Hambleton parish population estimate 760 (2000)
Stillington - a History
Stillington is about half way between York and Helmsley on the former Oswaldkirk toll road. Never one to let facts get in the way of a good tradition, Thomas Gill in his 1853 history Vallis Eboracensis claims that name came from stealing town, or town of thieves, whose livelihood was 'robbing the king's forest of its deer, and the packmen of their merchandise'. The village does lie within what until 1630 was the royal Forest of Galtres.
Unfortunately for Gill's theory, the name is much older than both William the Conqueror and the forest laws which made it an offence to take deer. In the Domesday Book the name is Stivelincton. Stivel or Styfel is a Saxon name and Tun is Old English for enclosure. So sometime after the Romans left and before the Normans came, Styfel the Saxon established a farmstead which developed into today's village. In 1086 it was held by the Archbishop of York and was worth ten shillings a year. No doubt he also would have had something to say if his villeins had supplemented their income by poaching and highway robbery.
The manor was run by the Church as part of the Liberty of St Peter until the early 17th century when it was leased, first to a William Ramsden, then to Christopher Croft. He became Sir Christopher when in 1641, as Lord Mayor of York he was knighted for playing host to King Charles I. In 1649, following the Civil War, Parliamentary Trustees were appointed for the sale of lands belonging to the Dean and Chapter of York. Purchased by Sir Christopher, the manor remained in the Croft family until 1895.
They built Stillington Hall, one of the 'lost' houses of Yorkshire. After the Crofts left, the Hall was owned first by Rawdon Thornton JP, then from 1903 until his death in 1934 by Matthew Liddell. After a spell as a Catholic convalescent home and a boy's school, the Hall was purchased by a builder, stripped, became derelict and was demolished in 1966 to make way for the Parkfield housing estate.
The Parish Church of St Nicholas dates back to the 12th century, although much of the present structure was rebuilt in 1840. It houses some good examples of Thompson furniture with the distinctive mouse trademark. The first known vicar was Peter de Topcliffe in 1329. One incumbent, John Bedford, was reported in 1471 for 'selling beer in his vicarage as if he were a layman, to the peril of his soul, the expense of his church and the great scandal of the jurisdiction of the Church of York'. Scandalous, possibly, but still not enough to justify Gill's theory.
In 1745 the novelist Laurence Sterne became vicar. Dining at Stillington Hall with his friend Stephen Croft, he gave a reading from the manuscript of his new novel Tristram Shandy. Not getting the attention he felt he deserved, he threw the manuscript onto the fire. It was rescued and went on to make his literary reputation. One rather gruesome twist is that after his death from tuberculosis in London in 1768, Sterne's body was 'resurrected' by body snatchers for use in medical research at the anatomy school of his own university, Cambridge.
One permanent legacy of Laurence Sterne and Stephen Croft was their sponsorship of the 1766 Enclosure Act which did away with the commons and the four great open fields. The hedgerows which were planted to divide the land into 'allotments' can still be traced today.
Another village resident who has left a permanent legacy in the English garden is George Russell MBE. Born in the village in 1857, and working most of his life as a jobbing gardener in York, he created the Russell Lupin. Slightly overawed by fame, he maintained that the work in developing it could be attributed to the humble bumble bee.
As well as the Church, the village has a Methodist Chapel, opened in 1972 as a replacement for a series of earlier chapels dating back to 1819. The social life of the village is enhanced by a very active Sports and Social Club and the Village Hall, which is the venue for several local organisations. Although it can no longer boast the shoemakers, blacksmiths, millers, butchers and saddle makers listed in Victorian trade directories, the village is still well served by three public houses, village shop and post office, garages, fried fish shop and school.
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STILLINGTON, a parish in the wapentake of Bulmer and liberty of St. Peter's; (the seat of William Croft, Esq. and Stillington-Hall, the seat of Harry Croft, Esq.) 4 miles ESE. of Easing-wold. Here is a small humble looking church, dedicated to St. Nicholas; the living is a vicarage, in the patronage of the Prebend of Stillington; incumbent, the Rev. T. H. Croft. This was one of the church livings held by the celebrated Lawrence Sterne, who resided at Sutton, in this neighbourhood There are also a Methodist chapel, and a National school in this village. Population 698