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2 - The Early History
does not mean 'stealing town' as
Thomas Gill claimed. The Domesday Book
entry is 'Stivelinctun', a name we
are more reliably told, which means 'The
farm, or the Settlement, of Styfel' (spelling tended to be phonetic in
those days). Apart from knowing that the name is Old English, so Styfel must
have been Anglo-Saxon, we know nothing more about the village's founder.
was not the first person to live here.
In the Iron Age and in Roman times, the area was thought to have been a
productive grain growing region. In Stillington itself, in the late 1950s it
was recorded that a number of Romano-British querns (hand corn-grinding stones)
had been found in the village. At the
time they were being used as garden ornaments. Archaeological 'digs' in nearby
Crayke have found traces of Roman pottery.
The Romans also left their mark in the name of the river the Foss (from
fossa = a ditch).
the Romans left, things changed. Around this time the area was a focus for
early Christianity in
Tradition has it that Paulinus, who in 627 led to the conversion to
Christianity of Edwin and the
preached at Stillington, the site being marked by 'Paulinus Cross' now
corrupted into the present day 'Pouland Carr'.
was an important monastic community, linked to
and St Cuthbert.
878, following the Treaty of Wedmore between King Alfred and the Danish king
Guthrum, Stillington became part of the Danelaw. This was when the Roman town of
was re-named Jorvic - modern day
York. It appears that Norse families and Saxon
families lived side by side in their own communities. Styfel was Anglo-Saxon, as was Essing who
lived over to the west (Essing's would
[wood] - Easingwold) and Streona who set
up a community to the east (Streonshalch, - 'Streona's place', - Strensall). The '-by' ending to place names indicates a
Norse settlement, as in Moxby, Huby and Uppleby. Even so, Stillington was still under Viking
influence. Village place names such as
Skeugh Farm and
fields come from the Old Norse word 'skogr', meaning a wood (the Nordic
equivalent of the Saxon 'wold').
area became Saxon again when in 995, Alfred's three grandsons, Athelstan,
Edmund I, and Edred re-conquered the Danelaw lands, but the Nordic names (and,
probably, the Nordic settlers) remained.
the Danes the
came, and they made the Domesday Survey.
In 1086 the Lord of the Manor was the Archbishop of York, and there were
ten carucates of taxable land and a mill, valued at three shillings. There were six villeins, two ploughs, eight
acres of meadow and an area of wood pasture a mile and a half long, and half a
mile broad. A villein was a tenant
farmer who owed service and was subject to the rule of the lord of the
manor. The village was not doing too
well. In the time of Edward the
Confessor, it was worth 40 shillings, but at the time of the survey, it was
only worth ten.
was the Normans who established the Royal Forests. Stillington became a village within the
subject to forest law. Royal Forests
were still mainly farmland, but farming practices were controlled to favour the
herds of wild deer and the growth of timber, as a source of income for the
records of this time tell us little about everyday life, but we do get the
occasional glimpse. In 1270, Ralph le
Rapere of Styvelington was pardoned of the death of a man unknown, it having
been found before the Justices in Eyre that he had acted in self defence.
object or thing which caused the death of a person was called a 'deodand' and
was forfeit to the King. It was sold by
the King's Almoner, and the money used for charitable purposes. A list of Yorkshire Deodands collected in
1338 on behalf of Edward III includes the entry:
Libertas Beati Petri.
- De villa de Stylynton pro quodam tasso straminis de quo Alicia filia Roberti
Bertram oppressa fuit as mortem. vjd
roughly translates as:
Liberty of Saint Peter
for the heap of straw by which
daughter of Robert Bertram was crushed to death. 6d
1468, John Bedford (or possibly Bedforth) was appointed vicar of
Stillington. He must have been quite a
character for on
February 1471 he was reported for:
in his vicarage a common tavern and selling beer in his vicarage as if he were
a layman, to the peril of his soul, the expense of his church, and the great
scandal of the jurisdiction of the Church of York'
Gill knew something after all, but the offence cannot have been too
serious. John Bedford still held office,
and when he died in 1497, his will was proved at the Dean and
major change in the village came in 1616, when the manor passed out of Church
hands and was leased to a William Ramsden.
In 1625 the lease was granted to Christopher Croft, starting an
association between the family and the village which lasted nearly 250
years. This was a time of social and
political change, and when Galtres was 'deforested' in 1630, the village of
Stillington was awarded 694 acres at a rent of 6/8d (33p) in lieu of forest
rights such as the collection of wood for fuel, and pannage (the right to allow
pigs to forage for food).
In 1649, Oliver Cromwell established the
Commonwealth following the Civil War.
Parliamentary trustees were appointed for the sale of the lands
belonging to the Dean and Chapter of York, and the Crofts purchased the estate
couple of generations later, the pattern of village life was changed for ever,
when the 1766 Enclosure Act abolished the traditional pattern of open fields,
meadows and commons. In total, 1361
acres were 'enclosed' and allocated to individual owners. This brings us up to the time of Lawrence
Sterne, who along with the Lord of the Manor Stephen Croft, and other
'Proprietors', William Stainforth Esquire, John Barker, Christopher Bell, Robert
Wiley, John Stapylton, John Wright and John Hall, jointly promoted the
Act. Following this, the village was
roughly in the shape we see it today, and this is where the rest of this
history takes over.