Roads to the Past: Wood End estate

Guest post by Ken Porteus, Steering Group member of the Thornton le Street History Group

The ‘Roads to the Past’ project (RTTP) has now been running for some five years after being set up by the Thornton le Street History Group with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Lottery players. The project had a primary aim to investigate whether or not there was a roman road running through or close to the village of Thornton le Street (near Thirsk) but there is also a secondary aim to look at the archaeology, history and people in the surrounding area.

As part of the project, a group has been working with the North Yorkshire County Record Office (NYCRO) to search out documents that could shed light on the history of the area and give us an insight into people and places in the surrounding area. At the same time the group makes transcriptions of the documentation to be added to the NYCRO website for general reference. These transcriptions have either taken place from the original documents at NYCRO or from scanned copies so that transcriptions could be made at home.

RTTP Group members at the Record Office consulting archive material in the searchroom with archivist Anthony Hughes in August 2017.

This post is about one source of records that all relate to the Wood End estate which lies close to Thornton le Street and at one time owned much of the surrounding land. The main house, latterly known as Wood End, was demolished in the 1920’s to pay off debts but its gate houses still remain and can be seen just outside Thornton le Street fronting the Northallerton to Thirsk Road (A168).

EF415/1 West front of Wood End in the early 1900s

This post uses records from ‘The Account Book of John Pollard with Lady Fagg’, (ZTJ 8/6), which has entries from 1785 to 1789 giving a day to day account of income and expenditure of the estate down to spends of one or two pence. The account book contains over 100 double pages of information.

At this time the Wood End estate was in the hands of Sarah, Lady Fagg, who inherited it on the death of her husband Roger Talbot in 1777. Roger Talbot was the last Talbot of the Wood End line. Prior to marrying Roger Talbot, she was the widow of Sir Robert Fagg of Weston, Sussex and was known as Lady Fagg. The estate remained with Lady Fagg until her death in 1791.

Example of a page from the Account Book of John Pollard with Lady Fagg

ZTJ 8/6 The first page of the Account Book of John Pollard with Lady Fagg, 1785

The entries start from 6th September 1785 and on the first page among the income entries are:

12th September 1785

A receipt for the sale of a sheep’s skin of six pence

13th September 1785

A receipt for the sale of two scotch beasts to Thomas Paul

Among the expenditure entries can be seen a range of amounts for example:

8th September 1785

A bill of four shillings four pence from Jane Smithson for Mr Ward’s washing

The blacksmiths bill for eight pounds six shillings and three pence

Payment of six pence to the coachman for a horse shoeing

17th September 1785

Payment of 36 pounds to David Body for 72 single horse cart load of coals

A fortnight of gardener bills of two pounds nine shillings

A payment of two pence for a stamp.

As can be seen from these entries every penny is being accounted for providing details of where money is received from and how it is spent.

What can we pick out from the first three months of 1787 (233 years ago)?

Names mentioned with trades or products
  • Thomas Nelson – the rope maker
  • Mr Barker – carpeting
  • Mr Benson – candles
  • Mr Thompson – stays
  • Mr Wright – tea
  • Messrs Raper & Hearon – tea
  • Mr Vickers – sweetmeats
  • Mr Dent – apothecary
  • Mr Napier – ribbon
  • Mr Delamain – four dozen white port
  • William Bell – tailor
  • Robert Hatton – bricklayer
  • George Addison – whitesmith
  • Mr Thompson – nurseryman
  • Mr Pick – for the Yorkshire Chronicle
  • Mr Clafton – white paint
  • Mr Benson – mould candles
  • Mr Brown – ribbon
  • Mr Roebuck – wall nuts
  • Mr Routh – bagg of shott
  • Christian Thompson – two bushels of hair
  • Mr Oastler – oil for painting
Quarterly Taxes paid
  • Land Tax – seven pounds six shillings
  • House Tax – three shillings nine pence
  • Window Tax – four pounds 19 shillings three pence
  • Six Male Servants – two pounds 12 shillings six pence
  • Seven Female Servants – 17 shillings six pence
  • Two Four Wheeled Carriages – three pounds 10 shillings
  • 10 Horses – one pound five shillings
  • 1 Cart – six pence

It is interesting to note that the tax on a female servant is the same as the tax on a horse – two shillings six pence each.

The servants were paid half yearly and the account book gives the servants names and their half yearly wages.

Tenants from whom Oats, Wheat and Barley was purchased
  • Thomas Atlay
  • Robert Johnson
  • William Weighel
  • Robert Armstrong
  • Robert Belwood
  • Edward Cuthbertson
  • John Dunning
  • Robert Barton
  • James Atkinson
Gifts given out
  • To a woman with a vestal cup – six pence
  • To Newsham sword dancers – two shillings
  • To children for new year gifts – nine shillings nine pence
  • To five labourers xmass boxes – 10 shillings
  • To the poor of Bagby by my Lady order – one pound 10 shillings
  • To the poor of Sowerby by my Lady order – one pound 10 shillings
  • Billy Carter for bringing Mr Ward medicines – six pence
  • Widow Topham by my Lady order – five shillings
  • William Trenham daughter a quarter schooling – two shillings six pence
  • To a blind man with a box organ – one shilling
Schools being supported by the estate
  • Schoolmaster bill at Thornton le Street – 10 shillings
  • Schoolmaster bill at Thornton le Moor – six shillings
An interesting entry

Thomas Leckonby for killing a foulemart – one shilling

A foulemart is an old word for a polecat which at this time were considered a pest.

These are just some of the elements, there is also mention of many of the products purchased for use on the estate or in the main house such as food, drink, coal, nails and so on.

Working with NYCRO

Group members have spent many hours working in the NYCRO offices and we would like to thank the staff for the welcoming atmosphere, assistance with identifying and accessing relevant documentation, together with their help in using the equipment.

Beyond the Wood End account book there have been other highlights including:

  • Reading the contents of original Latin documents relating to Thornton le Street from as far back as the 14th century translated by the Latin Group
  • Transcribing original Indentures and other documentation from the beginning of the 17th century relating to local property
  • Taking information from the mid 19th century Tithe maps and apportionments, working to map the fields to current Ordnance Survey maps in order to produce accurate maps overlaid with information about ownership, tenants, type of agriculture, field names and acreages

We have gained knowledge and skills which we can now apply to other areas including:

  • An awareness of the huge range of information available to build up the history of the Thornton le Street area
  • Ability to read and to transcribe original documents written by hand such as letters, indentures, maps and so forth
  • An appreciation of the formal language structures and meaning of phrases in legal documents and how these changed over the years

Further information about the Group and the Roads to the Past project can be found at:

Thornton le Street History Group website

Thornton le Street History Group on Twitter: @TLSBigDig

The two project reports can be downloaded as pdf files:

Thornton-le-Street Through the Archives‘ a report resulting from hundreds of hours of volunteer research, translations & transcriptions.

Roads to the Past: The archaeology of Thornton le Street. Final report: Archaeological Community Excavation

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