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 Kirkby Knowle consists of two detached portions, the township of Kirkby Knowle lying to the north-east of Thirsk, and Bagby with the townships of Balk and Islebeck lying about 6 miles south of Kirkby Knowle.
The total area of the parish is about 3,700 acres, of which 1,588 acres are in Kirkby Knowle township. 1,630 acres are under cultivation, (fn. 1) and wheat, barley and oats are grown. The subsoil is upper and middle lias in Kirkby Knowle and lower lias in Bagby. There are in this parish nearly 1,900 acres of permanent grass (fn. 2) and a considerable amount of moorland near the villages of Balk and Bagby. Only 174 acres are covered with woodland, most of which is in the township of Kirkby Knowle.
The village of Kirkby Knowle lies in a valley, and wooded hills surround it on three sides. On the east the ground rises to 900 ft. in the moor of Boltby. High on the slope near the east end of the village is Shutt Wood, where is a lake made by a landslip a hundred years ago. Through the valley between this hill and the rising ground north of the village a narrow lane called Ing Dell runs south from Cowesby, meeting the village street of Kirkby Knowle near its centre. The church of St. Wilfrid is on the north side of the street, the rectory faces it on the south.
A water-mill was an appurtenance of the manor of Kirkby Knowle from the beginning of the 14th century, or possibly earlier, till the middle of the 17th. (fn. 3) It is said to have been accidentally burnt and never rebuilt. The site could easily be traced in the grass field near the church in 1859 by the mound of the dam and hollow of the mill race. (fn. 4)
In 1279 the boundaries between the manor of Kirkby Knowle and the Bishop of Durham's land in Knayton were perambulated. (fn. 5)
A lane runs westward from the village up Whinmoor Hill to New Building, which is on the site of the castle said to have been built in the latter part of the 13th century by Roger Lascelles. It was burnt down in 1568 while in the possession of Sir John Constable, who began to repair it but did not live to complete the work. A contemporary survey describes this castle 'begune by the forsaid Sir John Constable, knight,' as 'an Mancion house of a great hight and length, pasyng beautiful of itself and faire of prospecte, Wharto belonges one goodlye haulle, great chaulmer, parler, and bed chaulmer, with a noumber of other pleasaunt loogynge and chambrge.' (fn. 6) In 1653–4 it was purchased by James Danby in a ruined and dilapidated state; he repaired the old parts and built the south front and west wing, changing the name to its present one of New Building. A later owner, Joseph Rokeby, into whose family it passed by the female line from the Danbys, repaired and altered the front, destroying the mullioned windows and inserting wooden sashes. The building stands in a lofty situation looking over the country to the south. There were probably four corner towers to the first castle; of these one remains, and is occupied by a staircase of black oak. On a stone is cut the date 1374. The part projecting northward is probably also part of the older work, as are some of the cellars. The old buildings extended southward, occupying the present bowling green. A priest's hiding hole here still remains in the thickness of a wall. In the south wall towards the bowling green is a doorway with a covered lobby outside, probably the entrance designed by Sir John Constable. The house was thoroughly restored in 1875. It is the residence of Mr. G. S. Thompson.
In the 16th century there was a park attached to the castle 'wharin ys great stoore of fallow deere and woodd of all sorte, Oke, Byrke and Aler, whiche contaynes six hundred and forty five acres, one half and a perche of marvellus pleasande medowe and pasture, every acre well worth 3s. 4d. in all by yeare.' (fn. 7)
The village of Bagby is of greater size and importance than Kirkby Knowle. Bagby Lane, branching off from the Thirsk to Easingwold road, forms the long and straggling village street, which runs north-east with St. Mary's Church, a chapel of ease to Kirkby Knowle, on its north side. A lane running east from Bagby leads to the little village of Balk, with its mill pond to the north and mill race and weir in the middle of the village. On the east is a stream which flows south to Thirkleby, and is called Balk Beck here, Thirkleby Beck at Thirkleby, and the Isle Beck when it curves round to the west and passes Islebeck Grange.
KIRKBY KNOWLE was in the 11th century a berewick of the more important manor of Bagby, (fn. 8) belonging to Hugh son of Baldric, whose lands passed to the Stutevills and then to the Mowbrays. (fn. 9) Kirkby Knowle must have been among the manors granted back to the Stutevill family, and held by them of the Mowbrays, (fn. 10) for their descendants the Wakes held a mesne lordship there. (fn. 11) Another mesne lordship was held under the Wakes by the family of Upsall. (fn. 12)
A certain Gunnora was lady of Kirkby Knowle in 1217, when Hugh de Maunby granted her one crop from his land in the territory of Kirkby Knowle. (fn. 13) She may have been the widow of a member of the Lascelles family, as Picot de Lascelles held the manor in the early 13th century and Roger de Lascelles in 1268. (fn. 14) In 1278 Roger claimed free warren here under grant of Henry III, and stated that his ancestors 'from time immemorial' had paid a yearly fine for the manor to the bailiff of the wapentake. (fn. 15)
After the death of Roger de Lascelles his wife Elizabeth (or Isabel) held the manor for life. (fn. 16) She died in or about 1323, leaving four co-heirs, Avis wife of Robert Constable of Halsham, Maud widow of Robert Tilliol, and Joan widow of Thomas Colewenn (or Curwenn), her daughters, and Ralph, son of her fourth daughter Theophania and Ralph son of Ranulph, lord of Spennithorne. (fn. 17) All four shares were finally bought by Avis Constable and her husband. Maud Tilliol sold her fourth part to the Constables in 1325. (fn. 18) Joan had granted her reversion to Simon Warde, (fn. 19) who conveyed it in 1319 to Roger Dammory. (fn. 20) The lands of Roger were seized in 1322 for his part in the rising of the Earl of Lancaster. (fn. 21) They were granted again to Elizabeth de Burgh, his widow, who in August 1330 granted her share of Kirkby Knowle to Avis and Robert during her life. (fn. 22) Her daughter Elizabeth wife of John Bardolf (fn. 23) in 1341 quitclaimed this fourth of the manor to Avis Constable in return for lands in Escrick. (fn. 24) As Robert and Avis were already in possession of three-fourths early in 1329–30, (fn. 25) it seems probable that they had purchased the share of Theophania before that date.
The Constables were lords of Kirkby Knowle from this time till the middle of the 17th century, and the manor followed the descent of their other lands in Halsham and elsewhere till the end of the 16th century. (fn. 26) It suffered heavily through the Plague, and in 1349 was lying waste for want of tenants. (fn. 27)
In 1597 Joseph Constable, a younger son of the house, and a 'notorious recusant and receiver of seminaries,' was in possession. (fn. 28) His son John was lord of the manor in 1634. (fn. 29) He was a Royalist and his estates were sequestered. In 1653 his daughters and co-heirs Katherine wife of Francis Hunt, Elizabeth wife of Gabriel Dayles and Ann wife of Robert Aprice, compounded for them. (fn. 30) In the next year they sold the manor of Kirkby Knowle to James Danby, (fn. 31) to whom John Constable had already leased it for ninety-nine years. (fn. 32)
James Danby was succeeded by his son William and then by his two daughters, Ursula the wife of Sir Thomas Rokeby and Milcah, who had married his brother, Joseph Rokeby. (fn. 33) In 1698 Thomas Rokeby and Ursula conveyed their moiety to John White and Thomas Hutton, who appear to have been trustees. (fn. 34) On the death of Dame Ursula the whole estate came into the possession of Milcah and Joseph Rokeby. (fn. 35) Their son Joseph Rokeby succeeded, and was lord of the manor till he died in 1741. (fn. 36) His co-heirs were his sister Dorothy and Joseph Buxton, son of his other sister Elizabeth. (fn. 37) Half of the estate had been left by will to his nephew, who thus became possessed altogether of three-fourths of it. (fn. 38) At his death his lands passed to Francis Smyth, his sister's son, (fn. 39) who purchased from the heirs of Dorothy Rokeby, wife of Richard Wyndlow, (fn. 40) the remaining fourth of the estate. (fn. 41) He was succeeded by his wife, who held the manor for life. (fn. 42) In 1827 it was sold to Mr. Gregory Elsley, (fn. 43) who, however, leased it to the Smyths till the family died out with Mrs. Richard Dalton. (fn. 44) Mr. Gregory Elsley died in 1828, leaving his estates to his father Heneage Elsley, (fn. 45) on whose death they passed to his younger son Charles, Recorder of York in 1846. (fn. 46) He was succeeded by his son Charles, whose heir was his sister Harriet Emma wife of Mr. G. Stafford Thompson, (fn. 47) the present lord of the manor.
In 1217 Hugh de Maunby had a holding in Kirkby Knowle, (fn. 48) to which Thomas de Maunby had succeeded in 1235. (fn. 49) Roger de Maunby, who had a grant of free warren here in 1253, (fn. 50) seems to have had a lease of the manor from Avis mother of Roger Lascelles. (fn. 51) He was apparently succeeded by Adam, (fn. 52) whose son Thomas was perhaps the tenant of the carucate and 2 oxgangs which were held of Roger de Lascelles in 1285. (fn. 53) Thomas son of Adam de Maunby disputed 6 acres of wood here with Isabel de Lascelles in 1303. (fn. 54) Twenty years later Sir Thomas Maunby had a 'manor' in Kirkby Knowle, which was held on lease by Reginald de Wlston (Oulston ?). (fn. 55) It was inherited, like the other Maunby lands, by the family of Saltmarsh. Thomas son of Sir Edward de Saltmarsh released his claim on it to Sir John Constable in 1370–1. (fn. 56) It was thus joined to the principal manor.
An important 'manor' at BAGBY (Bagebi, xi cent.) with six berewicks was held before the Conquest by Orm, but in 1086 was among the lands of Hugh son of Baldric, (fn. 57) and passed to the Mowbrays, the overlordship following the descent of Thirsk (q.v.).
In the 12th century the manor was held of the Mowbrays by Richard Malebiche. He was disseised because of the part he took in the massacre of the Jews at York, but recovered his lands in 1200. (fn. 58) By an agreement confirmed in 1201 Richard Malebiche seems to have transferred Bagby with Marton (q.v.) to his cousin William Malebiche. (fn. 59) It was inherited at the death of William by his sister Amice wife of Stephen de Blaby. (fn. 60) In 1227 Stephen and Amice quitclaimed to the Abbot of Byland common of pasture in Bagby and 3 acres of land. (fn. 61) John de Blaby their son inherited the manor and was succeeded by his son John, (fn. 62) who died in or about 1301. (fn. 63) His heirs were his six daughters, Joan wife of Adam Hurworth, Alice wife of Robert Potto, Christina wife of William Snaynton, Elizabeth wife of John Dawtrey, Cecily wife of Robert Gower, and Eustachia, then unmarried.
At the end of the 14th century John de Hurworth was holding the sixth which was the share of Joan. (fn. 64) The share of the second daughter with additions which made it equal to one-fifth of the whole manor had descended first to William son and heir of Robert Potto, (fn. 65) and then to his son William, during whose minority it had been granted to Cuthbert Capon by Elizabeth de Mowbray. (fn. 66) The share of the Gowers had increased to a quarter of the whole, and was held in 1373 by Richard Gower. (fn. 67) Cuthbert Capon, who occupied this quarter after the death of Richard, held still more estates in Bagby for life of the grant of Richard Esshewra, chaplain, (fn. 68) who had perhaps succeeded to the share of one of the other sisters. In 1384 he granted these lands to Richard Ravenser. (fn. 69) He was described as Cuthbert Capon of Bagby in 1386. (fn. 70) In 1397 Simon de Elvington, who had been party ten years before to a fine concerning the fifth of the manor held by Cuthbert Capon, (fn. 71) recovered one-third of the manor against Ralph Pigot. (fn. 72)
In 1475 one of the daughters and co-heirs of William Bingham quitclaimed a sixth of the manor to Richard Pigot, (fn. 73) the other daughter and co-heir conveying an equal part to Richard Manchester. (fn. 74)
In the 16th century tenements here were held by various people, but no one estate was called the manor. The priory of Newburgh held 5 acres in Bagby from its foundation, (fn. 75) and further grants were probably made, for at the Dissolution the rents of the prior in Bagby amounted to £4, (fn. 76) and the holding included a 'capital messuage.' (fn. 77) This was granted in 1557 to James and Thomas Fox. In 1586 Thomas sold his estates in small holdings, mostly of one messuage and about 10 acres of land. (fn. 78) Five messuages were sold to John and Richard Wright, (fn. 79) who twelve years earlier had acquired a messuage known as Bagby Cote from the Thomlinsons of Birdforth. (fn. 80) Their estate (fn. 81) evidently included the land which had belonged to Newburgh. (fn. 82) It was sold in 1751 by Leonard Wright to Thomas Frankland. (fn. 83) Such manorial rights as there are now in Bagby belong to the owner of this estate, which has followed the descent of the Frankland baronetcy. (fn. 84) Lady PayneFrankland is now the lady of the manor. Another estate, called in the 17th century the 'manor of Bagby,' was held by the Morrells, who had been resident here since 1559 at least. (fn. 85) Valentine Morrell held tenements in Bagby in 1631. (fn. 86) The 'manor of Bagby' was conveyed to Leonard, Robert, Thomas and John Morrell with John Garbutt in 1634. (fn. 87) John Garbutt had the reversion, for in 1652 William Garbutt, seised of 'lands in Thirsk and Bagby,' petitioned against his sequestration. (fn. 88) This estate is never again called a manor.
Hugh Malebiche and his son William both gave lands here to Byland Abbey. (fn. 89) The grants were confirmed by Henry III in 1247. (fn. 90) Roger Mowbray gave the abbey 'the Grange here with the wood of Bagby and pasture for 600 sheep, 20 cows and 40 hogs.' (fn. 91) In 1276 the abbot was holding 1 oxgang here of William de Arderne. (fn. 92) After the Dissolution these lands were granted to Sir William Pickering. (fn. 93) The order of the Templars held 1 carucate of land in Bagby in 1185 of the gift of Roger de Mowbray. (fn. 94) After the suppression of the order this was granted to the Knights Hospitallers, in whose possession it was at the Dissolution. (fn. 95) In 1543 it was granted to Edward Archbishop of York. (fn. 96)
In 1086 ISLEBECK (Isylbec, Yselbek, xiii cent.) was a berewick of Bagby, (fn. 97) with which it became part of the Mowbray fee. (fn. 98) The family of Carlton of Carlton Miniott had a mesne lordship here. Henry de Carlton held it in 1252 (fn. 99) and John de Carlton in 1284–5. (fn. 100) The Miniotts succeeded to the estates of the Carltons, and this mesne lordship was in their possession in 1327. (fn. 101)
Henry Carlton granted land here in 1252 to Gilbert son of Walter de Islebeck, (fn. 102) and Gilbert was holding it of John de Carlton in 1284–5. (fn. 103) He was succeeded by his son John, who married 'one Amabel a Scot,' and had a son William by her. (fn. 104) He had a second son John, whose mother appears to have been an Englishwoman. (fn. 105) William was an adherent of the Scots, and after he had held the manor for two years his lands were forfeited, (fn. 106) but John recovered the manor against the escheator (fn. 107) on the ground that William was a bastard. After holding it for four years he enfeoffed of it John Moryn, (fn. 108) who in 1338 settled the manor on himself for life with remainder to his son John Moryn and Margaret his wife. (fn. 109) In 1342 it was proved that William de Islebeck was legitimate and his father's heir, that he had been seised of the manor as in fee at the date of his forfeiture, and that it had therefore escheated. John de Islebeck, John Moryn and John son of John Moryn, who was holding the manor at this time, were ordered 'to answer at the rate of 100s. for each year they had held the same.' (fn. 110) In the next year the king granted the manor to Simon Symeon, king's yeoman. (fn. 111) The Moryns refused to surrender it to Symeon, who sued them successfully and obtained a new grant. (fn. 112) In 1345 he granted the manor in fee to Thomas Ughtred, (fn. 113) to whom John Moryn finally quitclaimed his right in Islebeck in the next year. (fn. 114)
The manor was held by the Ughtreds till 1383, when Sir Thomas Ughtred conveyed it with Thirkleby to Sir Roger Fulthorpe. (fn. 115) The lands of Sir Roger were forfeited shortly afterwards, but granted by the king to his son William on condition that he and his heirs should pay Roger £40 a year during his life. (fn. 116) Another William Fulthorpe was holding the manor in 1537, (fn. 117) and was succeeded in 1551 by his son John. (fn. 118) For his part in the rebellion of Leonard Dacre in the north in 1570 the manor was again forfeit to the Crown. (fn. 119) The surveyors described 'John Fulthorp's house at Islebeck' as 'too evil for shepherd or herdsman to dwell in.' They added: 'the demesne is the best pasture and meadow ground of all the lands we have viewed, and contains 160 acres, whereof 50 are good watered meadow. The whole demesne lies together within a hedge, and the old man John Fulthorp has always dwelt in this evil house.' (fn. 120)
This manor with that of Great Thirkleby was granted in 1570–1 in fee to Ambrose Earl of Warwick, (fn. 121) and in the same year Francis Fulthorpe, presumably heir of John, quitclaimed to him various messuages and lands in Islebeck. (fn. 122) From this date Islebeck followed the descent of Great Thirkleby (q.v.).
The Abbot of Byland had lands here, but their area was apparently inconsiderable. (fn. 123)
BALK was included in the grants of land in Bagby made by Roger de Mowbray (fn. 124) to Byland Abbey, which had a grange or farm here till the Dissolution. In 1267 it was unsuccessfully claimed by William de Malebiche as 'the manor of Balk'; the abbot established that it was not a manor but a grange and within the manor of Bagby. (fn. 125)
In 1541 it was granted with other possessions of Byland to Sir William Pickering, (fn. 126) who died seised of the estate shortly afterwards. (fn. 127) His son Sir William sold to Robert Meynell of Hawnby in 1558 (fn. 128) a messuage with lands in Kirkby Knowle, no doubt the grange at Balk, of which Robert Meynell died possessed in 1563. (fn. 129) He was succeeded by his son Roger, who sold the estate in 1574 to William Whittingham, Dean of Durham. (fn. 130)
Timothy Whittingham, son of William, (fn. 131) conveyed it in 1619 to William Brasset and Cuthbert Harrison. (fn. 132) In 1644 it appears in the possession of the Dawnay family. Sir Christopher Dawnay died possessed of it in that year, (fn. 133) and his descendant, Viscount Downe, is the present owner.
A second estate in the township known as East Balk was in the possession of Sir Thomas Gresham (fn. 134) in 1570. (fn. 135) It had probably been sold to him by Sir William Pickering. Sir Thomas had licence in 1570 to alienate half of East Balk to Anthony Stringer and Thomas Seeley, (fn. 136) and did so in the same year. (fn. 137) In 1575 he granted 'the manor of Balk' to William Whittingham, who already had Roger Meynell's messuage. (fn. 138) From that date the two have formed a single estate.
The whole building was erected in 1873–4 on an ancient site, little of the former church being left except one or two stones in different places. The oldest of these are two over the entrance to the south porch, which are carved with early 12th-century interlacing work. The present entrance to the organ-chamber is said to be the original 13th-century chancel arch. (fn. 139) The base of the piscina is also old and has a circular basin and a moulded edge.
In the churchyard are some more old stones, including the head and stump of a pre-Conquest cross, an old stone coffin, a stoup and what appears to be the head of a 12th-century window. There is also a font of much later date, probably of the 17th century, with a circular bowl and a stem of the same form with a moulded capital and base.
Along the chancel step are nine small brasses, eight of which belong to the Danby and Rokeby families with the arms over each. The sixth from the north is inscribed 'Vault of the Smyth family 1770–1824,' with the arms over, a cross between four peacocks close with a crescent for difference.
The patrons of the church at Kirkby Knowle from the 13th century were the Lascelles. (fn. 140) When Roger Lascelles died at the end of the 13th century leaving no male heirs this advowson passed with the manor of Escrick to another branch of the family. (fn. 141) It was settled in 1344 on Sir Ralph Lascelles with remainder to his son Roger. (fn. 142) In 1424 the king presented, but Roger Lascelles protested successfully, (fn. 143) and the advowson continued in his family, following the descent of their manor of Escrick. (fn. 144) At the end of the 15th century it was inherited by Margaret Lascelles, wife of James Pickering, (fn. 145) whose heir was her grandson Christopher Pickering, (fn. 146) a minor at the time of her death in 1499. Richard Danby appears to have made a claim on the advowson during the minority of Christopher, who brought a suit against him in 1502. (fn. 147) He won his case and his daughter Anne wife of Sir Henry Knyvett (fn. 148) succeeded him as patron. On the death of Sir Henry, Anne married John Vaughan, (fn. 149) with whom in 1559 she sold the advowson to Sir John Constable and his heirs, (fn. 150) lords of the manor of Kirkby Knowle. The Constables continued to present till the middle of the next century, when they appear to have sold the advowson to the Franklands. Thomas Frankland presented in 1673, and his successors have continued to do so till the present day. (fn. 151) When their family estates were divided in 1871 the advowson became the right of Lady Payne-Gallwey, now Lady Payne-Frankland. (fn. 152)
The Upsalls also seem to have had some right in the advowson, though it does not appear that they ever exercised the patronage. 'Half the advowson of the Church of Kirkby Knowle' was sold by Geoffrey de Upsall to Geoffrey Scrope in 1327. (fn. 153) It appears among the possessions of the Scrope family in 1475, (fn. 154) but they are not again mentioned in connexion with the church.
A priest at Bagby is mentioned in the Domesday Survey. (fn. 155) In the 14th century the Archbishop of York licensed the inhabitants of Bagby in Kirkby Knowle parish to bury their dead in the churchyard of their own chapel. They were, however, to do their share in repairing Kirkby Knowle Church and the fence of the churchyard, (fn. 156) and all tenths and oblations were still to be paid to the rector. The appointment of a chaplain belonged to the rectors. A lamp in the chapel was maintained from rent of a parcel of pasture in Bagby which was granted to John Awbrey and others in 1586. (fn. 157)
Townships of Balk and Bagby.— Thomas Kitchingman, by will of 28 August 1713, inter alia, charged land at Beeston, Leeds, with the yearly sum of 40s., one half for the poor of Balk and the other half for the poor of Bagby. The annuity, less land tax, is duly received and applied with the other charities in the distribution of money in sums varying from 2s. 6d. to 16s.
Township of Bagby.—It appeared by an entry in the table of benefactions that 10s. a year was charged by a donor unknown upon a close called Broad Close in this township. The annuity is regularly paid under the title of Bell's Charity.
The Rev. James Williamson, a former rector, left £20 and Robert Ward left £33 6s. 8d. for the use of the poor, which sums were laid out on turnpike security. On the paying off of the tolls the sum of £13 only was received in respect of Williamson's Charity, Ward's Charity being lost sight of.
Jane Watson, by her will dated in 1759, left £20, the interest to be divided amongst poor widows. The legacy was employed with other moneys towards the building of a poor-house, subsequently used as a cottage for a poor widow, which was sold in 1901 and the proceeds invested in £20 13s. 10d. India 3 per cents.; the dividends are paid to a poor widow.