A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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ROKEBY WITH EGGLESTONE ABBEY
Rochebi (xi cent.); Rookeby (xvixvii cent.); Eghistun, Eglistun (xi cent.).
This parish now only contains the village of Rokeby, the township of Egglestone Abbey having been added to Startforth. Out of a total area of 1,809 acres, 228 acres are arable land, 833 acres permanent grass and 67 acres woods and plantations (fn. 1); the chief crops raised are turnips, barley and oats. The subsoil is Yoredale Rocks with some recent Alluvium at Greta Bridge; the surface soil is loam and clay.
Leland mentions 'a faire quarre of blak marble spottid with white, in the very ripe of Tese,' about a quarter of a mile below Egglestone, (fn. 2) and says 'Hard under the clif by Egleston is found on eche side of Tese very fair marble, wont to be taken up booth by marbelers of Barnardes Castelle and of Egleston, and partly to have be wrought by them, and partely sold onwrought to other.' (fn. 3) This quarry is no longer worked. When Sir Thomas Robinson sold the manor of Mortham to the Earl of Carlisle in 1742 he also parted with the lead mines and quarries of slate and stone appurtenant in Mortham, Rokeby and Greta Bridge. (fn. 4) Tithes of lead in Egglestone, Arkengarthdale and Startforth were conveyed with the manor of Egglestone in 1563. (fn. 5)
J. M. W. Turner made his first Yorkshire tour in 1797, when he was introduced to Dr. Whitaker, for whom he illustrated the History of Richmondshire. (fn. 6) One of his subjects is the junction of the Greta with the Tees, towards which, through deep romantic chasms, the Greta runs northward between Rokeby and Mortham.
On the bank of the Tees, here a clear stream with a grey marble bed, are the ruins of the Premonstratensian abbey of Egglestone, built in the 12th century. Bow Bridge, now ruined, crossed Thorsgill Beck at this point in Leland's time. (fn. 7) Rokeby Park and Hall are about half a mile from the few scattered houses and the school that compose the village. The hall was rebuilt in the 18th century by Sir Thomas Robinson from his own design; it is the property of Mr. H. E. Morritt and the residence of Mr. J. J. BellIrving. Scott stayed here with John Bacon Sawrey Morritt for a fortnight in 1809 and again in the autumn of 1812, with the result that he wrote Rokeby, dedicated to his host. He paid other visits in 1815, 1826 and 1828, and stopped at Rokeby in September 1831 on his last journey to England and Italy. (fn. 8) Southey stayed at Rokeby in 1812 and 1829, (fn. 9) Dickens in 1838, and Ruskin in 1876 when visiting the scenes of Turner's paintings.
Mortham is described by Scott as 'eminently beautiful,' being surrounded by old trees 'happily and widely grouped with Mr. Morritt's new plantations.' (fn. 10) It is haunted by its 'Dobie,' a lady said to have been murdered in the wood. (fn. 11) The dell between Rokeby and Mortham is described by Scott as A stern and lone yet lovely road As e'er the foot of minstrel trode. (fn. 12)
The hamlet of Mortham with its church appears to have been destroyed by the Scots during a raid in 1346 (fn. 13) and has never been rebuilt. Mortham Tower stands to the south of the River Tees near its confluence with the Greta and is now used as a farmhouse. It is said to have been built by Thomas Rokeby in the time of Henry VII and was altered in the 18th century by Sir Thomas Robinson, the architect and owner of Rokeby Hall. Mortham is one of the most southerly of the border peels which are so frequently found in the northern counties. The tower proper stands at the north-west angle of a courtyard and has four stories. The two lowest have had their original windows closed by the later buildings surrounding it and have modern windows inserted. The third was lighted in the south and east walls towards the courtyard by windows of two cinquefoiled lights with cusped tracery over in a square head with moulded labels. The top story is now open to the sky, its floor forming a flat lead roof. It was lighted on all sides and has angle turrets, each differing in plan. The south-west turret is round, the south-east octagonal, both projecting from the face of the wall and supported on oversailing courses. That at the north-west is square with one edge chamfered and is supported on each of its two overhanging faces by three large moulded corbels. The north-east turret rises from the ground and contains the stair turret; its plan forms part of a hexagon. Each of these turrets had comparatively large windows on all faces, and the whole appearance of them suggests that the tower was built more for ornamental than defensive purposes; the parapet has a small battlement. The range of buildings north of the tower is probably contemporary with it, but has been more or less modernized; the rooms immediately north were lighted by a bay window facing west and the first floor story has a beautiful oak panelled ceiling with moulded girders and rafters. The wing north of this may in part be as old as the tower, but has been altered subsequently; a bit of 18th-century ornamental plaster ceiling remains in an angle bay window in the northernmost room on the first floor.
To the east of the tower and forming part of the north side of the courtyard is a large room about 33 ft. by 25 ft. with an open roof. This was probably the original dining hall; it has large blocked windows to the north and small loops to the south. There are also large round-headed openings of 18thcentury date in both walls, that to the north being now blocked; the tower communicates with this room through the stair turret. Further to the east of the room is a modern extension. The range to the south of the tower (forming the west side of the courtyard) is apparently of 18th-century date, but may be only a rebuilding of that date. The range to the east of the court has several blocked windows apparently a little later than the tower; it is probable that it always served as stables, as it does still. On a wall of this range is carved a shield with the cheveron and rooks of Rokeby. The present entrance to the courtyard is by a gateway, between the end walls of the east and north ranges; the original entrance was by a pointed gateway in the middle of the south inclosing wall, which is embattled; the yard is about 70 ft. by 64 ft. Another garden wall extending to the south from its western extremity retains one jamb of a stone gateway. There are other 18th-century and later outbuildings to the east of the main block.
In a field to the south of the house stands an ancient tomb, said to have been brought from Egglestone Abbey. It is of limestone, 10 ft. 10 in. long by 6 ft. wide, and is apparently of 14th-century date; the longer sides have seven cinquefoiled ogeeheaded and canopied niches with carved crockets. In the niches are alternately shields, and brackets for figures between the niches in the lower halves of diagonal pinnacles; in each end slab are four similar niches, the outer pair with shields. The covering slab has disappeared. A small gravestone, now set in a modern buttress against the south gateway to the courtyard, may also have come from Egglestone; on it is carved a foliated cross.
In the angle formed by the Tutta Beck and the Greta is a Roman camp (fn. 14); beside this runs the Watling Street, on which is the hamlet of Street Side.
Leland says Greta Bridge was 'of two or three arches' (fn. 15); but Gough refers to it as 'a lofty bridge over the Greta, of one arch, supposed of Roman work or foundation, lately taken down and a new one 78 feet and a half wide and 58 high from the water, built by Mr. Morritt in a line with the road.' (fn. 16)
The hamlet of Greta Bridge has associations with the old coaching days. In 1789 it possessed two good inns, one of which was 'The George,' (fn. 17) where Dickens makes Mr. Squeers and Nicholas Nickleby alight when on their way to 'Dotheboys Hall.' (fn. 18) In 1876 Ruskin stayed here for two days. (fn. 19) The other inn was perhaps the 'New Inn,' where Dickens and Hablot K. Browne ('Phiz') stayed the night of 31 January 1838, going on by post-chaise to Barnard Castle next day. The 'New Inn' is now called Thorpe Grange, and like 'The George' has not been used as a licensed house for many years. (fn. 20) The old 'Morritt Arms' also testifies, by its size, to the former importance of Greta Bridge.
In the 16th century there were two water-mills and a fulling-mill appurtenant to the manor of Egglestone, (fn. 21) and from 1717 (fn. 22) to 1807 (fn. 23) a paper-mill at Egglestone went with the manor. The one mill that exists there now is formed out of the domestic buildings of the convent.
Before the Conquest the 3 carucates of ROKEBY belonged to Torphin, but in 1086 they were held of Count Alan, (fn. 24) and later formed part of the honour of Richmond. (fn. 25) The mesne lordship passed from Bodin, the tenant in 1086, (fn. 26) to the Fitz Alans, (fn. 27) and Rokeby was still held of the lords of Bedale (q.v.) in 1633 by a yearly rent of 3s. (fn. 28)
The first mention found of the family of Rokeby (fn. 29) in Yorkshire is in 1201, when King John confirmed to Henry son of Hervey lands near the Lune Valley (fn. 30) which Robert de Rokeby and Agnes his wife gave to him. (fn. 31) Brian Fitz Alan in 1204 subenfeoffed Robert de Rokeby and his heirs of the vill of Rokeby. (fn. 32) Henry de Rokeby held a carucate of land in Mortham in 1270, (fn. 33) and Alexander de Rokeby held both Rokeby and Mortham in 12867. (fn. 34) These two manors seem always to have descended together.
The Rokebys deserted Rokeby in the time of Edward II, as their house was burned by the Scots; and, building a new seat at Mortham, (fn. 35) were afterwards often described as of 'Mortham.' In 1327 Thomas son of Alexander de Rokeby was owner of Mortham. (fn. 36) He was perhaps the Thomas de Rokeby who in this year received the reward of 100 a year for life for bringing news to the king of the whereabouts of the Scottish army (fn. 37); but in 1331 he released this payment for lands and rents in Rokeby and Westmorland. (fn. 38) Throughout the reign of Edward III Thomas de Rokeby the uncle and Thomas the nephew, son of Robert de Rokeby of Rokeby, (fn. 39) were prominent men. They were naturally engaged in Scottish warfare, probably against both Wallace and Bruce. (fn. 40) Thomas de Rokeby (fn. 41) was keeper of Edinburgh and Stirling Castles in 1347. (fn. 42)
The uncle was Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1335 and 1342. He was twice Lord Justice of Ireland, and Fuller, who includes him in his Worthies of Yorkshire, tells that he discountenanced the custom of 'Coigne' and 'Livory' then practised in Ireland, and endeavoured to extirpate it. He was famous for this saying, which he left behind him in Ireland, 'That he would eat in wooden dishes, but would pay for his meat gold and silver.' (fn. 43) He was succeeded in 1356 by his nephew Thomas, (fn. 44) aged thirty, living in 1389. (fn. 45) A Thomas de Rokeby finally defeated the insurrection of the Earl of Northumberland in 1408 and was Sheriff of Yorkshire in 14078 and 141112. (fn. 46) A Robert Rokeby died seised in 1434 of Scrope lands, held for life, leaving a brother and heir Thomas; and it was stated in 1459 that Henry le Scrope had lately acquired certain lands by exchange with Ralph Rokeby for lands in Mortham. (fn. 47)
Ralph Rokeby died seised of Rokeby in 1480,
leaving a son and heir Thomas. (fn. 48) Thomas was succeeded at some time during the reign of Henry VII
by another Ralph, who was living in 15223, (fn. 49) and
was the man who, as the old ballad tells, (fn. 50) presented
a 'Felon Sow' to the friars of Richmond 'to mend
their fare.' The sow was so fierce that after a
desperate attempt to secure her the friars
fled away by Watlinge Streete, They had no Succour but their feete, It was the more Pitty,
and the sow returned home to Mortham. She was eventually secured for the friars' larder by 'a Bastard son of Spaine' and one Gilbert Griffin's son, who slew her after a desperate battle and carried her to Richmond, where they were welcomed by 'Te Deums.'
Richard, third son of Ralph, was standard-bearer of Lord Scrope of Bolton at Flodden. (fn. 51) His eldest son Thomas (fn. 52) was lord of Rokeby and Mortham, and died in 1567, leaving a son and heir Christopher, (fn. 53) so popular with his countrymen that they defended him at Gatherley ('Quarterly') Race against a hundred men sent by Christopher Nevill, brother to the mighty Earl of Westmorland, to kill him. (fn. 54) He was a leader in all the services against Scotland in his time, (fn. 55) and died in 1584. (fn. 56) His son and heir John died in 1594, leaving a son and heir Thomas, who died in 1633 (fn. 57) seised, according to the inquisition, of the manor of Mortham and half the manor of Rokeby, leaving a son and heir Francis. Rokeby Manor, however, perhaps passed out of his hands earlier, for in 1610 Sir Thomas Rokeby sold to William Robinson of Brignall, his heirs and assigns, all the lands of Rokeby and Mortham within these boundariesfrom Greta Bridge along the Greta to the Tees, along the Tees west to a croft parcel of Rokeby vicarage, thence south to the town of Rokeby by the boundaries, thence between the kirk croft and the vicar's croft and west along the middle of the town green or town gate of Rokeby, thence west to the middle of the street leading from Rokeby to Bowes to the east of Rokeby Moor, thence south as far as the boundary of Brignall, then east to Greta Bridge. (fn. 58)
The Robinsons were ardent Parliamentarians. William Robinson of Rokeby and Thomas Robinson both died in service with the Parliamentary forces in 1643, (fn. 59) and a proposal was made that Matthew, third son of Thomas and a native of Rokeby, should become a page to Fairfax. (fn. 60)
William Robinson of Rokeby, whose younger son Richard became primate of Ireland and first Lord Rokeby of Armagh, was succeeded by his eldest son Sir Thomas. (fn. 61) Sir Thomas was a typical 18thcentury dilettante and man of fashion. (fn. 62) As an amateur architect he erected on Watling Street near Rokeby an obelisk in his mother's honour, and designed the west wing of Castle Howard. He and Welbore Ellis 'persuaded Sir William Stanhope to "improve" Pope's garden and in the process the place was destroyed.' He rebuilt Rokeby, inclosed the park with a stone wall (172530), and planted many forest trees (1730), designed parts of Imber Court, Surrey, and the Gothic gateway at Bishop Auckland, and built for himself the house called Prospect Place adjoining Ranelagh Gardens. His personality inspired excellent contemporary caricature and bons mots. (fn. 63) He ruined himself by his extravagance, and so in 1770 was compelled to sell Rokeby, Mortham and Egglestone Abbey. (fn. 64) John Sawrey Morritt, the purchaser, died in 1791, and was succeeded by his son John Bacon Sawrey Morritt, 'archmaster' of the Dilettanti Society, and, besides being a writer of verse, host at Rokeby to Scott and Southey. (fn. 65) He died in 1843, and his greatnephew Mr. Henry Edward Morritt is now lord of Rokeby.
Ralph de Lenham in 1198 ratified the grant by his under-tenant Ralph de Moulton to Egglestone Abbey of his whole land of Egglestone, (fn. 68) seemingly in consideration of 100s. paid by the abbey. (fn. 69) The connexion between the Lenhams and the Morthams does not appear, but in 121112 one-sixth of a knight's fee here was said to belong to Roger de Mortham. (fn. 70) The mesne lordship had disappeared by the end of the 14th century. (fn. 71)
From the 12th century until its suppression in 1540 the lands of Egglestone were in the possession of the abbey. (fn. 72) The site and demesnes of the monastery were in 1548 granted by the king to Robert Strelley and Fredeswide his wife. (fn. 73) Robert Strelley died in January 15545 without issue, having bequeathed the reversion of two-thirds of what is for the first time called the manor after the death of his wife Fredeswide to his sister Joan Porter, his brother Robert Strelley and his nephews Geoffrey Wase and Lionel Stubbs and Elizabeth his wife with remainder to their issue male and remainder to the issue male of his nephews William and John sons of George Savile. (fn. 74) In 1563 Robert Strelley, Geoffrey Wase, Giles Porter, William Porter and John Savile had licence to alienate the manor to William Savile and his heirs. (fn. 75) A month later William Savile of Great Humber had licence to alienate it to John Savile of Wakefield. (fn. 76) John Savile died seised in 1590. (fn. 77) His eldest son Edward died a month later, leaving a daughter and heir Grace, (fn. 78) but in accordance with the settlement the manor went to his brother Henry, who had livery in 1593. (fn. 79) From this time the manor followed the descent of the advowson of Startforth (q.v.) until 1717, (fn. 80) when Henry Viscount Lonsdale sold it to James Pearse. (fn. 81) By 1770 (fn. 82) it had come into the possession of the owner of Rokeby (q.v.) and has since descended with that manor.
The picturesque ruins of the Premonstratensian ABBEY OF ST. MARY AND ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST AT EGGLESTONE stand near the south bank of the River Tees, not far from its junction with Thorsgill Beck. The remains still standing consist of the eastern half of the chancel, the west wall of the south transept with a piece of the south wall, the west, south and the greater part of the north wall of the nave of the church and some parts of the domestic buildings to the north of the church, further described below.
The history of the church as told by the present walls begins about the year 1190, when a cruciform building was erected with a nave about 20 ft. wide and 55 ft. long exclusive of the crossing, which was 20 ft. square, a north transept 27 ft. long, a south transept probably of the same length and a chancel which was much shorter than the present one. About fifty years later (between 1240 and 1250) the chancel was pulled down and rebuilt wider and longer. Owing to the contiguity of the domestic buildings it was inconvenient to make the increase on the north side, and the whole of the additional space was added to the south. The next portions to undergo a change were the transepts, which were rebuilt about the year 1270. Here again the west wall of the north transept was cramped to some extent by the claustral buildings, so that the whole extension was to the east. The north transept for the same reason could not be lengthened from north to south, but the south transept, being under no such restrictions, was enlarged in its length as well as laterally. Arcades of two bays, with chapels to the east of each transept, were added also, but though the northern respond and central pillar stood to the height of some 4 or 5 ft. some years ago, (fn. 83) no traces of any portion of these now remain. The return of the new south wall of the widened nave was built at the same time, the top being finished off with a sloping head. An archway next to this return in the west wall of the transept gave admission to a chamber, perhaps a sacristy, the offsets of the south wall of which can still be traced in the outside of the transept wall. Whatever the use, it was soon abandoned for the stair turret which now stands in the angles. At the same time a window similar to those in the transept was inserted in the west wall of the nave, displacing two single lights, the outer jambs of which can still be traced. The next work, carried out about the year 1300, was the widening of the nave 6 ft. to the south.
At the west end the addition was made simply to the south of the end wall and the older Norman clasping buttress was left in position. The west window also, which now became out of the centre with the wider nave, was allowed to remain. The small sacristy or chamber at the south-west corner was pulled down after a brief existence, the archway into it was partially blocked up and a very small stair turret was erected within it. Its corner next to the nave wall, however, had to be splayed off with a fairly large chamfer against the easternmost window of the nave, but above and below this window space the turret is square. This seems to have been the last alteration in the plan of the walling, but in the 15th century the old steep-gabled roofs were removed and the walls raised above the eave cornices apparently to accommodate a flat or a low-pitched gable roof.
It is probable that the work of destruction of the church began soon after the suppression of the monasteries, when the domestic buildings were converted into a dwelling-house. A letter from Ralph Rokeby the younger of Lincoln's Inn, dated 1565, mentions its 'utter ruine and desolation,' so that the gravestones in the church were exposed and appeared 'old and weatherbeaten.' (fn. 84) The spoliation went on until the church was reduced to its present appearance. A few years ago a large part of the north transept was pulled down with the southern part of the eastern wing of the domestic buildings, and the stone was used, it is said, to pave the stableyard of a neighbouring house.
Quite recently some parts of the ruined walls were carefully buttressed up, but some other parts still appear somewhat unsafe.
The east window is a large five-light opening under a two-centred pointed arch with the dividing mullions running up without a break into the soffit, the severe appearance being only relieved by the richness of the mouldings. The lights increase in width from the outer to the middle lights. The mullions being some 2 ft. deep by 1 ft. 1 in. across and in section are plainly chamfered with three-quarter attached rolls on each face; they have no groove for glass, but a rebate is cut, against which the glass was fixed. The top stones of the mullions are worked in solid with the voussoirs of the arch. The jambs have an inner order matching the mullions and a hollowchamfered outer order on both sides, in the angles of which are detached shafts with moulded bases, intermediate bands and bell capitals. The lower halves of the outside shafts have disappeared, as has also the lower half of the north shaft inside. The arch moulds consist of a filleted bowtel much undercut on both its sides and with a moulded label. The outside and inside of the window agree in every respect. The string below the sill outside is rounded above and hollowed below, while inside it is rounded above and ogee sectioned below; this string runs around the north and south walls.
Two bays are all that remain of the north wall. In the eastern bay is a two-light window; that in the next bay is of three lights. Both agree with the east window in details and with each other in general elevation. They have plain pointed lancet lights below a two-centred outer inclosing arch, and unpierced tympana. These outer arches vary in section from those inside in having merely a plain chamfered edge, while the others have mouldings of similar section to those of the east window. The labels are only chamfered above and below. All the shafts in the jambs have lost their lower halves. Of the two bays still standing on the south side the western is wider than the other. It differs from its opposite bay in having a pair of two-light windows instead of one of three lights; of the western of this pair only the eastern jamb still stands. The other bay has a single two-light window agreeing with that opposite to it on the north side. Below the east window inside is an aumbry a few feet above the ground near the north wall; it has a rectangular opening 2 ft. 8. in. high by 1 ft. 7 in. wide, with a small rebated edge all round.
In the same wall to the south is a double piscina. The back of its recess is set back about halfway up to form a narrow shelf; the opening has a flat lintel, the jambs being corbelled out to support it; the mould of the jamb and lintel is a hollow between two small rounds. In the south wall is an aumbry similar to that in the east wall, and to the west of it a larger piscina with a half-round basin and trefoiled two-centred arch and scroll-mould label. The strings in the side walls below the windows have been cut off square near the existing western ends, probably because the canopies of the quire stalls were fixed there.
The buttresses around the quire have been much mutilated and defaced. The one to the south wall has been almost entirely picked away, only a few of the top stones remaining. The south-eastern buttress is of two stages divided by an offset of two courses; the angles of the upper stage are moulded with a hollow between two rolls. The top offset slopes back to the wall at two different angles, the lower and more vertical being the same as the angle of the eastern buttresses, and the upper half stopping the buttress below the eaves course. A small buttress below the middle of the east window has been entirely removed. The north-east buttress differs from the south-east in having no moulds to the angles and in being in three offsets. The walling of the quire generally is of thin rough stones unevenly coursed; the plinth is of two offsets. To the west of the three-light north window outside can be seen the toothing of the wall of the small chamber which stood on that side; these toothings reach almost to the eaves; the string-course below the windows has been stopped out square at the same place. A projecting string, hollowed below, marks the eaves of the original roof; above this was added the 15th-century wall, some 6 ft. of which still stand. A single projecting corbel about 2 ft. below the eaves course marks the line of the chamber roof. Only the west wall of the south wing of the transepts and a piece of its south wall remain. Of the south window the west jamb and two stones of the arch and moulded label are all that exist. The jamb has a plain chamfered monial and two hollow chamfers to the outer orders. The two corner buttresses west of it had gabled heads with carved crockets and finials. The two western windows had trefoiled heads to their two lights and a quatrefoil over in a two-centred arch with a moulded label. The sections of the jambs are the same as those of the south window jambs. Above the windows is a projecting string or eaves course, square above and hollowed below, the hollow having carved mask corbels about 1 ft. apart. Above this string at the south-west corner is a projecting stone with concave faces which looks like the lowest course of a later pinnacle; about the middle of the wall at the top is another projecting stone, square in plan and semicircular in elevation probably a corbel of the later roof. The walling here is of large square ashlar stones. To the north of the windows where the top member of the plinth returns can be seen the toothing of the small chamber already mentioned. The original archway to the chamber has its plain chamfered south jamb and half its arch still in position. Only three of the lower stones of the south jamb of the later and smaller doorway into the turret remain. The turret is circular inside and had a stone newel stair. The turret is square on the ground outside, and bonds with neither nave nor transept. Both corners are chamfered at the nave window level, the chamfers being stopped out above with grotesque heads. It is built of large square stones and stands up well above the other walls. It was lighted by a small rectangular light on the west side just above the string, which passes round it at the same level as the string below the nave windows; there is another small lancet window higher up on the south side. The responds of the arches across the transept and the nave still remain in position with a few of the arch stones at the angle of the nave and transept. The jambs have three attached shafts with moulded bell capitals. The nave shafts stop on a pointed corbel about 6 ft. high. The arches were of three chamfered orders. In the nave return can be seen the more or less straight joint marking the change in date. The older work is of large ashlar and the top is finished with a sloping head against the transept arch; the walling of the nave is of much smaller rough ashlar. The south wall of the nave is divided into four bays, each with a three-light window. The acutely pointed heads of the lights and the piercing of the spandrels in the two-centred arches are quite plain; the jamb and arch moulds are of three chamfered orders, each chamfer having a half-round hollow cut in it. The mullions and jambs of the third window have gone; the mould of the labels has a large hollow between its two smaller members and is flat above; the west stop to the first window outside is square, with a leaf carved upon it. The label stops inside are: first window, a woman's and a man's head; second, east a plain return and west a leaf; third, east a man's head, west a leaf; fourth, east a leaf, west a human head. Below the westernmost window is a doorway with mouldings richer than those of the windows; but this doorway is doubtless a part of the same work as the rest of the wall. It has a twocentred drop arch with jambs of two orders, the outer composed of two scroll moulds with three deep hollows in the jambs, changing in the arch to two filleted bowtels and a deeply hollowed scroll mould; the inner order is continuous and consists of two small rolls separated by a wide filleted hollow chamfer. The capitals and bases of the outer order are much perished. The buttresses between the windows were presumably of two stages, but all the lower stages have been almost completely demolished. The top offsets slope back to the wall in four courses. The moulded projecting string above the buttresses marking the original eaves course is supported by moulded corbels about 30 in. apart. This wall, which is the 15thcentury addition, is carried some feet above the stringcourses.
The west wall of square ashlar still retains its Norman clasping buttresses, the southern one being some 6 ft. north of the existing south angle with a straight joint between it and the later work. The west window has lost its mullions and greater part of its geometric tracery, but was an exact repetition of the windows in the south transept; it is, as already stated, built in the middle of the Norman end and therefore out of centre with the present building. Below it was a 12th-century doorway, but this has been removed and the space was recently filled in. To the north of the window are the jamb and half the arch of a Norman window; part of its label still remains outside. Built into the wall south of the window are some fragments of worked stone, evidently bits of vaulting shafts, ribs, &c.
The north wall of the nave has three bays standing divided by shallow buttresses stopping below a projecting string-course, below which is a row of corbels which supported the former cloister roof. In the west bay is a plain 12th-century doorway with a halfround arch of square section. Below the string-course the walling is of square ashlar, above it is of rubble. In the upper part are two pointed windows with plain labels (chamfered above and below) and widely splayed jambs inside. The jamb of another is still in position at the east end of this wall. The eaves course over the windows has moulded corbels similar to those on the south side. The rest of the walls of the church have been destroyed.
The west wall of the north transept was similar in its lower part to the nave north wall, but its upper part had a pair of two-light windows with plain pointed heads and plain spandrel under a two-centred arch with a label.
There are several slabs and gravestones lying in the space inclosed by the walls. In the nave is a large stone some 7 ft. 7 in. long by 2 ft. 2 in. with an incised inscription in black-letter: 'T. Rokeby, Bastarde + Ihu for yi passions ser have merci of yi sinfull her.'
To the west of this are three slabs; the north one is a large stone with three incised lines across the middle and others running diagonally to meet it and each other from the corners of one side; this stone seems to be part of a larger one. Another slab has the matrices of a small brass figureprobably that of a priestwith an inscription below and the symbols of the Evangelists at the corners. Another has a good incised cross with six flowered rays on a stem with stepped base. By its side is a hand holding a crozier.
Of the domestic buildings a large amount was destroyed with the north transept when the buildings were abandoned as dwellings some years ago. The only remaining fragments are about one half of the dorter wing, which ran in line with the north transept and formed the eastern side of the cloister, a piece of the north wall of the frater on the north side of the cloister, a bay of stone to the north-west, which was the fireplace of the kitchen, and about 22 ft. of wall running west of the nave in a line with its north wall. One 12th-century doorway remains to the east wing, and of the arch only the label retains its position. Inside the doorway are three steps of the night stair. At the north end is a large pointed arched opening, and a smaller round-headed one in the wall adjoining. There is a round-headed doorway on the first floor which gave admission to the rooms over the frater. These seem to be the only remains of 12th-century work in this wing. At the north end rooms including the rere-dorter were added in the 13th century. The lowest chamber was vaulted in three bays and had a fireplace in its west wall, south of which was a small door into the room below the dorter. These all remain in position; in the east wall and also on the west are small closets, now broken through. In the east wall of the first floor is a small 13th-century window, with closets on the north and a fireplace on the south of the chamber.
All this wing was converted after the Dissolution into a dwelling-house. In the east wall a range of 16th-century doorways and windows, and later ones, have been inserted. One doorway has for label stops two shields with the arms of Fitz Henry. Partition walls were put in and the floors were altered to suit domestic requirements. The place was occupied by some four families fifty years ago. Some years afterwards it was abandoned and fell into gradual ruin.
At the end of the wall to the west of the nave is the half of a 12th-century doorway. The rest of this wall appears to have been patched and rebuilt in places.
MORTHAM (Matham, xiiixiv cent.; Morham, xiiixv cent.; Mortimer, xvii cent.), composed of 3 carucates of land, was soke (fn. 85) of Count Alan's manor of Gilling (q.v.) in 1086, (fn. 86) and was still held of Richmond Castle in 1633. (fn. 87)
Count Alan possibly subenfeoffed his brother Ribald, lord of Middleham (q.v.), for when the lands of Ralph son of Ranulf, heir of Ribald, were partitioned in 1270 a carucate of land in Mortham was among them. (fn. 88) The Nevills of Middleham were from this time mesne lords of the manor. (fn. 89)
In the time of Richard I David de Mortham granted the advowson of Mortham Church to the abbey of St. Mary, York, (fn. 90) and in 121112 Roger de Mortham was mesne lord of Egglestone. (fn. 91) The Morthams, however (William de Mortham, John de Mortham and Robert son of Roger de Mortham), were only small tenants under the Rokebys, lords of Mortham, in 12867. (fn. 92) Thomas de Rokeby was granted free warren here in 1335. (fn. 93)
The Rokeby family held Mortham (fn. 94) until 1691, when they sold it to Edward Earl of Carlisle, (fn. 95) whose son Henry (fn. 96) conveyed the manor in 1742 to Sir Thomas Robinson. (fn. 97) It has since followed the descent of Rokeby.
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN is a small and plain structure of Renaissance design, built by Sir Thomas Robinson in 1740, in place of the older church, which stood to the north-east of Rokeby Hall, near the Tees; nothing but a few marks in the turf remain to show its site, and a few gravestones only are left in position.
The present church has a chancel 26 ft. by 17 ft. 6 in., built in 1877 and probably replacing an apsidal end, a nave 34 ft. by 24 ft., an organ chamber and vestry to the south of the chancel, and a west porch.
The chancel harmonizes with the nave, but is of a somewhat better style. In the east wall are three round-headed lights and a small circular light over, and there are three similar lights in the north wall. In the south wall is a half-round arch to the organ chamber, of square orders. Under the chancel is the vault of the Morritt family, with a door at the east end. The chancel arch is also round-headed and of two square orders, the inner order stopping on brackets. The nave has three windows on each side, each with round heads; the middle ones splayed all round, the others with square jambs and heads. The west door is also round-headed. Over the west end is a small bellcote with one bell which is uninscribed and probably ancient, and the roofs are of low pitch. The walling generally is of rough ashlar. The roofs, which appear to be later than the original church, are low gabled. The font is in modern Gothic style. The pulpit and pews are of the date of the church.
There is a mural monument with a long inscription to Sir Septimus Robinson, a brother of the builder of the church; he died in 1777. There are also several monuments to members of the Morritt family, the earliest, of 1791, to J. S. Morritt, and another to J. B. S. Morritt (the friend of Sir Walter Scott), who died in 1843.
The communion plate is modern.
The registers begin in 1598.
The advowson of Rokeby Church belonged to Brian Fitz Alan in 1204, (fn. 98) and was held by his descendants until 1340, when the king's licence was obtained for Maud widow of Brian Fitz Alan to grant to the Abbot and convent of Egglestone 1 oxgangs of land in Rokeby and this advowson, to find one of the canons as chaplain to celebrate service daily in their conventual church for her good estate in life and for the souls of Brian her husband and of John de Grey of Rotherfield, their ancestors and heirs; further, the convent had leave to appropriate the church. (fn. 99) The vicarage was ordained in 1342. (fn. 100) Since the dissolution of Egglestone Abbey the Crown has kept the advowson, (fn. 101) which is now in the hands of the Lord Chancellor. The original dedication was to the honour of St. Michael. (fn. 102)
According to a return of 1428 Mortham was in ancient times a parish, with a parish church, but at this date it was lying waste. (fn. 103) In the time of Richard I David de Mortham quitclaimed the advowson of this church to St. Mary's Abbey, York. (fn. 104) A dispute between David de Mortham and St. Mary's Abbey arose in 1238 concerning the advowson, and was decided in favour of the latter. (fn. 105) In 1256 the question as to whether Mortham chapel was a mother church or only a chapel of Gilling was decided in favour of Gilling by the Dean of Allertonshire. (fn. 106) Two years later it was called a church and said to be in the king's gift by voidance of St. Mary's Abbey (fn. 107); it was taxed as a church in 1292 and 13401, (fn. 108) but was in 1396 a dependent chapel of Gilling (q.v.).
The parish of Rokeby is entitled to benefit in the Bowes Cross charity, founded in 1878 by Abraham Hilton. (See parish of Bowes.)