Nostalgia: A busy and lively community

Hunmanby's old gaol building at the junction of Stonegate and Sheepdyke Lane.
Hunmanby's old gaol building at the junction of Stonegate and Sheepdyke Lane.

Squire Humphrey Osbaldeston left a lasting material signature on his manor at Hunmanby, but a contemporary of his, Francis Wrangham (1769-1842), was in many ways a more influtential resident there two hundred years ago.

Francis was the son of a farmer at Raisthorpe, near Malton. However, his promise as a scholar and mathematician was so outstanding that he was sent up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with first-class honours. In 1793 he was ordained as an Anglican priest and two years later Osbaldeston offered him the vicarage at Hunmanby, which also included responsibility for the chapels at Folkton, Muston and Bessingby.

Francis was a fanatical bibliophile and soon he found his home next to All Saints quite inadequate to contain his expanding private library. In 1803 he added a new wing to the vicarage to house his collection and four years later he set up a free library of 12 of his books in the church vestry. After his death his rare, valuable books and pamphlets were sent to London by sea for sale. The auction there took three weeks and many of his collection went to the British Museum. In 1957 the old vicarage building became the Wrangham House Hotel.

Wrangham was also an avid correspondent. During his long lifetime he wrote and received thousands of letters. Among his noteworthy correspondents were William Wordsworth, Sydney Smith and William Wilberforce. Wrangham’s eldest daughter, Agnes, married the second son of Wilberforce.

Vicar Wrangham and Squire Osbaldeston appear to have worked hand in hand to improve the lives of their parishioners, servants and tenants. Together they founded a free dispensary to which Francis gave three guineas and William ten. Together they formed a “cow club”, an insurance scheme for farmers to guarantee them compensation should they lose any of their livestock. Many villagers kept only one cow and its death by disease or accident would otherwise have been disastrous. Finally, they endowed Hunmanby’s first school in 1810 and paid the headmaster the princely salary of £60 a year for teaching there.

During these years and after, Francis was climbing the Anglican clerical tree. In 1828 he became archdeacon of Cleveland and the East Riding which included the parish of Scarborough. In recognition of his literary skills and incomparable library he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Thomas Hinderwell would not have mixed with the 900 or so ordinary folk who then lived in Hunmanby and would not have retailed their mere gossip had he heard it, so for information of this kind research into the parish archives is necessary.

From these sources it soon becomes evident that two centuries ago Hunmanby was a busy, lively community. The village no longer had a weekly Tuesday market, but its two annual fairs, St Mark’s in May and St Luke’s in October, both held on Cross Hill, were still well attended for sale of animals, toys and “pedlery”.

Yet neither compared with the Martinmas hirings held annually the first Tuesday after 23 November. Then the “lads and lasses”, who had left their “spots” on Wolds farms, came into Hunmanby with a year’s wages in their pockets and purses. Hunmanby’s three inns, the Buck, the Black Horse and the White Swan, must have been well attended during the following week that marked the end of the agricultural year. During those seven days the farm workers and domestic servants would have been expected to accept the “fest”, a binding down-payment from their future masters for employment during the next 12 months.

No doubt some of those at the hirings would have misbehaved themselves enough to be arrested by Hunmanby’s constable and lodged for a night or two in the local lock-up prison at the junction of Stonegate and Sheepdyke Lane. Hunmanby still has the only known gaol and pinfold built next to each other.

Hunmanby was also on the main road route between Hull and Scarborough. Stage-coaches called The Wellington and later the British Queen called at the White Swan three days a week in winter and every day in summer. The brothers John and James Donkin ran a stage-waggon between Hull and Scarborough which frequently passed through Hunmanby. On one occasion, with their famous four horses, they were fined 20 guineas for overtaking the Royal Mail coach at Beverley and beating it to Hull. During the winter of 1811, Donkins’ waggon travelling from Hull was embedded in snow at North Burton for two days and two nights until rescued by the landlord of the White Swan.

Hunmanby’s constable was busiest during the week of the hirings, but throughout the rest of the year he had other concerns besides drunken brawlers and pickpockets. He was required to lead the hue and cry if a criminal was known to be on the run in the neighbourhood, to catch poachers, to arrest men who had refused to pay maintenance for their wives and/or children, and to apprehend and expel beggars and prostitutes from the parish.

For one kind of alleged offence Hunmanby had its own method of communal punishment, known as Riding the Stang. Usually directed against wife-beating husbands, the custom was still practised as late as the 1860s. An effigy of the culprit was tied to the end of the stang, a long pole, and dragged round the village on a flat cart for three consecutive nights, accompanied by the loud noise of clanking pots and pans. The demonstrators then stopped outside the front door of the delinquent and chanted a doggerel rhyme in local dialect:

Here we cum wiv a ran a dan dan

It’s neather fo’ ma cause na tha cause,

That an ride this stang ...

Afterwards, the effigy was burned on Cross Hill and the crowd adjourned to enjoy the fare of the White Swan.

Finally, there is plenty of evidence in Hunmanby’s parish records of endemic poverty and distress. The parish poorhouse in Hunmanby’s Old Hall dated from 1785. It was rented from Squire Osbaldeston at £14 a year and served all the neighbouring villages of Filey, Firby, Muston, North Burton, Reighton, Buckton and Butterwick as well as Hunmanby. Invariably, it was overcrowded and the overseers had to refuse entry to many deserving cases. An outbreak of smallpox in 1805 had a devastating impact on the entire area.