1539 ~ 1603


ACT FOR DISSOLUTION of the Great Monasteries and Abbeys was passed in 1539 and this year Guisborough Priory was pulled down.


LAY SUBSIDY – In Skelton well over half the taxpayers assessed for the Lay Subsidy paid at the lowest rate – on goods valued at less than one Pound [240 pennies].
Lay Subsidy was a taxation system based in rural areas of a fifteenth part of a person’s moveable goods including crops. In towns it was a tenth.


SKELTON KNIGHT – Baron John Conyers of Skelton Castle was knighted.
He was made Warden of the West Marches and Governor of Carlisle under Edward VI and Warden of the East Marches and Governor of Berwick under Queen Mary.


SKELTON CHURCH – After the dissolution of the monasteries the Church at Skelton was granted to the see of York and the Archbishop is still patron of the ‘living’, [controls appointment of local vicar, his payment, vicarage etc].


CASTLE CHAPEL – A domestic chapel in Skelton castle is mentioned in Yorks Chant Survey.


DEATH OF HENRY VIII and accession of Edward VI.

Edward VI, Half Guinea

VAGRANT PUNISHMENT. It is unlikely that Skelton villagers saw many unemployed vagrants at this time, as from 1531 they had been sentenced to a whipping and from this year branded with a ‘V’ on their faces.
A repeat offence justified a hanging.


CATHOLIC MASS BANNED – Act passed to forbid the Catholic Mass.


DEATH OF EDWARD VI and accession of Mary.

Queen Mary I, Groat = 4 pence.


LOCALS TO MEND THE ROADS – The Highways Act made each Parish responsible for the highways and the churchwardens and Parishioners had to elect two surveyors of the highways, whose duty it was to specify four days every year when the inhabitants had to supply the necessary materials and work eight hours daily on road repairs, under pain of fine for default.


He had no male heir and his Estate was inherited by his three daughters:-
Anne, the wife of Anthony Kempe of Slindon, Sussex,
Katharine the wife of John Atherton and
Elizabeth, the wife of Thomas Darcy.
It would seem that Lord Conyers died intestate and no provision had been made by him for an equitable division of his possessions and lands which included areas beyond Skelton.
There is a record of friction between the husbands of the 3 daughters regarding their shares and it is said that they deliberately allowed the Castle to fall into disrepair.
There appears to have been some doubt, though, as to who exactly owned the Castle.See the year 1584, when an attempt was made to divide the Castle itself into 3 equal parts between the above 3 families or their descendants.
‘The goodly chapel, one of the jewels of this Kingdom, rudely went to the ground, with the fair hall and large towers; so that now scarcely are the ruins of a chapel to be seen’


DEATH OF MARY I and accession of Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth I – ‘Half Pound


ACT OF SUPREMACY AND UNIFORMITY excluded from any office all who would not conform the the established protestant religion and anyone failing to attend his parish church was to be fined one shilling.


Catholicism was strong in the north and the efforts to suppress it led to rebellion.
A force of 12,000 was gathered from Durham, Northumberland and the North Riding and captured Barnard Castle.
They were defeated and dispersed and the Earl of Northumberland was executed at York.1570
REPRISALS against the rebels of 1569 began and 600 rebel commoners were hanged in local towns.
Local villagers were involved, but details not known.


CHURCH REGISTER Records in the Church Register begin.
They are retained from this date and are kept in the Teesside Archives.


HOUSES OF CORRECTION A Poor Law authorised Counties to establish houses of correction for vagrants;
and set out the “Punishment of the Mother and Father of a Bastard”1577
Anthony Kempe, the husband of Anne Conyers sold their part of the Skelton Estate to Robert Trotter.
Robert was the son of a Robert Trotter senior of Pickering and married to Margaret who came from Pudsey.
Graves History states that the remaining two thirds which had been inherited by the other two Conyers daughters remained in their descendants until the year 1656, when by exchange or purchase the whole became the property of Robert Trotter and his descendants.


RECUSANTS – The populace were required to attend Protestant Church of England services.
Those who refused to do so were termed “Recusants” and were brought to Court to face penalties:-
In East Cleveland resistance appears to have developed late in Elizabeth’s reign. In this year Egton with 9 Recusants was its only centre.
In 1586, however, Brotton had 19 presentations for Recusancy, Egton 13, Hinderwell 10 and Skelton 8.”

Hollybush Farm


26th August –
Phillip was an ancestor of the Emersons of Hollybush Farm, a family that figures largely in the village History, especially in Victorian times, when Stephen Emerson was known as the “Miners’ Friend”.
The page for the year 1524 shows the Will of Philip’s Grandfather, Thomas, who was then living at Margreiff [Margrove] as a Forester.
Philip’s Will refers to “my farm in Skelton” and presumably this is the one at Hollybush, where the family lived until the last Emerson emigrated to New Zealand in 1920.
Thomas, born 1447, had left much to the Catholic Church to save his Soul from Purgatory, but Phillip, who was born in 1517, long before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, must have lived through the great changes in religion and makes no mention of such payments:-
Phillipe Emersone, of Skelton in Cleveland, [XXII, 652].
To be buried in Skelton Churchyard.
Son William E, my interest in my farm in Skelton, to be good to my wife, his mother and to my daughter Agnes Emersone, his sister.
To said daughter, Agnes E, besides her portion, the cow she has at Mawsker and 15 sheep.
If wife, Janet and son William cannot live together, my wife “to have theBlacke house that I buylded in my garth to syt in during her widdowe head”.
6d yearly for 13 years in bread and ale amongst the worke men repairing certain roads.
Sr. Rowland Erington, 3s 4d.
Godbarnes [god-bairns, god-children ?], 4d each.
Francis Havelock’s daughters, 3 pecks of wheat each.
Elizabeth, wife of Percivall Barwicke, a bushell of wheat.
Supervisors – John Havelocke, of ‘Holbeck mylne’, William Thompson of Marske, junr, Francis Havelocke and George Calverd.
Daughter Agnes Emersone, Executrix.
Witnesses – Rowland Errington, Curate of Skelton, George Calverd, Francis Havelocke.
Proved at York, 6 May 1584, by the executrix.

Click here to open Emmerson Family Tree. Use scroll bars to pan around.


A document [North Yorkshire Record Office, Stapleton, Skelton 73] has survived showing that in this year Robert Trotter was living in just one section of Skelton Castle and that he appointed independent persons to carry out the difficult task of dividing the building into 3 equal parts.
It was not until 1656 that the Trotter family would acquire full possession of the Skelton Estate by purchase or exchange:-

“14th Julie 1584. Skelton castell devided in the yeare above said by William Ackrigge and Leonard Diggles at the appointment of the Lord thereof.”

What follows seems to have been a basic description of a plan which has not survived. No painting of the Castle has ever been found and unfortunately it is impossible to form a clear picture of what the Castle looked like from this document, but several notable features are mentioned. Old spelling has been changed:-

First for one part to begin at the upper end of the HALL and so Eastward and with all the rooms thereunto both above and below, except the low room in the HUMBLE TOWER and also all the rooms and houses Northwards of that side with the ground from the corner of HUMBLE TOWER to the East jambs of both the BACK GATES.
And also another piece of ground adjoining to the said part of the East side of the BASSE COURT [a term for the Bailey, outer court] from the corner of the GATE HOUSE to the East corner of the BATTLEMENT of the BRIDGE, leaving a a sufficient way of 6 yards broad in the BASSE COURT.
And so through the INNER GATES to all the house and 5 yards broad all alongside through the INNER COURT to be a common way to every part from the fore GATE to the back GATE or POSTERN.

Also for another part the WEST TOWER with all the rooms in it and also two rooms adjoining towards MR TROTTER HIS HOUSE one above and another below to a certain BUTTRESS on the West side of MR TROTTER HIS HOUSE between the said house and the WEST TOWER
also the STABLES without in the BASSE COURT and a piece of ground in the said BASSE COURT on the west side of the way between the fore GATE and the inner GATE.
And also one piece of ground in the INNER COURT from the “HALE” PORCH corner of the West part to the middle way towards the corner of the CHAPEL.
And so Westwards to the South side of MR TROTTER his doors for to serve to make an inner court to the said part.
And the “moitie” of the low part of HUMBLE TOWER with all the Stones in the outer GATE HOUSE.

Also for the third part beginning at the BUTTRESS on the West side aforesaid where MR TROTTER dwelleth and so Eastward with all the rooms adjoining both above and below the CHAPEL.
And the ground lying on the West side of the two Northern-most GATES leaving a way to pass through all the GATES 6 yards broad with the remainder of the ground lying between the HALL PORCH aforesaid and the CHAPEL corner layne
and the “moitie” of the low part of the HUMBLE TOWER.
And whereas the said part has not so much grounde as the other two parts in consideration whereof to have the GARDEN place adjoining on the said part as it is all made lying on the West side of the said house.

A second document deals with the division of the area outside the Castle building.

The West part of the HALL to the South part of the Castle with the GREAT CHAMBER and a CHAMBER PARTITIONED WITH A GREAT WAINSCOAT HAVING TWO WINDOWS, THE ONE DIRECT AGAINST THE OTHER, with the South part of the house, the South West part of the OUTER COURT with STABLES AND GRANARIES [spelt “garners”] and other housing joining to the GRANARIES, going up BAGDALE [the valley on the East side of the Castle, the stream in which was dammed to create the moat] to the high land viz

A photograph taken in the mid 1900s shows the valley of Bagdale on the East side of the Castle, with a dam now made further away from the Castle to create a lake

One place of ground called Bagdale adjoining of the TOWER , of the South side of the COURTYARD slanting down from the TOWER wall unto a FOOT BRIDGE and so up a ridge unto a hollow tree and from the hollow tree slanting to the hedge of the middle part and from the inside of that hedge of Bagdale up to the high LAWN, with all the hay land….

The second part of the Castle, beginning and adjoining to the partitioned WAINSCOAT CHAMBER, having one chimney and one window with all the rest of the chambers, above and below, with the BREWHOUSE to the POSTERN GATE, with a house called the DUNGEON, above and below, with the parcels of ground following viz
to go from the POSTERN GATE over the gill called BAGDALE, unto the next hedge direct over against the said postern, which is from the hay lawned hedge, unto the North hedge and from the North hedge unto the pale of the HOWELL OF HAY, as it is now already severed and bounded. [Farm to the West is now called Howla Hay].

Arms of Trotter.


16th February –
ARMS OF TROTTER – The Trotters of Skelton Castle were granted heraldic Arms. “A Chief Ermine with a Lion Azure [De Brus] over all.”


WAR THREAT – Mobilisation in response to war threats from Spain began and Langbaurgh had to provide 350 men on the same basis as County rates.

FAMINE – Severe famine in most of Britain.




SKELTON PARSON In this year the clergyman, Robert Tose [Toes] resigned the curacy of Whitby in favour of his son Daniel and took up residence at Skelton, which living, with the chapelry of Brotton, he had enjoyed for a considerable number of years.
He lived there until his death, being extremely beloved and respected by his parishioners and died in a good old age on June 29th 1621.


The Poor Relief Act of this year placed responsibility for local affairs upon the ‘Vestry’, a committee of the leading figures of a Church Parish, who ran the daily business of the area.
Since Henry VIII’s evil destruction of many of Britain’s greatest buildings, the Catholic abbeys, the poor, old and sick had no place to go for relief and many people were found starving to death.
Each Parish was now made responsible for the maintenance of its own poor.
The churchwardens and parishioners had to elect two Overseers of the paupers in each Church Parish.
These men had to collect Poor Rates, which were levied in the same way as Church Rates, and apply the money to the relief of the local poor in return for useful work if possible.
This system for dealing with the Parish poor was the beginning of Local Councils and in respect of the poor continued until the Victorian founding of the Workhouses in 1834.
The village Overseers continued to be elected for other functions even after that.


DEATH OF ELIZABETH I Death of Elizabeth I and accession of James VI of Scotland as James I.

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