‘Clearing belonging to Stoke’. Stocheslag(e) 1086, Stokesley from 1112-22. Old English stoc ‘an outlying farm, a religious place, a town, a place’ probably used as a place name genitive singular stoces + leah. It has been suggested that the stoke in question may have been Stockton-on-Tees in Durham.
See “The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-names” (ed.) V.Watts (2004)
Under the heading “Land of the King’s Thegns” it says:
“In Stocheslage (Stokesley), Hawart had 6 carucates of land for geld. Land for 3 ploughs. Uctred has 1 plough there, and 8 villeins with 4 ploughs. A priest (is) there, and a church, and 1 mill of 10s. (annual value), and 8 acres of meadow. (It is) 1 league in length and half (a league) in breadth. T.R.E. it was worth £24; now (it is worth) £8.”
(A carucate was roughly 100 acres. Geld was a tax that had to be paid. T.R.E. means “in the time of King Edward the Confessor”.)
Stokesley also had sokelands in 9 nearby villages. The Domesday Survey lists these. It says “Together, for geld, 34½ carucates. Land for 16 ploughs. 9 sochmen and 18 villeins are now there, having 10 ploughs.”
Based on William Farrer’s translation in “The Victoria History of the County of York” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1912)
Guy de Balliol, the founder of the long line of Balliol lords of Barnard Castle, was granted the barony of Stokesley, probably by King William Rufus in the late 11th century. From about 1250, the Eure family were lords of the manor of Stokesley. It remained in the hands of that family until about 1622 when William, Lord Eure, sold Stokesley to Richard Forster.
See “The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Yorkshire North Riding” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1923)
An Early Mention
From the Helmsley Quarter Sessions, January 1619.
“The inhabitants of the townshipps of Whorlton cum Swainbie” were presented before the magistrates “for not sufficiently repairing the highwaies from the top of the Scarth-nicke down Scarth-laine and Swainbie Ellers, being the high strete leading betwixte the cittie of York and Stokesley, a markett towne . . .”
An early mention in literature appears in “A Description of England and Wales” vol.10 Newbery & Carnan (1770)
“About 15 miles to the north of Helmsley is Stokesley, which stands upon the banks of the river Wisk, in a fruitful tract, called Allerton-shire. It is a corporate town, consisting of one well-built street, about half a mile long, and has a good market on Saturdays, and a fair, held on the Saturday before Trinity-Sunday, which is reckoned the greatest fair in England, for horned cattle, horses, and linnen cloth.”
The Lay Subsidy of 1301
The returns for this national tax named 58 householders in Stokesley. Those households in Stokesley that were exempt from the subsidy do not appear in the returns, so we can only guess how many of them there were. Some historians reckon that in a typical small town, the exempt households might outnumber the taxed households by 2 to 1. The total subsidy paid in Stokesley in 1301 was just a halfpenny short of 76 shillings. At the head of the list was John de Eure who paid 5s. 4d. tax on the movable goods at his property in the town. He was one of baronial class who tended to move around a good deal on the king’s service and it’s not likely that he lived in Stokesley.
Derived from “Yorkshire Lay Subsidy” edited by W.Brown (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series) (1897)
St. Peter and St. Paul (medieval chancel, nave 1771)
Pack Horse Bridge (17th century)
The Golden Lion (possibly 17th century)
Manor House (early 18th century and early 19th century)
No. 42 High Street (early 18th century)
The Old Rectory (early 18th century)
The Queen’s Head (early 18th century)
Handyside House (mid 18th century)
Preston’s School (1832)
Town Hall (1854)
A Few Lost Buildings
Stokesley Mill (A mill was recorded here in the Domesday Book) demolished in 1983.
Stone Hall (17th century) demolished in 1973.
Shambles (In 1822, the shambles was considered an ancient building.) demolished 1846.
Some People of Note
George Markhan Tweddell (1823-1901) A local historian and writer who had a printing business in Stokesley.
John Wrightson (1730s ? – 1818) A Stokesley man who presented himself as a “wise man”. People sought his advice or help on many matters.
Jack Hatfield (1893-1965) A swimmer, usually associated with Middlesbrough, who was born in Stokesley. In 1912 he broke two world records and won two silver medals.
Jane Pace (1817-1906) Born in Stokesley, she became the first Englishwoman to settle permanently in Victoria, Australia.
Jonathan Ruffer (1951- ) A philanthropist who grew up in Stokesley. He funded the restoration of Auckland Castle and the Kynren festival at Bishop Auckland.
Alan Milburn (1958- ) A politician from Tow Law who was educated at Stokesley Comprehensive School. He was the government’s Health Secretary from 1999 to 2003.
Louise Stuart (1967- ) A Middlesbrough-born sprinter who grew up in Stokesley. She represented Great Britain at the 1988 Olympic Games where she reached the quarter finals of the 200 metres.
The Hearth Tax of 1673
Under the heading of “Stoxley” 80 houses had 1 or 2 hearths. An additional 15 houses with just one hearth were discharged by legal certificate from paying the hearth tax. 18 properties in Stokesley had 3 or 4 hearths, far more than in most of the villages of the Cleveland Plain. Similarly, there were 8 properties with 5 or 6 hearths, while some Cleveland villages didn’t even have one such grand house. There was a 7-hearth property belonging to “Dr Pennyman” and an 11-hearth mansion belonging to ”The Lady Foster”.
See “The Hearth Tax List for the North Riding of Yorkshire, Michaelmas 1673”, Ripon Historical Society (2011)
Pigot’s 1829 Directory portrayed Stokesley as a busy market town. There were 8 grocers and drapers, 4 butchers, 9 shopkeepers, 4 bakers and flour dealers, 11 boot and shoe makers, 6 milliners, 3 tailors, 2 chemists, 2 watch and clock makers, 1 bookseller, 2 hairdressers, and 2 chemists. There were also 3 tallow chandlers, 3 saddlers, 4 blacksmiths, 2 whitesmiths, 2 wheelwrights and 2 coopers. Among the professions there were 4 surgeons, 3 attorneys. There were also 2 auctioneers, a gun maker, a glover, a clog and pattern maker, a hatter and a stay-maker. According to Ward’s Directory of 1936, Stokesley had 7 grocers, 6 butchers, 3 fruiterers, 2 confectioners, 2 drapers, 2 tailors, 3 bootmakers, a chemist, a newsagent, a hardware dealer, 2 watchmakers, a saddler, 2 blacksmiths and 2 wireless dealers. This may not be a complete list.
A Selection of Dates
1090s The barony of Stokesley was granted to Guy de Balliol.
The Balliols continued to be lords of Stokesley until 1296.
1224 King Henry III granted Stokesley the right to hold a weekly market.
1360 A chantry dedicated to the Blessed Virgin was founded in Stokesley church.
1461 Ralph Eure, Lord of Stokesley, was killed at the Battle of Towton.
1571 The parish registers date from this year.
1622 The manor and the Eure family estate were purchased by Sir Richard Forster.
1643 The Pennymans of Ormesby, who were Royalists, organised armed resistance against Parliamentary forces at Stokesley.
1734 A school was built at Stokesley. It was demolished in aroud 1830.
1745 Anti-Catholic riots in Stokesley.
1752 John Wesley preached in Stokesley for the first time.
1755 A parish workhouse was opened.
1766 Stokesley Methodist chapel was dedicated.
1769 The Archbishop of York granted a faculty for most of Stokesley parish church to be rebuilt.
1784 Stokesley town bridge was built.
1809 A Congregational chapel was built.
1817 There was a severe flood at Stokesley.
1822 The “Stokesley Paper War” took place.
1823 A linen mill was established. It was not successful and was demolished in 1844.
1829 The “Hope” coach began running between Leeds and Redcar through Stokesley.
1832 The Preston Grammar School was built with a bequest from John Preston.
1833 A steam driven linen mill came into operation.
1835 The Primitive Methodist chapel was dedicated.
1844 The Cleveland Agricultural Show was held in Stokesley.
1848 Stokesley Union Workhouse was built to replace the old workhouse.
1853 Stokesley Town Hall was built, at Colonel Hildyard’s expense. It replaced the old Toll Booth.
1859 Stokesley Agricultural Society was formed, and the first Stokesley Show was held.
1873 St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church was consecrated.
1885 An iron bridge was constructed across the River Leven.
1887 A new Wesleyan chapel was opened.
1908 The Council School was opened. The National Schools were then closed.
1920 Stokesley Football Club was formed.
1925 Robert Armstrong and Appleton Richardson began trading in agricultural supplies at Levenside Mill.
1930 Stokesley was flooded.
1934 Trees were planted along South Levenside in memory of Jane Pace.
1941 An R.A.F. Hudson bomber crashed about 3 miles north of Stokesley. All 5 crew members were killed.
1954 Stokesley railway station was closed to passengers.
1957 The stone town bridge was replaced by a concrete bridge.
1959 Stokesley Secondary Modern School was opened.
1965 The railway that served Stokesley was closed.
1969 The Stokesley bypass road was completed.
1976 The River Leven overflowed and flooded the town. A flood control system was installed two years later.
1984 Stokesley Cricket Club was reached the Premier Division of the North Yorkshire and South Durham Cricket League for the first time.
1985 Marlow Foods began producing Quorn, a meat substitute made with mycoprotein, at Stokesley.
2010 Stokesley Cricket Club was promoted to the Premier Division of the North Yorkshire and South Durham Cricket for the third time. They finished in third place.
Stokesley Football Club was promoted to the First Division of the Northern League. They were relegated after two seasons.
2015 Stokesley School became an Academy.
2017 The Globe volunteer-run library was opened by the author Philippa Gregory.
This list of dates was compiled using the Stokesley Time Track in the C.T.L.H.S. Newsletter 54 (1997) and other secondary sources.
Suggested Further Reading
“A Walk Around The Town of Stokesley” I.Ridley and D.Franks (1982)
“Stokesley Selection” A.Wright and J.Mawer (eds) (1985)
“Historical Glimpses of the Town of Stoxley” Stokesley & District Local History Study Group (2005 ?)
“Public Health in Stokesley Rural District (1899-1939)”, D.Tyerman, C.T.L.H.S. Bulletin no. 88 (2005)
“Know Your Parish: Stokesley” M.Wall, C.F.H.S. Journal vol.3 no.10 (1988)
Stokesley Heritage Website