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In producing the following history of the parish, the website editors have drawn on the millenium publication “The Parish of Slingsby Its History and Wildlife” and are are happy to acknowledge the work of all those concerned in the history section of that work.
Until more or less 14,000 years ago, the valley in which Slingsby now stands was deep under ice, pushed south from the Arctic regions to cover much of the northern hemisphere during the last Ice Age. By about 10,000 years ago, the ice had largely melted, leaving behind a large body of water trapped between the Yorkshire Moors, the Wolds and the Howardian Hills. This geographical feature came to be known as Lake Pickering.
Over time the water from Lake Pickering was able to break through into the Vale of York, near Buttercrambe at the eastern end and through the Gilling Gap in the west.
Lake Pickering in glacial times
Prehistoric Times 15th Century
Celtic Invasion 16th Century
Roman Occupation 17th Century
The Vikings 18th Century
Norman Britain 19th Century
12th Century 20th Century
13th Century 21st Century
As the waters receded and temperatures rose, life became possible on the higher ground around the lake, as the lower ground on its margins consisted mainly of bog and scrub. Because of the wetness and instability of the ground, no evidence of whatever human habitation there may have been in the area at this time has so far been found.
Iron-age earthwork – a shallow ditch running for about 3 km from Fryton West Wood through Fryton East Wood and continuing eastwards beyond Slingsby Banks Wood
Over the years a number of flint tools of the sort used by Stone Age man have been found all around the shores of Lake Pickering, indicating that Man has been living in these parts for well over 5,000 years.
Stone Age vessels unearthed in a Slingsby barrow
The earliest evidence of settlement in the area now occupied by Slingsby and Fryton is the remains of pre-historic barrows – roughly circular burial chambers – located on higher ground on the southern slopes of Slingsby Bank Wood, to the south of the village. No fewer than 13 local barrows were excavated in the late 19th century by Durham-born archaeologist and antiquarian, the Rev. William Greenwell. Articles discovered include five incense cups, two large funerary urns, as well as smaller items such as bone pins, dress fasteners and arrow heads – all of which he donated to the British Museum in 1879.
Picture showing what aerial photography can reveal
Aerial photography reveals another barrow cemetery, developed during the Iron Age to the south-east of Green Dyke Lane, extending eastwards to the edge of the grounds of Melgate House and southwards to the Malton Road. This covered a very large area and consisted of hundreds of square barrows or burial chambers.
The Celtic Invasion
In about 500 BC the area was inhabited by the Parisi, a Celtic tribe who invaded the East Riding from France. It seems that they lived in the area for some five centuries, right up to Roman times. But though the Romans first invaded Britain in 43 AD, it was not until the mid-50s that they finally arrived in this part of England, then occupied by the Brigantes.
The Brigantes were a loose confederation of related tribes of British Celts inhabiting almost all of the land between the Humber and the Tyne.
Brigantine society was primarily pastoral, in contrast to their southern Celtic neighbours like the Parisi (who established their capital in Petuaria (Brough) and whose influence extended over the eastern half of the Vale of Pickering, including present-day Slingsby). They used pots and bowls of wood and leather, though they certainly had the technological know-how to produce pottery.
At the time of the Roman invasion the Brigantes were arguably the most powerful Celtic tribe in Britain. Under the lead of their queen, Cartimandua, they were on friendly terms with the Romans, acting as a “client-kingdom”.
In fact, it was Cartimandua who betrayed Caractacus to the Romans, thus depriving Celtic Britain of its most influential and steadfast resistance leader – apart, of course, from his better-known contemporary, Queen Boudicca, or Boadicea.
Cartimandua had cause to be grateful to her Roman allies; in 57 AD her husband Venutius tried to seize power, but the Romans put down the rebellion.
The Roman Occupation
Having finally subdued the local tribes, the Romans went on to build a fort and establish an important military base at Derventium (present-day Malton). At about the same time they also built the road now referred to locally as The Street (or more prosaically as the B1257 Helmsley road). This road, which runs through Slingsby, linked Derventium with Isurium (Aldborough) to the west. Though there are traces of Roman habitation all along the road, including a villa at Hovingham, little of visual interest remains from those times. Much the same can be said of the Anglo-Saxons who followed them. Were there Romans in Slingsby?
The Vikings — and the Founding of Slingsby
The first identifiable settlement on the actual site of the present village of Slingsby dates back to the 9th or 10th century. By this time the waters of Lake Pickering had for the most part drained away, leaving behind extensive areas of peat bog surrounded by scrub, similar perhaps to the one shown below. Gradually, as the land dried out, subsistence farming became a possibility.
Typical valley bog, or carr
This was in the time of the Vikings, who first began their raids on England with an attack on Lindisfarne in 793. From there they advanced through Northumbria, eventually establishing a kingdom with its capital at Jorvik (modern-day York) in 866.
During their roughly 300-year presence in the area the Vikings left their indelible imprint not only on place names, but also on language, leaving us words like gawk, knife, haggle, sleuth, riding – and very many others, including just about every word containing the letter combination th (represented in Old Norse and Old English by the letter Þ or þ), the arts (motifs like the one above) and many aspects of everyday life.
As for place names: Slingsby, for example, was originally called Selungesbi or Eslingesbi, the Old Norse bi signifying ‘community’, or the place where Sleng or Esling lived along with his family and followers – the modern Danish word by means ‘town’ or ‘city’. Hence we have around us communities with names like Amotherby, Brawby, Brandsby, Grimsby, and of course Whitby.
Originally, a by would have been a house in an enclosed garth with huts for servants, where gradually the surrounding wood and wasteland would have been taken over and cleared.
Fryton also stems from Viking roots with Fritum or Frithis meaning ‘farm’. People living in the area at this time would have hunted with spears and hawks.
There is other evidence of Viking influence in the area, for example in the name South Holme, Holm being Old Norse for ‘island’; South Holme is slightly raised above the surrounding carrs. It is possible that South Holme may well have been the first place in the area to be properly cultivated, having higher and better drained land.
Battle of Stamford Bridge
In 1066, the Vikings under their king Harald Hardrada were finally defeated by King Harold of England at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, just a few miles from here.
In that same year, having annihilated the Vikings, Harold went on to suffer death – and his troops defeat – at the hands of the Normans under William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.
At this time, the principal tenants of the area where Slingsby now stands were Hugh Fitz-Baldric and the Earl of Mortain, a half-brother of William the Conqueror.
The Norman Conquest led to a sea-change in the history of the English state. William ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, a survey of the entire population and their lands and property for tax purposes, which revealed that within twenty years of the conquest the English ruling class had been almost entirely dispossessed and replaced by Norman landholders. And Slingsby clearly suffered the same fate.
One of the mentions of Slingsby (Selungesbi) in the Domesday Book
(find it in the 9th line from the bottom in the right-hand column)
According to the Domesday Book, in 1086 the parish of Selungesbi had fourteen carucates of land (a carucate being the amount of land that could be ploughed in a year by one plough and eight oxen, roughly 2,500 acres). There were two manor houses and a priest. At Fryton (then referred to as Frideton), in 1086 the Earl of Mortain owned half a carucate of land and the rest of the village was a berewick of Hovingham.
In 1088, a rebellion by Norman noblemen against William II (perhaps better known as William Rufus, on account of his ruddy complexion and red cheeks), who succeeded his father as England’s king, resulted in many of them having their lands confiscated, including the Earl of Mortain.
In 1188, Hugh de Flamville of Fryton gave an area of land and Pockets Mill at Fryton to Rievaulx Abbey, and this holding became a grange (or outlying farm holding) farmed by the Abbey. The name Fryton Grange still exists, referring to the area and collection of farm buildings to the north of the former Fryton railway crossing gatehouse. The lands passed to the Mowbray family, who owned a considerable area of land and were an important baronial family.
Arms of the Mowbray family
It was they who founded a fortified manor house or hunting lodge on the site of the present Slingsby Castle.
By the latter part of the 12th century, Roger de Mowbray owned land which included manors and castles at Thirsk and Gilling as well as at Slingsby, and a large area on the west side of the Vale of York. He owned the townships of Wath (where there was a religious place of worship for women and a water mill), and Fryton, where he owned six carucates of land and endowed a chapel. It is not known precisely where the chapel was in Fryton but it is thought to have stood on the land between the present North Farm House and West Farm House.
In 1138, the family’s most prominent member, Roger de Mowbray, while still a minor fought a memorable battle with the Scots at Northallerton, but was later taken prisoner during the battle of Lincoln.
In 1148, Roger de Mowbray accompanied King Louis VII of France on the Second Crusade, where he distinguished himself with his fighting prowess. Some years later, in 1186, he returned to the Holy Land on the Third Crusade, where he was captured by Saladin’s army, but was ransomed by the Knights Templar. Two years later, Roger de Mowbray died at Tyre in Palestine, although another version of the story has him returning to England, where he supposedly contributed to the founding of Byland Abbey, eventually dying and being buried there in 1202.
By 1215, Slingsby (by then called Slingbi or Lengeby) was home to the Wyvill family (sometimes spelled Wyville). Six generations of Wyvill knights lived in Slingsby and their descendants were still residents into the early 17th century.
In 1253, Henry III granted William Wyvill ‘free warren’ (hunting and shooting rights) in Slingsby. William and Thomas Wyvill are listed in the Lay Subsidy of 1300, which lists the taxes raised by Edward I, and were important enough to pay a significant sum.
Arms of the Wyvill family
The same records indicate significant wealth in both Fryton and South Holme, both of which had manors. The most famous of the Wyvills was the 14th century knight, William de Wyvill, whose stone effigy lies in the present Church.
Effigy of William de Wyvill in All Saints Church, Slingsby
In 1322 the land passed to the Hastings family and the castle became important because of its central position, with fine clear views of the Vale of Pickering. It was first granted a Royal Licence in 1216, and was later purchased in 1343 by Sir Ralph de Hastings from the Wyvills, who kept the second manor, Wyvill Hall.
By the beginning of the 15th century, Slingsby is referred to in Whitby Abbey records as Slyngysby.
The Hastings family were supporters of the Yorkist cause and they became most powerful when they were given the Barony of Hastings in Sussex. The grandson of Ralph de Hastings, Lord William Hastings, was given a licence to further ‘enclose, crenelate, embattle, and machicolate’ Slingsby Castle in 1462.
Slingsby Castle was considerably strengthened in defence of the Yorkist cause in opposition to Pickering Castle, which was a Lancastrian stronghold. Hastings enclosed the castle with a wall or ramparts, with towers at its four corners. In about 1471 he built defences and battlements with slits for shooting through, and a projecting gallery or barbican for dropping heavy missiles and boiling liquid on the enemy.
The castle contained a chapel referred to as the Hastings Chapel and was surrounded by a moat about 80 feet wide, as well as a bailey wall. The moat was fed from Wath beck, and the position of the channel was clearly seen well into the 20th century. In 1475 Hastings was allowed to enclose and impark a further 2,000 acres in Slingsby, which would have brought about a major clearance of the scrub and tree cover, particularly in the north of the castle where pockets of land at various times have been known as ‘the park’ or ‘parks’ and associated with the castle. After 1485, the first Slingsby Castle fell into ruins.
In 1594, Sir Charles Cavendish purchased the Manors of Slingsby and Fryton from Sir John Atherton. He intended to build a house resembling an old medieval castle and the ruined medieval castle provided a ready-made moated base for the new house.
The present structure, now also in ruins, was built by Sir Charles Cavendish the younger in about 1630–5 to a different design, but there is no record of the house ever having been properly lived in. Sir Charles died in 1653 and the castle passed to his nephew Henry Cavendish and in 1691 John Holles, the Earl of Clare received the Cavendish Estate which included Slingsby, though marriage.
The castle and lands were eventually purchased from his heirs by John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham in 1719, but unfortunately he died in 1720 and his son died in his teens leaving no heir. Eventually the matter was settled in 1750 in favour of Margaret Daly, one of the great-granddaughters of Sir John Sheffield and she became owner of the Manors of Slingsby, Hovingham and Wath.
Slingsby Manor consisted of 1,530 acres, 250 acres of Slingsby Moor and a ruined house, called Slingsby Castle. The Slingsby Manor included 20 farmsteads and 30 cottages, and the Manor of Fryton amounted to 1,067 acres including six farmsteads. By this time the pattern of roads and plots still recognisable in the present village were fully established.
In the early 18th century, the Howard family began to extend its land ownership, and work on the construction of Castle Howard began in 1699. There is no doubt that the years during which the great house at Castle Howard was being brought prosperity to the nearby villages, providing abundant employment and boosting local trade.
The Earls of Carlisle and the Howard family strongly influenced the development of the village at this time. In 1751, the Henry Howard, Fourth Earl of Carlisle acquired the Manors of Slingsby and Fryton from Margaret Daly. The second half of the 18th century saw the appearance of many of the stone farmhouses and cottages that can be seen in the village today. The farmsteads at Fryton and South Holme were improved with larger buildings and substantial ranges of outbuildings, but the number of households did not seem to increase. However, Slingsby began to increase noticeably in size during the latter part of the 18th century.
By 1801, Slingsby village had 92 houses and a population of 434. Model cottages for estate workers were also developed to the east of the Green and a series of other cottages on the east side of High Street.
The existing Methodist Chapel was built in 1837, and a few years later a new school was built in the centre of the village with separate accommodation for boys and girls. Attached to this was a Reading Room (or library). At about the same time the avenue of trees along the Balk were planted.
In 1845, the Rev William Walker described Slingsby as ‘peaceful, orderly and industrious’ and had two good inns, a series of provident societies, and a clothing club. In the winter time, when the family were in residence at Castle Howard, a soup kitchen was run for the needy, and supplies of blankets, coal and clothing sent out to the villages on the estate. He also described the celebrations connected with the maypole, which in Slingsby has been a significant feature through much of its history. There was also at this time a policeman in the village, paid for by voluntary contribution. Walker noted that the parish rates were moderate, but he was not impressed by the state of the roads and footpaths.
1846 saw the beginning of the construction of the Thirsk/Malton Railway line which opened in 1853. In Slingsby the railway passed along the north side of the village, and as a result the road running towards South Holme became Railway Street and developed into the central village thoroughfare. The easy transporting of coal to the village was a significant benefit. In 1867, the medieval Church of All Saints was demolished and replaced by a new building which was a direct copy of the one it replaced.
All Saints Church
The second half of the 19th century saw the village at its largest. In 1861 the population peaked at 707, but by 1901 it had fallen back to 454 (roughly the level it had been in 1801).
The size and shape of the village changed little over the first half of the 20th century. The main occupation continued to be agriculture, with more than a dozen working farms, all centred in the village, plus other smaller holdings.
A significant number of the male population of Slingsby, South Holme and Fryton fought in the First World War. Slingsby Church has an unusual commemorative painted board that hangs on the west wall of the church: it lists all the 101 Slingsby men who served in the war. Another memorial lists those who died in both world wars: fifteen in the First World War and four in the Second.
After the Second World War, the village began to change more rapidly in character, as more people began to seek work outside the village and mechanisation of agriculture reduced the amount of work available in the village. In addition, secondary education provided in Malton for all children had the effect of broadening horizons.
Outwardly, little has changed in the village during the first ten years of the new century, except that still more businesses have closed down or moved.
In 2010, the Parish Council conducted a survey to elicit residents’ views on what they thought about their village. In due course, a Parish Plan was drawn up incorporating many of the suggestions made. Some will inevitably take time – and money – to implement; two have already been implemented: we now have a regular Newsletter, which is distributed free of charge to every household in the parish, and on 1 March 2011 we saw the inauguration of the community website at www.slingsbyvillage.co.uk.
One constant feature, the maypole, still stands on the Green to remind the village of its long history and traditions.