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Medieval Thoralby

[This section is under construction].


The Domesday Book, produced in 1086 on the orders of William the Conqueror, was a survey for taxation purposes of all the lands in England. There were three entries in the Domesday Book for Bishopdale: for the villages of Turoldesbi, Crocsbi and Burton, to which was attached the berewick of Ecinton. For the images and detailed information of these entries, see Bishopdale, Domesday.

The Medieval Village of Thoralby

Evidence suggests that medieval Thoralby, Newbiggin, Croxby and Eshington were all linear settlements with a double row of houses either side of the main street, while West Burton was a nucleated village with houses around the edge of the village green. In the case of Thoralby, the village extended from the start of Eastfield Lane to Town Head. The houses in Thoralby will have been single-storeyed with steeply pitched roofs thatched with ling. Some of them will have had accommodation for livestock at one end. The photograph of Cosmeston medieval village in South Wales provides some indication of what Thoralby might have looked like around 1350, although the thatch at Cosmeston was straw rather than ling. Note the steep pitch of the thatched roofs, which helped rain to drain off them rather than soak through. The same steep pitch, denoting a former thatched roof, can be seen on this building at Town Head. Aerial photography confirms that each house in Thoralby had a small yard or toft, with a croft behind in which the occupants would have grown vegetables. Some of these tofts and crofts still exist, although others have been combined into larger fields.

The Tofts and Crofts of Medieval Thoralby

The image below shows part of an aerial photo of Thoralby taken in 1975. It is possible to see the foundations of many walls that have since been demolished. Some of these indicate the presence of tofts and crofts behind most of the houses in the village. I have indicated with broken lines toft and croft walls that have been removed subsequently. These walls indicate that the village once extended further north-eastwards than it does today, which would have placed the green closer to the centre of the village. The fields in that direction certainly look like crofts that would have been attached to houses and all of those enclosed in the solid yellow line include the word ‘croft’ in their names today. Furthermore, several 18th century maps, including this one produced by Jeffreys in 1772, show the village extending further north-eastwards than it does today – beyond Goose Lane to the start of Eastfield Lane.  The houses at the eastern end of the village were removed to make way for Warnford Cottage, which was built in 1807 by James and Richard Willis. This photo shows clearly the ridges in the field below and to the east of Warnford that denote the position of the old croft walls.  The ridges denoting former walls around Town Head are more complex and may indicate an earlier Celtic settlement, probably more recent than the one on Burton Moor. The remains of tofts and crofts similar to those at Thoralby can be seen in many local villages, including West Burton and Newbiggin.

Inquisition on the Lands of

Robert de Tateshale, 1298

An inquisition on the lands of Robert, Lord de Tateshale in 1298 provides interesting insights into farming practises and the social hierarchy in Bishopdale in the Middle Ages. At his death, Robert de Tateshale owned the manors of Thoralby, West Witton, Crakehall and Well. At Thoralby, Robert had held a ‘capital messuage’, which would have been his manor house. There were 80 acres of arable land that Robert retained for his own use, plus some herbage (right of pasture without owning the land)  at ‘Hyghnyng’. He also had two vaccaries (medieval commercial cattle farms) and three sheep folds (medieval commercial sheep farms), one of which was at ‘Swynewathcote’.


At Thoralby, there were 10 bonders and 15 cottars with similar numbers at Newbiggin and West Burton. Bonders and cottars were different type of serf who held land in return for service to the lord. Robert was entitled to a third of the profits from a water corn mill in Thoralby and received an income from a fulling mill used for cleansing and thickening in the process of manufacturing woollen cloth. There is evidence to suggest that the fulling mill was on Bishopdale Beck downstream from the bridge in or near a field called Tenter Garth. The corn mill was probably on Heaning Gill. The bridge carrying Eastfield Lane over Heaning Gill is still called Millbeck Bridge, suggesting that the in earlier times the beck was known as Mill Beck. Robert also owned a mill, probably a corn mill, at Newbiggin.


Roger Oyselle appears to have been a man of some substance in the village, owning a messuage or manor house and three bovates of land at Thoralby in freehold and four bovates from Robert de Tateshale in return for scutage, implying that he was a knight. A bovate was between 15 and 20 acres. All Robert de Tateshale’s lands at Thoralby, Well and Crakehall passed to his widow, Joan, who died in 1310, leaving her estate to her sister Mary, the widow of Robert de Neville, Lord Middleham. They remained in the hands of the Neville family until the death of Richard III in 1485.

1301 Lay Subsidy: Village Totals for the Wapentake of Hang

A tax or subsidy known as a fifteenth was levied in 1301 in the reign of Edward I and lists the tax payers for each town and village and the amount that each was required to contribute. It was called a fifteenth because the amount payable was a notional fifteenth of the value of one’s moveable goods.


There were 28 taxpayers in Thoralby, paying a total of £7. 0s. 3d., the second highest figure in the Wapentake of Hang, exceeded only by Bainbridge, which included all of upper Wensleydale south of the river. Clearly, medieval Thoralby was wealthier at this time than any other village in the area except Bainbridge. This included Middleham, Leyburn, Masham and Bedale. Burton-in-Walden was also fairly high in the list with 20 taxpayers paying a total of £3. 17s. 0d.

1301 Lay Subsidy: Thoralby and Burton in Walden 

The names of the taxpayers for Thoralby and West Burton provide some interesting information. The terms ‘domina’ and ‘domino’ denote gentry status. We have already noted that Joan de Tatehale was a Lady and that Roger Oysel was probably a knight. Since both would have had a manor house, it is likely that there were two medieval manor houses in Thoralby, (see The manor Houses and the Village Green Section, further down the page).


Surnames were only just beginning to stabilise at this time and many indicated either a place of origin or the trade or profession of the person so named. Therefore, this Latin list of the names of tax payers may give an indication of some of the trades represented in the dale at that time.


For instance, Anglicising the first names, Thomas Preposito was a provost, meaning a steward or bailiff of a manor, Richard Molendinario a miller, Robert Porter a gatekeeper,Richard Pellipario an animal skinner, Adam Raydon a counsellor, Henry Marisscallo a marshal, William Fabro a smith and the occupations of William Forestario and Randoplph Carpentario are self-explanatory. William was probably the forester or ‘bow-bearer’ for Bishopdale Chase.  Adam Parfay is interesting because his surname was an expression meaning ‘by my faith’. It may have been that this epithet had been attached as a surname to a priest.

The original document was in Latin, below is a table for Thoraldby in which personal names have been translated into English unless the Latin is ambiguous. A number of apparent surnames, such as molendinarius (Latin for miller) may in fact be descriptive labels rather than hereditary surnames, i.e. they should be interpreted as John the miller, rather than John Miller.

The Chantry Chapel of All Hallows, 1316 – 1548

Medieval Bishopdale had no church because it was part of the parish of Aysgarth, as it is today, but there was a chapel at Thoralby founded by Mary de Neville, the Lady of Middleham, in 1316. It stood in the field formerly known as Chapel Close, in front of the house called Chapel House, both of which are now called Chapel Garth. This was a chantry chapel founded to perform masses for the benefit of Mary’s soul and those of her father, her mother and her late husband, Robert de Neville. Dedicated to All Hallows, it was referred to in a 14th century document as “the Great Chapel at Thoralby”. Since this was almost certainly a domestic chapel, the manor house that had previously belonged to Mary’s sister, Lady de Tatersale, was probably nearby. The chapel was still in use when an ecclesiastical survey was carried out in 1535 prior to the dissolution of the monasteries in which it appears that Thoralby Chapel was under the care of Coverham Abbey. The Abbey’s holdings in Thoralby were valued at 70 shillings and Adam Myddleham, the last perpetual chaplain at Thoralby, received an income of 100 shillings. When the chantries were dissolved in 1548 under Edward VI  and their revenues were seized by the Crown, the only thing of any value at Thoralby was a gilt chalice.