Monday 22 April 2024

Ringstonhurst, North Howden

 It's now three weeks after Easter - and it is still cold and wet. Local farmers cannot get on to the land and are desperate for some warm dry days. Here in the garden the raised beds are still wet and claggy and nowhere near in a fit state for planting. But I have got some plants going in the greenhouse and some potatoes chitting in a tray. We are so dependent on the weather despite all our modern technology.

Last week I went to an interesting talk by Gary Tavender of the Howdenshire Archaeology Society. He talked of the various projects the group was interested in and mentioned the site of Ringston[e]hurst near North Howden station. It is a place I have long been fascinated by and so I came home to see what I could find.

Aerial and drone surveys and old maps show what appears to be a square moat on the site which was originally just on the boundary of the Bishop of Durham's park - the origin of Park Farm - where he had deer and other game for sport.

This 1910 OS map shows Ringstonhurst not far from the station with
the inverted U shape to the left being the park boundary

                Below is an aerial view from the 1970s with Mulberry House/now Northgate House in the background

Early records suggest that between 1200 and 1208  the bishop of Durham was granted permission to construct a park north of Howden where he and his friends went hunting, mainly deer.  In medieval times the bishops had a hunting lodge at Ringstonhurst where a gamekeeper/ park keeper lived. Bishop Tunstall in 1548 mentioned the lodge as being occupied by the keeper of the park although by 1561 the lodge, described as being at the parke gate was reported to be in disrepair.

We know too that this one and a half acre/ two acre site also included a chapel dedicated to St Mary where a hermit lived. In 1332 Simon of Lynne, a chaplain, had a licence to collect donations for his maintenance.

In 1391 John de Hay of Spaldington left 3s 4d in his will to Robert of Shackerstone hermita de Ryngstanhyrste

Bishop Fox in 1495 issued an indulgence to those who undertook a pilgrimage to pray at the chapel or hermytage of St Mary Magdalene at Howden or went there to hear mass. 

In 1501 he granted a penny a day to John Richardson, a Franciscan friar and hermit who was to 'locate himself within the chapel of the manor of Howdenshire called Ringstonehurst'

Ringstonhurst was the site of the muster of Howdenshire people when they marched with Robert Aske in the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. This probably referrred to the whole North Howden area.

But in 1564 with the Reformation the chapel was 'suppressed' and the site granted to non religious owners. By the seventeenth century it was owned by Sir Philip Monckton of Caville who bought it in 1610.

In the Howden parish records there are mentions of births marriage and deaths of families who lived in houses at Ringstonhurst.  For example  there were 10 burials of people between 1570 and 1590. The latest burial I can find is 1658 when Thomas Bell, son of John of Ringstone hurst, was buried.

Local people know where the site is [on private land] and recall that in 1947 when the area was flooded  the remains of the moat were flooded but an area inside it stood slightly higher above the water. Also it is said the large stones and pieces of glass have all been turned up when the field has been ploughed.

Incidentally on the OS map above and also on the aerial photo you can see Mulberry House, now renamed. I have had a quick look at its history.

The earliest occupant I found was a Robert Fields who died in 1880. 

But perhaps the most interesting was the Whitfield family. George Whitfield was living there in 1901. He was living with his elderly mother while on census night his wife and daughter were with her parents in Market Weighton. George was the retired chief constable of York while his wife was a talented photographer. 

He and his family later ran the Londesborough Arms in Selby. His mother continued to live at North Howden and died in 1913.

I found this from a newspaper of 1904

 Mrs Whitfield, Mulberry House, Howden, well known throughout the district as a successful photographer, has just received another appreciation of her ability, having been specially commanded by the Prince and Princess of Wales to proceed to Harewood House, the seat of the Earl and Countess of Harewood to take photographs of their Royal Highnesses and the distinguished house party. Not only did Mrs Whitfield take several photographs of the whole party, but their Royal Highnesses granted her other opportunities of photographing them, and the Prince conversed with Mrs Whitfield for some time, congratulating her upon the success of her work.