The Papers of William Charles Copperthwaite of Malton – Part 4

By Gail Falkingham, Record Assistant

This final post on the Copperthwaite papers features material relating to the medieval and later history of the town of Malton. Within the collection, there are a number of notebooks and other papers filled with hand-written notes and newspaper cuttings on a variety of subjects. These include St Mary’s Priory in Old Malton, the foundation of Malton Grammar School and population statistics of the town and parishes of Malton from 1801-1841.

St Mary’s Priory in Old Malton

Marked in pencil as not being by Copperthwaite, a folder of material relating to the history of St Mary’s includes a collection of handwritten notes and letters [ZUN 7]. These include the text of a lecture on the ecclesiastical history of the parish, and a history of Malton Abbey, with a description of St Mary’s church. There are also further notes on the Priory of Old Malton dated 1887, together with a pencil-drawn sketch plan. Of particular interest are letters from the architect George Gilbert Scott to the Reverend EAB Pitman of Stonegrave regarding the dangerous condition of the church tower dated June 1877.

Handwritten letters from George Gilbert Scott Junior to the Rev. EAB Pitman of Stonegrave reporting on the dangerous condition of the church tower at St Mary’s, Old Malton, 11th June 1877
ZUN 7/4/1-2  Letters from George Gilbert Scott Junior to the Rev. EAB Pitman of Stonegrave reporting on the dangerous condition of the church tower at St Mary’s, Old Malton, 11th June 1877

These letters are believed to be from the younger George Gilbert Scott (1839-1897). Both he and his father of the same name, Sir Gilbert Scott (1811-1878), were leading Gothic revival architects of the Victorian period. George Gilbert Scott Junior had trained, and worked, with his father who is famous for many notable buildings of this period, including the Grand Midland Hotel at St Pancras Station in London.

In 1874, Gilbert Scott Junior founded Watts & Co. with fellow architects Thomas Garner and George Frederick Bodley. This was a company specialising in interior design, supplying furnishings for their buildings. His son, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960) was also a prominent architect, responsible for the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral, and famous for designing the iconic red telephone box. More about the Scott family can be found on the blog of the great great grandson of Sir George Gilbert Scott.

Photograph of the front view of St Mary's Priory, Old Malton
St Mary’s Priory, Old Malton by Tim Green from Bradford, CC-BY-2.0

Built in the mid-12th century, Malton Priory was of the Gilbertine order, an order founded by Gilbert of Sempringham in Lincolnshire in 1131. Whilst the Gilbertines are known for their double houses of monks and nuns, Malton housed only monks. The Priory survived until 1539, until the Dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII, after which time, the former priory church became the parish church.

The past 500 years have seen a number of changes to the fabric of the church. It is presumably a direct result of Gilbert Scott’s advice, that the architect Temple Moore (1856-1920) undertook renovation and restoration work at St Mary’s in the late 1870s. Temple Moore had initially trained with Gilbert Scott junior, before setting up his own practice in 1878, after which they continued to work together.

There is other material relating to George Gilbert Scott junior and Temple Moore within the collections held by the County Record Office. This includes plans, sections and elevations for one of the last buildings designed by Scott in 1882, St Mary Magdelene at East Moors, Helmsley [PR/HEL 30/4].

Undated plan showing the layout of St Mary's Church from within a handwritten notebook containing a history of Malton Abbey and description of St. Mary’s Church.
ZUN 7/2 Undated plan from within a handwritten notebook containing a history of Malton Abbey and description of St. Mary’s Church.
Pencil sketch plan accompanying notes on the Priory of Old Malton, 1887
ZUN 7/3/3 Pencil sketch plan accompanying notes on the Priory of Old Malton, 1887

The ruined portions of Old Malton Priory Church are of national archaeological importance and designated as a scheduled monument. The Priory Church of St Mary is also a Grade I listed building.

Malton Grammar School

Amongst the collection of papers is a folder containing material relating to the foundation of Malton Grammar School [ZUN 8]. This includes an early 18th century, handwritten copy of Archbishop Holgate’s 1547 foundation charter of the Free Grammar School in Old Malton, as well as a summary of the 35 statutes in the foundation charter for the better government of the school.

There is also a copy of a petition from the inhabitants of Old Malton to the Rev. Edward Harcourt, Lord Archbishop of York against the non-residence of the schoolmaster at the School, dated c.1837. They were seeking to restore boarders to the schoolmaster’s house, which the then schoolmaster had caused to become dilapidated.

'Old Malton School' Title on the reverse of an 18th century paper summarising the 35 statutes in the foundation charter for the better government of the school.
ZUN 8/5 Title on the reverse of an 18th century paper summarising the 35 statutes in the foundation charter for the better government of the school.

Statistics of the town and parishes of Malton from 1801-1841

A handwritten manuscript by William Charles Copperthwaite contains a statistical survey of Malton compiled in 1841, the year of the census [ZUN 10]. This includes statistics on population from 1801-1841, trades and occupations, agriculture, mechanical power, industry, education, religion, roads, paupers, transport and the income and expenditure of the labouring classes.

Copperthwaite was writing in 1844, at a time when he was in his early 30s and in practice as a surgeon, living in Old Malton, his place of birth. His information was gathered from a variety of sources, including local clergy, landowners and officials as well as agricultural labourers. Help was also provided by William Allen, the agent for the Fitzwilliam Estate in the 1840s, a position which Copperthwaite was later to hold himself.

The text of this manuscript formed the basis of a County Record Office publication on ‘Malton in the Early Ninetenth Century’ in 1981. Copperthwaite’s work is a unique resource, providing a fascinating insight into life in a small, rural town in Ryedale in the early Victorian period. This will be of great interest to social and local historians, and anyone researching the history of Old and New Malton in the 19th century.


Further Reading

‘Malton in the Early Nineteenth Century’ edited by DJ Salmon, 1981. North Yorkshire County Record Office Publication No. 26 (available to purchase from our online shop)

A full list of the Copperthwaite papers collection [ZUN] can be seen in our online catalogue

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