‘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)


Domesday Book

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)


Early Landowners

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)


Selected Buildings

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)



1801     1,369

1851     2,040

1901     1,642

1961     2,529



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