A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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MARTON with MOXBY
The parish of Marton with Moxby or Marton in the Forest is on the north-east border of the forest of Galtres where the ground slopes down to form the Plain of York. The highest point is a hill in the north-west called Sugar Hill, 200 ft. above the ordnance datum. The parish covers nearly 2,500 acres of what once was forest land. The history of these forest parishes is a story of the gradual reclaiming of the land from its wild moorland state, in which it was the hunting ground of the king's deer, to cultivation, a process which is recalled by such words as 'The Intacke,' once the name of a meadow near Moxby Priory. (fn. 1) Now that the forest no longer exists and the land is inclosed, two-thirds of the total area of the parish are under cultivation. (fn. 2) The soil is alluvial, and grain crops, wheat, oats and barley, are chiefly raised.
Marton township lies almost entirely between two streams. That on the west, flowing south from Easingwold, is the Foss; the other is Farlington Beck, which divides Marton from Farlington, the neighbouring parish on the east. The western boundary follows the Foss southward as far as the site of Moxby Priory and then runs out to the west to include the small rectangular tract of land called Moxby Moor. There is no village of Marton, the church standing near a farm-house on the first rising ground on the north side of the Plain of York. The site of the Augustinian priory of Marton lies rather more than a mile to the north-west. There are no remains above ground, but the position is easily traceable by numerous foundation mounds between the road and the modern farm-house called Marton Abbey. Built into the latter are a number of sculptured fragments including two crowned shields with the initials I H C. In the front wall, which is built of stone and of considerable thickness, is a large well-carved angel corbel, the angel bearing a scroll inscribed 'laudo nomen . . . .' The priory was situated on the left bank of the River Foss. The high road from York to the north ran past its gates between the house and the river, so that when the prior's neighbour in 1307, Ralph de Nevill, chose to seize his cattle on the king's highway, he had no difficulty in driving them 'without the county into the liberty of the bishopric of Durham.' (fn. 3) This Ralph de Nevill seems to have found it difficult to live at peace with the canons of Marton, for not long afterwards he was absolved from the excommunication which should have been his punishment for striking one of them. (fn. 4)
The prior's mills still exist, one near the site of the priory called Abbey Mill, and a corn-mill lower down the stream. A water-mill was probably among the possessions of the priory from a very early date. (fn. 5) Two were included in the grant of the site made to the Archbishop of York in 1543. (fn. 6) In 1852 a lead coffin containing a skeleton was dug up near Abbey Mill. (fn. 7) More skeletons were discovered in 1892.
One mile to the south of Marton Church is Moxby, now consisting only of a few scattered farms. Two of these, known as Moxby Priory and Moxby Hall, stand close together on the right bank of the Foss. Moxby Hall was in existence in 1649 and was then described as having 'a hall, parlour, kitchen, and buttery, and other necessary low rooms and six upper chambers with a dove coate, a barne, a stable, a kilne, and divers other outhouses; with a fair orchard and out yard containing six acres.' (fn. 8) In 1661 the site of the priory and probably this mansion were held on lease by Philip Prince. (fn. 9) A writer on local history in 1852 states that 'Madame Prince' was the last occupant of this dwelling before it was remodelled and made into a farm-house. (fn. 10)
Between the houses is the site of the Augustinian nunnery. The river is here embanked for a mill, and foundation mounds are visible on either side of it. A water-mill was among the possessions of the priory at the Dissolution, (fn. 11) and was held by Philip Prince in 1661. (fn. 12) In the yard of Moxby Priory Farm is a stone trough, which from its tapering form was probably once a coffin.
The remains of an old causeway lead from the site of the nunnery to a well in the north-east of the parish of Sutton-on-the-Forest called St. John's Well. It was supposed to possess medicinal properties, and has the usual wishing stone. (fn. 13)
MARTON was held before the Conquest by Norman, who had a 'manor' here and 6 carucates. At the time of the Domesday Survey it was among the lands held of the Count of Mortain by Niel Fossard. He had half a plough on his demesne and twenty villeins with six ploughs. (fn. 14)
The mesne lordship, becoming an overlordship in the 12th century, followed the descent of Niel Fossard's lordship in Bulmer and other places into the possession of the Mauley family. (fn. 15) In Marton, as in Bulmer, the feoffee of Niel must have been Aschetil de Bulmer, for his son Bertram founded here a priory of Austin Nuns and Canons, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, in the reign of King Stephen or Henry II, (fn. 16) and endowed it with the vill of Marton and all its appurtenances. (fn. 17) The gift was confirmed by his descendant Henry de Nevill, (fn. 18) and by Peter de Mauley, the third lord of the fee, who required the canons to say prayers for the souls of himself and his wife Nicholaa on the day of their death. (fn. 19)
In 1292 the prior had licence to assart 40 acres of his wood within the forest of Galtres, in the park of Marton, Northwood and Le Frith, and to inclose the same with a dyke and a low hedge. (fn. 20)
The priory seems to have been willingly surrendered by its last prior, Thomas Yodson, in 1536. (fn. 21) Its gross value amounted to only £183 2s. 4d. (fn. 22) In the previous year Thomas Barton of Whenby had asked Cromwell that if the prior should leave the monastery he might have it. (fn. 23) This request met with no response. The priory remained for some years in the possession of the Crown, during which time its revenues were devoted to the payment of the garrison at Berwick. (fn. 24) In 1543 it was granted to Edward Archbishop of York. (fn. 25) The grant was repeated to his successors, (fn. 26) who continued to hold the manor.
In the 19th century the parish of Marton was in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and part of it was by them restored to the archbishopric as part of its endowment. (fn. 27)
The actual site of the priory was at one time sold or leased to private persons. Henry Goodricke and his wife Anne (daughter and heir of Philip Harland, of the neighbouring parish of Sutton) (fn. 28) were parties to a fine regarding a moiety of the site in 1784. (fn. 29)
In 1227 the king ordered Henry de Nevill to see that the Prior of Marton had twelve oaks in the forest of Galtres for building his church. (fn. 32)
The prior had a grant of free warren in his demesne lands of Marton in 1333. (fn. 33)
John de la River, lord of Brandsby, held for his life and those of his heirs 'common pasturage for every season,' both in the common and several woods of the Priors of Marton, extending to the gates of the priory. This right he released to the prior in 1357. (fn. 34)
MOXBY (Molesby, xvi cent.) was in the soke of Easingwold at the time of the Domesday Survey, (fn. 35) and was part of the royal demesne. (fn. 36) When the nuns of Marton Priory left that house Henry II granted them the land and site of Moxby, where their church was built, and land elsewhere worth 30s. (fn. 37) Here they founded a house of their own, dedicated to St. John the Apostle.
There is little to record of the history of the manor. The nuns remained here till the Dissolution, when their lands were worth less than £200 in yearly value. (fn. 38) The site was leased to Richard Cholmeley in 1542 and afterwards granted, like that of Marton Priory, to the Archbishop of York. (fn. 39)
During the Commonwealth, when the endowments of the archbishopric were seized by Parliament, Moxby was sold by the trustees for archbishops' lands to Henry Hall and William Clarke. (fn. 40) The property of the archbishopric was restored at the Restoration, and Moxby has remained part of the endowment of the see. It is now vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
The prioresses had common of pasture here for all their cattle. (fn. 41)
The church of ST. MARY is a small building consisting of chancel 24 ft. 3 in. by 13 ft. 6 in., nave 30 ft. 6 in. by 17 ft., and a tower on the south side of the nave. The building is unaltered in general plan from the early 12th century, to which period belong the north walls of the chancel and nave, the chancel arch and the lower portions of the south and west nave walls. In the 16th century, probably about 1540, the church with these exceptions was entirely rebuilt and a tower added. Its general character is peculiar, and from a short distance it has the appearance of a domestic building, an effect due to the crow-stepped gables and the curious form of the tower. From various details employed in the building and from the fact that several of them are misplaced it is probable that materials from the then recently dissolved priory of Marton were used in the works.
The chancel has a four-centred east window of three uncusped lights with an external label. In the middle of the south wall is a four-light window with plain square head, set externally in a sunk wall panel and having a wood lintel internally. On either side of this are two small single-light openings. Below the easternmost is a piscina with the traceried head from a window inserted above the window opening behind it. The semicircular chancel arch dates from the early 12th century and is quite plain with a chamfered impost at the springing level. Externally the chancel has 'crow-stepped' gables and diagonal buttresses at the eastern angles of considerable projection with deep plinths.
The nave has two 16th-century windows in the south wall, both similar and of two cusped lights. The west window is square-headed and of three lights, the hood moulding above it being carried along the west wall as a string-course. The gable above is crow-stepped and similar to those at the east end. The south door opens into the lowest stage of the tower, which also serves as a porch. It has a depressed arch, the oak door being original with good traceried heads to the panels. The tower is only two stages high divided by a string-course and having deep diagonal buttresses to the outer angles similar to those to the chancel. The south door has a segmental arch with a cusped head, which has the appearance of a three-light window-head re-used. Above the door is a canopied niche of clumsy workmanship containing the figure of an angel. Set in the parapet string on the south side of the tower is the head only of a canopied niche, obviously not in its proper position. The parapet on this side is plain and high, but on the east and west faces it is stepped down, the tower being covered with a sloping pent roof. The arrangement gives a very unfinished effect to the building. Inside the tower and also on the east gable of the chancel are stone shields with the initials [IHC] exactly similar to those still to be seen on the site of Marton Priory. The 16th-century walling is built of drop-coursed ashlar, but the 12th-century work in the north walls of the nave and quire is rudely constructed of water-worn stones. The roofs of the church are modern, but that in the chancel retains its original moulded cornice. The font has a hemispherical bowl, octagonal shaft and moulded base of the 13th century. The ancient woodwork includes an early 17th-century communion table with turned legs and some bench ends in the nave. In the west window are some fragments of old glass representing rays of yellow light. The belfry is lighted by three trefoil-headed windows and contains one bell, only accessible by ladder.
The church of Marton was in existence at the time of the Domesday Survey, (fn. 42) and the presentation was in the hands of the lords of the manor till Bertram de Bulmer granted it to the priory of Marton in his foundation charter. (fn. 43) It was subsequently appropriated to the priory, (fn. 44) but no vicarage was endowed there. (fn. 45) The living is a vicarage, formerly a perpetual curacy, in the gift, since the Dissolution, of the Archbishops of York. (fn. 46)
There are no endowed charities in this parish, but a sum of 10s. a year was formerly distributed among the poor—half at Easter and half at Christmas—in respect of £10 vested in the churchwardens and overseers in 1819.