Edmund Bogg.

Lower Wharfeland: the old city of York and the Ainsty, the region of historic memories. Being a description of its picturesque features, history, antiquities, rare architecture, legendary lore, and its flora. Two hundred illustrations prepared expressly for this work online

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Online LibraryEdmund BoggLower Wharfeland: the old city of York and the Ainsty, the region of historic memories. Being a description of its picturesque features, history, antiquities, rare architecture, legendary lore, and its flora. Two hundred illustrations prepared expressly for this work → online text (page 3 of 36)
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gently rising hills and little dells, the soil is of rich cultivation. To the east,
between the Wharfe and Ouse, it is almost flat, which might, with justice,
be termed the fat lands, abounding in excellent pasture. If not wildly
picturesque, yet from the hill ground of the Ainsty beautiful landscapes,
fruitful of corn and grass, recede over the vale of York to the Humber
on the one side and to the Hambletons on the other. In its sylvan
touches, its meadows, woods, hedgerows and homesteads, it cannot be

We will commence our wanderings in Ainsty on the south, the land
lying between the old Roman causeway and the Wharfe. Passing Oxton
and Steeton Grange we reach Steeton, one of the original homes of the
earlier Fairfaxes. Situated some three miles east of Tadcaster and less
than a mile from the York road is Steeton Hall, now a farmhouse. In the
Norman time the place was called Stiveton, and previous to it passing to
the Fairfaxes it was held by a family of the above name. A William
Wilks de Stiveton gave to the nunnery at Appleton one oxgang of land
here, with half a toft and croft.

This embattled residence was built by Sir Guy Fairfax during
the Wars of the Roses. He married Isabella Ryther, of Ryther, grand-
daughter of Chief Justice Gascoigne. Sir Guy and Isabella were
grandparents to Sir William, of romantic marriage fame, from which
union sprang those terrible Fairfaxes' Fighting Tom,' etc., of whom the
aged peasants relate such wonderful tales. What a strange story might
be written concerning the career of those early Fairfaxes ! Even the wooing
and home-coming of their brides, daughters of the surrounding magnates,


would in itself form a fine subject. T ne grandson of the founder of Steeton
waxed so rich in lands and chattels that on his death two Fairfax families
sprang into existence. His eldest son received Denton and Nunappleton,
besides property in York. Gabriel, the younger, inherited Steeton and
Bilbrough. Sir William was carried to the grave by fourteen poor men in
black gowns, lighted by fourteen torches. He sleeps by the side of his dear
wife Isabella, in the choir of Bolton Percy Church,

With other relics, the old chapel, which stood on the east front of the
house and consecrated by Archbishop Rotheram, 1473, is entirely swept
away; the ground it occupied is now a garden. The old house has been much
altered, it formerly consisted of a centre and two wings, the centre alone
remains. Just inside the hall is a stone table, which belonged to the earlier
Fairfaxes. Portions of the moat and walls remain, and the original gateway
to the chapel. On the east window of the chapel were emblazoned the
arms of the " Percy and Lucy, Beaumont, Neville, Hastings, Scrope, Ryther,
Manners, Aske, Fitzwilliam, Hungate, and Fairfax."* Underneath these
arms was the figure of Sir Nicholas Fairfax, the peerless knight, attired in
complete armour, with a long black gown descending from his shoulders
to the ground and embroidered with the cross of his order, in his right
hand a spear, his left rests on a shield. The writer was told that several
skeletons have been found near the house : probably the chapel had a grave-
yard attached, or otherwise the place must have been the scene of some
skirmish. The house was enlarged in 1595, and their coat of arms, carved
in stone, was placed over the doorway. When the family removed to
Newton Kyme, this stone was brought also, and built into the wall above
the hall door ; and I think the same stone has been removed to Bil-
brough, and until the old hall was demolished at the latter place in 1901
was there to be seen in front of the mansion, the residence of Guy Fairfax,
Esq.f It is now situated in the wall of the south front of the new Hall,
which so charmingly overlooks the Fairfax country.

Steeton in Domesday : " In Stivetun one carucate, in this land there
may be one plough."

* Sir William Fayrfax writing from Stetou to Cromwell, 22ud January, 1537, gives a
very doleful account of clerical government in his district. The houses of religion not sup-
pressed make friends and "wag" the poor to stick hard to the old order of things, and the
monks who were suppressed inhabit the villages round their houses and daily "wag" the
people to put them in again.

t See Clement Markham's History of the Fairfaxes.


Colton, half a mile to the east, possesses no distinctive feature. It
stands on slightly rising ground above the low-lying Haggs. In the
meadows east of the village there is a moated site. At the west end,
situated among trees, is a rather picturesque hall. In the reign of Henry
VII., Henry Oughtred, of Kexby, in consideration of the right good counsel
to him, given by William Fairfax, did, for the pleasure of the said William,
grant to him and his heirs free liberty and license to hunt and hawk in the
manor and town of Colton, with license to fish and fowl therein, for this
privilege rendering one red rose at Midsummer only. Verily these Fairfaxes
seem to have had an abundance of good things.

In our path to Bolton Percy, we pass on the last spur of the wolds of
the Ainsty Brumber Grange, a farmhouse on a very noticeable site, and

Hornington Manor more to
the south. Both places are
of very ancient foundation.
In the terminal "ber" in
Brumber Grange and Brum-
ber Field we have the
unchanged Norse word, which
signifies a farmstead. Horning-
ton is of Anglian foundation,
and is mentioned in Domes-
day. In the heyday of their
prosperity it belonged to the
Rythers of Ryther.

On the south-west corner
of Ainsty, intersected by cul-
vert and dyke, which discharge
the waters into Catterton Foss
Drain, a stream rising in the
land just to the north of Heal-
augh, thence crosses under
the York road at Bow Bridge,
passes Hornington, hereabouts
shaded by willow garth and
C.ATI-.XVAY, STKKTON HAM,. osier holt, enters the Wliarfe

near Bolton Percy.

Bolton Percy is an Anglian foundation, a botl, the word meaning an
edifice of superior construction. This place has not only length of days, as


its history, but also great ecclesiastical dignity. It would be known and, no
doubt, used by the Romans when they held their camp at High and Low
" Ac-ceaster." In the Norman survey, Bodeltun is returned under two
entries, both as of the land of William-de-Perci. But there appears to have
been much dispute about the division of land hereabouts, for the men of the
Ainsty affirm they have known William Malet to have been possessed of
much of the land in Ainsty, and the men attached to the land considered
themselves as his vassals. For instance, fifteen oxgangs in Horninctum
(Hornington) were held by William-de-Percy, but which the men of the
Wapentake declare that " Malet" ought to have. This William Malet held
the Shrievalty in 1069, at the time York was burnt by the Danes. So even then
Bolton was a suitable residence for the Sheriff of Yorkshire. The dispute
did not end with the above claim, but seemed to have waxed stronger, for
Osbern-de- Arches also affirms that his ancestor, Gilbert d'Aufay, held some
portions of this princely domain, to wit, land in Apeltune, Stivetun, Horn-
ington, Oxeton-Coleton, and Torp, &c.

Gilbert d'Aufay was a near relative of the Conqueror, who held him in
great favour, bestowing on him princely estates of the conquered people.
But his mind seems to have been adverse to this kind of annexation, and
he disliked the acceptance of land which by right belonged to another. So
strong was his determination on this point, and so unalterable his will, that
he returned to Normandy without keeping in his possession a single acre of
English soil. But that which Gilbert renounced, Osbern-de-Archis, a
younger kinsman, seems to have gladly accepted, choosing for his seat
Thorp, which, by the addition of his name, " D'Archis," in due time became
known as Thorparch.

The names of some of the owners of land dwelling in this part of the
Ainsty in the pre-Conquest era are very interesting. For instance, Ulchil
Archel, son of Ulstan, Godwin, son of Edric, Ulf the Deacon, Ode, Alwin,
Goisfred, and Susa. These men became vassals to the conquerors on their
own land.

One of the manors in the Bodeltun survey had been in the possession
of Norman, who held some six hundred acres of plough land. Ample
assurance of long and skilful cultivation, its value in King Edward's time
had been 6os. When the Normans took possession, its value had fallen to
155., the result of the vengeance of an angry invader.

At Bodeltun was a church and priest. Around the precincts of the church,
however, there seems to have been comparative peace, and the value of the


land only fell slightly. The record states : value in King Edward's time, 403.,
now 305. At its foundation it was one of the two churches in the Ainsty
district. Its authority stretched from Acaster, the water-fort, to Healaugh,
the holy district. We need not wonder, then, that to-day Bolton Percy
church has almost the dignity of a Cathedral. Such dignity has always
been the right of its existence, and may justly claim to be the evidence of
its first foundation. Bolton Church was transferred to the Archbishop of
York on the 28th of December, 1250 ; the desirability of the transfer was
enhanced by the value of the living, then, as now, of great consideration.

The present structure was erected by Thomas Parker, rector of the
parish, from his institution, 26th of June, 1411, to his death in 1423, as
stated on a tombstone bearing an inscription to that effect, which stone has
since perished :

" ^>rafe pro ^Sbontas jS?arher, quondam
^Icctorc bit inc. eccl ac ejusbem fabricators."

Neither slcill nor money have been spared in the reconstruction. Unfor-
tunately, the pious builder did not live to see the dedication of his work,
which was performed by the Bishop of Dromore, July, 1424. The church is
a magnificent perpendicular structure, with massive tower and pinnacled
battlements. The exterior of this edifice is rich in architecture, and very
interesting, the interior consisting of nave, side aisles, and large chancel.
The nave is separated from its aisles on either side by four pointed arches
resting on three slender octagonal pillars. The roof is of oak, and though of
considerable span without the beams, it is aver}' good example of wood roofing.
The stalls are of oak, and much marked, said to have been caused by
Cromwell's soldiers sharpening their swords. On the south side of the
chancel is a most perfect specimen of a " Sedilia " and piscina, of beautiful
design and finish. The brasses from the sedilia and other parts of the church
were removed by the rough hands of despoilers, tradition says during the
Civil War, yet it is hardly credible that the Fairfaxes, who were preservers,
would have allowed such sacrilege in the burial-place of their ancestors.

The glory of the church is the beautifully restored east window, in
which are preserved many fragments of rare old glass, containing the
armorial bearings of ancient families. Two windows in the north aisle,
facsimiles of ancient glass, and picturesque in treatment, are also worthy of
inspection ; also the Jacobean pews, pulpit, miserere seats, Norman font
and cover, and the noble chancel arch.


Built in the walls of the south aisle by the entrance porch is the holy
water basin, a receptacle for holy or hallowed water, a usage of the Romish

Church. The
holy water
basin was not
placed at the
entrance to the
church in early
Saxon days,
but dates from
the period when
Rome gained
complete ascen-
dency over the
Anglo - British
Church. Many
were the mira-
cles supposed
to be performed
by the use of
holy water,
such as the
curing of des-
perate diseases, the- driving away of demons, and the changing of human
beings into animals, &c.

A large stone at the west end of the nave is to the memory of Agnes-
de-Ridre, a prioress of the Nunnery of Nunappleton. This stone was
missing for many years, and when found was being used as a drain cover.*

* " There appears to have beeii some disagreement or friction between Sir W. Fairfax
and James Moyser, in 1597. Sir W. Fairfax, the younger, then living at Nuuappletou, came
out of the quire (called St. Marie's, or Beckwith's) into the body of the church, and there,
in very good and orderly manner, desired on behalf of Mr. James Moyser, the said Mr.
Moyser not then and there denying it, that we (the parson, the churchwardens, and others
of the chief of the palish) w ? ould advise and settle of some convenient place for the said Mr.
Moyser and his company, wherein to sit and be in time for divine service and sermons.
Whereupon the same afternoon, after evening prayers, it was agreed that the next Sabbath
or Sunday, we should talk about it, that such of the parties as would, should there come and
help forward the matter the best that they could, which was agreed to by the parson, all the
churchwardens, and many other neighbours, nobody then speaking anything at all against




Hung in the north wall, writ on parchment and framed, is a record
which informs the reader that one James Moyser, of Appleton, left seventy
shillings yearly to be paid to the above town, and he wished this act of his
should be writ on parchment, framed and hung up in the church to remind
his heirs that they should perform it. He died 2ist of January, 1694.

The bell chamber contains three very fine bells, known respectively as
the Steeton, Col ton, and Nunappleton bells. The tenor has an exceedingly
beautiful tone, and was brought from St. Andrew's College, Nether Acaster.

[n: <;


The eastern extremity of the north aisle was anciently the Brockett's
choir, but is generally known as the Steeton Chapel. The Hrockett's choir
still retains in its name the memory of a family who for generations were
members of this church ; although the hall at Appleton where they resided
has long since disappeared. Members of the famed Vavasour race have also



worshipped at this shrine and rest within its portals. Their arms were
formerly to be seen painted on the oak panelling of the pews. At the west
end of the north aisle is the north or ' devil's door.' In olden time it was
supposed that the evil one always took flight through this door when a child
received baptism, hence ' Devil's door.'

The stranger who knows the history of this place cannot but be im-
pressed by the hallowed associations and stirring memories of its venerable
sanctuary. It is an interesting study for the artist and antiquary. Here,
musing in the twilight, dim figures of the past seem to flit before our inward
vision, carrying the mind back to the days of old romance, for the place was
, frequented by the

I | elite of the chival-

ry of the north
the Percys,
Vavasours and
Beaumonts, the
Lucys, Nevilles,
Scropes, Rythers,
Hungates, and
Thwaites. To the
Fairfaxes it is a
hallowed shrine,
the breezes sigh-
i n g through
branches are whis-
pering memories
of this notable
family of warriors
and statesmen.
Hither they led

their happy brides to the altar, and hither they were brought for burial. Tread
where you may within the precincts of this church, you stand on or beside
the grave of a Fairfax. Some are interred in the Steeton chapel, as the
mural tablets testify. In their testamentary instructions, some ' will' their
bodies to be laid to rest in St. Nicholas' ' Quere,' some in the body of the
church, whilst others are satisfied to sleep in the churchyard, where the
sunshine may play awhile on their graves, and the birds carol from the
branches of trees overhead. Lord Ferdinand Fairfax, of Denton, wills to




be buried in the body of the church near his wife. Here sleeps Sir Guy,
the founder of Steeton ; here in St. Nicholas' ' Quere,' rests all that is
mortal of Sir William : " He was borne to the tomb by fourteen poore
men in black gowns, lighted by fourteen torches." What a memorable
and striking scene this would present ! He sleeps beside his wife, the
beautiful Isabella Thwaites, the heroine of the romantic marriage to be told
in the following pages. Here also are biiried another Sir William and his
wife Mabel. Hither also was borne to the grave ' Frances,' the aged Lady
Fairfax, who for 50 years had lived ' Mistress of Steeton,' surviving her



gallant husband (Sir William) for forty-eight years. He fell in the siege of
Montgomery Castle. His troops were wavering. To retrieve the disaster, he
dashed single-handed into the thick of the enemy, his good sword, flashing
like Excalibur right and left, carving a path through the rank of hostile
pikes. ' It was a deed,' says one, ''worthy of Arthur's fabled knights.'
Spurred to desperation by the heroic conduct of their gallant chief, the men
of Craven swept forward like an avalanche to victory. Never chieftain died
more gloriously in battle than he. He fell literally pierced with mortal
wounds. It was his lady who returned such a noble answer to the messages


of condolence from his companions in arms : ' She grieved not that he died
in the cause, but that he died so soon that he could not do more for it.'
William, who died in 1694, was the last of the Fairfaxes of Steeton. He is
also buried at Bolton.

The church is situated amidst beautiful pastoral ; magnificent trees wave
benediction of branches over half the churchyard. In the west retaining wall
are several fine blocks of Huddleston stone, on which are good specimens of
masons' marks. There were signatures clearly cut on the face of the hewn stone
by which each craftsman's work could be identified. This practice of each mason
marking his work was at its height in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,
and gradually fell into disuse during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.


In this and other walls adjoining are fragments of an earlier church. The
rectory grounds are very picturesque with fine foliage, ivy and creepers
trained over timbered corridors having all the charm of the loggia of Italian
convents, and, with the quaint so-called tithe barn adjacent, forms a tout
ensemble of unique beauty.

The tithe barn is where a tenth of the produce of the land was stored
for the benefit of the church. Even in the early days of the church,


objections were raised to the paying of tithes. The laws of Ina, king of
the West Saxons, which are the earliest known, were made for the assess-
ment upon lands and houses for a provision of the church. Money being
scarce, the payments were generally made in kind, grain, seed, cattle, poultry,

hence the use of tithe
barns. Defaulters were
fined forty shillings and
'made to pay the tithes

In the churchyard by
the side of the south wall
is a noticeable tombstone,
inscribed with a long
array of family names,
beginning with William
Houseman inthe sixteenth
century and continuing
with his descendants
down to the present cen-
tury. Built in the east
wall of the churchyard is
a large boulder of Shap
granite, no doubt trans-
ported hither by the tre-
mendous natural agencies
of the Glacial period.

There are a few vestiges
of a fortified hall remain-
ing at Bolton, although

such a house did at one time the name Hall Garth is sufficient evidence
exist. The most likely site is at the north-east end of the church, a
situation encompassed by a moat without difficulty.

* The returns for the Nona taxation, made about 1332, complete the evidence of retro-
gression. The church of Bolton Percy is taxed at ,40 ; the jurors say this is too much, as
the nona or ninth of garbs, fleeces and lamb of the whole parish in that year is not worth
more than ,30, the greatest murrain lasting that year among two-year-old sheep ; the tithe
of hay is worth seven marks ; oblations and letiten tithes eight marks. Rithre is taxed
at ,20 and the jurors declare that, including a fifteenth of the 'goods of the trades,' the
taxation is just. It appears from the above valuation there was not residing in Bolton
Percy a single inhabitant, save those living by agriculture.



The village still retains a few thatched and other primitive dwellings.
A little stream flowing from the middle land of Ainsty ripples its way
through orchards, willow beds, and gardens to the bosom of mother
Wharfe. On spring days, when the orchards are in blossom, this village is
a bower of beauty. Gentle swells and hollows, green lanes, fertile meadows,
and old paths wind by quaint homesteads, garths, and enclosures, across a
rustic bridge, up to the church and magnificent fan-armed elm (seen in our
picture), with a quaint conventionality suggestive of the set Valentine of the
earlv Victorian era.



walk from Bolton to Nun Appleton is delightful meadow and
woodland glade on either hand, the road leading through a fine avenue
of oaks, a remainder of the Appleton Forest of old time belonging to
the Percys. Here are some magnificent examples. In a recess by the road-
side is I,ady Milner oak, a noble tree in its infancy before Angle, Dane, or
Norman trod the Ainsty, in their invasion of the Celtic kingdom. The tree
is hollow and upwards of forty feet in girth at the base, and it was for years
used as a post office for Nnn Appleton. The crook to which the letter bags
were affixed still remains in the hollow of the tree. Another fine oak is
in Sicklepit wood, its bole thirty feet round.

Continuing our journey we enter the park and cross the Fleet, a stream
better known as the Foss (the Roman Fossa) ; taking its rise in the vicinity
of Knavesmire, it runs a fairly direct eight miles course south and enters
the Wharfe a few yards west of Nun Appleton Hall. The land lying
between the Foss and Ouse, bordered on the south by the Wharfe, was the
Roman Valcester, the garden of the Imperial City, when the Emperors dwelt
there ; this subject to be dealt with later. A stone built in the bridge which
spans the Fleet bears the initials of Guido Fairfax.

The foundation of Nun Appleton, 1150-4, is due to a pious spirit which
became manifest soon after the Conquest by the Normans. The piety and
grandeur of soul displayed by Gilbert d'Aufay when he refused to accept
the lands wrested from a conquered and enslaved people, seem to have been
inherited by his race, for Agnes de Archis, daughter of Osbern, of the above
name, a kinsman of Gilbert, founded the nunnery of Keelynge. She was
successively the wife of three husbands, one of whom was Herbert St.
Quintin ; their daughter Adeliza, or Alise St. Quintin, married Robert, son
of Hulk Fitz-Reimfrid, a knight of the Percy Fee. Actuated by the inherited


spirit of piety, Adeliza founded the nunnery of Appleton in the lifetime of her
mother. Next to the honour and glory of bearing arms in the Crusades was
the strong desire of the Norman to build churches and endow monasteries.
The priory for Cistercian nuns was dedicated to St. Mary and St. James the
Apostle. The site was not the most alluring that could have been selected.
The land about it, on both sides of the river, was partly essarted, that is,

(E. Bogg.


ridded of trees, and partly not; but within boundaries then set out by
Adeliza herself, three tenants, Hugh, Siward, and William (notable names),
were displaced to make way for the nuns. It was undoubtedly a wet and
forlorn station, though subject to only limited inundation ; but when that
very high-born lady and her knightly son marked out the limits, naturally
moated, as it were, by swamp, river, and foss, she gave her foundation all the
prestige of her own high position and handed over an estate which should
house her nuns in admitted power of place.

C i



From the birth to the dissolution of this Prioressory the nuns of Appleton
were women of the most exalted rank and distinguished families ; still their
social status, religious life and high estate do not appear to have made them
armour-proof against the many sins to which flesh is heir, and there certainly
appears to have been serious laxity in their morals to have called down upon


Online LibraryEdmund BoggLower Wharfeland: the old city of York and the Ainsty, the region of historic memories. Being a description of its picturesque features, history, antiquities, rare architecture, legendary lore, and its flora. Two hundred illustrations prepared expressly for this work → online text (page 3 of 36)