A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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When Northumbria was ravaged by the Danes in the 9th century the monks who bore the bones of St. Cuthbert from Lindisfarne halted at South Cowton. (fn. 1) In 1086 there were three contiguous hamlets afterwards known as North, South and East Cowton. Subsequently two other settlements, Atlow Cowton and Temple Cowton, were formed between these three Cowtons, and as Atlow Cowton lies east of North and South Cowton it was sometimes called East Cowton before it merged in the last-named, while East Cowton itself, as shown above, occasionally took its title from the Templars' lands that lay within its bounds and also enjoyed the qualifications of 'Great' and 'Long.' This confusion led Gale to note: 'Atlowecouton. Villa eadem quae et East Cowton.' (fn. 2) The parish lies geographically in the vale of Mowbray, though it was never part of the fee of the barons of Mowbray. The ground is richly wooded and comparatively low and level, the height varying from about 160 ft. to 190 ft. The road from North Cowton in Gilling parish runs east through East Cowton and ascends to Great Smeaton, from which fine views are to be obtained over 'the vale.'
At Northallerton, 5 miles south-east of East Cowton, the English forces were assembled in 1138 against David I of Scotland, and on Cowton Moor was fought the battle of the Standard, (fn. 3) where 10,000 Scots are said to have been slain; there in Gale's time were still to be seen trenches that bore the name of the 'Scots Pits.' (fn. 4) In 1300 Edward I, who at this time made York his capital and was advancing with a new army against Robert Bruce, stayed at Temple Cowton. (fn. 5)
The area of the parish is 3,369 acres, and about a fourth of the whole area is grazing ground. The subsoil is red sandstone and marls, the soil clay and gravel. The chief crops are wheat, oats and barley.
The village lies irregularly along the road, with narrow strips of grass in places, with a slight descent at the western end, where one branch leads south through the park to Pepper Arden House, the main road continuing past the rectory to the small church, which stands in an exposed position on a slope half a mile to the west of the village.
A National school was erected in 1842 and a Primitive Methodist chapel in 1903. The inhabitants are mainly engaged in agricultural pursuits. Cowton station is on the main line of the NorthEastern railway, about a mile north-east of the village.
The following place-names, among others, occur in 1240–1: Mikeleighflat, Wigenholm, Heyricotes, Ukkemannenge, Ellekelde, Wedholmes, Walthesdile, Stapelhilles, Castelland, Cotegrene, Thurkilbergh, Novasbreches, Vetlesbreches, Cokelbergh and Redholmes. (fn. 6)
EAST COWTON belonged in the time of the Confessor to Torchil, from whom it passed at the Conquest to Landric the man of Count Alan. (fn. 7) It was ever afterwards held directly of the lords of Richmond, its owners doing suit at the court of Richmond every three weeks. (fn. 8) From some time in the reign of Stephen (fn. 9) to the end of the 12th century it was held as one fee (and must have included South Cowton, (fn. 10) q.v.) by Conan son of Elias, who, again, was son of Theophania daughter of Roald the Constable. (fn. 11) Conan was probably seneschal of the lord of Richmond, and had, like other household officers a station at Richmond Castle, his being at the east, outside the wall and close to the court of the keep. (fn. 12) Conan had no children, and his inheritance was divided between his aunts Beatrice, Parnel and Constance. (fn. 13) William de Lascelles, son of Parnel, and Elias de Crakehall, son of Constance, (fn. 14) granted their parts to their heir Sir Richard Fitton (fn. 15) of Bollin in Cheshire; but the part of Beatrice, who married one of the family of Hornby, was retained by her descendants until her greatgrandson Thomas de Hornby (fn. 16) in 1241 granted half of one third of the capital messuage and fish-pond to Sir Richard Fitton (fn. 17) in exchange for a quitclaim in Smeaton. (fn. 18) This Sir Richard was seneschal of the Earl of Richmond for eighteen years in the time of Ranulph Earl of Chester (fn. 19) (1181–1232). (fn. 20) His descendants (fn. 21) held East Cowton (fn. 22) until his greatgrandson John gave it to William Clervaux of Croft for life, (fn. 23) and in 1324 confirmed the reversion to him. (fn. 24) From this time until 1548 the Clervaux family of Croft (q.v.) held East Cowton. (fn. 25) Richard Clervaux obtained a grant of free warren in February 1477–8. (fn. 26)
In 1548 John Clervaux conveyed the manor and advowson to George Dakyns, (fn. 27) presumably a connexion of the benefactor of Kirkby Ravensworth Hospital and School (fn. 28); in 1577–8 George, son and heir of George Dakyns and Elizabeth Mary otherwise Mary his wife, made a settlement of the manor, (fn. 29) and in 1622 Arthur Dakyns and Elizabeth his wife conveyed it to Sir Henry Anderson, kt. (fn. 30) The new owner of East Cowton was possibly a very turbulent and certainly a very unfortunate person. He wished to buy from one Bacon, the lessee of the hospital, the lease of East Cowton advowson, which Dr. John Dakyns had granted to the hospital at Kirkby Ravensworth, and, when Bacon refused, he connived at his agents cudgelling and beating Bacon with staves and pitchforks and bidding him 'get out of the town, like a skipjack fellow as he was, or else he should be beaten out'; but, instead of making the village too hot to hold Bacon, he found himself, his son and two of their agents committed to the Fleet, and was heavily fined and forced to pay £100 to Bacon as indemnity. Crippled by debt, in about 1640 he leased East Cowton to Richard Remington of Lund and his brother Sir Thomas Remington of Beverley as security for a loan of £1,000. In 1650, while still in the Fleet and 'without means to pay his debts or to subsist,' he was charged with having been about Northampton with Royalist proclamations, and was committed to the Tower. Absolved on this account, he for some time remained a prisoner for debt. (fn. 31) In 1662 his son Henry Anderson and others sold the manor to Thomas Earl of Elgin, Lord Whorlton. (fn. 32) Robert Earl of Aylesbury and Elgin and others in 1667 conveyed the manor to John Lord Belasyse, (fn. 33) whose only surviving daughter and heir Barbara married Sir John Webb of Great Canford in Dorset and Odstock in Wilts., third baronet. (fn. 34) From her it has descended to Lady Chermside of Newstead Abbey, Notts., second daughter of the late Frederick William Webb and the present lady of the manor.
In 1240–1 Robert Chambard, an under-tenant in East Cowton, (fn. 35) granted 6 oxgangs of land to the Knights of the Temple (fn. 36); this seems to have been the only land held here by them, and to have formed the manor of TEMPLE COWTON, the custody of which was granted at the dissolution of the order to Duncan Makduyl. (fn. 37) Temple Cowton was granted with the other lands of the Templars to the Hospitallers, who in the early 16th century held 'the lordship of Felixkirk and Temple Cowton.' (fn. 38) The order lost these lands at the Dissolution, but in 1558 Philip and Mary restored to them the capital messuage. It was again seized by the Crown, and in 1568 was granted in fee to Percival Bowes and John Moysier. (fn. 39) Probably this land was sold to Cuthbert Pepper, for in 1567 he bought seven-eighths of a messuage from Sir George Bowes, (fn. 40) and in 1608 Sir Cuthbert Pepper died seised of the reversion of the capital messuage of Temple Cowton with 180 acres of land, then held for life by Dame Margaret Dakyns. (fn. 41) The Templars' lands were held by John Arderne in the middle of the 18th century. (fn. 42)
In 1205 St. Mary's Abbey, York, had a grange in this parish, (fn. 43) and kept it until their dissolution. (fn. 44) Of their capital messuage here Brian Smithson died seised in 1633, (fn. 45) and was succeeded by his son Christopher. (fn. 46) The Abbot of Fountains also held lands in Magna Cowton. (fn. 47)
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN consists of a chancel 17 ft. 7 in. by 13 ft. 2 in., with a small north vestry, nave 34 ft. 3 in. by 19 ft. 3 in., south porch, and a tiny brick tower 4 ft. 10 in. by 4 ft. 6 in., inside measurements.
The church appears to date from the 14th century, although it is not improbable that there is earlier work in the walling of the nave; but it has been so much altered in its details since its erection that there is no original detail left except in the chancel. It is now a mean-looking little building, and being at some distance from the village, and in a bad state of repair, has been abandoned in favour of a new church built in the village.
The east window appears to have old tracery of three trefoiled lights with mullions crossing in the head; the label outside is of plain section and has mask stops. To the north of the window is a moulded image bracket, and to the south part of a projecting string-course of red sandstone, very much decayed. The only opening in the north wall is a modern doorway into the vestry; the latter is of brick. The south-east window of the chancel is now blocked; it was a single light, but of what form cannot now be seen. The south-west window was a low-side window, but its lower part is now filled in; it is a single square-headed light with a segmental rear arch. The walls of the chancel are of rubble, plastered outside and in. The roof is modern. The chancel arch is apparently of 14th-century date; the jambs and arch are of two chamfered orders, the bases are buried, and the moulded capitals have been more or less recut. On the soffit of the arch is a groove which received the former boarding behind the rood loft.
All the windows of the nave have wood frames of 18th-century or later date, generally with brick jambs. At the west end is a wooden gallery. The south doorway is modern. The south porch is of brick. In the west wall is a small square-headed doorway into the turret, and over it the round head of a former window, now blocked by the tower. The brick 'tower' is open from the ground, and is lighted near the top by small round-headed windows; it used to contain two bells, one of which has now been transferred to the new church.
The font is of 12th-century date, cylindrical in form, with a cable mould and edge roll at the top and zigzag carving on the sides. One of its old staples remains, and it shows signs of having once been painted. There is an 18th-century altar-table and panelling, also a 'three-decker' pulpit.
A piece of an early 14th-century coffin-lid is used as a chancel step; it has leaf carving on its chamfered edge. In the churchyard east of the church is another long slab with a cross carved upon it, having a floreated head, and leaves on both sides of the stem.
The advowson of the church afterwards known as that of St. Mary of Cowton was given by Conan son of Elias to Bridlington Priory, and his gift was confirmed by Pope Eugenius and King Stephen (fn. 48); a charter of Henry II confirmed the gift as that of Eustace son of John, (fn. 49) the ancestor of the family of Vescy, (fn. 50) but this is the only known record connecting that family with this place. In 1330, with the consent of the Prior and convent of Bridlington, of the Bishop of Coventry and the Chancellor of Lincoln, the Archbishop of York assigned the church for life to a canon of Bridlington, who was to pay 3 marks yearly to the prior and convent. A vicarage was ordained in 1272, and in 1292 the church was said to be appropriated to the Prior of Bridlington. (fn. 51) Bridlington Priory held the church (fn. 52) until at the Dissolution it passed to the Crown. Although no grant of it to him has been found, the advowson must have come into the hands of John Clervaux, for in 1548 he sold it to George Dakyns. (fn. 53) Two years later the king granted it to John Bellows and William Fuller, (fn. 54) who were probably fishing grantees, as the Dakyns certainly purchased the advowson (fn. 55) and gave it to the new hospital and school at Kirkby Ravensworth as provision for the schoolmaster after ten years' services and when he became old and decrepit. (fn. 56) The patronage has from this time (fn. 57) to the present day been exercised by the Warden and Poor People of the hospital.
A dispute between the Prior and convent of Bridlington and Sir Richard Fitton and Sir Hugh his son was brought to an end in 1240, when it was decided that the Fittons should pay tithes to the mother-church of Cowton, and should have at their own costs a chantry in the chapel of St. James in this parish. (fn. 58) Of this chapel there is no subsequent mention.