Monday, 20 May 2019

History of Wressle 1

I recently visited the village of Wressle - as opposed to the castle - and realised that I did not know a lot about it. Everyone - myself included - looks at the wonderful castle, reads about its illustrious history but misses out on the village itself.





An old postcard of Wressle Castle

Lords of the manor

Wressle was an estate village, owned until a sale in 1957, by the descendants of the Percy family.  It is a slightly confusing story as to what these descendants were called!

The male Percy line died out and the vast Percy inheritance passed through the female line to the 6th Duke of Somerset of Petworth House who had married heiress Elizabeth Percy.

Their son Algernon, the 7th duke, died in 1750 with no legitimate male heirs.

So it was agreed that after his death the Percy lands should be split. Half should go to his daughter Elizabeth's husband, Hugh Smithson, who was given the title of Duke of Northumberland - this inheritance included Airmyn.

The other half should go to descendants of Algernon's sister who had married Sir William Wyndham, who was given the title of Earl of Egremont. This half included Wressle.

Their grandson, the third Earl inherited in 1763. He was a noted patron of the arts, fathered around 40 illegimate children but left no legitimate heir. His eldest son inherited most of the property in 1837 but could not inherit the title and was known simply as Colonel George Wyndham.

Then in 1859, Queen Victoria bestowed a brand new title of Baron Leconfield on Colonel George, so the family continued to be known as Lords Leconfield. 

So if you look at the records for Wressle you might find it being owned variously by the Dukes of Somerset, the earl of  Egremont,  Col George Wyndham or Lord Leconfield.


Nineteenth century villagers

Farms [including those at  Loftsome, Newsholme and Brind] were tenanted from the estate as were the village houses and the vicar too was appointed by the Egremont family.


Most of the inhabitants of Wressle worked on the land or in associated trades. In 1823 for example  there was  Richard Waterworth,  gentleman  listed at the Castle,  John Calvert, Robert Keighley  and John Neville were  listed as farmers; Miles Hutchinson was  a corn merchant,  John Markham was the village blacksmith, Thomas Revell, corn miller and George Williamson, carpenter.

Some 15 years later in 1840  some names have changed and the village  now had  a shop and shoemakers

Miles Hutchinson, coal dealer; Robert Johnson, shopkeeper; William Markham, blacksmith; William Revell  corn miller; John Thompson, wheelwright, Thompson and Pearson, coal dealers and
William Thompson  and Charles Williamson shoemakers.

Farmers were  G Atkinson at the Grange; Joseph Keighley,  Edward Latham at the castle,
 and Jane Neville.

The church and vicars 

The present church, dedicated to St John of Beverley, was built in 1799 after the previous church had been destroyed in the seventeenth century. After this services had been held in the castle but when this was badly damaged in 1796 by a fire the lord of the manor built a new brick church.




This engraving of the castle shows it before it was badly damaged in 1796


A plaque above the church door reads

This church was built on the Site of the Ancient Parish Church of Wressell in the 39th Year of the Reign of KING GEORGE the 3rd Anno Domini 1799.

The Right Hon GEORGE O'BRIEN EARL OF EGREMONT Lord of the Manor. JOHN


BACON SAWREY MORRITT ESQR Impropriator. The REVD GEORGE ION Vicar.


Richard Waterworth of Wressell  James Craven of Newsham Church Wardens


The vicars were appointed by the Egremont family.

In 1814  Rev George Ion, vicar of Bubwith and Wressle died.

The new vicar was  Hon and Rev  Fitzroy Henry Richard Stanhope. He was married to Caroline Wyndham illegitimate daughter of Hon Charles Wyndham. But it seems unlikely that  the Stanhopes ever  lived at Wressle.  Rev Thomas Guy of Howden was his curate and appears to have been the clergyman who was responsible for the parish. Certainly he signed the registers until the late 1850s.

Interestingly when Rev Stanhope died the following, not very flattering article, appeared in the  Morning News

April 1864
Death of a Pluralist. The death of the Hon. and Rev. Fitzroy H. Stanhope, Dean of Buryan in Cornwall, and rector of Catton, and vicar of Wressle, near Howden, Yorkshire, is announced. 
The rev. gentleman, who died on Monday, was one of the most notorious pluralists. He was born in 1787, and was the fifth son of the Earl of Harrington. He was brought up to the army, but for some reason found it expedient to leave the service. Thereupon he attempted to enter holy orders, but no English bishop could be found willing to ordain the quondam officer. 

The Duke of York then interposed on behalf of his comrade, and wrote to the Bishop of Cork requesting him, so the report goes, to do what was needful in the following concise note : " Dear Cork, — Ordain Stanhope. — Yours, York." 

His Royal Highness's letter had the desired effect, and obtained the reply :  " Dear York, — Stanhope's ordained.— Yours, Cork." 

Having thus become capable of holding preferment, he was more than fifty years ago inducted into two Yorkshire livings. But in 1815 the far more valuable preferment of the Deanery of Buryan became vacant. This is an old collegiate establishment near the Land's End, comprising three livings and worth £1,000 a year. Mr. Stanhope was appointed, went down and read himself  in, and, from that day to this, has been drawing his thousand a year and has never been near the place. '



However a vicar of Wressle had already been appointed in 1857. He was Rev Isaac Brittain.  There are plans and letters relating to  the building or improvement of former parsonage house at Wressle  in the East Riding archives dating 1857-8 - it would be interesting to have a look at them.

Rev Brittain, despite his improved accommodation, resigned in 1867. The new vicar was Rev James Knight.

The following charming description of decorating the church for Christmas was in the Goole Times of December 1870

WRESSLE. The custom of decorating the modest little Parish Church of Wressle had not been overlooked this season. Though neither profuse nor elaborate, yet everything was exceedingly good taste, and harmonised well with the simple proportions of the interior. By the judicious use of evergreens, relieved with bunches of holly berries, barberries, &c., the windows had been made very attractive while the altar, the pulpit, and the font had evidently had much time and labour devoted to them. The whole, the general effect produced by the decorations was such to reflect much credit on the skill of the ladies who had undertaken the work—Mrs Knight, the Misses Byham, and Miss Goundrill. Mr Cbeesebrougb, also, had considerably enhanced the beauty of the interior by the scrolls and mottoes which he had affixed to the otherwise bare wall, and which were certainly above average specimens of that particular kind of decoration.


Rev Knight moved to 'the south of England' in 1875 and was replaced by Rev  Richard Kennedy. He had formerly been a curate at Beverley Minster. He and his wife had two young daughters Rosa, who was blind and Florence. They employed a cook, a housemaid and a kitchenmaid.


The Kennedys advertised soon after their arrival for a gardener as follows,

WORKING GARDENER wanted, married, wife take the laundry; must understand kitchen and flower garden, greenhouse and vinery; good character indispensable; a Churchman; cottage found; also washing machinery. Apply by letter, the Vicar, Wressle, Howden.

Rev Kennedy died suddenly in  1910 and villagers placed a marble cross in the church yard and to his brother Holmes Kennedy who had lived  at the vicarage too.

Twentieth century vicars

Rev William Henry Fearis was the vicar from 1910 to 1928. In 1911 he was living at the vicarage with his wife,  his nine year old daughter Joan, his daughter's young companion, a governess from London, a cook and a housemaid.

Rev Arnold Speak

This paragraph has been contributed by Rev Speak's granddaughter from his memoirs. He wrote, after moving to Wressle in 1926, 

The reason for my move was my commendation to the patron by my vicar who had taken such an interest in me. Very rarely has a man such a good friend as I had in Dr R L Bellamy who was then vicar of Kirby Overblow near Harrogate.
We came to Wressle in April with the furniture of a bungalow to furnish a vicarage. There was the parish church and a mission church to be served. The mission church was at Brind about 3 miles away. At the first I covered the distance by cycling, later with a pony and governess car, still later with a motor car.
I was a member of the cricket team and was able to introduce tennis. My patron, Lord Leconfield very kindly laid three courts and we had much interest, matches being played two or three nights each week during the season.
Church and mission congregations were quite representative of the parish which had only 300 people and the people proved very loyal and appreciative. We printed our own magazine for the last 2 years making a profit of £5 on a circulation of 60 copies. For some time I held the chaplaincy of the Howden workhouse and hospital and also assisted in Goole owing to the shortage of staff there. We stayed six and a half years and then came to Wheldrake in October 1932.



Wressle vicarage
Rev Speak's car


Rev Speak playing cricket


Rev Speak was followed followed by Rev Jessup. His daughter Monica Jessup married Rev Bertram Allen Ramsker of Goole.

Rev Ramsker was at one time vicar of Drax but more recently was vicar of Snaith [ 1950 -71]. 

The Jessups left Wressle in 1939 and the new vicar was Rev Frank Trow, formerly the curate at St Paul's in Goole.


A plaque in the church commemorating Wressle men killed in World War One


The school

In 1892 we read that  'The parochial school is a neat building of brick, with master's house attached, erected in 1854 for 75 children. There are about 48 in average attendance'.
The headmaster  from at least 1888 was Joseph Warham. He and his wife had seven children all born at Wressle. After 40 years he and his wife retired to Hunmanby. He died in 1945.

An fascinating letter turned up in the newspaper files from 1909:


 Rev R. Kennedy, Vicar of Wressle, has received a highly interesting letter from Yorkshireman, Mr Foster Leek, a native of the village and old scholar of the Wressle National School, now residing in Tasmania. 

Before proceeding to Australia, Leek, who is a fine specimen of a North countryman, spent his early boyhood at the brickyard, subsequently working  at Woveley Edge Colliery. He has spent 28 years of service in the mounted and foot police of Australia and New Zealand, which have impaired neither his magnificent physique nor his innate vigour and shrewdness. 

He has established himself in what is, perhaps, one of the most charming beauty spots in the "tight little island. Previous to the advent of Leek in 1905, there was nothing but its natural rugged beauty to commend the locality. 

[ a lengthy description of his tea rooms and museum follows] concluding wit the statement that from 20,000 to 30,000 people annually visit such a paradise.

 He would like to have a Union Jack flag to hang in his museum, presented by the children of Wressle school, where he spent many happy days, and asks whether Mr Kennedy can arrange the matter. 

If so, he would like the names of the subscribers, the master's, and the Vicar's, together with any remarks, which would have framed and placed along with the flag in his museum. In return for this kindness he would send an Australian flag to be hung up in the school at Wressle, together with model of the first, house they occupied on  their arrival in Tasmania, which would gi.ve the children a. good idea of the houses the first settlers lived in in new countries, and would be an object of interest to many the unborn generations. 

Mr Leek states that he is thinking of adding a clause to his will leave £150 to the school at Wressle, to be invested, and the interest spent providing a feast and tea on Empire Day for all the children, and old men and women in the village ; and at every feast the flag to be carried round the school playground by the eldest girl in the school, and saluted by all the children. 

The Tea Feast is be known as "Leek's Gift." Mr Leek thinks that if does this for the village where he has spent so many days it may induce other children to remember their native village when they grow and become wealthy. In conclusion Mr Leek wishes to be instructed in the Vicar's next letter how and to whom the award is to be paid on his death. He trusts that his letter will convince the Wressle children that at a child born in humble life can get on the world if he goes the right way.

Foster Leek died in 1920 but I can find no mention of his legacy!


Wressle school around 1912. Joseph Warham standing on the left and Rev  Fearis seated



 I am not sure when the school closed.


I have been finding out about Wressle - this is part one!!!  Does anyone have any more information or pictures about the village I could share?








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