It is of course possible that a Norman Chapel was constructed in Chapelthorpe on the site of the present Parish Church. There is little doubt that the village name originated from Viking times and we do know that Crigleston had its own chaplain – Simon. He was party to witnessing documents prior to 1229 and would have served in the Chapel there. All evidence that there may have been of this earlier Chapel was lost when the Old Chapel at Chapelthorpe was demolished in 1771, prior to the erection of the present structure.
Reference to the early Chapel can be found in the Manor Court Rolls for 1314 when it was recorded that: –
‘Margery la Wryghte sues Agnes, daughter of‘ Geoffrey de Newebyggyng (Newmillerdam), for assaulting her in Crigelston Chapel and breaking her head with a shingle’
References to such misdemeanours are commonplace in the Court Rolls – where the findings and adjudications of the Manor Court – set up to enforce the customs of the Manor, are recorded. In the Court Rolls of 1274 – 1275 it is recorded that: –
‘Robert son of Henry de Crikleston is charged with taking a hare in the warren and gives 2/- to be under the surety, of Adam Tulling until the next Court’
One such reference to the action of the Manor Court in Crigglestone is of significant interest. In the Court Roll of 1316, it is recorded that Robert son of Hugh de Chapelthorp was found guilty of : –
‘Cutting down ashes and apple trees worth 8d without permission and
making a ditch in seeking for coals’.
For this offence, Robert had his free land confiscated and was fined 12d. This is a significant entry in that it is the first known reference to mining of any form in the ancient Township of Crigglestone. The above matters were the subject of Manor Court ‘hearings’ at the local court – the Court Leet, which attended to petty offences. This court met twice yearly at the
Manor House (now demolished), which was situated at Little Cliffe in Crigglestone. The Court was presided over by the Lord of the Manor or his Steward. Other duties of the court included the appointment of parish officials such as the constable, ale taster and pinder.
The process of local history is inextricably linked to the history of the country, and though there is little documentary evidence to such occurrences as the Black Death or to the peasants’ revolt in Crigglestone, there is little doubt that both must have left their mark on the community. As we have seen with the Manor Court Rolls, some documentary evidence does occasionally survive the ravages of time. Two such documents relating to Crigglestone are the Poll tax return of 1379 and the Hearth tax return of 1672.
The Poll tax return records the tax, which was levied on fifty of the inhabitants of the ‘Villata De Crigelston’.
The Hearth tax levied a payment of two shillings on every hearth or stove in every dwelling house. There were exemptions to this tax however, including schools, smiths’ forges and bakers’ ovens. The Hearth tax was collected in two instalments, On Lady Day and at Michaelmas.
The return shows that of the 101 dwellings in the Township at that time, two had six hearths, these being the properties of George Ellis and Thomas Pilkinton.
The Medieval history of Crigglestone is, as with any contemporary area, inevitably bonded to the Religious activity there. It is from ancient records relating to the Church that we glean so much of the information on which our study of the past is based.
We know for instance, that following the Act of Dissolution; the little Chapel at Chapelthorpe was closed and for some years used as a cottage. We know that in 1578 Thomas Leake, the Chaplain at Chapelthorpe was teaching ‘scollers’ in his Chapel – his class comprised the majority of the children of the 100 householders in the area.
Church records are also invaluable when physical research is being undertaken, especially in respect of land ownership. Many of our present day field enclosures derive their names from early times, many can still be traced – Endel, Haver Royd and Tan Yard Close are just three of many referred to in our old church documents.
One of the most important surviving historical parish documents is the Inclosure Award and plan of 1799 / 1800. There is much reference in the Award to land enclosures which formed so much a part of the way of life of the parishioners, such as the Great Butts, where all the able bodied men in the village were required to practice their archery; Pithills, where they extracted their coal; Quarry Close where they obtained their building stone, Clay pit, where they dug their clay for brick making and perhaps most enthralling of all – Hanging Close!
The Inclosure Award records the ownership of all land within the Parish, and where let, the name of the tenant. It also specifies the valuation of each individual enclosure of land and its area. The document is truly a local historian’s ‘treasure trove’.
Many other plans survive which demonstrate the vast changes, which have taken place in the parish over the years. Many of these plans inevitably have a mining connotation.
A cursory look at the surface plans of Cliffe Colliery at Painthorpe show how that immediate district has changed, albeit mainly in the past 150 years.
It is a worthwhile exercise using these plans to trace the development of Crigglestone and its ‘satellite’ villages from the mid 1800’s to the present day. Many of the major developments from this period, including mining, railway and other local industrial activities, have been spawned, have prospered and ultimately abandoned during this time. It is a sobering thought, that the mining industry which for so long provided such a local dominance and upon which our fathers and their fathers for many generations before them relied upon for a living, has gone forever.
Our Parish has ceased to be the vast rural area whose expanses of arable and meadowland provided for the livelihood of the farmer and agricultural worker. It has become a district truly Urban in character, probably better defined as ‘commuter land’. If planning development continues in the present unabated trend, it will continue to develop on these lines.
Fortunately we do have a documented record in plan, text and illustrated form of how our environs once were. Let us hope that future generations will forgive any indiscretions we have made along the way in the care taking of their inheritance.
April 26th 2001