‘Gigr’s fortification’. Ch- Ghigesburg, Gighesborc, Ghigesborg, Giseborne 1086, Gisebur(g)h c.1130-15th century, Gi- Gysburgh 1285-1577, Gysborow, -borough 1530, Gi- Gyseburne (1119) 15th century-1430, Gi- Gysburn 1228-1483. Old Norse personal name Gigr, secondary genitive singular Giges, + Old English varying with Old Norse borg and Old English burna.

Information about this place-name was supplied by Victor Watts by personal communication.


Domesday Book

Under the heading “Lands of the King” it says

“In Chigesburg, Ulchel (had) 1 carucate of land for geld. Land for half a plough.

Under the heading “Land of the Count” it says

“In Ghigesburg, 17 carucates.”

Under the heading “Lands of Robert Malet” says

‘In Ghigesborg, Leisinc had 3 carucates and 2 bovates of land for geld, where 2 ploughs can be. Now Robert has 1 plough there, and 3 villeins with 1 plough. T.R.E. it was worth 5s. 4d; now (it is worth) the same.’

(A carucate was roughly 100 acres. A bovate was roughly 15 acres. Geld was a tax that had to be paid. T.R.E. means “in the time of King Edward the Confessor”)

See William Farrer’s translation in “The Victoria History of the County of York” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1912).


Early Landowners

Count Robert of Mortain held considerable lands here at the time of the Domesday Book but by the reign of Henry I, the whole of Guisborough had come into the hands of Robert de Brus of Skelton Castle.   In 1119 Robert de Brus founded Guisborough Priory and granted the manor of Guisborough to the canons there. It remained in the hands of the canons until the priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538. In 1550 the Chaloner family purchased the priory and eight years later they became lords of the manor of Guisborough.

See “The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Yorkshire North Riding” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1923).


An Early Mention

At the Helmsley Quarter Sessions in July 1613 a Guisborough tailor and alehousekeeper was presented beofre the magistrates “for suffering great disorder in his house on Sunday 2 Jany. 1613 in the time of afternoon service &c. and for not selling ale according to the rate limited &c.”


An early mention in literature appeared in “A Description of England and Wales” vol. 10, F.Newberry and T.Carnan (1770):

“Six miles north by east of Stokesley is Gisborough, or Guisborough, a town situated in the road from Whitby to Durham. It stands on a rising ground, in a delightful situation and has a remarkable pure air; a fine scene of verdure overspreads all the fields near it, which are adorned with plenty of wild-flowers, almost all the year round, whence it has been compared to Puteoli in Italy. The town is well built, and the inhabitants famous for their civility and neatness. Here was formerly an abbey, the church of which seems by its ruins, to have been little inferior to the best cathedrals in England. Near this town are mines of iron and alum, but the latter are said to be now almost neglected. This town has a market on Mondays, and six fairs, held on the Monday and Tuesday after the 11th of April, for linen-cloth and horned cattle; on Tuesday in Whitsun-Week, for horned cattle and linen; on the 27th of August, the 19th and 20th September, and the first Monday after the 11th November, for horned cattle.”


The Lay Subsidy of 1301

More than 80 people in Guisborough had to pay this government tax on moveable goods. Many more were exempt. This was almost as many as Whitby, the busy North Riding seaport. The highest taxpayer was Adam de Tokotes, paying almost 10 shillings. The total tax paid was just over £7 15 shillings.

Derived from “Yorkshire Lay Subsidy” edited by W.Brown (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series) 1897.


Selected Buildings

Guisborough Priory (1119, but much altered after a fire in 1289)

Priory dovecote (14th century)

St. Nicholas Church (c. 1500 on a much older foundation)

Market Cross (mid 18th century, altered in 1817)

Tocketts Mill (c. 1810)

Former joiner’s shop at Hutton Gate. Grade 2 star listed. (mid 19th century)

Town Hall (1821)

Gisborough Hall (1857, enlarged in 1902)


A Few Lost Buildings

The Hospital of Jesus (1561) demolished c. 1888.

Toll Booth (mentioned in 1599) demolished in 1821.

Nos. 1 to 5 Market Place (18th century) demolished in 1963.

Wesleyan Church (1811) demolished in 1963.

Rectory (1859, destroyed by fire in 1868 and rebuilt) demolished in 1966.

Guisborough Library  (1965) destroyed by fire in 1996.


People of note:

Robert Pursglove (1503/4-1580) A cleric from Derbyshire who became Prior of Guisborough. He also founded the Grammar School and Hospital in Guisborough.

Thomas Chaloner (1564-1615) A man of many parts who grew up in London. He brought the alum industry to Cleveland.

Joshua Ward (1684/5-1761) A quack doctor from Guisborough who became well known in London after he treated King George II. He invented two medicines, Ward’s Pill and Ward’s Drop with some dangerous ingredients. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

John Wright (1807-1882) A poet from Guisborough who became known as “The Bard of Cleveland”.

Fred Priest (1874-1922)  A Guisborough-born footballer who played for Sheffield United when they were Football League champions in1898 and F.A. Cup winners in 1899 and 1902.

Willie Applegarth (1890-1958) An athlete from Guisborough who won a gold medal for the 4 x 100 metres at the 1912 Olympic Games.

Elinor Lyon (1921-2008) A writer of children’s books who was born in Guisborough.

Bob Champion (1948-  ) A jockey from Guisborough who won the Grand National in 1981 on Aldaniti.

Selina Scott (1951-  ) A Guisborough-born newsreader and presenter on national television.

Mark Benton (1965-  ) A television and film actor who was born in Guisborough.

Katy Livingston (1984- ) A sportswoman from Guisborough who represented her country in the modern pentathlon at the Olympic Games in 2008.


The Hearth Tax of 1673

The ancient Wapentake of Langbaurgh stretched from Yarm in the east to Lythe near Whitby in the west, and from the River Tees to the River Esk. In 1673 Guisborough was its largest town. 105 houses in Guisborough had 1 or 2 hearths while a further 28 houses were larger, with 3 or 4 hearths. There were 7 even more substantial homes with 5 or 6 hearths, while the largest dwellings in the town were those of “Tho Wilson” with 7 hearths, “Mr Ja Lynne” with 10 hearths and “Sr Edw Challoner Kt” with 17 hearths.  In addition to these 143 properties, there were 68 single-hearth houses that fell below the tax threshold, making a total of 203 dwellings. This was more than you would find in Stockton or Hartlepool in 1673.

See “The Hearth Tax List for the North Riding of Yorkshire, Michaelmas 1673, Ripon Historical Society (2011).



1801     1,719

1851     2,062

1901     5,645

1951     6,531



Baines’ Directory of 1823 portrayed Guisborough as a busy town. Included in this directory were 15 grocers, 3 shopkeepers, 6 butchers, 4 bakers, 4 wine and spirit dealers, 2 chemists, 9 drapers, 5 milliners and dressmakers, 5 tailors, 5 straw bonnet makers, 9 boot and shoe makers, 4 booksellers, 3 clock and watch makers and 6 ironmongers. 17 inns and taverns were named. The directory also listed a number of joiners and cabinet makers, plumbers and glaziers, stone masons, blacksmiths, coopers, wheelwrights, millers, farmers, gardeners, skinners, saddlers, flax dressers, linen manufacturers and rope-makers.

Kelly’s Directory of 1913 has a less complete list that itemises 21 general dealers, 12 grocers, 10 butchers, 5 confectioners, 3 fruiterers, a baker, 4 drapers, 8 tailors and outfitters, 3 watchmakers, a chemist, a stationer, a tobacconist, 2 hardware dealers, 2 coal merchants and 8 boot and shoe makers. There were 3 beer retailers, 11 inns and taverns, and 5 fish and chip shops.


A Selection of Dates

1119     Robert de Brus of Skelton Castle founded Guisborough Priory, a house of Augustinian Canons.

1263     A weekly market and a three day fair every August were granted.

1289     Much of the priory was destroyed by a fire that began accidentally.

1405     The head of Sir John Fauconberg was placed on the tollbooth for rebelling against the king.

1536     Prior James Cockerill surrendered the priory to the Commissioners of King Henry VIII.

Robert Pursglove was appointed Prior. He proved to be a loyal servant of the Crown.

1537     James Cockerill was executed for his part in a protest against the closure of the monasteries:     the Pilgrimage of Grace

1550     Thomas Chaloner purchased the Priory lands from the Crown.

1561     Prior Pursglove founded the Jesus Hospital and a school in Guisborough.

1569     Several rebels captured after the Rising of the North were executed in Gisborough.

  1. 1600 Thomas Chaloner II began extracting alum near Guisborough.

1643     The Battle of Guisborough. A Parliamentarian army defeated a Royalist force.

1651     George Fox visited Guisborough. Quaker meetings in the town started during the following            year.

  1. 1700 William Chaloner built the Old Hall in Bow Street.

1759     John Wesley preached in Guisborough for the first time.

1768     A Quaker Meeting House was built in the town.

1777     A Methodist chapel was built.

1790     The Providence School was established.

1811     The Wesleyan Church was dedicated. Ebenezer Chapel was built by the Independents, later       known as the Congregationalists.

1814     A new market charter for the town was issued.

1821     A town hall was built to replace the old toll-booth.

1839     The Guisborough Union Workhouse was opened.

1853     Belmont ironstone mine opened just south of the town and Chaloner ironstone mine opened                just to the north.

1854     The first passenger railway line to Guisborough came into service.

1857     Thomas Chaloner built Long Hull, his new family home.

1861     Chapel Street Primitive Methodist Chapel was dedicated.

1864     A Roman helmet was discovered near Guisborough.

1865     Guisborough Foundry was extended about 5 years after it began working.

1871     Guisborough Water Company was formed.

1873     Admiral Chaloner’s Hospital was was created for injured ironstone miners.

1881     Northgate Schools opened.

1888     Prior Pursglove’s Hospital was rebuilt as Guisborough Grammar School.

1894     Guisborough was designated as an Urban District with its own council.

1907     The Primitive Methodist chapel was dedicated.

1911     The Empire cinema opened. It closed in the 1960s.

1928     Guisborough Police Station was built.

1933     Belmont mine closed. Chaloner mine closed six years later.

1939     The last ironstone mine in the Guisborough area stopped extraction.

1941     A “starfish” wartime decoy site was built on the moors above Guisborough as part of Teesside’s     air raid defences.

1948     The workhouse infirmary became Guisborough General and Maternity Hospital.

1958     Guisborough County Secondary School was built. It  was later called Laurence Jackson School.

1964     Railway passsenger services from Guisborough were discontinued.

1965     Guisborough Library was built. It was destroyed by fire in 1996.

1968     The swimming pool was opened. It was refurbished in 2009 and 2015.

1972     Prior Pursglove Sixth Form College was opened.

1973     Guisborough Town Football Club was founded.

1974     Guisborough Urban District Council was disbanded when Cleveland County was formed.

1988     A public meeting in Sunnyfield House voted unanimously against a new housing estate on the     grounds that too many new houses had already been built at Guisborough.

1989     Guisborough Town F.C. won the Northern League Cup and qualified to play in the F.A. Cup.

1995     The Guisborough bypass was completed to relieve congestion along Westgate.

1999     Burton’s shirt factory closed.

2004     Guisborough won the North Yorkshire and South Durham Cricket League for the fourth   successive year.

2015     The former Blackett Hutton Foundry was demolished.


This list of dates was compiled using Grace Dixon’s timeline in the Cleveland and Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society Newsletter 56 (1997) and other secondary sources.


Suggested Further Reading

“Guisborough Before 1900” by B.Harrison and G.Dixon (1981)

“Guisborough in Memory” by G.Dixon (1983)

“Robert Pursglove of Guisborough and his Hospital” by D.O’Sullivan (1990)

“Guisborough Past and Present” by P.Wilson and P.Smith (2005)

“Guisborough: Photographic Memories” (ed.) R.Darnton (2011)