A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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FOSTON with THORNTON-LE-CLAY
Foston, with the township of Thornton-le-Clay, lies south of Bulmer, the boundary line between the two parishes being Bulmer Beck, which, as Spittle Beck, also separates Foston from Whitwell on the east. Foston itself covers 975 acres, lying on Lower Lias and alluvium; Thornton-le-Clay, 897 acres, on a subsoil of Middle and Lower Lias. There are in Foston 336, in Thornton-le-Clay 413 acres of arable land; the former contains 577, the latter 399 acres of permanent grass, whilst Foston has 12 acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The elevation of the whole parish generally averages about 100 ft. above ordnance datum.
No great highway crosses Foston, which is skirted on the south by the York and Scarborough branch of the North Eastern railway, Flaxton station standing just within the borders of Thornton-le-Clay in the south-west of the parish. Thornton Moor lies in this direction, with allotment gardens east of it, and beyond, in the south-west of Foston itself, is the Blue Coat School Farm. From the station a winding path leads for a mile through undulating meadows and strikes the main road near Foston Hall, which was built on the site of an old manor-house in 1823 by the Rev. Francis Simpson, then rector and one of the principal landowners in the parish. The ancient parish church with a few cottages stands on the opposite side of the road, and a mile beyond is the small schoolhouse. A gate behind this leads to the solid brick rectory with its red-tiled roof and bay windows, built at his own expense and from his own design by Sydney Smith, who was rector here from 1806 to 1829. (fn. 2) Another memorial of his work in the parish is found in the small allotment gardens adjoining the rectory grounds, still known in 1896 as 'Sydney's Orchards'; these he planned, stocked and let to the villagers at a nominal rent. (fn. 3) A short distance beyond is the village of Thornton-le-Clay with its thirty or forty houses, of no great antiquity, straggling up the hilly turnpike road on which stand the Friends' meeting-house and post office, whilst the Wesleyan chapel is on a side lane to the south-west.
The common fields of Foston were inclosed in 1639 or 1640, when Sir John Hotham was lord by right of his wife Katherine Bamburgh. In 1657 Tristram Otby, then sequestered 'in full life' from his living, and witness in a suit brought by his successor to recover tithes, told how he had resisted the inclosure, and only consented when Sir John added 60 acres from the moor of Foston and 30 in Thornton to the rectory lands. (fn. 4)
In the 14th century the inhabitants of Foston and Thornton, with those of Barton and other townships, petitioned the king against the inclusion of their territory in the forest of Galtres, from which it had formerly been disafforested. (fn. 5)
The 'manor' with 8 carucates in FOSTON which had formerly belonged to Morcar was held by Count Alan in 1086. (fn. 6) At a later date it was given by Count Stephen, said to be Stephen Count of Albemarle, with other lands once of Count Alan, to the abbey of St. Mary, York. (fn. 7) In 1167 or 1168 payment was made by the 'Abbot of York' in connexion with Foston, (fn. 8) which formed part of the liberty of St. Mary at the beginning of the 14th century. (fn. 9) The Sheriff of York received instructions in 1305 to allow the Abbot of St. Mary's to have reasonable tallage of his tenants here and elsewhere, (fn. 10) and three years later the king confirmed the charter of Henry II which had sanctioned Count Stephen's grant. (fn. 11) The possessions of the abbey in Foston, which were augmented from time to time by the gifts of various donors, (fn. 12) came to the Crown on its surrender in 1539. (fn. 13) After being twice leased—in 1546 to Sir Ralph Bagnal and Lady Mary Cotton and in 1577 to Richard Stalham—the manor of Foston was sold to Thomas Bamburgh of Howsham in 1591 for £993 4s. 6d., to be held as one-twentieth of a knight's fee. (fn. 14) It followed the descent of Crambe (q.v.) until 1643, (fn. 15) when in the partition of the Bamburgh estates it came to Sir Thomas Norcliffe. (fn. 16) Frances, his daughter, held Foston with her husband Nicholas Richards in 1698 and until 1704, when they sold it to Thomas Langley, Fairfax Norcliffe, Sir Thomas's grandson and successor, acting as trustee. (fn. 17) Henry Goddard and his wife Mary and the younger Henry Goddard held it by Mary's right in 1758, and sixteen years later it was in the possession of Elizabeth and Cordelia Goddard. (fn. 18) In 1857 and 1872 the lord of the manor was the Rev. Edmund Gray, who had been succeeded in or before 1879 by Henry Bingham. In 1890 Sir Edmund Lechmere, bart., was lord of the manor. Since that time the manorial rights here seem to have lapsed.
Court leet and view of frankpledge were appurtenances of this manor. (fn. 19)
Two waste carucates in THORNTON-LE-CLAY were held by Count Alan in 1086, and came, with the manor of Thornton, to which their soke belonged, (fn. 20) to St. Mary's Abbey. (fn. 21) Another gift to the same house consisted of 3 carucates here, also waste at the time of the Survey, when they were amongst the possessions of the Count of Mortain, their soke being in Bulmer. After Count Robert's forfeiture, Niel Fossard, who had held this land of him, (fn. 22) granted it to St. Mary's, York, a benefaction confirmed by Henry II (fn. 23) and Edward II. (fn. 24) Later donors added to the possessions of the abbey, (fn. 25) which derived a considerable revenue from lands in Thornton at its surrender. (fn. 26) These came to the Crown with the manor of Foston, in which they seem to have been included, and the greater part of them probably followed its descent. (fn. 27)
Two carucates in Thornton once held by Archil were in the hands of Robert Malet in 1086, when they were waste. (fn. 28) It is possible that they afterwards came into the honour of Eye, (fn. 29) but in 1282–3 the overlordship belonged to Peter Mauley. (fn. 30) No later mention of it occurs, and in 1396 nothing was known beyond the fact that the fee was not held of the Crown. (fn. 31)
A mesne lordship here belonged to Robert de Nevill in 1282–3, (fn. 32) and descended with the manor of Sheriff Hutton (q.v.) until 1388. In 1395 it was found to be part of the dower of Elizabeth widow of Sir John de Nevill, who afterwards married as her second husband Sir Robert Willoughby. (fn. 33) The fee was ascribed to Lord Greystock in 1428, when this lordship is last mentioned. (fn. 34)
In 1284 and 1301 the sub-tenant of this quarter fee, which then consisted of 3 carucates, was Laurence de Etton, who held by right of his wife Cecily. (fn. 35) Laurence and Cecily were still living and holding land in Thornton in 1316, (fn. 36) but Robert de Thornton, whose family had been landowners here since 1202, (fn. 37) appears as lord in the return of that year. (fn. 38) Patrick Langdale held in 1367, William Langdale and Sir Nicholas Middleton in 1388, whilst seven years later the heirs of William Langdale were Elizabeth Willoughby's sub-tenants. (fn. 39) It is probable that to this fee belonged the land in Thornton owned by John Pigot and his son Richard, a lawyer of some distinction, of part of which Robert Wyvill, husband of John's daughter Margaret, was seised at his death in 1527. (fn. 40)
The earliest portions of the existing building date from the first half of the 12th century and include most of the outer walls of the present structure. Considerable building was done here towards the close of the next century, as Archbishop Romanus bound the rector in 1287 to have his church ready for dedication within three years, but nothing can be definitely assigned to this period. In the 15th century the west window was inserted and most of the west wall rebuilt. Probably several other windows which have been rebuilt in recent years were enlarged at the same time. The church was restored in the last century, and in 1911 the north wall of the nave was taken down and a modern aisle built on that side, the old north door being rebuilt in the outer wall.
The chancel walls are probably in substance largely 12th-century work, but all the windows are modern with the exception of a narrow round-headed light in the north wall. The chancel arch is of 12thcentury date, recessed in two orders, each jamb having a square respond with a half-round shaft on its inner face and two detached circular side shafts. The arch is semicircular and moulded and the shafts have fluted capitals. The south wall of the nave is of the 12th century, as is also the plinth of the west wall, but above this it is of 15th-century date. The site of the north wall is now occupied by four bays of modern arcading opening into the aisle, which is lit by two-light windows, and has the old plinth and masonry re-used. The old north door, re-erected in the aisle wall, has a plain semicircular 12th-century head. In the west wall is a two-light 15th-century window, and built into the south-west angle of the nave is a slab with an incised floreated cross. Another cross is visible in the north jamb of the west window. The south wall is pierced by two modern two-light windows and by a 12th-century doorway. The latter is recessed in two orders, the inner ornamented with cable moulding on the soffit, the outer moulded and resting on side shafts with moulded bases, scalloped capitals and square abaci. The western shaft bears spiral flutings. Above the arch is a band of carving, as a hood, terminating in carved beakheads. The subjects on the band include the Last Supper (at the apex), Agnus Dei, St. George and the Dragon (?), David playing on the harp, a seated figure with scales, good and evil spirits, Sagittarius, two wrestlers, beasts, devils, &c. The south porch is a late, probably 18th-century, addition.
The bellcote on the west gable is modern, but both bells are mediaeval. The first bears the inscription in Lombardic letters '+ Campana: sancte: Trinitatis: et omnium: sanctorum'; the second '+ Campana: beate: Marie.'
There was a church in Foston in 1086 in the fee of Count Alan. (fn. 41) It was included in the grant to St. Mary's Abbey, (fn. 42) and remained in the gift of the Crown after the surrender of that house, the lord chancellor presenting until 1898. (fn. 43) In that year it was transferred to the see of York, and the archbishop is now patron. (fn. 44)
A pension, in 1396 worth 6s. 8d., in 1539 13s. 4d., (fn. 45) was paid from the church to the abbot as early as 1230 and 1231, when 'H. de Foston' had also some right in the tithes. (fn. 46) In 1536 these belonged to the rector, who then had a dwelling-house and 4 oxgangs of land. (fn. 47) Three hundred acres of glebe land were attached to the rectory in 1806. (fn. 48)
In 1587 'Our Lady chapel in the garth' in Thornton near Foston, then profaned and decayed, was granted to Thomas Shotton. (fn. 49) A messuage and court known as Chapel House and Chapel garth, which must have belonged to this chapel, were owned by Sir William Bamburgh and his heirs from 1624 to 1637. (fn. 50)
Poor's Stock, formerly £87 19s. 1d. £4 per cent. stock (now represented by consols) purchased in 1821 with £85, the amount of sundry ancient benefactions for the poor, and a legacy of £10 by a Mrs. Walsh for a schoolmistress, in respect of which 10s. a year is paid to the school. In 1905 the income of the charities for the poor was given in money to poor women in sums of 10s. and £1 to each.