Ryedale parish population estimate for Byland with Wass 110 (2000)
Wass - Today
The village of Wass is situated about a quarter of a mile north-east of the ruins of Byland Abbey, at the foot of a cleft in the southern escarpment of the Hambleton Hills. The steeply wooded slopes provide shelter from north, east and westerly winds, as well as a spectacular village setting when viewed from the south. Wass is within the southern boundary of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, and forms part of the civil parish of Byland with Wass.
Today, agriculture and forestry remain important local activities but are no longer significant in terms of employment. Many villagers are retired or semi-retired and others either work from home or commute to towns and cities in the region. The school closed in 1933 but the village retains its church (St Thomas's) and excellent pub (the Wombwell Arms) as well as its post office/shop. The village hall, now rebuilt in 2008 / 2009 replacing the original Hall built by public subscription in 1928, is still the focal point for a wide variety of community activities including Old Time Dances, Women's Institute meetings, snooker and billiards matches and Christmas and Harvest events.
Wass continues to take economic and social changes in its stride, as indeed it has over the centuries. It remains a thriving and active community where village folk completed no less than six Millennium projects and where annual events include a village barbecue, the Wass Olympics, a Home Improvement Show, and the Open Gardens Day with its associated and increasingly famous Scarecrow Display.
The Village Pantomime is the latest social entertainment initiative and has been a huge success, revealing latent thespian talents which have also been channelled into the production of a Play. Many of the village events are entertained by the local ceilidh band.
Wass is the home to a new initiative - that of the never quite forgotton art of real Story Telling. That is story telling in front of an audience! Stories about the old legends of the North York Moors are being collected for new ears and the area is becomg famous for thos activity over a surprisingly wide area.
For further information, see the Vllages Website www.wass.co.uk
Wass - a History
The village origins are thought to have been closely associated with those of the Cistercian abbey; the former might have provided accommodation for migrant workers engaged in the construction of the latter during the second half of the 12th century. Developed on the north-eastern periphery of the monastic precinct, the village was also linked to the abbey by elevated water conduits (built by Cistercian lay brothers) which can still be seen today.
The earliest known documentary references to Wasse (sic) date from 1539-1541, at the time of the Dissolution of Byland and other monastic houses by Henry VIII. In 1541, the village (housing about 22 families) was sold, together with the abandoned abbey and other local lands from the Byland estate, to Sir William Pickering, Henry's Knight Marshal, for the sum of £8 5s 6d.
During the 17th and 18th centuries flax production was important locally and the parish registers show that in Wass, the occupation of 'bleacher' was very common. This implies a cottage based cloth-manufacturing industry which might well have been the continuation of economic activity first started by the monks.
In 1739, the Byland estate, including Wass, was acquired by the Stapylton family of Myton Hall (in Myton on Swale) near Boroughbridge, who owned it for the next 157 years. From 1842, until his death in 1896, Major Henry Miles Stapylton ran the estate and gained a well-deserved reputation as a benefactor to the local community and to Wass in particular. He established tree nurseries and stands of specimen trees near the village, and in 1847 he built the village school. A cottage for the schoolmaster and a post office with accommodation for the postmaster followed later. The schoolroom was also used as a church on Sundays (from 1866) and as a library and meeting room for 'Wass Mental Improvement Society', another of Henry's innovations. The crest stating the letters «HMS» can be seen on many buildigs in the area.
During the 1860s, Henry Stapylton became known as 'one of the best landlords in England' after building a terrace of six model cottages in Wass for estate workers. Called 'New Row', these cottages were said to be the envy of the county, as they provided running water, kitchen ranges, and fireplaces in the master bedrooms as well as in the living rooms. Each rear yard contained a coalhouse, pigsty, ashpit and privy, and each family was also provided with a nearby allotment garden for growing vegetables.
In 1896, Sir George Wombwell of Newburgh Priory bought the estate and Wass remained an estate village until 17th September, 1924, when the entire village was sold into multiple ownership at a public auction in The Royal Station Hotel in York.
Mike Matson 2004
from Baine’s Directory of the County of York 1823
WASS, in the parish of Kilburn, and wapentake of Birdforth; 6 miles SW. of Helmsley. The principal inhabitant of this place is Mr. John Bree.
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