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3 - Round and about the parish

The village grew along the ridge of high ground running east-west, above what would have been very marshy ground to the south. In Old Norse, the word 'carr' means marsh or marshy woodland. York Road, which leaves the village to the south, is also known as Carr Lane, and the row of houses facing the junction is Carr View. One of the medieval open fields to the south-west of the village was the Carr Field. Within living memory the land and road south of the village were so wet as to force vehicles to divert their route. There were two permanent ponds by the side of this road. One of these dated from 1767, when under the Enclosure award, the road was gated and the lord of the manor had to provide a pond as a watering place. These ponds no longer exist. Neither does the lake on land north of Roseberry Hill, shown on a 1767 plan of the parish, 'with a small building on an island in the middle'. This was, perhaps a fishing house or summer house. This lake which was several acres in extent is not shown on Greenwood's map of Yorkshire of 1817-18 and had probably been drained by then. The island was visible as a mound in the centre of the field until the 1970s.

Whilst the road system of Stillington has changed little within the last two hundred years, some of the roads or lanes have become known by different names and their width and surface structure have been much altered to cope with increasing traffic. The busy road leading to Easingwold is also known as West Lane, whilst the relatively quieter route leading east continues to be known as Mill Lane, or Farlington Road.

The east-west route is generally regarded as the oldest of the highways but the Roman road from Aldborough in the west to Stamford Bridge in the east, is thought to run somewhere between Stillington and Sutton.

It is thanks to the medieval open field system that much of today's oldest road network exists, particularly the crisscrossed pattern of country lanes. Many of the unploughed strips or balks gradually became thoroughfares used by travellers, and lanes developed from there. The road leading northwards to Helmsley, also known as Jack Lane, is thought to be a former balk. The footpath stretching from North Back Lane to the adjacent fields is still known as Lucy Balk. Rumour has it that Lucy was a witch hanged from one of the trees along the path!

The four open fields of Stillington were known as the North Skew (or Skeugh) Field, the Crayke Park Field, the Carr Field and the Ing Field. The boundaries of the Ing Field are defined by the present Green Lane, Moor Lane, Wandell Balk and the Easingwold road. Wandell Balk also forms the western boundary of Carr Field, which lies between the Easingwold road on the north and a beck from Moor Lane to the York Road on the south. In 1766, the property on the Easingwold road known as Fox Inn Farm, did not exist and neither did the road to Huby which faces it, although it could be conjectured that this again may have been a former balk.

The present main road through the village is called 'Main Street' to the east of the York Road junction, and 'High Street' to the west of it, although only recently have "official" highway signs been erected to this effect. It turns sharply at the eastern end, where the pillars denote a former entrance to what was then Stillington Hall. It has been conjectured that the road originally continued eastwards in a relatively straight course but was diverted across the green in order to provide greater privacy for Stephen Croft, the owner of the Hall.

 Running approximately parallel to this highway are back lanes. Originally for rear access, these have recently been officially named as North Back Lane and South Back Lane, although the latter merely runs to the south-east of the village. Both lanes have seen improved surfaces since housing development began in the 1960s. The back lane to the south-west has been left in a cruder form as housing has not yet developed here.

 The B1363 road runs from York to Helmsley. Until the 1960s, it was the major road at the York Road junction, and vehicles from the west (Easingwold) direction had to give way to vehicles travelling from the south. In 1834, work was undertaken to lower the hill and ease the approach of horse-drawn traffic. However, the bank can still cause problems in winter weather!

 The roads of Roman Britain were a testament to efficient organisation, but in the succeeding centuries they deteriorated and the hazards of travelling became notorious. For much of the time, each parish was responsible for the maintenance of roads within its boundaries. Individuals were required to do 4 and later 6 days work each year, but to inconsistent effect. For example, on 27 April 1652 Stillington was prosecuted for "non-repair of the highway from Crayke-gate to Huby Fields". Many roads were gated, and on the 1767 enclosure map gates are shown on the Easingwold Road at the parish boundary; at the junction of Crayke Lane with the Easingwold Road; on Crayke Lane at the parish boundary; on Jack Lane at the parish boundary; and on the York Road about half way between the village street and Roseberry Lane.

 In 1768 the York to Oswaldkirk Turnpike Trust was formed. Records for 1772 to 1817 show Trustees meeting in several houses in Stillington, including the White Bear and the Boot Inn. These Trustees included the major local landowners - Lord Fairfax of Gilling, Lord Fauconberg of Newburgh, the Duncombes of Helmsley, the Harlands of Sutton, as well as the Crofts of Stillington and Lawrence Steme, Stillington's Vicar.

Sydney Smith, the celebrated cleric and journalist, and Rector of Foston for twenty years, was also a Trustee, but in 1829 he was moving on and relinquished his trusteeship. His letter of resignation conjures up the rosiest of pictures:  

"Nobody can more sincerely wish the prosperity of the road from York to Oswaldkirk than I do. I wish you hard materials, diligent trustees, gentle convexity, fruitful tolls, cleanly gutters, obedient parishes, favouring justices and every combination of fortunate circumstances which can fall to the lot of any human highway ... I shall think on the 15th of my friends at the White Bear, Stillington. How honourable to English gentlemen that once or twice every month half the men of fortune of England are jammed together at the White Bear crushed into a mass at the Three Pigeons, or perspiring intensely at the Green Dragon! "

 

Tolls charged on the York-Oswaldkirk Road 1768-1825

 

1768

1789

1804

1825

Coach, Chariot etc & 6 horses

2s 0d

3s 0d

6s 0d

 

Coach, Chariot etc & 4 horses

1s 6d

2s 3d

4s 6d

 

Coach, Chariot etc & 2 horses

1s 0d

1s 6d

3s 0d

 

Coach, Chariot etc & 1 horse

6d

9d

1s 6d

2s 0d

Wagon & 4 horses / beasts

1s 0d

1s 6d

3s 0d

 

Wagon & 3 horses / beasts

9d

1s 1d

2s 3d

 

Wagon & 2 horses / beasts

6d

9d

1s 6d

 

Wagon & 1 horse / beast

4d

6d

1s 0d

1s 3d

Each horse not drawing

2d

3d

6d

6d

Oxen, cattle per score (& pro rata)

8d

1s 0d

2s 0d

2s 6d

Calves, hogs, sheep & lambs per score (& pro rata)

4d

6d

1s 0d

1s 3d

Tolls from road users helped fund the maintenance undertaken by the parishes along its route.

At today's prices, 2s 0d (10p) in 1768 is about the equivalent of 5.53, and 6s 0d (30p) in 1804 is about 10.24. This "tax" was not welcomed by everyone.

Offenders convicted of avoiding payment were charged "twenty shillings, to be levied and recovered by distress and sale of the offenders' goods and chattels ". Anyone found guilty of damaging or defacing mile stones had to pay forty shillings, or face a month in York gaol. The trustees had the power to require landowners to remove obstructions along the road such as accumulations of rubbish, trees and excessive water from ditches. For example, the miller of Marton's Abbey mill was ordered to make a drain to remove the nuisance arising to the road from his pig-styes.

 Individuals could lease the right to collect tolls. In 1802, John Sivers of Crayke leased the Brandsby Bar toll (erected at the blacksmith's shop) for one year at a rent of 64. In 1809 he secured the tolls at Bootham Stray and Wigginton Bars for an annual rent of 500. In 1810 he leased all three bars for the yearly rent of 482. In 1812 however, he was prevented from bidding due to non-payment of rent, and ultimately imprisoned in York Castle. At a meeting held at the White Bear in 1813 the Trustees decided that they would accept a payment of l20, "as a composition for the debt due from him" and with that, gain his liberation.

In 1772 ". . . milestones were to be erected ... in the form as follows: wood mile post 4 feet in length; every third mile a horsing stone; ... ". Later, in 1776 it was ordered "... that the mile posts be painted dark blue, with white letters and figures, old Roman capital letters and figures ". At a meeting at the White Bear in 1789, it was ordered ". . . that the mile stones be repaired if necessary and that the letters or figures thereon be fresh painted", and in 1814 it was ordered ". . . that mileposts be erected at the end of each mile where the present stones are decayed and defaced, and that the first mile from York be measured from Bootham Bar, or such other place as the distance has commenced, and be so expressed upon the first mile post". Milestones still existed along the roads around Stillington within living memory, but as all road signs were removed during the Second World War in case of enemy invasion, these may not be the ones referred to in Turnpike Trust meetings.

The York to Oswaldkirk Turnpike Trust was dissolved in 1881 and responsibility for the upkeep of roads in general, was transferred to the County Council. Toll gates and tools were sold, with those tools from Stillington and Marton fetching 2 5s out of a total of 9 19s 6d.

Depending on direction, travellers passing through Stillington would also have to pass through some of its neighbours. On the road to Sheriff Hutton, lies Marton-in-the Forest. It gets its name from its position in the ancient Forest of Galtres and the fact that the area was a marsh (mar/mere) until drained and cultivated by the monks. The parish covers an area of approximately 2380 acres or 963 hectares, and like Stillington, is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. The site of the village can now only be identified by the existence of the church, an adjacent farmstead and a recently converted bam.

The present Church owes much of its form to the 12th Century, when an Augustinian priory was established about a mile away. This was originally founded as a dual house for monks and nuns in the mid 12th Century by Bertram de Bulmer of Sheriff Hutton Castle and the local landowner. By 1167, however, the nuns had been moved to a separate site at Moxby, two miles away.

In 1307, a neighbour Ralph de Nevill, seized some of the prior's cattle on the King's highway. As 'the high road from York to the north ran past its gates between the house and the river', he had no difficulty in driving them 'without the county into the liberty of the bishopric of Durham'. Ralph de Nevill seems quite a character, as not long afterwards, he struck one of the Canons of Marton, but was absolved from the excommunication which should have been his punishment.

It is not certain if Ralph de Nevill had to take the cattle all the way north across the River Tees into the County Palatine itself. He may just have taken them into the neighbouring Parish of Crayke, which from the time of St Cuthbert, was an enclave, or 'Peculiar' of the Bishops of Durham, and subject to their jurisdiction. In 1500 for example, Giles Whytfield who had stolen :12 in the city of York, fled to Crayke and claimed sanctuary. He was not returned to York for trial, but taken on to the Bishop's justices in Durham. Although Bishop Van Mildert sold his interest in Crayke in 1827, the right of Durham to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction over this tiny part of North Yorkshire did not completely end until a Parliamentary Act of 1844. It is open to speculation how many perpetrators of minor misdemeanours in Stillington and the surrounding area, escaped justice by crossing the boundary into Crayke (and vice versa). If the offence was small enough it might not be worth the trouble of pursuing the matter in a distant court.

By 1531, the Marton Abbey premises were already in a bad condition. A visitation by the Dean and Chapter (of York) recorded 'that the priory was impoverished and the infirmary in ruins'. This visitation also made reference to the 'Prior's card-playing and dicing, remaining playing all night until the morrow, and doth lose 20,40 ... marks a night'.

The priory was closed in 1536 following Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries Act of 1536. The site is now occupied by Abbey Farm, on the right hand side of the Stillington to Helmsley road. An account of the monastery made in 1535-6, (presumably as part of the process of dissolution) reported it as having: 'houses, buildings, dovecotes, orchards, gardens, meadows, pastures, fallow and arable closes, woodland, a watermill and five fish-ponds ('stanks')'.

The position of these former fish-ponds can still be identified from the road, as a series of mounds and hollows. Apparently, these were formed within the original course of the River Foss, which was then diverted to the other side of the road to follow its present route. No medieval buildings exist on the site today; but the present farmhouse displays some sculptured details.