Middleham (St. Mary and St. Alkeld)

MIDDLEHAM (St. Mary and St. Alkeld), a market-town and parish, in the union of Leyburn, wapentake of Hang-West, N. riding of York, 10 miles (W.) from Bedale, and 10 (S.) from Richmond; containing 930 inhabitants. The name of this town is said to be derived from its situation in the centre of a number of hamlets. About the year 1190, a splendid castle was built here by Robert Fitz-Ranulph, in which, according to Stowe, Falconbridge, a partisan of Henry VI., was beheaded in 1471; though Speed says he was executed at Southampton. Edward IV. was confined in the fortress by the Earl of Warwick, but having escaped, he levied an army, and obtained a decisive victory over his opponent at the battle of Barnet. This king, whose son Edward, afterwards Prince of Wales, was born here, subsequently gave the castle to his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The remains of the fabric stand upon a rocky eminence near the town; the ancient Norman keep is surrounded by a quadrangular building, measuring 210 feet by 175, and flanked by a square tower at each angle.

The town is situated in Wensleydale, on a gentle eminence rising from the river Ure; the houses are well built, and adequately supplied with water from springs. About half a mile from it is Middleham Moor, a noted place for training horses. The inhabitants find employment in the various training establishments, or are engaged in agriculture. Fairs are held on Easter-Monday and Whit-Monday, and Nov. 5th and 6th, for live-stock, &c.; and the petty-sessions for the wapentake of Hang-West are held here. The parish comprises 2108a. 2r. 34p., of which 1482 acres are meadow and pasture, 163 arable, 44 woodland, and 44 common. The living forms a deanery of itself, and is a royal peculiar, valued in the king's books at £15. 9. 4½., and in the patronage of the Crown; the dean's tithes have been commuted for £205, and his glebe consists of 66 acres. The church, a venerable edifice, was made collegiate by Richard III., when Duke of Gloucester, for a dean, six chaplains, now styled canons, four clerks, and six choristers. By various charters and deeds from the crown, from the Archbishop of York, the Archdeacon of Richmond, and other ecclesiastics, the members of the collegiate church are exempt from all spiritual jurisdiction except that of the dean, who holds his own visitations, issues marriage licences, and grants probate of wills and letters of administration; the college is governed by statutes drawn up at the time of its foundation in 1478, and the crown, by the lord chancellor, is sole visiter. The deanery will, however, be suppressed on the next vacancy. There are places of worship for Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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