which a few fragments still remain, is supposed to have been erected in the time of Richard II. Leland thus briefly notices it: "Whorlton, in Cliveland, was the principal house of the Lord Menell, which sence came to Master Strangwayes in particion." When Camden wrote (about the year 1600), it was already "old and ruinous," a condition into which it was permitted to fall during its royal ownership. Very little now remains of this ancient fortress; the gateway tower and some of the vaults constitute the principal fragments. The castle was surrounded by a deep moat, over which was a drawbridge; and the entrance was further protected by a portcullis. Above the gateway are three shields, bearing the Arms of Darcy, Meynell, and Gray. A farmhouse long stood on a part of the site, the tenant of which converted the vaults into pigsties, &c. but this has been removed, and a portion is now occupied by a market gardener.

The Church is a handsome Gothic edifice, erected in 1875, at a cost of about £5,000, to which the late Marquis of Ailesbury was the principal contributor. It comprises nave with north aisle, chancel, vestry, and tower. The latter contains a peal of six bells (one of which belonged to the old church), hung at the expense of the late vicar. The aisle is separated from the nave by an arcade of two bays resting on circular columns. The chancel window is filled with stained glass representing the Crucifixion, and beneath is the communion table, on which is a brazen cross, the emblem of man's redemption and the symbol of the Dedication (Holy Cross). The floor of the chancel is laid with tesselated tiles, and three rows of choir stalls are ranged along either side. The pulpit is of chaste and elegant design, and the neat font is appropriately inscribed " Suffer little children to come unto Me," &c, In the west wall are two two-light windows, illuminated with figures of Joshua, Gideon, Jeptha, and King David, and beneath them is the following inscription: "Sacred to the Memory of Ernest Augustus Charles, Marquis of Ailesbury, died 18 October, 1886, and his friend, Major-General Charles George Gordon, Royal Engineers, killed at Khartoum, 26 June; 1885."

The living, formerly a perpetual curacy, but now a vicarage, has been augmented by grants from Queen Anne's Bounty Fund, &c., and is now worth £150, with residence. J. Emerson, Esq., is patron and impropriator, and the Rev. Alleyne Fitzherbert, incumbent.

The old church of Holy Cross, which the present one superseded, stands near the castle, about half a mile distant. It is a venerable ivy covered building of the late Norman period, and now partly in ruin. Divine service was said within its walls for the last time on the 7th of March, 1875, but the chancel is still occasionally used for burial service. The dense ivy which mantles the outer walls has penetrated within, through some chinks and crannies, and spread its interlacing branches in fantastic style over the inner surface, almost covering the east window. The piscina and a few carved head corbels still remain in very fair condition; but the most interesting feature is the canopied monument of Sir Nicholas de Meynill, who died about the year 1299. On the tomb is the recumbent effigy of that knight, cross-legged, carved in oak, but much mutilated. The base of the monument is freestone, and on the front are shields charged with the armorial bearings of families allied to the Meynills of Whorlton. In the chancel are two shields carved in stone; on one is inscribed ORATE P. NoBis, A.D. 1593; and on the other the arms of the Bate family, formerly lords of Easby.

The ruins of the castle and church and a few scattered farm houses and cottages form the village of Whorlton, which is distant about six miles S.S.W. of Stokesley. In 1810, Mr. Rickatson, whilst ploughing here, discovered a large silver vase containing a large number of Roman coins of silver, and some square wedges of the same metal. The coins belonged to the later empire, and were probably deposited here towards the decline of the Roman power.

At SCARTH, about half a mile S.W. of the castle, was a cell of Austin Canons, founded by Stephen de Meinell, in the reign of Henry I., and given to the priory of Guisborough, but not a trace of it now remains.

SWAINBY, the by or town of Sweyn, is a large village, built on either side of a beck, about half a mile W. of the old church. The houses are all modern and neatly built, but the sanitary arrangements might be much improved by the removal of the sinks or soughs to a greater distance from the doors. The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists have each chapels in the village. That belonging to the former sect is a freestone building, erected in 1874, at a cost of over £500. It will seat about 250 persons. The Primitive Methodist Chapel is a plain brick structure, built in 1878, and seated for 150. Whorlton National School, erected in 1856, at a cost of £800, stands on the Whorlton side of the beck. There is also an Oddfellows' Hall in the village, erected in 1863, which besides being used for the lodge meetings, is also let for entertainments. It will seat about 300.

The hills around abound with ironstone. The main workable seam here varies from 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 6 inches in thickness. The mines, which are situated at Scugdale (the sheltered dale, from the Danish Skygger, to overshadow), were opened in March, 1857, and the following year about two miles of rail were laid down from Swainby to Potto for the conveyance of the ore to the main line. The output of the mines for 1880 was 66,042 tons. The company's lease (Carlton Iron Ore Co., Ltd.) terminated in 1887, and the mines are now closed.

In this beautiful secluded valley died, in 1812, Elizabeth Harland, at the age of 105 years, and here at Scugdale Hall, Harry Cooper (Alexander), reputed the tallest man in the world, spent some of the early years of his life in the capacity of a farm servant. This remarkable sample of humanity grew 13 inches in the space of five months, whilst confined to his bed. He now measures 8 feet 6 inches in height, and when 23 years old weighed 406 lbs. He accompanied the monster elephant Jumbo to America, and was exhibited in Barnum's colossal show.

HEATHWAITE and TRENHOLME are small hamlets, situated respectively one mile S., and three miles N. by W. of the old church.

POTTO, formerly Potthowe, township contains 1,482 acres, and 209 inhabitants. The gross estimated rental is £2,406, and rateable value, £2,177. Potto in the olden time belonged to the Meynills, from whom it passed to the Darcys, thence to the Strangwayes, lords of Whorlton. Subsequently (temp. Charles I.) it came into the possession of the Ailesbury family, and remained with them until 1887, when the estate, with all manorial rights, was sold by the present Marquis to James Emerson, Esq., Easby Hall, The following are also landowners :- Jph. Richardson, Esq., Frdk. Wilson Horsfall, Esq., and Jas. Marwood, Esq., London.

The village, five miles S.W. of Stokesley, gives name to a station on the North Yorkshire and Cleveland railway. Half a mile S. of the village is Potto Grange, the residence and property of Mr. F. W. Horsfall. The estate was purchased by the Misses Sigston about the year 1768. In 1823, they were succeeded by their nephew, James Wilson, Esq., from whom it has descended to his grandson, the present owner. Mr. Horsfall is directing his attention to the revival in the district of the old breed of coach horses, known as the Cleveland Bay, and about twenty brood mares, some of the finest specimens of the breed, are now pasturing in the parks.

Potto Hall, a handsome modern mansion, is the property and residence of James Richardson, Esq., J.P., by whom it was recently purchased from the representatives of the late G. E. Copley, Esq.

GOULTON is a small hamlet in this township.

[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.