A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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The parish of Holtby is separated from the East Riding by the York and Bridlington road, the 'king's highway' on which its inhabitants were accused of encroaching in 1275, (fn. 1) whilst more than three centuries later they were presented at the quarter sessions for failing to inclose their 'puddell-well' here with a fence. (fn. 2) A branch from this highway leads into the little village, which stands on rising ground, and is composed of the church, rectory and some cottages, most of them modern. The road bears west and northwest over Holtby Moor into Stockton. Holtby Manor lies a mile or more south-west of the village, close to the main road, and near the centre of the parish; south of the moor is Holtby Grange.
Holtby covers an area of nearly 901 acres, of which more than two-thirds are devoted to the cultivation of corn, potatoes and root crops, whilst the rest is permanent grass. (fn. 3) The soil is sandy on a subsoil of sandstone. The little stream called Osbaldwick Beck flows through part of the south of the parish. In the north and east the land rises to 100 ft. and in the south to 75 ft. above the ordnance datum. Some land, within the boundaries of the parish, which was held of the manor of Holtby but reckoned part of the township of Warthill, was inclosed in 1756. (fn. 4)
Six geld carucates in HOLTBY, once held by three thegns as three separate 'manors,' were amongst the king's lands in 1086. (fn. 5) At some later date 3 carucates came to Durham Priory, to which they were confirmed by Henry II and John. (fn. 6) The whole was probably leased in small holdings to different tenants by the prior, who is named as one of the lords of the parish in 1316. (fn. 7) After the surrender of the monastery of St. Cuthbert of Durham in 1539, (fn. 8) its manor of Holtby, then valued at 78s. 4½d., (fn. 9) remained in the Crown, the demesne and other lands being occupied as before by leaseholders. Between 1541 and 1547 a court was only once held and the profits of rent and farm remained substantially what they had been under the rule of the prior. (fn. 10) The manor was granted by Elizabeth in 1600 to Richard Burrell, citizen and grocer of London, (fn. 11) and within twelve years was sold by him to John Brough. (fn. 12) From John Holtby descended to Simon Brough, probably his son, who with his wife Katherine and Elizabeth Brough, widow, sold it in 1640 to John Agar of Stockton. (fn. 13) From that time it has followed the descent of the manor of Stockton (q.v.). The present lord is Mr. Charles Talbot Agar of Brockfield Hall, Warthill.
The very scanty and scattered records which bear on the history of the Conqueror's other lands in Holtby seem to point to the conclusion that these were gradually absorbed in the manor of Durham Priory. In the 13th and 14th centuries, however, some part of them was still regarded as an independent manor. Exemption from suit at the county court of York and the wapentake of Bulmer was claimed in 1271 for certain lands in Holtby on the ground of their connexion with the Honour of Eye, the jurors at the same time declaring that a similar judgement had formerly been given in favour of the ancestors of John de Holtby, the lord at this date. (fn. 14) In 1279 the manor of Holtby came by exchange for the manor of Farnham in Kent from Adam de Holtby, probably John's son, to Alan son of John de Walkingham. (fn. 15) A later lord, John de Grantham or Graham, bailiff of York, 1288–9, (fn. 16) who in 1290 acquired from Roger Newsom and his wife Alice two messuages and 4 oxgangs, the right of Alice, in Holtby, (fn. 17) paid more than a third of the subsidy levied in this parish in 1301. (fn. 18) As his contribution was made in two separate sums, it is possible that he held some of his lands here of the Prior of Durham, who lodged a complaint against him in 1309 for entering his houses at Holtby and carrying away from them not only his goods but also Cicely, sister of their custodian, and certain of his native tenants. (fn. 19) The return of 1316, however, shows that in part of the parish John enjoyed equal rights with the prior. (fn. 20) At John's death, which took place in or before 1336, it was found that a holding of seven messuages, 12 oxgangs, and rent of 2s., apparently held of the Crown, had been previously transferred to his son, another John de Grantham, (fn. 21) whose occupation seems to have ended before 1368. (fn. 22) This may be the land sold long afterwards by Christopher Eltoft to Brian Palmes of Naburn, and bequeathed by him in 1519 to his third wife Anne and their issue. (fn. 23) After Anne's death it came to her son Brian, who had been left by her husband's will to her 'guiding.' (fn. 24) The younger Brian in later life became implicated in conspiracy and rebellion, and was indicted for high treason and outlawed in 1570. (fn. 25) His possessions were forfeited to the Crown and valued on its behalf the next year. (fn. 26) The lands in Holtby (fn. 27) and other Yorkshire parishes which his father had settled for the use of his wife Anne and their issue were all described as 'within the Bishopric of Durham.' (fn. 28) In Holtby itself his possessions were of much the same extent as the property given by the elder John de Grantham to his son, (fn. 29) and when Brian died in 1582 they were declared to have been held of the queen in free socage as of the hundred of Bulmer and by suit at its court. (fn. 30) This seems to be the latest mention of lands in Holtby outside the priory manor, and their inclusion in 1571 'within the Bishopric of Durham' (fn. 31) implies an uncertainty of tenure which may have been ended by their absorption in it.
View of frankpledge and court leet were claimed as appurtenances of Holtby Manor in the 17th and 18th centuries, (fn. 32) though they had not been mentioned in Queen Elizabeth's grant. (fn. 33) There was a dovecot in the parish in the 14th century, (fn. 34) and a capital messuage belonged to the manor in 1640. (fn. 35) The windmill on Brian Palmes's land in 1571 (fn. 36) seems to be the windmill for grain sold with the manor to John Agar in the next century. (fn. 37)
The church of the HOLY TRINITY was practically rebuilt in 1881, when it replaced a building erected in 1792 and restored in 1841. It is a small building of red brick with stone dressings, consisting of a chancel, nave and western tower. The style is Norman, and the chancel has an arch of that character and an eastern apse. The tower contains two bells only approachable by ladder.
The earliest mention of the church seems to occur in the charter of Henry II. It belonged to Durham Priory and followed the descent of the priory manor until 1600. (fn. 38) In February of that year the advowson of Holtby was included in a royal grant to William Tancred of Great Langton, (fn. 39) and came afterwards to his only child and heir Dorothy wife of Sir Henry Jenkins of Great Busby. (fn. 40) William Jenkins, their eldest son and heir, on whom in 1614 a settlement of the rectory with the rest of his mother's inheritance had been made, died without issue, and the patron in 1661 was his younger brother Toby. (fn. 41) The advowson had changed hands before 1684, when Samuel Howlett presented. (fn. 42) Thomas and Elizabeth Thompson, patrons respectively in 1716 and 1753, (fn. 43) had been followed in 1756 by the Rev. Thomas Nelson, rector of Fingall, who held by right of his wife Catherine, Frances Preston of York, spinster, having also a share in the advowson. (fn. 44) Thomas Nelson presented in 1774 and his daughters in 1779. (fn. 45) The living was in the gift of Mrs. Nelson in 1817 and 1822, (fn. 46) but before 1836 it had come into the possession of Lord Feversham, (fn. 47) from whom it descended through his son William, the second Lord Feversham, to his grandson William Ernest Duncombe, created Earl of Feversham in 1868. (fn. 48) By an exchange effected in 1880 the earl transferred the patronage of Holtby to the Crown, and since that time it has been exercised by the lord chancellor. (fn. 49)
From 1224 to 1539 an annual pension of 25s. was paid to the Prior of Durham from Holtby Church. (fn. 50) A dwelling-house and 2 oxgangs of glebeland belonged to the rectory in 1535 and afterwards. (fn. 51)
John Straker, who died in 1669, devised to trustees his freehold and copyhold lands in Holtby in trust to make certain specific payments, including 30s. for the poor of the township of Marton, 10s. for the poor of Osbaldwick, £2 to the Merchant Tailors' Company, York, £1 to the parish of St. Crux, York, and the residue for the poor of Holtby. The land contains 12 a. 2 r. 24 p., and is let at £15 a year. The residue, amounting to £10, is distributed to the poor of Holtby in money in amounts varying from 2s. 6d. to 12s. each person.
James Twinam, by will proved at York in 1733, directed that one moiety of the rent of a copyhold close called The Ings, in Dunnington in the East Riding of the county of York, containing 4 acres, should be given to the poor of Holtby and the other moiety to the poor of Dunnington. The land is let at £10 a year, and £5 a year is applied in the distribution of bread to four recipients in this parish.