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Great Givendale

The parish of Great Givendale is situated in what was once the wapentake of Harthill, Wilton Beacon Division, part of the historical East Riding of Yorkshire (see maps in Introduction). Before the 1832 parish boundary changes it included the sub-parish of Little Givendale and the hamlet of Grimthorpe. At the time of the Conquest the Givendales and Grimthorpe, together with Fangfoss and Meltonby, lay in the soke of Pocklington and were held by Morcar. They had been partially if not totally laid waste when they came into William I’s hands and Great Givendale was recorded in 1086 as one of the 20% smallest settlements in Domesday.

The earliest known owner of these holdings was given the Norman name William, but his grandfather and father bore the Scandinavian names Thorald and Ulf. The family later took the surname Fitzwilliam, and Ulf’s grandson Ralph obtained confirmation of his possessions from Richard I. This Ralph’s grandson married a Greystoke, but it was his grandson, another Ralph, who benefitted from this union. By prior licence from the king, Ralph inherited John de Greystoke’s vast holdings in Cumberland and Yorkshire, together with the manor and barony of Greystock, on his kinsman’s death without issue in 1305, despite the fact that John had living siblings. Ralph Fitzwilliam thus became Lord of Greystoke, while retaining the lordship of Grimthorpe and his family’s arms, which he quartered with those of the Greystokes. Richard II reconfirmed the family’s possessions to yet another Ralph in 1392-93, but it was the seventh Ralph who heralded the end of the Greystoke name’s link with this vast estate, as he was the last male of the line.

Upon the marriage of the last Ralph’s granddaughter Elizabeth in c1480, the inheritance passed to the Dacre family of Gilsland and then to the Howards, the earls of Carlisle, though the new owners were not allowed to assume the Grimthorpe, Greystoke and Gilsland titles. In the year 1765 an act of parliament was passed by which a large portion of the estates of the earls of Carlisle in Yorkshire, Northumberland, Cumberland and Durham was vested in trustees with power of sale, and about thirty years later the holdings which had been owned by the same line for more than six centuries passed into the hands of strangers.

St. Ethelburga’s church
© Great Northern Cycleway

The church at Great Givendale, dedicated to Saint Ethelburga, dates from the 12th century and consists of a chancel, nave and western turret, containing two bells. It was almost wholly rebuilt in 1849 using old materials, though a new stained glass east window was fitted at the same time. The Norman chancel arch was retained, and the remains of the ancient font are still preserved. A new vestry was added in 1886, and the carved oak pulpit is from the same period. It was designated a Grade II* listed building in 1967.

Grimthorpe derives its name from Grim, a popular alternative to Odin, the Scandinavian god. It was brought to England by the Vikings in the ninth and tenth centuries, where it is still to be found in place names along the east coast. The more widespread Anglo-Saxon suffix -thorpe means village or hamlet. Before the Conquest, a Saxon lord named Grim had land at Raisthorpe, a village on the Wolds north of Grimthorpe.

current Grimthorpe manor house

It is not known when the first manor house of Grimthorpe was built, but in 1301-02 Ralph Fitzwilliam had licence from the Crown to build a chapel, which no doubt stood on the same hilltop with its commanding views over the surrounding countryside. Before the end of the 1400s the house had been partly deserted, the charms of the family’s later more prestigious possessions evidently holding more attraction. However, if it was no longer the family’s principal residence, the house was neither wholly abandoned nor neglected. The vicar of Great Givendale occupied it during the mid 1500s, and from the mid 1600s to the early 1700s it was the home of Jonathan Atkins who had married a Howard. The last occupants were a succession of tenants of the earl of Carlisle. After its sale the old manor house was demolished and a new house built on its site, which was finished in 1802. Only a few fragments of the stone walls of the old house remained in the later years of 19th century, and a local man who had been in service there remembered it as “a strange rambling old place, a very low building with three large porches and only one chamber floor; the kitchen was as big as an ordinary house, and there was an oven that would bake six bushels of flour at a time, and the cellars were very spacious”. The new manor house is still standing and was recently put on the market.

In the mid 13th century Sir Thomas Pickering of Westmorland, a member of the Pickerings of Killington family, married Elizabeth de Greystoke of Cumberland. This union took place shortly before the Fitzwilliams acquired the Greystoke title and estate and while Grimthorpe was still their seat. It is possible that the Greystokes brought some junior members of the Pickering family to this area of the Wolds to farm their land. The Puckerings, who I believe are an offshoot of the Killington Pickerings, were farming in Kirby Underdale by the mid 1500s, a neighbouring village to Bugthorpe, one of the Fitzwilliams’ ancient possessions, and later in Bugthorpe itself and also in Raisthorpe, the village of the Grim who perhaps gave his name to Grimthorpe.


Great Givendale:
Church of St. Ethelburgh:
History and Directory of East Yorkshire (1892):

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol. 2, pp.195-214, Grimthorpe, A Monograph: and