Great Smeaton Parish



Smeaton (Smidetune in Domesday book) – the village of the smiths. But every village had a blacksmith. Was Anglo-Saxon Smeaton the village of the swordsmiths – skilled artisans producing swords and blades?


Smeaton ecclesiastical parish is in East Gilling wapentake. It contains two civil parishes (villages) Smeaton and Hornby. Its boundary to the north is the river Tees; to the east Staindale Beck and the line of Cade’s Roman road; to the south is the river Wiske and to the west a line of hedges. The boundary between the two civil parishes puts part of Smeaton village into Hornby. This is because until at least the seventeenth century there was a small manor – Thorpe Raw – next to Smeaton which later became part of Hornby.


The Road and the Inns

The A167 road through Smeaton village was once part of the Great North Road – the main highway between London and the North – thus Smeaton has never been a backwater. Smeaton bridge over the Wiske was an important crossing, and many items about it appear in the Quarter Sessions records. There were sometimes spectacular passers-by: Princess Margaret, Henry VIII’s sister, rode through with her retinue in 1503, on her way to marry King James of Scotland. King Charles came south as a prisoner of the Scots during the Civil War, and his ransom went north – sacks of gold coin on thirty-six wagons, heavily guarded.


In 1745, this section of the Great North Road was turnpiked with a tollbar and a tollkeeper’s cottage at Entercommon, in the north of the parish. It joined the turnpike from Catterick to Stockton and they ran together for about a mile. Smeaton provided four inns for the travellers of which The Black Bull, with the date 1739 on its gable end, is the only one left today. In 1795, it had stabling for 28 horses, and the mail coach, among others, changed horses there. In its basement are three lock-up cells, probably used for criminals being transported to York or Durham.


In 1750, the blacksmith, Richard Scott, developed the Blacksmith’s Arms Inn. Later this became the Phoenix Inn, and was also the sub-post office. The inn closed in 1840, but it remained the post office until 1946. In 1820, when nine stage coaches went each way through the village every day, both these inns would have been very busy. The Bay Horse was already an inn (found in the Quarter Sessions records which start in 1776). However, this seems to have had no stabling, and probably catered for the local population. At Entercommon, The Golden Lion was a large inn, built when the tollgate was installed and was favoured by many travellers. Hornby has had an inn since at least 1776. It was called The Blackcock, then The Joiner’s Arms, and later The Grange Arms. For a short while, from about 1830 to 1840, there was a second inn, The Wheatsheaf.



Before the dissolution of the monasteries most of Smeaton was owned by St Mary’s Abbey in York. Richard Vincent owned a small part, and bought the rest of it in 1543. Richard’s son, Marmaduke, had two daughters, Jane and Eleanor, so the manor was split between them when he died in 1595. The dividing line was the road! Jane married a Vincent cousin from Leicestershire, and they had the southern half which consisted of 10 houses with gardens, a dovecot, and a fishery and a watermill on the river Wiske, 1300 acres of land – some cultivated, some moorland – and the advowson of the church. Their grandson, Richard Vincent, fought for the Royalists in the Civil War. He was heavily in debt before the war, and one of his creditors, Henry Simpson, claimed that the security on his loan was the half manor. Richard could not pay the fine imposed by the Puritans, and Henry became the owner. He and his family lived there until he died in 1670. In 1689, the property was bought from Henry’s inheritors by Thomas Wood, a London merchant, as an investment. The Woods rented it out and never visited Smeaton. In 1876 it was sold to Arthur Godman.


Eleanor Vincent married Thomas Beverley from Selby. They had the northern half of the manor with 20 houses and gardens, 6 dovecots, 2 watermills and 1800 acres. Their grandson, John Beverley, also fought on the Royalist side in the Civil War, paid his fines afterwards, then reclaimed the property. But, by 1660, he was in difficulties financially and sold it to the Staines family who built the imposing East House in the early 18th century.

Ownership then came to the Cust family through marriage. The last Cust to live in the village died in 1800 and left it to his nephew, Richard, who lived in Carlisle, who then sold the house to Arthur Godman in 1877.


Arthur Godman and his wife Ada Phoebe had Philip Webb, the Arts and Crafts architect, design their house called Smeaton Manor on a greenfield site in 1878. Ada’s father was the ironmaster, Lothian Bell, of East Rounton who was a friend of William Morris and was involved in the Arts and Crafts movement. Ada Phoebe was a skilled embroiderer and Morris designed hangings for her to stitch for the new house. (One of these is now in the V and A). Arthur started to breed horses for the army. One of his main ambitions was to own the whole of Smeaton. As we have seen, he bought the northern half, and also any property for sale in the village. Two generations of Godmans lived here, but gradually the property was dispersed again. In 1958, Smeaton Manor and Manor farm were sold to Brigadier Hamilton Russell.



In the seventeenth century most of Hornby belonged to many small landowners. In the eighteenth century two landowners acquired most of Hornby. The Blackett family owned Sockburn, just across the Tees, although they did not live there, and accumulated land in the north part of Hornby. In 1765, Rev Henry Hewgill bought Hornby Grange, south of the village. He was rector of Smeaton for nearly 40 years, and gradually bought up the farms in this area. He also owned property in Little Smeaton, south of the Wiske. In 1840, his grandson was bankrupt, so Hornby Grange and some of the land was later sold to William Horsfall, whose daughters lived there until 1910.



Smeaton was almost entirely agricultural. Until 1973, there were three farmsteads in the village. In 1900, a creamery was built which was co-operatively owned by the farmers, and butter-making moved to it from farmhouse dairies. There was also work in supply trades such as shoe and boot making, tailoring and dressmaking, joinery and building. Hornby too was largely agricultural, with a windmill, which from 1827 was partly powered by steam. There were also linen weavers, and in the 18th century a linen “manufacturer”, who collected the linen, and distributed flax.


Church and chapel

The parish is in the Archdeaconery of Richmondshire and thus was in the diocese of Chester from 1541 to 1836 when the diocese of Ripon was formed. This later became the diocese of Leeds and Ripon. Church records such as the parish registers and the tithe apportionments cover the whole parish. The parish register dates from 1572, but there are no records of the vestry management. Civil records such as the census and land tax assessments are separate for the two villages.


There was a church here before 1066. A chronicle of 1000 mentions “Smeaton church, given to St. Cuthbert” – ie Durham. The font is Norman, and the south arcade is 14th century.


As can be seen in this watercolour, there are unusually large windows which were put in in 1806, when they were considered “very modern”. In 1862, almost the whole building was renewed by the architect G E Street who later designed several churches in the East Riding.


Hornby has had two Wesleyan Methodist chapels The first was built in 1823 and closed when the second was opened in 1926. This has now closed and been converted to a house. Great Smeaton had a Primitive Methodist chapel from 1846 to 1882 which is also now a house.


In 1820, John Butterfield, originally from Hurworth in Durham, opened a school. In 1851, he was the census enumerator and recorded 50 pupils in Hornby and Smeaton. He professed to teach “writing, arithmetic and mathematics”, and his wife, Rachel, “needlework etc”. He was still teaching when aged 74 years, and died in 1877. After the Education Act of 1870, a new school was built on land (donated by the Custs) adjacent to the old school. This was opened in 1875 and remained in use until 1971. A new school was then opened on a site behind the village hall and continues in use today.


Katherine Lart


Inquisition Post Mortem for Marmaduke Vincent

North Yorkshire Register of Deeds

Tithe apportionment and map


Yorkshire Victoria County History


Smeaton School log book

Attribution East House: Martin Kirk / East House, Great Smeaton. / CC BY-SA 2.0