‘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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
- 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.
- 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)