The parish of Ellerton is situated in what was once the wapentake of Harthill (Holme Beacon division), part of the historical East Riding of Yorkshire (see maps in Introduction).
Before the Conquest Ellerton was held by Ernwin the priest, at Domesday Count Robert of Mortain was its tenant-in-chief and Nigel Fossard its lord. By 1285 it had become part of the Gaunt fee, but by 1303 it was held by the Greystokes. The prior of Ellerton and Thomas Pickering were both cited as lords of the manor in 1316, indicating that there were two manors in Ellerton, and the Pickering family would hold their manor of the Greystoke fee until the early 16th century, when Ann, the last to bear the name Pickering in Ellerton, sold it to the king. However, it was soon back in her hands and those of her son Henry Knevett, along with the second manor. In 1599 both manors were acquired by Hugh Bethell, in whose family they were to remain until 1844 when the entire estate was put up for sale.
The Gilbertine priory at Ellerton was founded in the first years of 13th century by William son of Peter of Goodmanham, who gave the land on which it was built and a mill at Goodmanham. Many benefactors granted possessions and lands to the priory over the following centuries. Little more is known about the priory until was dissolved on 11 December 1538, soon after the appointment of the last prior, John Golding. John Aske of Aughton acquired it from the Crown in 1542, and it was sold by the Aske family in 1606. Following the dissolution part of the nave of the priory church and the churchyard became the parish church and burial ground. However, over the centuries the church fell into a ruinous state, and in 1846 the Victorian architect John L. Pearson was appointed to rebuild it. He incorporated much of the original medieval masonry and stained glass windows, the latter consisting of eight complete shields of arms of patrons of the church and other notable families. Congregations declined over the following years, and the church was closed in 1978. This resulted in another period of dereliction, but the building was saved from demolition and restored by the Ellerton Church Preservation Trust, which took over ownership in 1997. What was left of the stained glass had already been removed in 1984 and inserted in a window in the northern aisle of Selby Abbey, including the Pickering arms.
The Pickerings of Killington were a prominent family in Ellerton. Sir Thomas Pickering of Killington (c1255-c1340) married the daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Greystoke and thus obtained holdings in Ellerton. They passed down through six generations to Sir James Pickering, who rebelled against the king and was obliged to forfeit them. However, they came back into the family when Margaret – the widow of James Pickering, son and heir of Sir James – was granted them for the relief of herself and her seven children, following her husband’s death at the battle of Wakefield in 1460. The Ellerton Pickering line came to an end for want of a male heir three generations later.
Kirkby’s Inquest, pp. 89-90, 253: https://archive.org/details/surveycountynewy00kirkrich/page/n8
Victoria History of the County of York, East Riding, vol. 3, pp.251-252: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/vol3/pp251-252
Ellerton Church Preservation Trust: http://www.ellertonpriory.co.uk/index.htm
Ellerton.info, a One-Place Study: http://www.bubwith.net/ellerton/index.html