The History of the Parish of Catton
When King Harold and his army arrived in this area, in the September of 1066, he would have been familiar with the names of High and Low Catton, or their Saxon equivalents, as he had by then taken over the Lordship of the Manor from his treacherous brother Tostig, formerly Earl of Northumberland, whom he had banished for misconduct.
A thousand years earlier, the area was known to the Romans, due to an outcrop of Keuper sandstone providing a ford in the Derwent upon which several Roman roads converged. This crossing point, “the stone-paved ford”, later attracted Anglo-Saxon settlement and Wath Lane in Low Catton, which leads down to the river, is believed to be a corruption of the Norse “Vath”, meaning a ford or crossing point.
Following the Norman conquest in 1066 and the Domesday survey of 1086, the Manor and Soke of Catton was given to the Percy family, later to become Earls of Northumberland. The Percies built a manor house (date unknown), just to the south of the church, which seems to have been moated in 1258-9. A fishery in the Derwent was an appurtenance to the manor which, in the 14th century, was said to obstruct the passage of boats up to Stamford Bridge. Three hundred years later, however, in 1577, it was described as being “ so utterly ruinated that it hardly can be judged where it hath stood “. The Domesday survey records 32 villeins and 6 sokemen, together with a mill and woodland “two leagues long and one wide”, with cultivated land measured in carucates, bovates and tofts. (The mill would have been a watermill as windmills were unknown for another 100 years.) Documents from the mid 13th century refer to free tenants, cottagers and bondmen. (Bondmen were, in effect, slaves. For a definition of the other terms used above, please refer to www.domesdaybook.co.uk/glossary)
In the middle of the 14th century, a decline in rental income and the lying waste of land indicate that the area was significantly affected by the Black Death.
111 Poll-tax payers are recorded in Catton in 1377, and in the hearth-tax return of 1672, 31 households were included in each of High and Nether Catton, with 13 others being exempt. Over the centuries, the population of the Manor / Parish has not fluctuated widely, with 94 families recorded in 1743 and about 100 in 1764. These figures may have included Stamford Bridge which, in those days, was a much smaller settlement than Catton. In 1801, the population of the two villages was 328, rising to a maximum of about 400 in the 1880’s. By 1901 the population had fallen to 281 and since the 1930’s has remained at around the mid two-hundreds.
In medieval times, the Manor and Soke of Catton included Stamford Bridge, Full Sutton, Newton-on-Derwent and Wilberfoss. (The Soke was an extensive area outside the Manor which was under the legal jurisdiction of the Manorial Lord who could impose fines and punishments. He was allowed to keep the fines for himself.) In those days, the area was extensively wooded, but was cleared over the centuries for additional cultivation, with the timber used for fuel and building. In about 1352, Richard de Percy created a deer park on what had hitherto been common land. It is more than likely that Richard III, Duke of York, who frequently visited Sheriff Hutton castle, would have hunted on this estate. To this day, the area is called Catton Park. In 1616, liberties claimed as appurtenant to the manor included the right to take waifs, strays, escheats and forfeitures and the goods of felons, fugitives and outlaws. At that time, a house “in the side” of Hall Garth was used as the court house. This, the so-called “Hall House”, later became the Rectory.
As the medieval, feudal system of land tenure and management modernised, much of the common grazing land and cultivated open-fields were gradually “inclosed” in the late 16th and early 17th centuries (approx 1575 to 1620). The country lanes and most of the field boundaries and field names that were established then, and even earlier, are still in existence today. Long Lane and Broad Lane, however, which are both untypically straight with wide verges, together with Lofthouse Lane (the road between Long Lane and the bend near Throwmires bridge), all date from the inclosure of Low Catton Common in about 1600. They replaced two roads running across the common, linking High Catton and Low Catton with the main road near Kexby bridge. One of those former roads is now the bridleway running from Low Catton to Kexby. The remaining open fields and commons were inclosed in 1766, under an Act of 1760.
From Anglo-Saxon times, the main occupation in this rural area has been agriculture, no doubt with a smattering of allied trades such as blacksmiths, farriers, carpenters, wheelwrights and millers. Along both banks of the Derwent, from the 13th century, there are reports of many corn mills and fulling mills. In 1602 the weir was built at Stamford Bridge, creating a mill pond and allowing production to increase significantly. However, it prevented boats proceeding any further upstream until the river cutting and lock were constructed in the 1720’s.
From the 1470’s, High and Low Catton each had their own elected constable and their own aletaster. Constables were again elected for each of the Cattons in 1660, together with a constable and a byelawman for Stamford Bridge. In the 19th century a constable, deputy constable, four bylawmen and a pinder were appointed to each of High Catton, Low Catton and Stamford Bridge townships. (The pinder was responsible for the upkeep of the pound, or pinfold, into which he “impounded” stray animals)
In the 1750’s there were two licensed ale houses in High Catton, reducing to one later in the century. The Woodpecker Lass was mentioned from 1823 but apparently closed in about 1880. A property called Woodpecker Lass House still exists in the village. An alehouse existed in Low Catton in the late 18th century and a victualler was mentioned in 1840. The Gold Cup Inn has been in existence since at least 1851. To the south of High Catton is a house, formerly called Land of Nod, where the parish poorhouses were once located.
There was an unendowed school at Catton in 1743 with more than 30 children and in 1764 it was reported that a schoolmaster was occasionally hired and retained. One of the schools existing in the parish in 1819 was probably in Catton township, and there was a school at High Catton in 1835. In 1841, Col. George Wyndham, later to be created Baron Leconfield, to whom the Estate had descended, built a school at Low Catton which had about 35 children in 1865. Low Catton National School first received an annual government grant in 1874-5. From 1906 onwards, 20 to 30 children attended the school and when it was closed in 1923, they were transferred to Stamford Bridge. The school was henceforth used as a meeting room. It was temporarily reopened in 1939 to cater for evacuees and in 1955 it was converted to a village hall.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the main non-agricultural occupations were brick making, gravel extraction and milling. Brick making in Catton, in the area still called Brickyards, was recorded from 1840 until the 1870’s. Gravel pits were worked commercially in High Catton, close to the village street, in the 1920’s and later but the date of their closure is not known.
Corn grinding and fulling (the cleansing and thickening of raw wool) appear to have reached their zenith in the mid-1800’s, although the corn mill at Stamford Bridge was worked until 1964. The building was converted into a restaurant in 1967, but has since been converted again into flats. In 1850 there was a chicory kiln near the brickyard at Stamford Bridge, still standing in the 1970’s, and a warehouse and maltkiln in Catton, demolished when the new Kexby bridge was built in the 1960’s.
The railway line from York to Market Weighton, which passes through the parish, opened in 1847 and was closed in 1965
A Wesleyan Methodist chapel, built at High Catton in 1810, was replaced by a new one in 1900, with the original being converted to a dwelling. The new chapel was still used until the 1970’s but is now in private hands. The Primitive Methodists built a chapel at the crossroads in High Catton in 1856. This is believed to have closed in 1933 and stood empty for many years, but is now a private house.
The parish church of All Saints in Low Catton is believed to date from the early 13th century. It is by far the oldest building in the parish and the only one constructed of stone. The original structure has been altered and extended many times over the centuries, with the upper part of the tower being rebuilt in the 15th century. However, the church walls and roof were described as ruinous in 1676. Between 1859 and 1866, the nave and chancel were restored by the rector, Henry Gardiner and his sisters, under the direction of G.E.Street. The east window of the chancel, which may be regarded as “the jewel in the crown” of this parish, is by William Morris (undergoing restoration in 2011). Other notable features of the church include a brass memorial plaque to Thomas Teyll, dated 1591, a Royal Arms dated 1723 and a tablet on the south wall in memory of Thomas Robinson who, in 1835 was “barbarously murdered” in the performance of his duty as a gamekeeper, and also to his elder brother Edward, who was “killed by the accidental discharge of his own gun” in the same year. There are three bells, dated 1681, 1719 and 1742. In the lane leading to the church are two cast iron lamp standards to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and another in the churchyard itself. On the war memorial in the churchyard are the names of fourteen men from the parishes of Catton and Scoreby, who fell in the two world wars.
Mains electricity is believed to have been installed in the parish during the 1920’s. Until a mains water supply was installed, which was originally sourced from springs near Millington, most properties had their own wells. At least one remains in High Catton, and is an excellent example of its type.
Since the 1950’s, changes in farming methods have led to the loss of some trees, hedgerows and previously uncultivated areas, and the number of working farms has reduced significantly. Housing has expanded and improved dramatically, yet the population level has remained remarkably constant. In the past 100 years, village life has changed almost beyond recognition, but High and Low Catton, which have existed for about a thousand years, continue to thrive.
Compiled by G.Peel in 2011, primarily from The Victoria County History; Yorkshire: East Riding. Vol 3, edited by K.J.Allison, 1976.