A Short History Of Salton and Brawby

Rev. H. A. Douglas, M.A. (1937)


The author of this pamphlet makes no claim to original research. For the facts mentioned in this brief survey of the story of a Yorkshire village he is chiefly indebted to the Rev. R. J. Hill who, about 50 years ago, wrote a comprehensive history of Salton. He would also like to acknowledge his gratitude to Miss Myra Curtis for her article about Salton in the Victoria History of the North Riding of Yorkshire.


It is the purpose of this pamphlet to tell as shortly as possible the story of Salton and Brawby. Most people in England have never heard the names of either of these villages. Yet these two tiny places have been connected with the history of our country in many intimate ways.


You can often learn a good deal about a place from its name.
The name Brawby, for instance, tells us a great deal about the origin of that village. For Brawby is derived from two Danish words (1) Bragi (2) Bi.
The first of these words is the name of the Danish god of poetry. It is also sometimes used as a family name. Bi means village. Therefore Brawby is the village of Bragi. It was almost certainly founded by a Danish chief called Bragi.

The name Salton means Willow Town. Sal is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Salh, which means a willow. The French word for willow is saule. In Herefordshire the country folk call a willow a sally. Through Salton runs the little river Dove. At one time apparently the banks of the Dove were lined with willows.


What do we know about the very early history of Salton?
Professor Hamilton Thompson thinks that a wooden church once stood on the site of the beautiful Norman building with which we are so familiar. Before the Norman Conquest the land at Salton and Brawby belonged to Ulf, an Anglo-Danish chief. He owned a great deal of land in the north of England, including the manors of Ampleforth, Baruch, Coulton, Flaxton, Malton, Pockley, Stonegrave, as well as the land at Salton and Brawby.

The story goes that one day Ulf happened to over hear his sons discussing how they would divide up his land after his death. Fired with indignation he jumped on a horse and rode hot-haste to York. He took with him a beautiful horn which had come from the Holy Land and was said to be already a thousand years old. Arrived at York, he presented his lands at Salton and Brawby, and also some other manors, to York Minster. Probably, when he made the gift, he filled the horn with wine and drank the contents “to God and to St. Peter”. Ulf left his horn at the Minster. It was regarded as a pledge of the gift of land. Today in the chapter-house at York you can still see the horn of Ulf. It is of ivory, made out of an elephant’s tusk, and curiously carved. It bears an inscription,
“Ulf, a prince in Western Deira, gave this horn with his lands”.


Salton Church is a gem. Mr Joseph Morris, who has a scholarly knowledge of the churches in this part of England, says that Salton Church is one of the most complete little Norman churches in Yorkshire. On page 32 in his useful book ‘The North Riding of Yorkshire’ Mr. Priestly writes ‘Norman and Transition work is common, occurring in at least 87 churches; but no complete building exists in these styles like the churches of Ibbley and Stewkley. Salton is perhaps the nearest example’. The building of Salton church was started about 1100. Authorities differ considerably in regard to the dates of the different parts. One well known expert is of the opinion that the nave was built about 1100, the chancel arch about 1135, the tower soon after 1200. The church is dedicated to St. John of Beverley.


In Domesday Book these words are applied to Brawby.
Brawby to-day is luxuriantly fertile. It can be proved that in the time of Edward the Confessor Brawby was a prosperous place. Why is it described as ‘waste’ in Domesday Book? And why, during the comparatively few years between the death of Edward the Confessor and the writing of Domesday Book, had the value of the land at Salton decreased to such an appalling extent?
The explanation is simple. In the nature of William the Conqueror there was a streak of savagery. While hunting in the Forest of Dean he heard that there had been a rising in Yorkshire in favour of Edward Atheling, the rightful heir to the throne, that the help of the Danes had been obtained, and that the Norman garrison in York had been put to the sword.
William, when he heard this ill news, swore ‘By the splendour of God, I will not leave a soul of them alive.’ He was true to his word.
With ruthless energy he devastated the northeast of England from the Humber to the Tees. York was soon a heap of smouldering ashes.
Farm-houses flamed. Men, women, and children were slaughtered.
A few escaped to the forests and to the hills. Crops were destroyed and ‘the very implements of husbandry were so mercilessly destroyed that the famine which followed is said to have swept off more than a hundred thousand victims, and half a century later the land still lay bare of culture and deserted of men for sixty miles northward of York’. Thus is was that William made ‘a waste’ of Brawby and of many other pleasant villages.


We have seen how Ulf gave the lands at Salton and Brawby to York Minister. Thursten, Archbishop of York (1114 – 1140) had a great affection for Hexham Priory. Soon after his enthronement he gave his manors at Salton and Brawby, with lands at Edstone, Great and Little Barugh. East Newton, and Givendale, to Hexham Priory. The Prior of Hexham became Prebendary of Salton. As such he had a stall in the Minster and a house of residence in York. In Salton a Hall was built for the use of the Prior and the Austin Canons during their visits to the village. The site of the Hall can still be traced in the field which lies just beyond the Georgian house now occupied by Mr. William Fletcher. From 1115 until 1536, when Edward Jay, the last Prebendary of Salton, was ‘tyed up without delay or ceremony’ by Henry VIII over the great gate at his Priory, the village of Salton was ruled by the Priors of Hexham.


During a period of more than 400 years the people in Salton and Brawby, even when they committed gross offences, could not be arrested or punished by the sheriff’s officers. When they committed crimes they were either tried by the Prebendary in his own court at Salton or by the Dean at the south door of York Minster.
Severe were the punishments inflicted on the sheriff’s men when they tried to punish the inhabitants of Salton and Brawby. Rashly on a certain day in 1473 they put John Bolland of Salton in the stocks for some misdemeanour which he had committed. No doubt John richly deserved the punishment. But the two unfortunate men who had dared to usurp a power belonging to the Prebendary of Salton suffered the greater excommunication as the penalty of their presumption.
Strangely enough, this ‘peculiar’ court continued even after the death of Edward Jay, the last Prebendary of Salton. To the 1st. Lord Eure of Malton Henry VIII gave not only the lands at Salton and Brawby but also authority to hold a court of justice on his estate. The Lords of the Manor at Salton retained this power for many years. The ‘Peculiar’ court of Salton was eventually abolished by an Act of Council in 1846. This ‘Peculiar’ court was of course distinct from the manorial court.


The inhabitants of Salton and Brawby, until the suppression of Hexham Priory, enjoyed several other valuable privileges. They were exempt from military service, although in time of war they were expected to provide a standard-bearer to carry the banner of St. Peter. The standard-bearer seems to have generally been a clergyman. They were not required to pay any market fees or tolls.
As belonging to the liberty of St. Peter they had sanctuary rights and persons guilty of certain offences against the law could find in Salton and Brawby a refuge from their pursuers. It is curious to notice that some of these privileges were accorded to the people in Salton and Brawby long after the connection with Hexham Priory had terminated. Exemption from all tolls and market fees throughout the United Kingdom was successfully claimed by Matthew Dodgson of Brawby as late as 1837. Local custom at the beginning of the 19th century still gave to Brawby the rights of a city of refuge. When once a poacher had crossed the River Seven he could safely defy the constables.


One of the first things one notices, on entering Salton Church, is that the stones on one side of the nave are red and calcined up to a height of eight feet from the floor. This indicates that there must have at one time been a fire in the church and that the heat of the flames was very intense. This fire took place in the 12th century at a time when England was distracted by Civil War. David, King of Scotland, was the uncle of the Empress Maud. In order to help her in the war she was waging against Stephen, the Scottish king invaded the north of England and laid it waste with fire and sword. In Malton he placed a strong garrison. One day the Scottish warriors paid an ill-omened visit to Salton. What apparently happened was this. Fearing the advent of the wild Scots, the people in the village locked themselves up in the church which had then a thatched roof. The Scots arriving on the scene set fire to the thatch.
Soon afterwards, at the Battle of the Standard, near Northallerton, the English, inspired by the enthusiasm of Thurstan, Archbishop of York, inflicted an ignominious defeat on the Scots. At that battle one of the four banners attached to the standard was that of St. John of Beverley, the patron saint of Salton. Nowadays we keep a banner of St. John of Beverley in Salton Church, and on certain great occasions its startling combination of yellow and green and red floats from the top of the tower and startles the rooks.


On yet another occasion the Scots paid a visit to Salton. From 1318 to 1322, during the reign of Edward II, Scottish armies made havoc in the north of England. They laid Ryedale waste, they burned Scarborough, Northallerton, Knaresborough, Boroughbridge; at Myton on the Swale they massacred an army of monks, canons, serving-men and farm labourers which William Melton, Archbishop of York, had collected. It was at some time during these four unquiet years that they came to Salton. They must have done much damage in the village, for, in the reign of Edward III, the Prebendary of Salton asked the king to reduce the value of the assessment of his Yorkshire estate because it had been much wasted by the Scots. This request was granted by the king, and Archbishop Zouche, Lord Treasurer of England, granted a certificate to the Prebendary of Salton reducing the valuation of his estate at Salton from £41 to £21.


In the year 1304 the Archbishop of York went into Northumberland to visit the Prior and Canons of Hexham. the Archbishop insisted on the Priory appointing Vicars for Salton and Edstone. It is more than likely that the spiritual interests of the people in these two places had been neglected by the Austin Canons.
In 1311 John Tweng was appointed first Vicar of Salton. An agreement, which is still extant, was drawn up between John Tweng and Robert of Whelpington, Prior of Hexham. The agreement shows that the Prior expected a great deal from John Tweng, including a pension to the church at Normanby, and was willing to give very little to him in return for his services.


During this awful pestilence a large proportion of the people in this country perished. While it was raging on the continent, before it came to England, Zouche, Archbishop of York, sent messages to the people in his diocese, warning them of the peril which threatened them, and commanding them to offer prayers in every church on Wednesdays and Fridays that God might have mercy on his people and turn away his wrath from them. Such prayers must have been offered in our church by John Spendlove and his flock. The plague reached York in February 1349, and penetrated even to the remote and healthy villages, where new cemeteries were hastily dedicated to receive the numerous dead. The parish priests behaved with splendid courage. More than half of the clergymen in Yorkshire died at their posts.


Among the immediate results of the suppression of the smaller monasteries were risings of the rural population in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The rising in Yorkshire began on the 9th of October and was directed by a lawyer named Robert Aske. The rebels, with whom probably marched some men from Salton and Brawby, took York and Pontefract, capturing in this last town Lord Darcy and the Archbishop of York. An active part in this rebellion was taken by Edward Jay, Prior of Hexham and Prebendary of Salton. When the rebels met the royal forces, they did not fight, but instead, insisting on their loyalty to the king, arranged with the Duke of Norfolk to send an account of their grievances to Henry and to wait for his answer. Before the answer had been considered, Aske received a promise of a free pardon for the rebels and was told that Parliament would deal with his complaint. The rebels returned to their homes. But some of them in their excitement committed acts of war. Henry made this an excuse for breaking his promise about a free pardon. Aske and other men who had taken a prominent part in the rebellion, as well as a large number of their humbler followers, were put to death. Yorkshire monasteries, whose abbots had taken part in the rising, were suppressed. Edward Jay, Prior of Hexham, and last Prebendary of Salton, was sent to Hexham where he was hung over the chief gate of his monastery ‘without delay or ceremony’.


(1) In the year 1545 Henry VIII gave the lands at Salton, and Brawby, to the 1st Lord Eure of Malton. (2) William, 4th Lord Eure, sold the land at Salton and Brawby to Sir Thomas Bennett, who afterwards became Lord Mayor of London (3) By the marriage of Frances, niece of Sir Thomas Bennett, the land passed to James, 6th. Earl of Salisbury. (4) In 1795 the lands at Salton and Brawby, Sinnington with Malton, and lands at Great Baruch and Edstone, and also the patronage of the livings at Salton and Edstone, were sold by the 1st Marquis of Salisbury to Messers. Leatham, Elam and Dowther. This sale took place at the Talbot Hotel, Malton, on October l9th., 1795. Some of the property changed hands soon afterwards. (5) On August 3rd, 1836, at the Star Inn, Stonegate, York, part of the township of Salton, together with the advowson of the living, was put up by auction.
It was bought by John Woodall, Esq., of Scarborough. Mr. Woodall was succeeded by his son and then by his grandson Mr. C. H. Dent.
The present Lord of the manor is S. S. Lockwood, Esq.


‘Thomas Sootheran’, runs an entry in the parish register, ‘our Vicar, read the Articles of Religion the 22nd. day of October Anno Domini 1643, being Sunday, the most of the parishioners being present, together with Richard Johnson of Northolme’.
When Thomas Sootheran began his duties as Vicar the Civil War was raging between the King and Parliament. Most of the nobility and gentry were on the side of the King, and some of the people at Salton may have been amongst those who were killed at the battle of Marston Moor.
In 1645 the Westminster Assembly, which was composed chiefly
of Presbyterians, drew up a directory of public worship which made it an offence to kneel at Holy Communion, to keep Christmas as a day of rejoicing, to use a religious service at the burial of the dead. The use of the Prayer Book was strictly forbidden. Thomas Sootheran is said to have been ejected from the benefice of Salton because he refused to give up the use of the Prayer Book. Like many other faithful priests he seems to have fared hardly in those strange days.


In 1666 an Act of Parliament was passed by which people were compelled to bury the dead in woollen. The purpose of the Act was to help the farmers and to encourage the manufacture of woollen goods. The new measure was very unpopular. From the very early times people had been accustomed to bury their dead in linen, and a great many people persisted in continuing the old practice.
To put a stop to disobedience the Government imposed a fine of £5 on the offender, whenever the act was broken.. Half of the £5 was given to the poor and half to the informer. An entry (in one of the Church registers) states that, on at least one occasion, this law was brought into operation against a Salton resident. The entry reads thus: ‘Elizabeth Dowker, the wife of Robert Dowker, was interred July 15th., 1692, and her corpse was wrapped in linen, for which the penalty of £5 was imposed, according to the Act of Parliament, and one half was given to the informer and the other to the church wardens, to be distributed to the poor of the parish.’
The Act of Parliament which compelled people to bury the dead in woollen was finally repealed in 1814.


In the year 1685 Christopher Dowker became Vicar of Salton.
The patron of the living was then John Bennett. Christopher Dowker was inducted by Philip Bainbridge, Vicar of Edstone, acting as the Archdeacon’s deputy. For 48 years Christopher was the incumbent of Salton. In 1743 Christopher Dowker died. He was succeeded by his son Philip Dowker. After a reign of 45 years, Philip was followed by his son Christopher who held the living for 37 years. This Vicar was succeeded by his nephew Christopher who remained in office till 1836. It is not often that a benefice is held by the members of one family for 141 years.


The records of Archbishop Hutton contain a number of questions which were answered in the year 1743 by the Rev. Philip Dowker, Vicar of Salton. Some of the answers are very interesting. Two of them are worth quoting.

Question III. Is there any public or charity school, endowed, or otherwise maintained in your parish?

Answer. We have an endowment of three pounds a year, left to a schoolmaster, but no school has been built, and as there are but few children in Salton, the money is given to a poor man’s son at Brawby, in the parish of Salton, who teaches children there, which are sometimes more, sometimes less. He teaches them the church catechism, but, as he is a cripple, he cannot come to church, for Brawby is two miles distant from Salton.

Question IX. How often and at what times do you catechise in your church?

Answer. I catechise in the Church at Salton two months in the summer season. The parishioners send their children and servants to be instructed in the catechism.


There is a tradition that Prince Charles Edward spent a night in hiding at Sparrow Hall which was then occupied by a Roman Catholic family called Ellerby.


At the beginning of his reign, George IV was very unpopular because of his treatment of his wife Caroline of Brunswick. He refused to recognise her as queen and a bill for a divorce was introduced into the House of Lords. The name of the queen was ordered to be omitted from the Prayer for the Royal Family.
The parish clerk at Salton made a manly, if irreverent, protest in favour of the unfortunate queen. At the end of the prayer for the Royal Family he shouted out, ‘God save Queen Caroline and confound all her lying enemies.’ In consequence of this impulsive action, he was dismissed from office. We are not told how this was done. In those days the dismissal of a parish clerk was no easy matter.


During the latter part of the ministry of the excellent Mr. Abbey, Salton Church was restored. The architect was Mr. J. Wood of Pickering, working from the designs and under the superintendence of Mr. C. Hodgson Fowler F.S.A., of Durham. Among the many other alterations made at this time, was the replacement of the semi circular window at the East end by one of perpendicular character. Messers. Clayton & Bell supplied the glass fro this window. Towards the cost of restoration the Woodall family contributed nearly £2000. A considerable sum of money was also given by Mr. Thomas Candler of Ayton, Scarborough. The Church was reopened on July 26th, 1881, by the Archbishop of York.