A History of The Parish of Spofforth with Stockeld

The name Spofforth is believed to originate from Spaw (spa or well) and ford (crossing place) and the parish encompassed Follifoot, Linton, Plumpton, Little Ribston, Stockeld and Wetherby.

The first official mention of Spofforth is in the Domesday Book of 1086. ‘In Spoford Gamelbar had three carucates of land, and there may be two ploughs, William de Percy now has four ploughs there, and nine villanes and ten bordars with four ploughs, and one mill of 2s and four acres of meadow; wood pasture one mile long and one broad; the whole sixteen quarantens long and one broad; the whole sixteen quarantens long and twelve broad. Value in King Edward’s time 20s., now 60s’. However, a settlement was here many years before this - Bronze Age battle axes and part of an Anglo-Saxon cross shaft have been found, whilst in 2001 a burial site was uncovered with artefacts dating back to at least 660 AD.

About 867 AD Danes invaded from the north - the land being reported as mostly wild uncultivated scrub and moor with wolves and bears indigenous.

The land was awarded to William de Percy after the Norman Conquest and he constructed the Castle, although officially a fortified manor house, which was originally an 11th century fortified manor house. The family stayed there for 300 years. The Castle was fortified in 1308 and renovated in 1559: sadly, it was then ruined in the Civil War. The oldest part is the 13th century undercroft to the hall which is built against a rocky outcrop. There is a 14th century two-storey chamber to the north of the hall that has a polygonal stair turret on the north-west corner. The main hall was rebuilt in the 15th century.

Tradition has it that the drawing up of the provisions of the Magna Carta in 1215 was held here. In 1224 a grant was obtained for a Friday market and in 1308 Henry Percy obtained a licence from the King to crenellate his manor. However in 1309 the Percies acquired their castle in Alnwick and their Spofforth property became less popular as a family residence. Various sightings of a bluish-white apparition falling from one of the towers have been reported.

Millenium celebrations The millennium celebrations culminated in 'Pageant in the Park - The Footprints of Time' performed on the Castle Field. 

The Poll Tax of 1379 shows the number of houses as 40 and inhabitants numbered about 180. After the Battle of Towton in 1461 the Castle was plundered and burnt by the victorious Yorkists after the death of Henry Percy along with thousands of his fellow Lancastrian supporters. The Hearth Tax of 1672 shows 85 houses and a population of 382 including both Stockeld and Braham. In 1688 Laurence Eusden, son of Rev. Eusden of Spofforth was baptised here; he became Poet Laureate in 1718 althoug he was unpopular amongst his contemporaries. In 1712 John Hebden, cellist, bassoonist and composer was also baptised at Spofforth Church. The scandalous divorce case of Middleton v Rose of Stockeld Park rocked English society in 1795.

John Metcalf
(Blind Jack), road maker extraordinary, having retired to live with his daughter off the High Street, died in 1810 at the age of 92 and is buried in the churchyard. He was a regular domino player at the White Horse Inn. In the same year the Methodist Chapel on School Lane was registered.

The Hon. William Herbert, classical scholar, linguist and naturalist, became Rector in 1814 and cultivated the Herbertia crocus corms in Spofforth.

The Old Rectory
is believed to date back to the 14th century with remains of an old ‘church’ window still visible at the rear. It was home to many rectors of All Saints Church until 1954 when it was sold by the church to become a private home. More recently Christopher Dickens, great-great grandson of Charles Dickens lived there for 40 years. The Old Rectory is a Grade II listed mainly Georgian house with a listed double archway entrance believed to have been moved here from Spofforth Castle.

In August 1847 the railway line between Church Fenton and Spofforth was opened, employing horse omnibuses to ferry passengers on to Harrogate until the completion of the line in 1848. The National School was completed in 1850 at a total cost of £742.2 shillings. It was founded by the Rector Rev. James Tripp B.A., who in 1855 almost completely rebuilt the chancel and nave of the church
attracting much criticism. Various other schools also flourished - Potter’s Academy and Red Hill House were boarding schools as well as dame schools.

The Village Feast was held in November starting on the first Sunday after the fifth. Various events and ‘treats‘ took place, including in 1859 ‘a good fat goose was presented to every household’ and in 1908 a circus, menagerie, whirligigs and shooting galleries formed part of the entertainment.

There were five public houses, The Castle, King William IV, The Prince of Wales, The White Horse and Railway Inn of which only two are still trading.


In 1908 Spofforth Football Club was founded, whilst in 1926 a local Lodge of the Royal Antideluvian Order of Buffaloes was initiated. The foundation stone of the Long Memorial Hall was laid in 1927 and officially opened the following year in recognition of the Long family - horse breeders and upstanding citizens of the village.

Nineteen villagers were lost 1914-1921 as inscribed at the entrance of the Memorial Hall, whilst the Parish lost considerably more in both conflicts as commemorated in the Church. In 1943 a Halifax BB282 crashed onto the sewage works killing six of the crew.

In 1959 Leonard Cheshire officially opened the third Cheshire Home in Yorkshire at Spofforth Hall. The railway line and station was closed by Beeching in January 1964. A Village Day was held in 1987 to purchase the Castle Field thus preventing any development on it. The Harland Way cycle track between Spofforth and Wetherby opened in 1992.

Spofforth Today

Spofforth is a pretty village located within the ‘golden triangle’ between Wetherby and Harrogate. A large part of the village is in a Conservation Area with 13 items on the statutory list of Buildings of Special Architecture or Historic Interest, i.e. grade I or II listed. Stockeld is located on the A661 just outside Spofforth towards Wetherby. Stockeld Park is a privately owned 2,000 acre agricultural estate and home to The Christmas Adventure and also one of Yorkshire’s finest Christmas tree growers.

Primary School Children

The Parish of Spofforth with Stockeld has a population of 1,200 living mainly within the village of Spofforth along and off the High Street, Castle Street and Harrogate Road, the busy Harrogate to Wetherby route. The newer developments of Massey Garth and White Horse Mews are off Harrogate Road and, more recently, a number of affordable housing developments became available on East Park Road off Park Road. Spofforth offers a wide range of excellent facilities which include a shop, two public houses, hairdressers, a village hall, cricket club, snooker club and a golf course to name a few.

Spofforth CE Primary School is located on School Lane. James Tripp, Rector of Spofforth, founded the school in 1847 and a stone plaque to commemorate his death in 1879 is located above one of the cloakroom doors. In the 1960s with the expansion of the village the schoolhouse was amalgamated into the main building and new classrooms were constructed. The school has seen many improvements with its facilities and grounds and is very well supported by both the PTA and other village based organisations.

All Saints Church is a large interesting church boasting a carved cross neck dating from the first half of the 10th century, a Norman south doorway and a stone effigy of Sir Robert de Plompton who died in 1323. The tower was built in the 15th century and the nave and chancel were almost completely rebuilt in 1855.

Spofforth today reflects much of its past and its historic character. The Castle, an English Heritage property, is managed by the Parish Council and is a very popular attraction for both locals and those from much further afield.

Ramblers frequent the area walking by the old corn mill via the listed packhorse bridge and passing the school field which exhibits the traditional ridge and furrow system of strip farming. Other popular walks lead to the
villages of Kirkby Overblow and Sicklinghall. The Harland Way, a well used cycle track from Wetherby to Spofforth, brings visitors to the village and trade to the inns and shop.

Maypole dancing