The Living of Melsonby, Yorkshire


Melsonby is a village in North Yorkshire. Although the place itself is small, it is well situated, being very near the Great North Road (now the A1) and the market town of Richmond. Its living was purchased by the College in 1692. The reason for its purchase is almost certainly thanks to the initiative of one of its senior Fellows, William Smith, who was born in the neighbouring village of Easby, and who would become the College’s first nominee to the living in 1704.
    Melsonby was the third living acquired by the College after Arncliffe and Flamstead, but it differs from them in two important particulars. Not only did the College purchase this living, whereas the other two had been donations to the College, but whereas the College chose to appropriate the livings of Arncliffe and Flamstead, so that they could receive an income from their tithes, the living of Melsonby remains unappropriated, so that all profits from it went directly to the incumbent. This would set a precedent for all later livings acquired by the College.
    The purchase of the living was not wholly straightforward. As explained in UC:E15/D1/19 below, it had been owned by the Stapylton and Digby families, with the right to make alternate presentations. Both families were attained after the rebellion of the 1570, and the whole was forfeit to the Crown. As will become clear from the deeds in UC:E15/D1 below, attempts were made to unite the two moieties of the advowson in the seventeenth century by Nathaniel Hawkesworth, who was Rector there from 1633–71, but at the end of Hawkesworth’s life he was still unsure whether he had secured a full title to the whole living. Nevertheless he bequeathed it to his granddaughter Elizabeth Spooner, who in turn sold it to University College. In spite of some concerns about the title at the time of the sale, and an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the College making its first nomination in 1704, the College’s right to the title has in fact never been properly questioned.

These are the incumbents of Melsonby from Nicholas Hawkesworth until 1960, with details given for those who were former members of University College:

1633–71    Nathaniel Hawkesworth
1671–1704    Loftus Squire
1704–35    William Smith (matr. Univ. 1668; Fellow 1675–1705)
1736–87    Thomas Kaye (matr. Univ. 1722; Fellow 1729–37; Rector of Arncliffe 1733–6)
1787–1816    Samuel Swire (matr. Univ. 1757; Fellow 1766–88)
1816–52    James Barmby (matr Univ. 1791; Fellow 1799–1817)
1852–1906    Henry Ellison (matr. Univ. 1838; Fellow 1843–53]
1907–9    Cecil Manley Hawker (matr. Univ. 1879)
1909–41    John Vincent Bullard (matr. Univ. 1888; Vicar of Flamstead, 1897–1909)
1942–9    Richard Knyvet Wimbush
1949–55    Justice Frank Southam
1955–60    Martin J. Ellingson

The papers in this collection were all found during the stocktaking of 1993. However, in addition this material, William Smith’s transcripts relating to Melsonby (in UC:AR2/MS1/6 pp. 17–129) include several miscellaneous notes on the living which he acquired from other sources, and an account of the money he spent on repairs to the rectory of Melsonby.
    Apart from deeds relating to the acquisition of the living, the most important documents in this collection are the various items of correspondence between the College and various incumbents of the parish.

Catalogued in December 2011.

The collection is divided into the following series:

UC:E15/D1    Deeds on the advowson of Melsonby

UC:E15/C1    Correspondence concerning the acquisition of the Living, 1692

UC:E15/L1    Papers on William Smith's Presentation to the Living, 1704

UC:E15/L2    Papers on a rival claim to the Living, 1704

UC:E15/C2    Correspondence with and about Thomas Kay

UC:E15/C3    Correspondence from and about Samuel Swire

UC:E15/C4    General Corresponcence from the 19th and 20th centuries

UC:E15/D2    Various Title Deeds relating to land at Melsonby

UC:E15/F1    Financial Papers

UC:E15/M1   Maps


The complete text of this catalogue may be consuilted as a pdf version of it here.