The settlement ‘at the loft-houses, the houses with an upper storey’. Loctus(h)um, Loctehusum, 1086, Lofthus(es),(12th-15th), Loftus from 1160-1175 Old Norse lofthus ‘a house with a loft’, dative plural lofthusum.
Information about this place-name was supplied by Victor Watts by personal communication
Under the heading “Land of Earl Hugh” it says:
“In Locthusum (there are) 4 carucates for geld, and 4 ploughs can be (there). Earl Siward held this for 1 manor. Now Earl Hugh has (it), but it is waste. Useless wood(land) and 8 acres of meadow. The whole manor (has) 3 leagues in length and 1 in breath. T.R.E. it was worth £48; now (it is worth) nothing.
To this manor belongs this soc:- Roscheltorp (in Easington?), 1 carucate, Hildrewelle, 10 bovates, Bollebi, 2 carucates, Esingetun, 8 carucates, Livretun, 6 carucates, Gighesborc, 6 bovates, Roudeclif (in Skelton), 2 carucates, Uplider, 10 carucates, Mersc, 2 carucates, Westlidum (Kirkleatham), 2 carucates, Leisingebi, half a carucate, Lachebi, 1 carucate and 6 bovates. In all (there are) 46ö carucates for geld, [the items only add up to 37 carucates, 2 bovates.] and 30 ploughs can be there. All are waste, except Esingetun, in which there is 1 villein with 1 plough. (There is) a church without a priest. Pasturable wood(land) 1 league in length and 2 furlongs in breadth. The whole (has) 4 leagues in length and 2 furlongs in breadth. The whole (has) 4 leagues in length and half (a league) in breadth.
(A carucate was roughly 100 acres. A bovate was around 15 acres and a league was 3 miles. Geld was a tax that had to be paid. T.R.E. means “in the time of King Edward the Confessor”)
Based on William Farrer’s translation in “The Victoria History of the County of York” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1912)
The de Brus family of Skelton Castle were the overlords of Loftus through much of the 12th and 13th centuries. Wiiliam de Humet possessed a sizeable holding in Loftus in 1272 and it seems that the Humets were local lords here through the 13th and 14th centuries.
See “The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Yorkshire North Riding” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1923)
An Early Mention
In 1717 Zachary Stewart More registered his estate in North Loftus.
“the Mannour or Lordship of North Loftus with the commons, moores, waists, mines, royalties, rights, &c. : the mannour house, a capital messuage, with the outhouses, offices, buildings, barnes, &c.; the alome houses, alome mynes, alomrocks and all other mynes, wreckscarrs, alomworks, and all pits, pans, cesterns, coalgarths, harbours, havens, stayths, and all other conveniencys, necessarys, appurtenances and hereditaments to the said alomworks belonging. . .”
An early mention in literature appeared in “The History of Cleveland in the County of York” J. Graves (1808)
“The village contains some well-built houses, forming a regular street, which runs in a direction nearly east and west, with a good road leading between Guisborough and Whitby; from the former of which it is about eight miles distant. A weekly market on Thursdays has been lately established here, which has been found of great convenience to the labourers in the allum-works; and during the summer months, is much frequented by the farmers and inhabitants of the neighbouring villages.”
The Lay Subsidy of 1301
Loftus was not a large village in the early 14th century, with only 16 householders paying tax. The highest amount of tax was almost 5 shillings, paid by William “Homet” (Humet). The total tax bill for the village was just under 43 shillings.
Derived from “Yorkshire Lay Subsidy” edited by W.Brown (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series) (1897)
Old Beck Cottage (c.1700)
Loftus Mill (18th century)
The Angel Inn (c.1800)
St. Leonard’s Church (1811) Largely rebuilt in 1901.
Loftus Hall (1840)
Linden House (1844)
Old Zetland School (1871)
Oddfellows Hall (1874)
Town Hall (1878)
A Few Lost Buildings
Railway Station (1867) demolished in 1974
Newton Memorial Chapel (1876) demolished in 1942 after being struck by a bomb in an air raid.
Rosecroft School (1963) demolished in 2009.
Regal Cinema (1938) demolished in 1994.
Some People of Note
Sir Robert Dundas (1780-1844) A local landowner who served as M.P. for Richmond. He also had a long military career, including the Peninsular War, and was made a Knight of the Garter in 1810.
George Young (1808-1884) A trader who left his home village of Loftus for a new life in New Zealand. He was a whaler for several years and became one of the first settlers at Port Nicholson.
Lewis Hunton (1814-1838) A geologist who realised that fossils held the key to understanding geological strata.
Edith Cochrane (1865- ? ) A member of the Cochrane family of ironmasters from Middlesbrough who lived in Loftus. She was active in the British Legion and the local War Pensions Committee which earned her an M.B.E. in 1920. She also served on the Women’s Employment Committee in Middlesbrough.
Harry Dack (1877-1954) An ironstone miner who became Chairman of the North Riding County Council’s education committee.
Emily Godfrey (1884-1978) A nurse from Loftus who became a missionary in Africa for the Primitive Methodist Missionary Society.
Stanley Hollis (1912-1972) A soldier born in Loftus. He was awarded the Victoria Cross on D-Day during the Second World War.
Stanley Binks (1924-2017) A local historian and landscape artist from Loftus.
Faye Marsay (1986- ) A Loftus-born actress noted for her roles in The White Queen and Game of Thrones
Paul Drinkhall (1990- ) A table tennis player from Loftus who was national champion five times. With Liam Pitchford, he won the gold medal for the men’s doubles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The Hearth Tax of 1673
By 1673 Loftus was somewhat larger than it had appeared in the 1301 lay subsidy, with 65 houses. All but 3 of these dwellings had 1 or 2 hearths. Only one house, owned by “Jo Hart” had 3 hearths. By far the largest properties in Loftus were the 8-hearthed mansion owned by “Mr Steward” and the 9-hearthed mansion owned by “Mr Beckwith”. Only two householders were below the tax threshold.
See “The Hearth Tax List for the North Riding of Yorkshire, Michaelmas 1673”, Ripon Historical Society (2011)
White’s Directory of 1840 was compiled before the Cleveland iron ore field was opened up. The directory mentioned the “extensive alum works on the coast near Skinningrove” but makes it clear that Loftus was a market town rather than an industrial one. There were 3 chapels as well as the parish church and 3 inns. The list of shops and trades included 4 grocers, 3 bakers, 3 butchers, 4 tailors, 6 shoemakers, a clogger, a straw hat maker, 2 blacksmiths, a tinner and brazier, a painter and glazier, a cooper, 2 saddlers, 3 wheelwrights, 2 corn millers, a slater and a mason. By the time of Ward’s Directory of 1936, Loftus was much busier, with at least 7 grocers, 14 general dealers, a baker, 3 confectioners, 5 butchers, a fruiterer, 3 dressmakers, 5 tailors, a milliner, 5 bootmakers, 2 chemists, 3 watchmakers, a wireless dealer and a china shop. This might not be a full list.
A Selection of Dates
1133 Handale Priory, for Cistercian nuns, was founded.
1539 Handale Priory was dissolved as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.
1615 The Chaloner family began an alum mine near Loftus.
1615-1633 The open fields of Loftus were enclosed around this time.
1657 Loftus alum works began around this date.
1697 The parish registers date from this year.
1808 A weekly market began.
1811 St. Leonard’s parish church was rebuilt.
1814 The Newton Memorial Wesleyan chapel was dedicated.
1828 Ebenezer Chapel was built by the Congregationalists. It closed in 1907.
1841 The church Sunday School began.
1865 Loftus iron mine was opened.
1870 The Primitive Methodist chapel was dedicated.
1871 The Zetland School opened.
1873 Loftus Cricket Club was formed.
1874 The Oddfellows Hall opened.
1875 Passenger services began from Loftus railway station
1876 The Newton Memorial Methodist chapel was dedicated.
1876 The Lofthouse Advertiser began publication..
1879 Loftus Town Hall was completed.
1883 The railway from Loftus to Whitby was completed.
1890 The Loftus Sword Dancers were formed.
1901 St. Leonard’s was almost completely rebuilt.
1906 The Roman Catholic school was built. The Congregational Chapel was also built in this year.
1922 Loftus Albion F.C. joined the Northern League and finished the season in sixth place. They left the league in 1929.
1923 A bus service to Middlesbrough was instituted.
1938 The last Loftus Wool Fair was held.
The Regal Cinema opened.
1942 The Newton Memorial Chapel was hit by a bomb during an air raid and had to be demolished.
1949 The Roman Catholic Church of Saints Joseph and Cuthbert was consecrated.
1951 Loftus and District Arts Club was formed around this time.
1954 Harry Dack Infants’ School opened.
1958 Iron mining came to an end.
1960 The railway station was closed to passengers.
1963 Loftus County Modern School (Rosecroft) opened. It became a comprehensive school in 1971.
1966 The Luke Senior Hall was opened.
1981 Loftus Leisure Centre was opened.
1989 The ancient Loftus Wool Fair was revived.
The Loftus Town Crier was established.
2006 Harry Dack Infants’ School combined with Loftus Junior School to form Handale Primary School. In 2016 the school moved into newly built premises.
2009 Rosecroft School was demolished after amalgamating to become part of the new Freebrough College in Brotton.
This list of dates was compiled using the “Loftus History” website and other secondary sources.
Suggested Further Reading
“The History of Cleveland in the North Riding of the County of York” J Graves 1808)
“People of the Past in Loftus” E.M.Jackson (1996)
“Around Loftus” J.Wiggins (1997)
“The Whitby-Loftus Line 1866-1958” M.Williams (2012)
“A Royal Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Street House, Loftus, North-East Yorkshire” S.Sherlock (2013)
“Loftus in 1881” Loftus Local Studies Group, C.T.L.H.S. Bulletin no.49 (1985)
“Know Your Parish: Loftus” Mary Williams, C.F.H.S. Journal vol.5 no.2 (1992)