Place-name:  ‘Farm of the young men’. Suanebi 1086, Suenebi [1111-22]15th century. Swayneby [1184]. From Old Norse sveinn, the Scandinavian cognate of old English “swan”.

See “The Place-names of the North Riding of Yorkshire” A.H.Smith (1928).

Domesday Book

Swainby was included with Whorlton in the Domesday Book, although it was not mentioned by name. Whorlton was said to be part of the soke of Hutton (Hutton Rudby) . While many places were recorded as waste in the Domesday Book, Hutton, Whorlton and Swainby all seemed to be prospering.  At Whorlton there were 20 villeins (serfs, but above the bottom ranks of society) with 8 ploughs.

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

Early Landowners

From around the year 1200 until the reign of Henry VIII in the early 16th century the archbishops of Canterbury were the overlords of Whorlton, which included Swainby. For a century and a half the local lords were the Meynell family. They were succeeded firstly by the Darcy family and later by the Strangways family.

An Early Mention

At the Thirsk Quarter Sessions of April 1607 it was reported that the “highwaie lying along Whorlton Parke side within the lordship of Gowton, leading from Swaynby to Stokesley” was “in great decaie”.

An early mention in a publication appeared in The Railway Times of August 1857, relating to the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Railway: “The report stated that the line was opened from Pickton (sic) to Stokesley in March. The Whorlton branch was also opened for traffic at the same time, and the arrangements for working the iron ore at Swainby have progressed so far as to admit of its partial development. Those arrangements are now fast advancing to completion, when the working of the iron ore on this branch will be brought into full operation.”

Lay Subsidy 1301

Returns for Swainby are not identified in the listings for this national tax. They may have been included amongst the 17 taxpayers named under Whorlton. The highest taxpayer in that list was Nicholas de Meynell of Whorlton Castle, at almost 15 shillings. A certain John son of William came next, paying just over 7 shillings, but it is impossible to say whether his property was in Swainby or Whorlton.

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

Selected Buildings

Pump House (1718)

The Blacksmith’s Arms (1742)

Pinfold (1831, replacing an earlier one)

Middle Bridge over Swainby Beck (built in 1805 at a cost of £90 1s. 6d.)

Old parochial school (1856)

Original Vicarage (1859)

Oddfellows Hall, now used as the Village Hall (1863)

Holy Cross parish church (1877)

A Few Lost Buildings

Monastic cell at Scarth (12th century) lost after the Dissolution.

Primitive Methodist Chapel (1851) demolished in c.1990.

Wesleyan Methodist Chapel (1874) demolished c. 1995.

Some People of Note

Rev. John Cowley Fowler (1847-1916) A clergyman from Lincolnshire who served as vicar of Whorlton from 1890. He had wide-ranging interests in archaeology, architecture, geology and engineering. He became President of the Cleveland Naturalists’ Field Club in 1905 and died in Swainby in 1916.

Ethel Emerson (c.1870-1965) A benefactress from the Emerson family who owned the Whorlton and Swainby Estate. She lived locally and bequeathed more than £20,000 to Swainby church.

Bill Cowley (1915-1994) A Middlesbrough-born farmer, writer, broadcaster and expert on Yorkshire dialect who initiated the Lyke Wake Walk in 1955. His books included “Lyke Wake Walk” (1962), “The Cleveland Way” (1969) and “Dialect Verse from the Ridings” (1970)

Jane Kitching (1961-     ) An artist born in India who made her home in Swainby. She has exhibited in Europe and America.

The Hearth Tax of 1673

In the returns for this government tax, a considerable number of properties are listed under the heading “Whorleton”. There are references to “Hawthaite” and “Scugdell” (Huthwaite and Scugdale) but no  mention of Swainby by name.

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


1851     540

2011     1,820 (Swainby ward)

A Selection of Dates

1607     According to the Quarter Sessions records, the main road from Stokesley to Thirsk ran through Swainby village, crossing the beck via Maynard Bridge.

1775     The Blacksmith’s Arms in Swainby is said to date from this year.

1803     In about this year Swainby was struck by severe localised rainfall.

1808     Reference was made to linen weaving in Swainby and extensive bleaching grounds in Scugdale.

1814-15 Swainby Lime Works began.

1821     The Primitive Methodist preacher William Clowes preached in Swainby and formed a society of six members.

1843     Reference was made to a cricket match between Swainby and Ingleby Greenhow.

1856     Whorlton Parochial School was built.

1857     The railway from Picton to Stokesley was completed. The station at Potto was the nearest station to Swainby. The Ailesbury ironstone mine was opened in the same year.

1858     A two-mile branch railway was constructed between Swainby and Potto to transport iron ore.

1863     The Oddfellows Hall was built. It later became the village hall.

1875     The old church of Holy Cross at Whorlton was used for worship for the last time.

1874     Swainby Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was dedicated.

1877     Holy Cross church was consecrated.

1878     Swainby Primitive Methodist chapel, purchased from the Wesleyans, was dedicated.

1886     A Swainby farmer’s wife was killed by a mineral train as she walked towards Potto.

1887     Ailesbury mines were closed.

1888     The local ironstone mines closed.

1891     Rev. FitzHerbert provided the church clock.

1892     The Swainby branch railway was closed.

1895     The Swainby Christian Unity Annual Sick Benefit Society was formed.

1906     Maynard Bridge, carrying to main road from Stokesley to the Tontine, was widened.

1919     The Oddfellows Hall was bought by the Richardsons of Potto Hall and donated by them to the village as a village hall.

1932     Electric lighting was installed in the village hall.

1938     The Scott Trial annual motor cycle challenge was based at Swainby.

1941     An R.A.F. Hudson from Thornaby flew low over Swainby and crashed into the hillside above the village, killing two crewmen and injuring two more.

1944     An R.A.F. Lancaster on a training flight crashed on the moor above Swainby and exploded, killing all seven crewmen.

1952     An R.A.F. Gloster Meteor crashed just north of Swainby, killing the pilot.

1954     Potto railway station was closed to passengers. Goods traffic continued until 1959.

1960     The first Whorlton Run was held.

1965     The village hall was altered and extended.

1968     Whorlton Parochial School moved into new premises in Claver Close.

1969     The main road between Stokesley and the Cleveland Tontine was upgraded.

1975     The pinfold was opened as a small garden with seats.

2005     The Swainby Classic Car Show was first held.

2012     The centre of Swainby was flooded when the beck burst its banks following heavy rain. The footbridge was replaced by a higher bridge.

2017     Swainby Film Club was founded.

2018     Swainby Village Hall celebrated 150 years as a building, 100 years as the Village Hall.

This list of dates was compiled using “Recollections of Old Swainby” A.R.Cook (1975) and other secondary sources.

Suggested Further Reading

“Inns Alehouses and Hostelries in Swainby” C.B.Cook (1984)

Swainby Lime Works” C.B.Cook (1984)

“Ironstone and Jet Mining in Swainby” C.B.Cook (1983)

“The Early Leather Trade in the Whorlton (Swainby) Area” C.B.Cook, Cleveland History No. 87 (2004)