A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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This parish is at its greatest extent about 2 miles from east to west and covers 1,391 acres, of which 711 acres are arable land, 70 acres are woods and moorlands, and 528 are laid down to permanent grass. (fn. 1) The soil is a strong gravelly clay with a subsoil of Keuper marls. The River Leven forms part of the western boundary of the parish, separating it from Castle Leavington. The banks of the river are well wooded, Scriddles Wood lying to the south-west of the village, while further west is Hilton Wood with the Mill Farm. Here the river takes a northward bend, the woods alongside being called Stockdale and Crow Woods. Further north are the Leven Bridge plantations, between which and the river are low-lying grounds liable to floods. The hamlet of Leven Bridge is partly in this parish and takes its name from a bridge over the river, mention of which occurs in 1665 (fn. 2) and 1738. (fn. 3)
The village consists of a few cottages and farmhouses scattered along the road leading from Yarm to Stokesley, and is situated on rising ground with a prospect to the north, the highest point being 192 ft. above the ordnance datum. The church of St. Peter lies in the middle of the village on the south side of the road, and close by is an elementary school, built in 1878. A little to the north-west of the village stands Hilton Manor, the residence of Mr. Edward B. Whitley, who succeeded his father, the late Mr. Jonas Whitley, in 1912. It is a large brick house erected about 1892, and is surrounded by plantations and approached by a long avenue. At the other extremity of the village Roger Lane leads past Greenfield Farm from the Stokesley road. The nearest railway station is at Yarm, 4 miles to the north-west.
In 1086 there were 6 carucates of land in HILTON soke of the 'manor' of the Count of Mortain in Seamer. (fn. 4) They afterwards formed part of the fee of the Archbishops of Canterbury, (fn. 5) of whom they were held by the Meynells of Whorlton (fn. 6) (q.v.).
The tenancy in demesne was perhaps held by the Richard de Hilton who is mentioned in 1166 and 1167. (fn. 7) Roger de Hilton had a grant of 2 oxgangs in 'Hoton' from Walter de Hamby in 1202 and confirmed 2 oxgangs in Hilton to Roger son of Walter in 1208. (fn. 8) Adam de Hilton was collector of the fortieth in the North Riding in 1232, (fn. 9) and was one of the justices in eyre in 1251–2. (fn. 10) Agnes his sister and heir is said to have married Hugh de Meynell, (fn. 11) and the Robert de Meynell who appears to have succeeded (fn. 12) may have been her son. Robert was succeeded before 1283 (fn. 13) by his son Hugh, (fn. 14) who in 1299 held 6 carucates in Hilton of Nicholas de Meynell of Whorlton. (fn. 15) He was succeeded by John, (fn. 16) who in 1303 made a settlement of the manor on himself and his wife Sybil. (fn. 17) In 1316 John was dead and his heir was in the wardship of Nicholas de Meynell, the mesne lord, who granted the custody to Thomas Sawcock and Adam de Skelton. (fn. 18) This heir was John's son Nicholas, who married Cecily daughter of Thomas Sawcock, (fn. 19) and is presumably the Nicholas de Hilton of whom lands were held in 1361. (fn. 20) He was succeeded by his eldest son John Meynell, who died without issue before 1417 and was succeeded by his brother Robert. (fn. 21) Robert was still living in 1444, but must have died soon afterwards, as his son Thomas, who succeeded him, died in 1447. (fn. 22) Thomas's heir was his son John, who was still living in 1479; he was succeeded by his son Robert, (fn. 23) who in 1511 made a settlement of the manor on himself and his heirs male, with contingent remainder in fee-tail to his brothers William and Anthony and their heirs. (fn. 24) Robert was succeeded by his son, another Robert, (fn. 25) who bought Hawnby and died seised of both manors in 1563. (fn. 26) Henceforward this manor followed the descent of Hawnby (q.v.) until the death of Lord John Cavendish in 1796. (fn. 27) Lord John's brother, Lord Frederick Cavendish, died in 1803, leaving the greater part of his property to his nephew George Cavendish, afterwards Earl of Burlington, (fn. 28) who presented to the church in 1839. (fn. 29) In or about 1857 the manor was sold to John Hay of Sunderland. (fn. 30) George Hay was lord in 1872. Col. George Jackson Hay was lord in 1889 and 1890, within three years after which date it was sold to Jonas Whitley, father of the present lord of the manor.
A 'manor' of 3 carucates was among the king's lands in 1086 and was held of him by Aluer. (fn. 31) It became part of the Brus fee, (fn. 32) the overlordship following the descent of the manor of Skelton (q.v.). By 1272 the whole of the Brus fee in Hilton was held by Robert de Potto, (fn. 33) whose ancestors had held tenements here as early as 1219. (fn. 34) Robert's name occurs again in 1301–2 (fn. 35) and in 1303. (fn. 36) In 1318 he sold his lands here to Adam de Skelton, (fn. 37) who in 1325 had licence to alienate them to Drax Priory. (fn. 38) In 1347 Drax Priory held the fourth part of a fee in Hilton which Robert de Potto had held, (fn. 39) and was still in possession in 1427–8. (fn. 40) At the Dissolution the priory was not said to hold anything in Hilton, (fn. 41) and it seems probable that its possessions here were never more than a mesne lordship. The following tenants were probably subenfeoffed under Drax. Sir Thomas Percy, kt., in 1383 conveyed half the manor of Hilton to William Lambert, (fn. 42) whose descendant Robert Lambert held land here in 1523. (fn. 43) Robert Lambert in 1540 conveyed half the manor to Sir James Strangways, kt. (fn. 44) Sir James died in 1541, (fn. 45) and his widow is afterwards mentioned as holding a rent in Hilton, (fn. 46) after which no further mention is made of this estate.
A water-mill in Hilton is first mentioned in 1618, (fn. 47) when it was appurtenant to the manor. View of frankpledge occurs in 1635. (fn. 48) A mill was appurtenant to the Brus fee in Hilton in 1318. (fn. 49)
In 1365 lands in Hilton were held of the Prior of St. John of Jerusalem, (fn. 50) but no further reference to the Knights Hospitallers in this parish has been found.
The church of ST. PETER is an interesting 12th-century structure, consisting of chancel and nave under one continuous modern eaved roof covered with red pantiles, and with a bellcote containing two bells at the west end. The chancel measures internally 13 ft. 10 in. by 16 ft. and the nave 32 ft. by 19 ft. 6 in., the chancel arch being 9 ft. 10 in. in width. Probably about the end of the 18th century the church was restored, and none of its original 12thcentury windows remain, the only ancient window being a 13th-century lancet on the north side of the chancel. Three large square-headed windows, one on the south side of the chancel and the others on either side of the nave, are 18th-century insertions, probably in the position of older openings. There are north and south doorways at the western end of the nave, but the east and west walls are blank. The bellcote has been rebuilt.
The chancel offers several points of interest. The present blank east wall is not bonded into the adjoining walls, and may be later than the rest of the building. The evidence of the masonry outside, however, does not suggest a very much later period, and what the intentions of the first builders were is by no means clear. The lower parts of the north and south walls at the east end, for a distance of about 3 ft. 6 in., project 8 in. in front of the face of the wall proper to a height of 5 ft. 4 in. above the floor of the altar space, which is 5 in. above the general floor level of the nave and chancel. These projections are finished off at the top by a chamfered cornice or impost mould, which, however, along with the upper part of the projection, stops at a distance of 11 in. from the east wall, and the whole terminates westward in dwarf shafts with cushion capitals. It is possible that by this arrangement it was intended to carry a platform for the altar and so give room for a half-subterranean relic chamber below, but of such a chamber there is no trace. The chancel, too, may have been planned to extend further east, but whether with an apsidal or an ordinary rectangular end it is impossible to say. (fn. 51) The chancel may have been remodelled in the 13th century when the north window was inserted, the original arrangement being then lost. The east wall may date from this period, the old stones being used in its reconstruction. There is a set back in the east wall inside at a height of 11 ft. above the sanctuary floor.
The chancel arch is of two orders towards the nave, but square on the east side, and is very much depressed. The outer order is square and without ornament, but the inner has a half-round moulding on the soffit, and the angle has a hollow chamfer with pellet ornament. The inner order springs at a height of 6 ft. 10 in. from half-round responds with carved capitals, and the outer from angle shafts with scalloped cushion capitals differing in detail, that on the south side having small volutes at the angles. The impost moulding is carried along the face of the wall north and south on the nave side, and has three triangular grooves immediately above the chamfer. The wall above the arch has been rebuilt.
The north and south doorways differ in size and detail. The opening on the south side is 3 ft. 6 in. wide, that on the north 2 ft. 9 in., but both doorways have semicircular arches of two orders, the outer carried on angle shafts and the inner with plain square jambs below the imposts. There are no hood moulds. The south doorway is an interesting specimen of a rough attempt at rich ornament. A series of cheverons is cut on the edge of the voussoirs (of both orders) and an upper row incised in the outward face. (fn. 52) The angle shafts have gone, but the scalloped cushion capitals and moulded bases remain. The imposts are chamfered on both edges. The shafts of the north doorway are likewise gone, the capitals and bases alone remaining, but the imposts are chamfered only on the underside with a single groove above. The outer order has the cheveron ornament, but the inner has a continuous moulding with pellets in the hollow.
On the wall above the south doorway, a little to the east, is an ancient sundial, and close to it a sculptured stone with what appears to be the representation of an animal. There is a low chamfered plinth all round the building and three set-offs along the lower part of the west wall. The north and south walls bulge badly.
The font consists of an 18th-century scalloped circular bowl on a stone pedestal and has a wooden cover. The other fittings are all modern. A stone reredos in the Norman style was erected in 1886 in memory of Douglas Erroll Hay (1879–86).
The plate consists of a cup of 1750, made by Isaac Cookson of Newcastle, and a paten of 1885. There are also a modern plated flagon and plate and a pewter flagon. (fn. 53)
The registers begin in 1698. The first marriage entries are in 1754. (fn. 54)
Hilton was formerly a chapel of ease to Rudby, (fn. 55) but was augmented in 1746, 1767, 1786 and 1809, (fn. 56) and by 1842 was considered a separate parish in all respects except that it still contributed to the repairs of the mother church. (fn. 57) The advowson follows the descent of the advowson of Rudby (q.v.), but from 1839 it has been held by the lords of the manor. (fn. 58) The tithes belonged to the mother church, (fn. 59) but came to the hands of the lords of the manor in the first half of the 17th century, since when they have followed the descent of the manor. (fn. 60)