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Melsonby (St. James)

MELSONBY (St. James), a parish, in the union of Richmond, wapentake of Gilling-West, N. riding of York, 5 miles (N. N. E.) from Richmond; containing 530 inhabitants. The parish comprises 2669a. 3r. 7p., of which 2000 acres are arable, 524 meadow and pasture, and 34 woodland and plantations. Its surface, which is elevated, is broken into hills and dales: the higher grounds command a view of the Hamilton hills on the one side, and of Stanemore on the other; the lower lands are watered by a rivulet. The scenery is in many points highly picturesque, and the soil, which rests on limestone, is generally fertile: freestone is found, and on Gatherley moor, partly within the parish, are some quarries in full operation; limestone is also obtained, and there are limekilns in several parts. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £10. 2. 11., and in the patronage of University College, Oxford: the tithes have been commuted for £690, and the glebe comprises 94 acres. The church is an ancient structure, partly in the Norman style, and is probably the same as that noticed in the Domesday survey. A school is supported by an endowment of £26 per annum. In a field opposite the rectory-house are some slight remains of a religious house, thought to have been a Benedictine nunnery, founded in the latter part of the reign of Stephen, or the earlier part of that of Henry II., by -Roger D'Ark, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Gatherley moor is noticed by Camden as one of the most distinguished places in England, for the celebration of races and other sports. Over its surface was once a raised bank of earth of great antiquity, about 12 yards in breadth, with a trench of equal width on each side, the whole generally called the Scotch Dyke, and supposed to have been a boundary line between the territories of the Britons and the Picts. There were also several barrows, now obliterated by the inclosure of the moor.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.