A Short History Of Cropton

(With lots of help from the Cropton’s Story book, written by the Cropton History Group 1995)

The name Cropton is thought to be Anglo-Saxon and supposedly means ‘hill top farm’ or ‘hill top settlement’.

The village of Cropton is located on the southern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. There was thought to be a settlement in existence here before the Anglo-Saxon period. About two miles from Cropton, the Romans had a military camp at Cawthorne in 100 AD.

Cropton or Croptune was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Earl Gospatric of Northumberland was the Lord of the Manor of Cropton at that time. There was around 121 hectares in the Manor with a value of around 20 shillings.

In the late 11th Century there was a motte and bailey castle built at Cropton on the round hill. It is now a scheduled monument of national importance. Not much remains today but you can see the outline if you look closely. A church was built nearby and there is a mention in the history books of a chaplain being attached to the the church in the 14th century. The current St.Gregory’s Church was re-built in 1844.

The Black Death struck Cropton in 1348 – 1349. Lots of villagers lost their lives and the value of land fell dramatically after the disease affected the livestock too. The local land was in a poor agricultural state until the Land Enclosures of the late 18th Century. These enclosures shaped the pattern of the lovely landscape we see today.

Superstitious tales were abundant in the olden days.

Mother Migg o’ Cropton was a local witch. She held some power over some of the local residents by the use of “ye crystal”. There are also tales of visions of a wild and eyeless man breathing fire on whoever crossed his path in the locality. Water has occasionally been a problem at Cropton and a company of evil water elves had to be got rid of. Three local women conducted an heathen ceremony in the spring and were said to have done “unprintable proceedings”??? What could that have been?

William Scoresby is probably the most famous person to come from Cropton.

He attended the local village school and worked on the land until he was 19 years old. The call of the sea drew him to Whitby where he joined some ships sailing to the cold northern seas. He is remembered as a great whaling captain, navigator and being the inventor of the crow’s nest. His son, also William, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a master mariner. He was also an academic and wrote copiously, including a book about his father. Maybe William Scoresby was Cropton’s version of Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) ???

Back in May 1872 Cropton was the scene of a murder.

Joseph Wood and his son were the two people murdered. At the time of the murders it was thought, by the locals, that these two men had emigrated overseas. Over a period of time their human remains and clothing were found at Joseph Wood’s farm and the farm of a relative called Robert Charter. These findings led to a conviction of Robert Charter and he served twenty years in prison for his crime.

The Superintendent of Police, at the time of the Cropton Murder, was Mr. J.A.Jonas. He was presented with a gold watch by Mr.J.N.O.Wood for his efforts in solving the murder.The inscription reads “Presented to Mr. Supt. J.A.Jonas by Mr. JNO Wood and friends as a mark of esteem for his indefatigable excertions in the Cropton Murders May 1873”.This gold watch has been handed down the family and is now in the possession of his Great Grandson.

If you take a walk around Cropton village it is possible to see several quarries. During the 18th and 19th centuries there was a widespread demand for lime. Cropton had lime in abundance so it was burned and transported over the North Yorkshire moors to the Whitby, Egton and Eskdale areas. The limestone was also used to build the local roads and some buildings in the locality.

Cropton Village Hall (or The Reading Room to older residents)

During the 1860’s the village had a small Reading Room in the Old Schoolhouse. This was incorporated into the Methodist Chapel (built 1830) which John Gill of Sutherland Lodge bought in the 1890’s.

A large Hall was added in 1911 and the Reading Room became known as the Village Hall. From 1900 through until the late 1950’s the Village Hall was in great demand. Most nights the more elderly men met to play cards whilst the younger ones played billiards and darts. Dances were held throughout the year, along with regular concerts and pantomimes, parties, wedding receptions, lectures and meetings.

Although he never accepted any rent the Reading Room was let to the village. The gift of John Gill became complete on 3 February 1949 when his relatives conveyed ownership to the people of Cropton. It was announced at the A.G.M. that the building had been conveyed to the committee as Trustees to be used in perpetuity for the benefit of the inhabitants of Cropton.

The hall has recently been refurbished and the village now has one of the best village halls in the Ryedale area.