A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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Kirkby Fleetham is a parish covering a little more than 3,000 acres and lying between the River Swale, which forms its eastern boundary, and the Roman road which joins Catterick and Boroughbridge. The ground rises from east to west, and the road, which is at a height of 200 ft. above the ordnance datum, is here called High Street. Parallel with it and linked here and there by lanes is another road known as Low Street, on a level about 50 ft. lower.
The population of the parish in 1901 was 579. (fn. 1) Its industries are chiefly agricultural, though there is a brewery at the 'Lane Ends,' where Low Street is met by a lane running westward from the village. More than two-thirds of the total area is pasture land. (fn. 2) The soil is various, the subsoil partly alluvium and partly Keuper Marls.
There were at one time two distinct villages here, Kirkby and Fleetham. Of the houses of the former nothing now remains. Its situation was almost certainly in the north of the parish, where the church of St. Mary now stands, at the foot of wooded slopes on the western bank of a small tributary of the Swale, probably on the site of the church which existed at Kirkby at the time of the Domesday Survey. Near it is Kirkby Hall, the residence of the lord of the manor, which stands in a large and well-wooded park. A small stream rises here and flows south-west into the Swale.
A narrow strip of woodland runs southward in a curve from the site of Kirkby to the village once known as Fleetham, and now called Kirkby Fleetham. A lane about half a mile in length, and forming an arc of the curve, connects them more directly. The village consists of a group of houses, mainly of brick with tiled roofs, inclosing an oblong green at the centre of which four roads cross. The rectory is on the north side of it and the school at its west corner, where Lumley Lane runs westward to join Low Street. Another lane running south to Great and Little Fencote passes the remains of the old hall, identical, no doubt, with the dwelling-place which Henry le Scrope obtained licence to crenellate in 1314. (fn. 3) These remains consist of a flat raised platform, roughly circular and about 140 ft. in diameter. On the north a moat separates this portion from an outwork which would have formed the approach to the village. On the west also the moat is well defined and separates the central portion from a piece of raised ground lying immediately to the west. On the south and east sides there are no traces of moat or outworks, the low-lying ground probably forming a natural swamp in that direction. On the north side of the central mound remain about 45 ft. of masonry 10 ft. to 15 ft. in height, which formed part of the external wall of the inner fortifications. This is built of moderate-sized rubble, the facing of which has been entirely removed. To the east of this, on the opposite side of the moat, is a low portion of similar walling about 65 ft. in length. The remains are too fragmentary to give any idea as to the date or plan of the building.
Further along the lane is Fleetham Mill, mentioned in the 17th century. (fn. 4) It is worked by Mill Beck, a tributary of the Swale. Great Fencote is a small village of brick or rough-cast houses grouped irregularly round the road with some small grass spaces. The modern church of St. Andrew stands at the junction of three roads at the south end of the village, and is a chapel of ease to Kirkby Fleetham. There is also a Wesleyan chapel in the village. Hardly a quarter of a mile further south is the less important hamlet of Little Fencote.
The 'manor' and 3 carucates at KIRKBY in the time of King Edward were held by Eldred, a Saxon, who retained them under Count Alan in 1086. (fn. 5) Eldred had a son Gospatric, whose daughter Godareda succeeded to his lands, (fn. 6) but it is not clear who was her heir. At the end of the 13th century William Giffard held a mesne lordship here which subsequently lapsed. (fn. 7)
The tenants in demesne were the family of Stapleton (fn. 8) of Stapleton (fn. 9) (q.v.), which Kirkby followed in descent until 1514, when Sir Thomas Metham let the manor with all his lands in Fleetham for forty-one years to William and Elizabeth Conyers, shortly afterwards granting it by another lease to William Belforth. (fn. 10) William Belforth in 1529 complained that Elizabeth Conyers, 'accompanied by twelve other evil-disposed persons,' made an unlawful assembly at his manor of Kirkby, drove him out, and occupied the manor. (fn. 11) Elizabeth, now a widow, replied that Kirkby had been leased to her and her husband for forty-one years, but that on the death of William Conyers William Belforth, 'intending to compel Elizabeth to marry him, caused Thomas Metham to grant him a lease of the said manor.' 'Wherefore,' it is added, 'Belforth continually vexes Elizabeth.' (fn. 12)
The heir of this Thomas Metham was his son, another Thomas, (fn. 13) who with his son sold the manor in 1600 to Leonard Smelt. (fn. 14) Leonard died in or about 1627 and was succeeded by his son Matthew. (fn. 15) Matthew had a son Leonard, who was living in 1665 and died in 1690. (fn. 16) His son (fn. 17) Leonard Smelt, M.P. for Northallerton, was described as 'of Kirkby Fleetham' on his death in 1740. (fn. 18) In 1752 the manor was in the possession of John Aislabie, (fn. 19) whose lands were inherited by his daughter, wife of William Laurence. (fn. 20) The manor remained in the possession of the family till 1845, when a Miss Laurence died, leaving it to H. E. Waller. (fn. 21) He sold it in 1889 to Edward Courage, from whom it passed to Mr. E. H. Courage, the present owner.
The two 'manors' at FLEETHAM held before the Conquest by Gamel and Uctred respectively were both in 1086 held of Count Alan by Odo the Chamberlain, (fn. 22) and afterwards formed part of 'the chamberlain's fee.' (fn. 23) Like the rest of the fee, Fleetham was divided in the 13th century, and before 1301 John Coleman had sold his share to Henry le Scrope of Bolton. (fn. 24) It followed the descent of the manor of Castle Bolton (fn. 25) (q.v.), being held in 1628 by Emmanuel Lord Scrope Earl of Sunderland, who conveyed it to Thomas Lord Fauconberg and others. (fn. 26) In 1670 it was conveyed by William Darcy and his wife and George Darcy to Richard Smelt, (fn. 27) a younger brother of the lord of Kirkby, with which it united under the name of the manor of Kirkby Fleetham. (fn. 28) The share of the Fitz Henrys (fn. 29) is occasionally mentioned until the reign of Henry VII, when it consisted of six messuages and 2 carucates. (fn. 30) No further record of it has been found.
The Stapletons had a 'manor of Fletham,' which is first mentioned in 1304, (fn. 31) and followed the descent of their manor of Kirkby. (fn. 32) This may represent the third share of the chamberlain's fee which in 1283 was held by William Giffard. (fn. 32a)
Robert the Chamberlain confirmed a grant of 2 oxgangs here made by Ernald de Fletham to Marrick Priory. (fn. 33) Maud daughter of Robert granted 2 tofts of her fee in Fleetham, while Aliez de Cormarles granted 2 oxgangs in Fleetham, and John Coleman the services of his vassal Brian of Fleetham. (fn. 34) In 1286 the prioress was holding from time out of mind 2 oxgangs of Henry son of Conan, 2 of John Coleman and 9 in frankalmoign apparently of the chief lord of the fee. (fn. 35) In 1301–2 Henry le Scrope secured to the prioress common in the wood of Fleetham, (fn. 36) which apparently she had by the gift of Sir Miles Stapleton. The rent from the lands of the priory in Fleetham was 14s. at the Dissolution. (fn. 37)
GREAT FENCOTE with Little Fencote was in 1086 a berewick of Fleetham. (fn. 38) In 1286 (fn. 39) the family of Fitz Henry held a mesne lordship in Fencote, which is not mentioned after the 13th century.
The tenant in demesne in the early 13th century was Everard le Fraunceys, who acknowledged in 1234 that he owed to Ralph son of Henry certain services for his freehold in Fencotes. (fn. 42) Alan le Fraunceys, a descendant of Everard, received a grant of free warren here in 1270. (fn. 43) He still held Great Fencote in 1284, (fn. 44) but must have sold it shortly afterwards to William Lord Scrope, who obtained a grant of free warren here in 1296. (fn. 45)
Great Fencote remained in the possession of the Scropes of Bolton (fn. 46) (q.v.) until 1628, when it was conveyed by Emmanuel Lord Scrope Earl of Sunderland to Thomas Lord Fauconberg, Matthew Hutton and Thomas Harrison. (fn. 47) In 1634 it was conveyed by Sir William Bellasis and others to Matthew Smelt, with a warrant against the heirs of these three. (fn. 48) From this date it followed the descent of the manor of Kirkby Fleetham. (fn. 49)
LITTLE FENCOTE followed the descent of Great Fencote till the latter part of the 13th century. (fn. 50) The lord of Great Fencote had a mesne lordship there in 1286. (fn. 51) The tenants in demesne were the family of Holtby. (fn. 51a) In 1288 William de Holtby granted to Thomas Colvill 3 carucates of land in Fleetham and Little Fencote at an annual rent of £40. (fn. 52) Thomas Colvill had a grant of free warren here in 1307, (fn. 53) and was lord of the manor in 1316. (fn. 54) His successor, Sir John Colvill, kt., alienated the manor in 1342 to Thomas de Fencotes, (fn. 55) who already held tenements here. (fn. 56) It was settled on Thomas and Joan his wife in 1348. (fn. 57) There follows a gap in its history (fn. 58) lasting till 1510, when it was in the possession of William Nevill of Pickhill (fn. 59) (q.v.). The Nevills sold it in 1558 to Anthony Meynell, (fn. 60) who was still in possession in 1576. (fn. 61) Not quite twenty years after this it was in the possession of Lord Scrope of Bolton, with Great Fencote. (fn. 62) It thus became merged in that manor.
Land in Little Fencotes held both in demesne and service was granted to the Prioress of Marrick by Alan de Holtby, whose descendant William de Holtby confirmed the grant. (fn. 63)
The church of ST. MARY is almost entirely modern, and there is little in the building to give a clue to its previous history. It consists of a chancel measuring internally 34 ft. 2 in. by 19 ft. 10 in., with north vestry and organ chamber, nave 55 ft. 4 in. by 18 ft. 10 in., a north aisle 56 ft. 7 in. by 12 ft. 2 in. and south porch. The new work is mainly in the 14thcentury style. In the south wall of the chancel is a modern recessed ogee-headed tomb containing a 13th-century effigy of a knight in complete mail with leather knee pieces and a cap of mail, round which is a leather band; over all is a long surcoat fastened at the waist by a sword-belt, to which the sword is attached by interlaced leather work; the hands are in the attitude of prayer and the legs crossed. The figure probably represents the eldest son of the Sir Nicholas Stapleton who died in 1290, (fn. 64) the shield on his left arm being charged with a lion and a label of five points.
The walling of the exterior is modern, with the exception of the tower and north aisle; the former is massive, with diagonal buttresses of the full height ending in pinnacles, and an embattled parapet. There is an offset at the top stage, and the belfry windows, which have four-centred heads, are of three trefoiled lights. The modern west window of the ground stage is of three trefoiled lights with tracery. There is a stair at the south-east, and the lower stage has a ribbed stone vault with a central bell-way, the work being of the 15th century.
The present church of ST. ANDREW, Great Fencote, built in the style of the 13th century, consists of chancel and nave, north vestry, south porch and bellcote on the west gable. The east window is of three lights and the west window of two lights. There is an open wood roof throughout.
In 1086 there was a 'church with a priest' mentioned as at Fleetham, (fn. 65) though probably the church was in the vill of Kirkby. (fn. 66) In the 14th century it was called the church of Kirkby Fleetham, not of Fleetham. (fn. 67) The church belonged to the Knights Templars till the cession of the order in 1312, when it came into the king's hands. (fn. 68) Henry le Scrope, lord of Fleetham, appears then to have claimed the right of presentation, for in 1315 Nicholas Stapleton of Kirkby sued him for it, (fn. 69) and in the following year an arrangement was made by which Henry was to present in that year, Nicholas was to have the next presentation, and Henry the two following, subsequent patronage to be in this proportion. (fn. 70) This agreement can never have come into effect, however, as in 1334 the church was held of the king by Roger de Sheffield on a lease. (fn. 71) Shortly afterwards it must have been granted with other possessions of the Templars to the Knights Hospitallers, in whose hands it was in 1338. (fn. 72) It was appropriated to the Preceptory of Mount St. John, in Yorkshire. (fn. 73) At the Dissolution the advowson passed to the Crown, the patron until 1860, (fn. 74) when it passed by exchange to the Bishops of Ripon. (fn. 75)
At Great Fencote the Scropes in 1546 had a chantry, to which they presented the incumbent. (fn. 76) The chapel, then in the tenure of—Smelt, (fn. 77) was granted in 1576 to John Awbrey. At the beginning of the 18th century the 'rectory' of Great Fencote was in the possession of Leonard Smelt. (fn. 78) The living continued, however, to be a curacy of Kirkby Fleetham, and has the same patrons. (fn. 79)
It appears from a deed of feoffment dated 22 December 1712, and made between Leonard Smelt of the one part and Christopher Bridgewater, the then vicar of Kirkby Fleetham, and others of the other part, that Leonard Smelt, great-grandfather of the aforesaid Leonard Smelt, by his will devised for the use of the poor an annual payment of £1 6s. 8d., and that by the same deed, in lieu and in addition to the said annual payment, the aforesaid Leonard Smelt enfeoffed unto the said Christopher Bridgewater and others and their heirs certain lands containing about 14 acres, the rents to be distributed among the poor of the parish. The land was augmented on the inclosure, and is about 19½ acres in extent, let at £17 15s. a year. In 1905 £8 7s. 6d. was distributed to twentyeight recipients at Whitsuntide and £8 13s. 6d. to the same number at Christmas.