Stivelincton (xi cent.).
The parish of Stillington covers 2,157 acres, of
which 1,076 acres are under cultivation, 724 acres
are laid down to grass, and 178 acres are woodland. (fn. 1)
The soil is sand and clay on a subsoil chiefly of
middle lias. Corn and potatoes are grown. The
village lies along the road from Easingwold to Sheriff
Hutton. The road from York to Helmsley joins
this road at about the middle of the village street;
it turns at a right angle along that street and passes
northward again by taking another right-angled turn
across the green at the east end of the village. There
is a Wesleyan chapel here. The church occupies a
central position on the north side of the broad
village street. The village, though of some size, is
bare and uninteresting, and the houses are all of
comparatively recent date.
To the east of the village and opposite the green
lies the Hall, the property and residence of Mr. M.
Liddell, with a fair-sized park, in the extreme south
west corner of which is a chalybeate spring called
St. John's Well. To the west lies the extensive
common land, in which is Cass Plantation divided
from the Fox Covert by Shand Lane. Ings Lane
runs north and south through the water meadows or
Ings, in which stand Little and Big Ings Wood
divided by Ings Drain which becomes eventually
Hawkhills Beck. The whole parish is well watered.
Almost the entire northern portion of Stillington
is known as Northskeugh. Skarregarth, Chapel
Land, Long Blackwall Flat, Blailand Flat, Pease Ing
Flat and Crayke Park Field (fn. 2) are place-names mentioned in 1649. The River Foss waters the eastern
portion of Stillington for a short distance and turns
the mill, which at the time of the Domesday Survey
was valued at 3s. (fn. 3)
A description of the prebendal manor given in
1295 (fn. 4) mentions two water-mills and one windmill.
The bondmen then gave merchet and paid 'oyerwycht' and heriots. (fn. 5) All the bondmen carried
their tithes of sheaves to the prebendary's grange
and timber for building, and in harvest time they
all reaped for one day. The holdings varied from
1 to 4 oxgangs.
The name of Laurence Sterne (fn. 6) is closely connected with the village of Stillington. In March
1742–3, soon after his marriage, he was instituted to
the living in fulfilment of a promise made to his
wife by Lord Fairfax. (fn. 7) Sterne held it in conjunction with Sutton, where he lived for nearly twenty
years, conducting the morning service at Sutton, and
walking across the fields to Stillington in the afternoon to preach his weekly sermon, unless other
attractions presented themselves en route. One
Sunday no vicar appeared to conduct the afternoon
service, and the parishioners afterwards discovered
that a covey of partridges raised by his pointer had
engrossed the attention of their pastor. (fn. 8) So unpopular
was he with his parishioners that they would render
him no assistance when he was nearly drowning
through the ice breaking under him while skating on
one of the ponds at Stillington. It was to him that
the people of Stillington owe an Act inclosing
1,400 acres in 1766. (fn. 9) He surrendered the tithes of
wool and lambs and received in compensation a share
in the common land. Sterne had a great admirer
in the squire, Stephen Croft, who was perhaps the
first to see Tristram Shandy. It was at Stillington
Hall that Sterne threw the manuscript of his famous
novel into the fire on finding it unappreciated by
Croft's friends after a heavy dinner; Croft himself
rescued it from the flames.
In 1660 (fn. 10) Henry Bridgeman, afterwards Bishop
of Sodor and Man, was appointed to the prebend of
Stillington, which he held amongst various other
benefices, though he appears never to have lived there.
In 1086 and before this date STILLINGTON formed part of the possessions
of the Archbishop of York, (fn. 11) who held
there 10 carucates at geld. Before 1258 (fn. 12) a prebend
had been formed and endowed with the manor, which
was extended in 1295 (fn. 13) at 3 carucates of arable land
in demesne and 20 acres of demesne meadow, with
three messuages and 36 oxgangs held by certain rents.
The manor continued in the hands of the prebendary
and was in the Liberty of St. Peter. (fn. 14) In 1616 a lease
or assignment was made to William Ramsden, (fn. 15) and in
1625 (fn. 16) Christopher Croft had a lease of it for a term
of three lives. In 1649 the
Parliamentary trustees for the
sale of the lands belonging to
the Dean and Chapter of York
sold the manor to George
Gill of Leeds; he in the same
year sold it to Christopher
Croft, (fn. 17) who appears to have
obtained a grant of it from
the dean and chapter after the
Restoration. He was Lord
Mayor of York in the time of
Charles I, (fn. 18) and was knighted
on the occasion of his entertaining that monarch at his
own house. He married first
Cecilia the daughter of James Welford, (fn. 19) prebendary
of Stillington, and secondly Elizabeth Harrison. By
his second wife he had a son Thomas Croft, (fn. 20) who
married Olive, only daughter and heir of John
Dyneley of Bramhope. Thomas Croft was followed
by a son of the same name, who died in 1711, (fn. 21)
leaving a son Stephen. On his death in 1733 (fn. 22) he
was succeeded by his son Stephen Croft, the friend of
Sterne. He died in 1798, (fn. 23) leaving a son Stephen,
who held the manor of Stillington in 1799 (fn. 24) and
died in 1813, (fn. 25) being followed by Colonel Harry
Croft, who died in 1853. (fn. 26) He left two sons; Harry,
the elder, was drowned at Balaclava in 1854, and
Stillington passed to Stephen, his younger brother.
On his death in 1871 (fn. 27) he was succeeded by his son
Harry Croft, who sold the estate in 1895. The Hall
and some 275 acres were bought by Mr. Rawdon
Thornton, and were sold by him in 1903 to Mr.
Matthew Liddell, the present owner. (fn. 28)
Croft of Stillington. Quarterly indented erminois and gules with a leopard rampant gules in the quarter.
In 1543 (fn. 29) Edward Archbishop of York was
granted land in Stillington which had formerly
belonged to Moxby Priory.
The church of ST. NICHOLAS
consists of a chancel 32¼ ft. by 16 ft.
with north vestry, nave 44¼ ft. by 16 ft.
with side aisles, making a total width of 33½ ft.,
west tower and south porch. The total length is
87¾ ft., and the measurements are all internal.
The church was so largely rebuilt and altered in
1840 that little indication of its history is left.
None of the existing features, however, are older
than the 15th century, to which period the chancel
and north vestry belong. The nave and tower are
said to have been rebuilt in 1840, but probably
much of the old work was re-used and much left
in situ. At that date the nave and aisles were
included under one roof, and the chancel roof
follows the same pitch.
The chancel has a five-light east window with a
traceried four-centred head, and in the south wall
are two square-headed two-light windows, also
traceried in the head. Between the last two is a
priest's door, and further east in the same wall is a
plain piscina. The chancel arch dies into the wall
on either side. The vestry on the north side is of
15th-century date with a single-light square-headed
east window. The nave and aisles are four bays
long, the arcades springing from octagonal piers without capitals. The aisles are lit by square-headed
two-light windows similar to those in the south wall
of the chancel. The roofs all date from 1840, and
the curious corbels to the flat aisle roofs are probably
also of that date. In the third bay on the south
side is a shallow porch with a pointed outer doorway.
The tower at the west end is of three stages with
diagonal buttresses at the angles rising to the base of
the belfry. The walls of the belfry stage are set
back considerably on the exterior and are each pierced
by a pointed two-light window of 15th-century
character. The plain parapet is corbelled out, and
in the centre of each side is a diminutive gablet.
In the east window is a small fragment of ancient
glass inscribed IHC.
The tower contains three bells; the first inscribed
'Exultabo in deo, 1698'; the second, in black letter,
'+ Sancta ihc Maria ihc Hora ihc pro nobis'; the
third 'Deo gloria, 1732.'
Stillington Church from the South-east
The plate includes a cup (York, 1634 ?) inscribed
'William Willkinson, Robert Morlay, Chourchwardens of Stillinton, 1664'; the remainder of the
pieces are modern.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i)
mixed entries 1666 to 1702; (ii) mixed entries
1703 to 1778, marriages to 1753 only (on a flyleaf of this book are signatures of Laurence Sterne,
vicar, 1744 and 1767); (iii) marriages 1754 to
1812; (iv) baptisms and burials 1778 to 1812.
Stillington is a peculiar (fn. 30) and a
discharged vicarage. It was formerly
a rectory belonging to the prebend
of Stillington, to which stall it was appropriated and
a vicarage ordained about 1520–30. (fn. 31) The patronage
is now in the hands of the archbishop.
In 1654 Jane Rawdon left a
cottage-house and yard to the poor
with a share of common upon the
West Moor containing about 17 acres. The land
is let at £12 5s. a year.
In 1713 William Cook left to the poor 5s. to be
paid every St. Thomas's Day out of his allotment in
the Roobers, and in 1715 Alice Cook left to poor
widows the sum of 5s. out of the same property.
These charities are administered together under a
scheme of 28 August 1891, as varied by a scheme of
21 May 1897 for the general benefit of the poor,
chiefly in the distribution of coal.
In 1836 John Calvert by will bequeathed £100 to
be invested and the income applied for the benefit
of poor widows. The legacy was invested in
£102 13s. 11d. consols (with the official trustees).
The dividends, amounting to £2 11s. 4d., are
applied in gifts of money varying from 3s. 6d. to