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The Probus Club of Stokesley and District  

Minutes of the 367th meeting held at 10.00 in Stokesley Town Hall on Tuesday21st  August 2018:  

Speaker David Maudsley: ‘Stokesley Now and Then’

In his introduction, the Chairman pointed out that David had been born in Blackburn,

Lancashire, but despite some obvious feelings of hostility towards the Red Rose county, the

members listened intently to an interesting and entertaining presentation in which David

demonstrated both change and continuity in the history of our town.

David’s talk began with a picture of the north side of the High Street, showing the

tremendous variety of heights and architecture which are a feature of a pre-industrial street –

no uniform terraces here!  Buildings had been continually replaced without reference to

whatever the style of the adjoining properties.  He followed this with some interesting aerial

photographs which clearly showed that the buildings on the High Street had been

constructed at the end of long strips of land running back from either side of the street, and

that there were similar strips of farmland beyond.  This, David pointed out, was a mediaeval

layout, and it had remained recognisable for eight hundred years despite the building

campaigns of the 1960s and 70s and those of today.

David also pointed out that features of the town mentioned in Domesday Book (compiled in

1086) were still distinguishable in modern Stokesley – amongst them the course of the mill

race serving the ancient mill, and the church and the manor house.  Much of the route

system around Stokesley also remains to this day, as lanes like The Stripe, Neasham Lane

and the old route to Kirby, on the south side of the Leven.  David was even able to present

photographs to show where the mill race used to run, clearly traceable despite infilling by

decades of garden waste!

The history of the church was followed from its inception in Saxon times as a replacement

for a heathen sanctuary on the highest ground in the town, through remnants of a thirteenth

century re- building visible in the chancel, to the refurbishment of 1777 which created a

unique nave, a wide open space, without side aisles but originally with galleries and box

pews.  David’s photo of this revealed early ‘central heating’ – a solid fuel cast iron stove

placed in the middle of the nave.  The wealth of the living was due to a gift of the Lord of the

Manor of a great expanse of ‘glebe’ land and reflected in the grandeur of the very substantial

rectory building lying at the town end of what is now Station Road.

David also showed a list of Stokesley’s Lords of the Manor stretching back to 1093, when

the Balliol family owned the town, through the 13th century when the Eure family became

Lords (and established the annual Fair, probably laid out the High Street in its present form,

and coming forward to 1919, when the last Lord of the Manor, Heneage Wynn Finch, gifted

all his rights in trust to the Parish Council.  By reference to an advertisement used for a

previous sale in 1801, we were shown that these rights included the collection of tolls for the

town market, the annual fairs, the shambles (meat shops) and the communal bakehouse, as

well as rents charged to tenants who farmed much of Stokesley’s land.  The lords also held

courts, at which various misdemeanours were punished, usually by fines – amongst the

examples shown were an assault.  Laws were also made, for example to limit the number of

geese kept by people of different social standings and to ensure the cleanliness of the house

Frontages.

Stokesley, as David pointed out, had always been agricultural in character, with corn mills

and a thriving butter market (supplying London via the old port of Yarm), as well as livestock,

evidenced by the shambles and the auction marts one of which was in Station Road while

the other was near the present New Mill public house, (opposite which was the pound where

stray cattle would be confined until their owners came to pay the fine for releasing them).

Amongst the pictorial evidence which was shown was a picture of Braithwaite’ Granary on

Levenside, with its ‘ird’ beak’rounded corner to protect it from cart wheels, and another

showing a waterwheel from site of the Domesday Mill, (demolished in the 1970s) preserved

by the Stokesley Society and placed near the town bridge.

David also showed illustrations of some of the older houses in the town, built in a variety of

styles, and some with tell-tale features such as stone construction to lower floors, giving way

to brick storeys above, or blank windows, filled in to avoid the window tax of former times.

A fascinating talk ended with a survey of Stokesley’ various bridges, ranging from the

Packhorse Bridge established certainly before 1632 to the modern concrete bridge, which

replaced the earlier and far more beautiful two-arched stone bridge as the demands of the

motor car came to dominate.

Members were very appreciative of David’ talk, which was followed by several questions

and comments.  Members agreed with David that despite creeping modernity, thanks to the

efforts of interested groups such as the Stokesley Society and SPIOTA, there had been a

gradual improving process at work over many years, leaving us with a town to be proud of,

and to take care of for future generations.