The Manor of Willitoft

At the Domesday survey, Willitoft, comprising 2½ carucates, was part of the soke of the manor of Breighton, held by Ralph de Mortimer. Another 5 bovates in Willitoft was soke of the manor of Spaldington, held by the Count of Mortain, and a further 7 bovates was soke of the manor of Wressell, held by Gilbert Tison.

However, by 1298 Willitoft was a manor, as in that year Osbert de Spaldington, a Kings' Justice, and a leading military figure of the time, had his possessions forfeited for trespass, and included in the extents of his lands were the manors of Spaldington and Willitoft. He would appear to have regained his lands and possessions shortly afterwards, as in 1303, he issued a bond to Alice, daughter of Sir William Constable of Flamborough, to pay her 4 marks yearly during her life, out of his manors of Spaldington and Willitoft.

The Inquisition of Knights' Fees in 1303 tells us that the 1 carucate of land in Willitoft of the Mortemer fee was held by: Osbert de Spaldington, 5 bovates; Willelmus Warde, 1 bovate; Petrus filius Margaretae, 1 bovate; and Emma Maresc', 1 bovate. The 2 carucates in the Mauley fee was held by: Isabella de Besingby, half a carucate; Robertus Bataill, half a carucate; Willelmus de harum, half a carucate, Osbert de Spaldington, 2 bovates, Margareta relicta Willelmi Fabri, 1 bovate; Eva filia Walteri, 1 bovate. The Nomina Villarum of 1316 informs us that the manor was held by Clemencia de Vescy.

In the early sixteenth century George Vavasour married Anna, daughter and heiress of Robert Skipwith of Willitoft, and acquired j.u. the Willitoft estate. George died 23 June 1561. By 1586 the Vavasours had established a seat in Willitoft, as in that year George's son, Peter Vavasour of Willitoft was charged with recusancy. Throughout the post-reformation period the Vavasours of Spaldington, Gunby and Willitoft remained staunch Catholics, and while they were persecuted for their faith, it appears that none of them lost their lives for it, but they came close. In 1616 a Catholic priest, Thomas Atkinson, aged 70, was visiting the family at Willitoft, but was betrayed, and he was carried to York with his host, Mr. Vavasour, his wife and children. Atkinson admitted nothing, to save his hosts from a charge of harbouring, but a pair of beads, and the form of an indulgence were found upon him, and on that evidence alone, and his subsequent refusal to swear the oath, he was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, which was carried out on the 11 March, 1616. This close call did not deter the family, as in 1667 John Vavasour, gent, of Willitoft, was also charged with recusancy, and in 1753 the Bubwith parish register records the burial of Mr. Thomas Vavisser, from York, late of Willitoft, Papist fees paid, then to the Curate for the Interrment of the sd corpse in the upper end of the Chancel joining to the Altar wall, £2 6s 4d, to the clerk £0 16s 8d.

The death of Thomas Vavasour was in fact the last of the male line in Willitoft, and the manor passed to his kinsman, Gerald Strickland of York, esq., by his will, which he had made on the 4th August, 1747.

Gerald Strickland's son James was the next Lord of the Manor, and appears on the Land tax Returns from 1783-1794. In 1797 James's widow, Cecilia Strickland, was Lord, and continued in that role until 1803, when William Green bought the Lordship. William Green was still Lord in 1840 and 1846, but in 1848 and 1857 the owner was listed as Col. Wyndham. In 1892 the whole township, with the exception of one-and-a-half acres of glebe, belonged to the trustees of the late Alfred Stopford, Esq., of Manchester, who were also lords of the manor.

Manorial Records

Map of the Lordship
East Riding of Yorkshire Archives
Vavasour family, deeds and documents
14c - 17c
Yorkshire Archaeological Society
MD175 *

* For a detailed listing of MD175 see the Manor of Spaldington section.