SKIPTON, a market and parish-town, in the east-division of Staincliffe, liberty of Clifford's Fee, (Skipton Castle, the seat of the Earl of Thanet,) 10 miles NW. of Keighley, 11 from Guisburn, 12¾ from Colne, (Lanc.) 13 from Hopper Lane Inn, 15 from Otley and Pateley Bridge, 16 from Settle and Kettlewell, 19 from Clitheroe, (Lanc.) 41 from York, 220 from London. Market, Saturday. Fairs, first Saturday after the old twelfth day, called Black Saturday, March 13, Saturday before Palm Sunday, Tuesday in Easter Week, and every other Tuesday until Whitsuntide, for lean cattle; Saturday before Whitsun eve, Saturday before Trinity Sunday, Old Saint James' Day, and Martinmas Day, viz. November 21, and 23, and every other Tuesday, throughout the year, for fat cattle, &c. Bankers, Messrs. Chippendale, Netherwood, and Carr, draw on Messrs. Masterman, Peters, and Co. 2, White Hart Court, Lombard Street. Principal Inns, Black Horse, Hotel, and Devonshire Hotel. Pop. 3,411. The Church is a vicarage, dedicated to the Holy Trinity (see Churches for photograph), in the deanry of Craven, value, ~£10. 12s. 6d. Patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford.
Skipton, a respectable built town, consisting chiefly of one street, is the capital and mart of Craven, which, by having the benefit of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal passing close to the town, the greatest facility is afforded to its trade.
At the north end of the town is the Castle, the erection of which elevated this place at once from a poor dependant village to a respectable town; for in times of turbulence and disorder, the inhabitants of the adjoining country would naturally crowd for protection under its walls. And although Skipton never had a municipal government, except that of a Reve, and was never represented in Parliament, the town is generally, styled in Charters, a Burgh, and its inhabitants, Burgesses.
The Castle, which usually attracts the attention of strangers, was the work of Robert de Romille, about the end of the Conquerors, or the beginning of his son's reign. Of the original building, little, besides the western door way of the inner Castle, now remains. It consists of a treble semicircular arch, supported upon square piers. The oldest part of the Castle now remaining, consists of seven round towers, connected by rectilinear apartments, which form an irregular quadrangular court within. The walls are from twelve to nine feet thick.
In the civil wars of Charles I. this Town and Castle had a considerable share, being a garrison for the King, commanded by Sir John Mallory, of Studley. On the 20th Dec. 1645, it was surrendered to the forces of the Parliament; having held out longer than any other Castle in the north of England. The northern wall of the Castle stands on the brink of a perpendicular rock, washed by a torrent, to the bed of which, from the battlements, is a depth of 200 feet.
At the west end of the Bailey stands the Castle Chapel, a well proportioned oblong building, of which the original shell is entire: it appears to have retained its original till after the death of Thomas, the good Earl of Thanet; but is now a stable.
Robert de Romille, the founder of this baronial Castle, leaving only an heiress, Alice, married to William Fitz Duncan, Earl of Murray, carried along with her the honour of Skipton; by whose daughter, Cicely, it passed to William le Gross, Earl of Albemarle; here it remained till the reign of Richard I. when Avelyne de Fortibus, daughter and heiress, the Countess of Albemarle, married Edmund, Earl of Lancaster; whose son Thomas, succeeded him, but he, joining in a rebellion against King Edward II. and being taken in arms at Boroughbridge, was beheaded at Pontefract, when all his estates were escheated to the Crown; and were by that King granted to Robert, Lord Clifford, which family, with the exception of a single attainder, have held this barony 500 years, during the longer part of which they have resided at Skipton Castle, in great wealth and honour. John Lord Tufton, the second Earl of Thanet, having married Margaret, daughter of the Earl of Dorset, by Lady Anne Clifford, in 1629, brought this Castle and Lordship into that family, where it still remains.
The Church of Skipton, which was also founded by Robert de Romille, is a spacious and respectable building. Perhaps no part of the original structure remains, except four stone seats with pointed arches and cylindrical columns, now in the south wall of the nave. In this Church are several ancient monuments to the Clifford family: and beneath the altar, unusually elevated on that account, is the vault of the Cliffords, the place of their interment, from the dissolution of Bolton Priory to the death of the last Earl of Cumberland; which, after being closed many years, the late Dr. Whitaker, obtained permission to examine in 1803; wherein he found the bodies deposited in chronological order; particulars of which may be seen in his history of Craven.
The town of Skipton has long enjoyed the benefit of a well endowed Grammar School, which was founded in the second year of King Edward VI. 1548, by William Ermysted, clerk, Canon Residentiary in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, London, for instructing boys in grammar; and who ordained certain statutes for the government of the same. The whole rental of the lands, tenements, &c. with which it was than endowed, amounted to £9. 15s. 4d. is now about £600. per annum. There is also an annual payment of £4. 4s. 10d. out of the land revenues of the Crown.
William Petyt, Esq. in 1707, gave £200. for the support of two poor scholars at Christ College, Cambridge. And his brother, Sylvester Petyt, Esq. by his Will, left £24,048. old South Sea Annuities, and a Library at Skipton, the gross annual income, in 1815, being £721. 9s. 2d. The objects of which donation are, persons, wherever resident, standing in need of immediate relief, according to the discretion of the Trustees, and amongst whom, the remainder of this sum is annually distributed, after paying £20. a year to Christ College, Cambridge, small salaries to a schoolmaster and librarian at Skipton, and putting out annually about fourteen poor children apprentices in the county of York, and for buying books for the use of the school. Boys are admitted free of expense, indefinitely throughout the parish. --Carlisle's Gram. School.
At this place was born, George Holmes, a learned antiquary, in 1662. He re published the first 17 vols. of Rymer's Foedera, and formed a curious collection of books, prints, and coins. He died in 1749.