Well Village Title

The History of Well

Well History Project October 2012 – the History Group are trying to source old Parish Magazines from within the village to record the History of Well and surrounding villages and hamlets, they have asked, via the Parish Magazine, for anyone with old magazines around, to contact them if they would like to contribute to the project.  The following are examples of pages from 2 old magazines, click on the attached files for more information img001,
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Well is situated at the edge of a limestone escarpment that overlooks the Vale of Mowbray. Panoramic views can be obtained from Well Bank to the Cleveland Hills and Roseberry Topping. It owes its name to a spring or holy well dedicated to St Michael by the early Christians. It is one of several springs which feed the stream flowing into the tarn at Holly Hill. The stream then follows a culvert that once supplied water to a mill at Miil End and then emerges to flow through the village where residents cross the water via their own bridges. Well was once mentioned as ‘the village of 90 bridges’ though there are now only a handful.

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael's Church by Chris Heaton

Occupation of the area however pre-dates Christianity as there is evidence of a Roman villa complex and bath house in Mill End. A portion of a mosaic floor was removed during excavation and can be seen in the church. The bath house and subsidiary buildings were last excavated in 1930′s and a large plunge pool was discovered in addition to the heated bath complex that was excavated in the c18. Mosaics are still found by residents in Mill End when gardening!

The church of St Michael the Archangel has been shaped by some of the most powerful feudal families in the land notably the Nevilles, Latimers and Cecils. Ralph Neville was responsible for the building of the present church c1330. He married John of Gaunt’s daughter and their daughter Cicely was mother to future kings Edward IV and Richard III. The church replaces an earlier Norman building (the arched doorway survives) which replaced an even earlier building recorded in the Domesday Book.Next to the church he founded the Hospital of St Michael in 1342, which is now the north wing of Well Hall (not open to the public). A row of almshouses and small chapel c1758 called St Michael’s Cottages are adjacent to the historical area of the church.

Thanks to Lynn Cartwright for the above information and photographs on this page.

Millennium Coins – The Parish Council still has some commemorative coins from the Millennium for sale.  Each one comes in a small bag and has an individually numbered certificate.  They are now £1 each or 6 for £5.  Contact: clerk@wellvillage.org.uk if you are interested

An Old Account of Well

The following was written by Christopher Pratt, of Holly Hill – Well circa 1890.

When a man of an inquiring mind visits a town or village for the first time his object is, or ought to be, to see the Church, examine the architecture, it’s tombs and it’s monuments of past ages in order to learn the history of it’s builders and benefactors such as we find in connection with the Church at Well. If no Church, then some ancient house such as the magnificent Castle of Snape, or the Crypt which bears the superstructure of Well Hall. He will also look around and notice the streets and sanitary conditions and from there he soon forms an estimate of what the place is and what it has been.

In our country villages there is generally a large amount of interest in connection with their antecedents and I venture to speculate that a great amount of stirring interest has been attached to the Parish of Well and Snape.

The early Britons had an eye for finding(?) upon a place of residence which was most advantageous both for water and for shelter and pasturage for their cattle and flocks. This beautiful Parish of Well affords all these in an eminent degree. The foundation of a Roman villa attached to the village, the waters from St. Michael’s well, and it’s sunny seclusion from storms and tempests proves the foresight of our ancestors.

We read of Earl Edwin, one of our great and good Lafou(?) Princes who owned most part of Mashamshire, living near Tanfield, probably here at Well. The baths and Roman pavement and formed(?) are proof of it’s importance in those ancient times.

In commencing a sketch of this village and it’s surroundings we are indebted to social writers. The custom I adopt, and, no doubt, it is the custom of other people when they visit a great place is first to visit the Church which is generally the truest historical emblem of the place, where generation after generation of it’s inhabitants have lived and passed away from it’s busy haunts.

Well, at the Norman conquest – the year 1070 that is at the end , the Safon(?) period, was listed with 8 carucates of land and 6 ploughs ( 16 acres making one ox gang and 8 ox gangs one carucate and 8 carucates 1024 acres.) There were 6 villians and 6 boarders with 3 ploughs. The tax here alluded to was levied upon the lord or owner of the Parish or tithing , I suppose for national or other expenses. In the tenth century in the time of Alfred the Great the Kingdom was divided into counties, Hundreds and Tithings. 10 neighbouring houses made a tithing and ten tithings a hundred and in every tithing there was a magistrate who was responsible for the good conduct of the ten houses. Well at this period was the largest village or tithing here about- except Masham which was taxed with 12 Carucates of land and Well with only 8 carucates.

These villains and boarders above referred, were a species of bondmen subject to the feudal lord or master. There were two classes, one class attached to the household to perform domestic duties, the other class in cultivating the land etc. My dictionary gives the following description. “A villain was originally a serf attached to a villa or farm, a clownish person, a man of extreme degradation, a deliberate scoundrel.”

Well changed hands 800 years ago when William the Conqueror took the land and other property from the ancient owners and gave it to his numerous followers. The old owners rebelled against this wholesale plunder with all their might and main and so exasperated this autocrat that he gathered a large army that swept away and destroyed nearly every man woman and child throughout this Vale of Mowbray. By this wholesale slaughter this beautiful vale was laid waste and it took generations to recover from the terrible ruin.

We read that a Church stood here from the days of the Angle Kings that is before the Norman Conquest, but it is supposed not a vestige of the early Church remains, unless it be a portion of the Vestry walls which are reported to be the most ancient part of the building. We also read in the early period of our country taking(?) the time of Henry II in the year 1150 that about 1100 fortified castles and buildings belonging to the Barons, etc. were destroyed. Perhaps Well Church, then standing, might have been one of them.

In the year 1270 during the reign of Henry III, brick tiles were laid upon houses instead of thatch and Churches were built in much more elegant style, pinnacles and lofty steeples being introduced. At this period a large number of the beel(?) contractors and architects formed themselves into companies calling themselves Freemasons.

When the destruction of the Castles and Churches took place they saw it was to their advantage to combine and perambulate the country, living in movable huts, in order to superintend the building of new Churches etc., which buildings indicated the growing wealth and the improved social condition of the people.

I can find no date of the re-building of Well Church. Opinion is that it was re-built at the same time as St. Michael’s Hospital and that was founded in 1342 by Richard Neville. That part of the hospital with it’s fine spacious arched roof now standing being the only part left, as the superstructure of what is now called Well Hall must be of a more recent date. The old part, with groined roof, is looked upon as having been a Priory or Covent – an institution next below an Abbey. The beautiful arches supporting Well Hall indicate the skilful hard work of the Freemasons before mentioned. I have reason to believe that Well Hall was, at times, occupied by the Neville family. Fisher, in his history, gives a copy of the will of Rev. George Neville, D.D. This George Neville was Master of Well Hospital, and, at the time of his death he held the following six livings: Spofforth, Bolton, Leake, Rathburn, Salkeld and Moreland. He bequeathed a large amount of property to various people and institutions. He says in his will “I bequeath my body to be buried within the Choir of Well Church, near the old Minister of Well, and to have a marble slab with an inscription along with that of old Mr Threpland of Well, Clark, Vicar” This Richard Threpland, Vicar, also made a will on 4th June,1552 and left 2/- to be distributed in Alms among the poor with other small legacies to various people. Well Hall, in later years, has been occupied by the Strangeways and at present by our respected friends and neighbours the Steel family.

Adjoining Well we have the fine old Castle of Snape dating back 600 years, the seat of the ancient Fitz-Randolphs, Lords of Middleham, and afterwards that of the Nevilles, Lord Latimer and other distinguished families. The Nevilles owned most of the land here and we find them owning and living at Snape Castle. There are a few notable events worth recording in connection with this Castle and it’s residents. John Neville, 3rd Lord Latimer, married Catherine Parr, Daughter of Sir Thomas Parr of Tanfield and Reudell(?) After his death she became the sixth wife and Queen of Henry VIII and you all know what a scamp he was. We also learn that she was fortunate to secure four husbands.

Tomb of John Neville Last Lord Latimer 1557

Tomb of John Neville Last Lord Latimer 1577

The last Lord Latimer , son of the above Lord, died in the year 1577 and to him the rich mural monument in Well Church is erected. He left four daughters, one named Dorothy, married Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter and by her the Well and Snape property came into the hand of the Cecils. John and William Cecil resided at the Castle. They are ancestors of our present Prime Minister the Marquis of Salisbury. Their tombs marked with their names are laid in what is called Nevilles’ Chapel in Well Church. The beautiful avenue of trees leading down to the Castle were planted by the above gentlemen in about the year 1700. The Charitable institution called Neville’s workhouse, was established in 1605 by Thomas, Earl of Exeter, who married Dorothy, daughter of the last Lord Latimer as above stated.

A subsequent order or scheme in connection with this Charity, was made in the year 1722 by Brownlow, Earl of Exeter, and the Honourable Charles Cecil, then Lord of the Manor of Well and Snape. In 1788 a change was again made by the above Earl, when the Charity was converted into 4 free schools, 4 for boys and girls of Well and 4 for boys and girls of Snape. In the year 1791 he devised to his nephew, Charles Chaplin of Blankney, Lincolnshire, amongst other property, that of Well and Snape, Ingmanthorpe etc. etc. This Charles Chaplin Esq. became possessed of the Manor of Well and Snape at this date.

The reference to the Hospital of St Michael the Archangel, that is, the Almshouses, the National Commissioners report that they find no deeds relating to this Charity, dating farther back then one in 1762, which was made betwixt Earl Brownlow and several local gentlemen. The Deed or Grant – which history reports to have been made by Ralph Neville, Knight, Lord of Middleham, in the year 1342 was not to be found. The Cecils or Earls of Exeter came into possession of this place by marrying a daughter of the Nevilles. No doubt the Chaplins will claim blood kinship with this great house. I may say here that the advance in the amount of pay was made by Mr. Chaplin.

The historical associations of Thorp Perrow are very interesting to everybody living in or about the Parish. I find the Estate was purchased by one Sir James Danby, a lawyer, who had risen to great eminence as a lawyer and was knighted. He purchased Thorp Perrow in the year 1471 and it became the residence of himself and his descendants until the year 1688 when it was sold to Sir William Blackett, from whom it subsequently passed into the hands of the Milbanks in about the year 1700. There is a very interesting history of the death of the above Danby. He directed his Park Keepers to shoot any person he found in the Park that night who would not stand and speak when called upon. Having given these directions, he himself went into the Park on the same night and was met by the Park Keeper, who, acting strictly in according to orders, but little dreaming it was his Master, fired at him and shot him dead. This took place in the year 1472, so having bought the place in 1471 he can only have lived there one year.

In the year 1514 Christopher Danby of Thorp Perrow married a daughter of Richard Neville ( of Snape Castle ) ( Second Lord Latimer ). She had for her fortune 600 marks, or £400 of our money, also twenty years after, in 1534 Sir Thomas Danby of Thorp Perrow married Mary Neville, daughter of Charles Neville, also who had for her fortune 1050 marks, or £700 of our money. This was considered a very handsome fortune in those days.

This Sir Thomas Danby had a serious quarrel with his relations and neighbours at the Castle through the servants of the two houses having sundry quarrellings and fightings, but I cannot learn what about. The Lord of the Castle appealed to the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Council of the North to take a favourable view of his case.

Sir Charles Wandesford of Kirklington secured the wardship of a son of the Danbys who was under age and he, Mr Wandesford, contrived to marry him to one of his daughters. This took place in the year 1630. She bore him a large family of children and she died at Thorp Perrow in September 1645 in the thirtieth year of her age in giving birth to her 15th child. A little before the year 1700 Thorp Perrow belonged to the Danbys, the last of the family living there was Abstrupus Danby, who sold it, and Watlass, and other property and went to live at Swinton, which was formally owned by the Baron Scrope.

The last Baron Scrope of Mashamshire, dying in 1517 without a male heir, left three sisters, viz. Alice, who married Mr. Strangeways, Elizabeth who marries Fitz-Randolph, and Margery who married Sir Christopher Danby. By this marriage the Barony of Mashamshire came into the hands of the Danbys. I think that most of you must know that Mashamshire and it’s various illustrious owners have played an important part in the annals of our country, some of the most powerful of our countrymen both before and after the Norman Conquest were located in and owned this part of Yorkshire. Here we trace the powerful family of Roger de Mowbray, Lords of Mashamshire. From this house through marriage, this estate extended along to Middleham and passed into the hands of the Nevilles, and through this family sprung the great Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker, who dethroned and set up Kings. We also read of the Earl of Gloucester. Richard II King of England living here. He had a son born here who died aged 10 or 11 years old. I have no doubt that it was from Middleham that he went to meet his rival Henry VII at Bosworth Field where he was defeated and slain..

The illustrious family of Scrope owned Mashamshire and beyond and built the fine old baronial castle of Bolton. As I have already noted one of the Danbys marrying Margery, a daughter of this house, brought Mashamshire into the Danby family, from whom it was purchased by our illustrious friend S.C.Lister, now Lord Masham.

The above account is taken from a handwritten version held by Cllr D Webster, a descendant of the Pratt family