Chapter 7: The Saxon Period

Saxon remains in the neighbourhood of Gilling are very scarce. We have nothing like the great Saxon Cross of Stonegrave or the carvings in Oswaldkirk. In Domesday Book there is no mention of a church at Gilling, but that is not to say that one did not exist. There is positive evidence for a church in two respects. The first is the presence of a crude stone cross with no ornamentation, on the south side of the church opposite the south porch. According to local tradition the cross was found buried in the churchyard and re-erected many years ago. At some stage it has been broken and rather crudely repaired. In design it resembles the crosses built into the walls of Kirkdale church. These are reputed to be either late Saxon or early Norman. If then this cross is Saxon, it may seem that there was a church here before the Conquest, or at least a meeting place where a visiting priest might celebrate Mass.

Also we know that in 1157AD the church was given by Eustace Fitzjohn to St. Mary’s Abbey, York, when it was reputed to be in a bad state of repair. The Abbey must have put men to work on it very quickly: more of that later. If the church was in bad condition then it must have been quite old, and so probably existed before the Conquest. A further piece of evidence, now lost, was the existence of a small fragment of a crucifixion once in the tower of the church. It disappeared some 35 years ago. It was dated at 1000AD. People who had seen it said that it was a very mutilated carving of two figures at the foot of a cross. Pevsner, who might have seen it, says that it was pre-conquest. The above evidence seems to imply that there was a church here before the Conquest. The bad state that it was in might have been as a result of the Harrying of the North by William in 1069AD.

At the time of the compilation of Domesday Book, in 1086, there certainly were settlements at Gilling, Cawton and Grimston. All are recorded. The Gilling entries are as follows:

“In Ghellinge ht Barch iiii car trae ad geld Tra ad ii car Ibi ht Hugo fb ii car iii vill cu car Silva past iii qz lg iii lat. Tot M dim lev lg dim lat. T.R.E. valxx sol m viii sol.”

which may be translated:

“In the Manor of Gilling Barch had four carucates of land to be taxed. Land to two ploughs. Hugh son of Baldric has there two ploughs and three villeins with two ploughs. Wood pasture three quarentens long and three broad. Value in King Edward’s time twenty shillings, now eight shillings.”

Entered under Maneshou we find:

“Manor, in Gilling [Gilling in Ryedale], Orm had four carucates of land for geld. The land is to two ploughs. Ralph has one farmer there who renders ten shillings and eight pence. Wood pasturable, half a leuga in length and half [a leuga] in breadth. The manor, one leuga for length and one in breadth.”

The Ralph referred to is Ralph de Mortimer.

In the Hovingham entry it states that Grimstone was a Berewick attached to the Manor of Hovingham.

Again under Gilling:

“Manor in Gellinge [Gilling in Ryedale], Orm had two carucates of land for Geld. Land to two ploughs. Hugh son of Baldric has now one plough there, and three villeins with two ploughs. Wood pasturable three quarentiens in length and three in breadth. The whole manor half a leuga in length and half [a leuga] in breadth. T.R.E. it was worth 20/-, now 8/-.”

In the recapitulation:

“In Gellinge — Ra Mortimer four car. In Calveton [Cawton] the Count of Mortain 3 car. Two Manors. In Calveton [Cawton] Turbrant and Saloman had four carucates for geld. Land to two ploughs. Hugh now has three villeins and three ploughs and four acres of meadow. One leuga in length and three quarentiens in breadth. T.R.E. it was worth 16/- now 20/-. Gerard holds it.”

The above is the complete survey of the Domesday Book in our area.

From this we gather that, before the Conquest, the land in our area was divided up as follows: Gilling was divided between Barch and Orm, Cawton between Turbrant and Saloman, and Grimston belonged to Orm. it would be most interesting to know who these people were. Torbrant also had land in Thornton-le-Dale. Perhaps he was the Torbrant who slew Utred. Utred’s son Ealdred in turn slew Torbrant. Carl son of Torbrant afterwards had his revenge and killed Ealdred. Torbrant, Carl’s eldest son, lived at Settrington and was executed by order of Earl Waltheof in 1073.

The only Saxon in our area of whom historical traces remain, other than a mention in Domesday Book, is Orm. Over the porch in Kirkdale Church is a sundial with the following inscription (translated):

“Orm, the son of Gamel, bought St. Gregory’s Church when it was all broken down and fallen; and he caused it to be made new from the ground, to Christ and St. Gregory in the days of Edward the King, in the days of Tosti the Earl. This is the day’s sun mark for every hour. And Howarth made me and Brand the minister.”

Is this the same Orm as owned land at Gilling? Besides owning half of Gilling he owned land, as recorded in Domesday, in some 29 parishes in quite diverse areas of North Yorkshire. He was then a very rich man, and no doubt very influential in our area. On the other hand Barch, so far as I can discover, owned land in Gilling and Nafferton only. At the Conquest Barch and Orm lost all their possessions. We do not know what happened to them; perhaps they were slain by the Normans.

It appears, therefore, that there were two manors in Gilling, Barch’s and Orm’s. Mr. John Rushton thinks that they were perhaps divided by a track now represented by the main road through the village.

One can imagine the state of the accommodation for the ordinary people: the houses would be virtually hovels with earthen floors, and walls made of wattle and daub. The roof would be made of straw and branches. There were no windows or chimneys. The fire would be in the centre of the room, with a hole in the roof to let out the smoke. In summer the fire would be outside as there was an ever present danger of the roof catching alight. They would possess nothing except the clothes they wore, and a few sticks of home-made furniture. The bed was probably of straw. The sanitation would be atrocious, and in summer when the stream running through the village was low, a stinking ditch. They would not need much, as they would work in the fields etc. from sunrise to the call of the lord.

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