Economic History

Ellerton Priory parish contains Rose Moor and other scattered farms, and the straggling village of Ellerton. It is pleasantly situated on the east side of the Derwent vale, 9 miles N.N.W. of Howden, and 14 miles S.E. by S. of York. The area is 2,551 acres of land, 1 of water and 5 of tidal water.


Land and Crops

The soil is sand and clay; subsoil, sand. The chief crops are wheat, potatoes, barley, oats, turnips and clover. The Ings are laid down in meadow.


The evidence from wills also show that livestock, including pigs, sheep, horses and cattle were farmed throughout the medieval and late modern period. There are also ample references referring to grazing on the Ings. The Ings hay meadows were cut in early July, then grazed with sheep or cattle until the late autumn. Many other fields were referred to in estate documents as being used as pasture for animals.


Workers for the fields and houseservants were generally recruited from the Selby Hiring Fair, held on Martinmas Monday. The farmers and agricultural labourers stood near to the Abbey, whilst the lads and lasses stood at the other end of the market near the banks. After the hiring was concluded the workers would celebrate in a fair held in Wide Street.






The chief communications artery to and from Ellerton for many centuries has been the river Derwent. The 38 miles of river between Malton and its confluence with the river Ouse have almost certainly been used by small craft since the time of the Romans, and improvements in the 18th century permitted navigation by the barges then trading on other Yorkshire rivers. The unusual upstream facing outfall of the Derwent is manmade. It is believed to have been cut during the Roman occupation of Britain to reduce the distance between the Derwent mouth and the Roman legionary headquarters at York by 9 miles. The first navigation weir, also believed to be of Roman origin, was a flash weir built near Wheldrake to raise the level of the river upstream and regulate its flow downstream.


During the reign of King John (1199-1216) a water mill on the Derwent at Wheldrake was given to the monks of Fountains Abbey and later in the thirteenth century a weir is known to have existed at the same place. By 1462 when the Lord Mayor of York was authorised to "correct and amend defects" of the Derwent "from the Ouse as far as the town and bridge of Sutton upon Derwent" the river must have been navigable at least to Sutton. A corn mill existed at Sutton upon Derwent by 1597. It was rebuilt in 1836 and continued in use until 1960.There are other water mill sites at Stamford Bridge, Buttercrambe, Howsham, Kirkham and Malton. (Navigation on the Yorkshire Derwent, Pat Jones, 2000).


There were several attempts to improve the navigation of the Derwent by Act of Parliament. George Sorocold produced plans for making the river navigable on which two unsuccessful Bills were promoted in 1695 and 1698. He surveyed the river again for a Bill introduced in 1700, which failed, but an Act was finally passed in 1701.


On the 6th May 1702 the Derwent Navigation Act received the Royal Assent. The driving force behind this Act had been the traders of Malton, and the Act empowered the five undertakers to not only dig cuts, trim the banks, remove obstructions and weeds, but to also prepare towpaths. The promoters were allowed to charge tolls on the cargo carried on any part of the river. By 1724 Malton was at the head of a fully navigable river taking boats of up to 50 tons.


In 1720 the navigation was acquired by Thomas Wentworth, together with his descendant Earl Fitzwilliam. They employed Joshua Mitchel to work on a survey for making the river navigable to Yedingham Bridge on the York to Scarborough turnpike road. This was done by an additional cut of the river but with a shallower depth, making it navigable only with 15 ton boats rather than 50 ton boats to Malton. Between 1723 and 1724 Mitchel leased the tolls jointly with Mark Andrew. On the 20th October 1755 the tolls were leased to William Fenton, for a term of twenty-one years and subsequently to Thomas and James Fenton, who leased the tolls until March, 1805.  By 1805 the extent of the navigation had been increased by a further eleven and a half miles as far as Yeddingham Bridge.


The Major traffic during this period was coal  coming to Malton having been mined in the pits of Fitzwilliam in the Barnsley area via the Aire and Calder canal along the Ouse navigation. In 1840 the coal tonnage was 37898 tons. Lime was also carried in large quantities, as it was used to improve soil fertility. The boats were normally loaded with corn for the return journey.


The boats on the river were mainly sailing keels and sloops, but due to the meandering nature of the river the boats must have made extensive use of the towing horses. However, the towpaths were not uniform on both sides of the river, so on several occasions the horses had to be ferried to the opposite bank to continue the tow. The boats were largely of Malton, but a survey of 1807, in connection with the raising of tolls, listed boats using the Derwent other than those of Malton, and included 4 from Cottingwith, 1 from Bubwith, and 1 from Hemingbrough.


Until the arrival of the railway the Derwent navigation had proved quite profitable, but it was the third Earl FitzWilliam who eventually saw the writing on the wall. In the late 1830s he embarked on an extensive programme of dredging and improvements, and introduced the first steam-driven dredger to the river, in order to be better placed to compete with the inevitable arrival of the railway. Paradoxically, much of the sand and gravel and other materials used in the construction of the railway on the Hull-Selby, Selby-Market Weighton, and the York-Malton-Scarborough lines were carried by boat on the Derwent.


The navigation was purchased beneficially by North Eastern Railway Company on the 1st May 1855 for £40,000. However, the decline in the navigation traffic and profitability was slow and steady. In the month of May 1805 the number of boats passing Barmby chain was 146, whereas in May 1847 it had reduced by one third to 93, and in May 1862 it was down to 38. Navigation as far as Cottingwith, from which point the Pocklington canal was served, survived up to the 1930s, and that to Sutton for just a little longer.


By the beginning of the 20th century the river had started to be used by pleasure craft and by 1920 there were craft based regularly at Stamford Bridge and Kirkham Abbey. In 1935, the statutory Right of Navigation was revoked above Sutton Lock. There followed a long series of fights for public access against riparian interests which continue to the present day and the navigation currently ends at Stamford Bridge.



The records of the Derwent Navigation, 1702-1918, are held at the North Riding Record Office in Northallerton, under reference ZPB.



There was no ferry at Ellerton, but ferries were available nearby at East Cottingwith, 2 miles to the north; Bubwith, 2 miles to the south; and Breighton, a further 2½ miles to the south.


The East Cottingwith ferry is known to have been in operation since at least 1659 and continued till the 1950s.


The Bubwith ferry was mentioned as early as the 12th century, but it is not known with any certainty when the ferry at Bubwith was last used. It would certainly have been in use up to the completion of the bridge at Bubwith in 1798.


The Breighton ferry was mentioned as early as the 14th century, and was last used before the Second World War, according to local knowledge.



Road construction and usage in the Ellerton area had always been limited by the river Derwent. The two ferry crossings at Bubwith and East Cottingwith were at the two local East-west road thoroughfares. However, the major East-west thoroughfare over the Derwent was of course at the main bridge crossing, which prior to the construction of the bridge in Bubwith was on the Pocklington-York road, at Kexby, on the present-day A1079, built in the late 1420s, rebuilt in 1650, and turnpiked in 1764.


Our knowledge of roads in the Ellerton area stem from the well-known Act for the amending of Highways, of 1555. This Act placed the onus for road repair on the parish, and stipulated that each parish should elect two honest men of the parish to be Surveyors and Orderers for one year. The Surveyors were to name four days each year when the parishioners had to provide free services for the repairing of any highway that lead to a market town. Labourers had to provide their labouring services free for the four days, while all those farmers who occupied a Plow-Land or who owned a draught or plough, had to provide a wagon or cart with oxen or horses, and two labourers. All the parishioners had to provide their own suitable tools. The penalties for non-compliance were fairly stiff, being ten shillings for the farmer, and one shilling per day for the labourer. Offences could be brought before the Quarter Sessions by the personal knowledge of any Justice of the Peace, and it is through the presentments here that our knowledge of the road systems, and their state of repair, or lack of it, can be found. The following cases, from 1726-1819, have been found in the Quarter Sessions records:

Party Offence Reference Year
Inhabitants of Ellerton non-repair of Watercourse from High Ash Lane to Bubwith Clow between Lathamgang Bridge and Aughton Bridge QSF/79/B/11 1727
Inhabitants of Ellerton non-repair of highway from the pinfold at East Cottingwith over the common to Ellerton Common QSF/224/B/1 1764
Inhabitants of Ellerton non-repair of highway through East Cottingwith Common and over Ellerton Common QSF/224/B/8 1764
Inhabitants of Ellerton non-repair of highway. Isaac Wilkinson and Henry Brown both of Ellerton yeomen, surveyors of highways for Ellerton made recognizance. QSF/224/C/2 1764
Samuel Kay of Ellerton labourer threatening bodily harm to William Beilby of Breighton ferryman QSF/231/C/13 1766
William Atkinson of Ellerton farmer obstruction of water course adjoining highway leading from E. end of Causeway Lane in East Cottingwith to Carr Dyke QSF/357/B/3 1797
Township of Ellerton non repair highway leading from Melbourne to Aughton, near Ellerton Common to land at Moor Lane. QSF/373/B/5 1801
Inhabitants of Ellerton non repair of highway from Market Weighton to Howden at Ellerton from house of George Richardson of Aughton Ruddings to Short Acre, Ellerton QSF/390/B/7 1805
Inhabitants of Ellerton non repair of highway from Market Weighton to York at Pin Hole Corner to the gate leading to Aughton Common QSF/390/B/8 1805
John Wright, renter of tolls at Bubwith illegally taken a toll from Thomas Richardson of Ellerton on 21 May. Fined £5 QSF/440/F/1 1818
Inhabitants of Ellerton non repair of highway from East Cottingwith to Howden at Ellerton QSF/471/B/10 1825


Ellerton was not served by the railway in the East Riding. The nearest station was at Bubwith some 3 miles south.


Bubwith lay along the Selby to Market Weighton line built by George Hudson's company, the York and North Midland Company, and opened on the 1st August, 1848, crossing the Derwent a little lower down from the road bridge, using a bridge of wood, but which was destroyed by fire in 1858. An iron girder bridge was then built to replace it.


The line was taken over by the North Eastern Railway Company on 31 July 1854, and converted to double track in 1890 when the Market Weighton to Driffield section opened.


Stations were opened in Bubwith, Highfield and Foggerthorpe along the line, which was unusual to have three stations serving just one parish.


Due to low passenger receipts these stations were closed to passenger traffic on the 5th December, 1953. Today the route forms part of the Howdenshire rail Trail for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.




Ellerton was primarily an agricultural parish, and there was very little else in the way of trades carried out there. There were local services of course, to serve local needs, and so we find in the trades directories mention of local shopkeepers and tradesmen, such as tailors, shopkeepers, bricklayers, shoemakers, mattress-maker, wheelwrights, innkeepers, dress-maker, millers, carriers, schoolmasters, and the village blacksmith.


Surprisingly, there were no butchers listed in any of the diectories from 1823-1925.


No Post Office appeared in the directories of Ellerton throughout most of the 19th century, and the first to appear occurs in the 1892 directory, when Richard Dearing was the post-master.


Likewise, no doctor or surgeon appears in any directory during the 19th century, and presumably the sick went to either Bubwith or Pocklington.


Public Houses

Alehouses were ordinary dwellings where the householder served home-brewed ale and beer. By the mid-18th century larger alehouses were becoming common, while inns (purpose-built to accommodate travellers, usually beside the major highways) grew in grandeur and new ones sprang up during the coaching era. The term alehouse was gradually replaced by public house during the 18th century.


The East Riding Justices of the Peace issued licences to public houses. Their records, called Alehouse Recognizances, have survived for 1754-1785; 1787-1788; 1793 and 1822-1826. The licenses issued to Ellerton residents are presented below:

Reference Name/Public House/Place Year
QDT/2/12/1 John Watson, William Webster, Matthew Peacock, Samuel Kay, Richard Clark 1754
QDT/2/12/2 John Watson, William Webster, Matthew Peacock, Richard Clark 1755
QDT/2/12/3 John Watson, William Webster, Matthew Peacock, Richard Clark 1756
QDT/2/12/4 William Webster, Matthew Peacock, Richard Clark 1757
QDT/2/12/5 William Webster, Matthew Peacock, Richard Clark 1758
QDT/2/12/6 William Webster, Matthew Peacock, Richard Clark 1759
QDT/2/12/7 William Webster, Matthew Peacock, John Watson 1760
QDT/2/12/8 William Webster, Matthew Peacock, John Watson 1761
QDT/2/12/9 John Hewison, Matthew Peacock, John Watson 1762
QDT/2/12/10 John Hewison, Matthew Peacock, John Watson 1763
QDT/2/12/11 John Hewison, William Lolley, Elizabeth Watson 1764
QDT/2/12/12 John Hewison, William Lolley 1765
QDT/2/12/13 John Hewison, William Lolley 1766
QDT/2/12/14 John Hewison, William Lolley 1767
QDT/2/12/15 John Hewison, William Lolley 1768
QDT/2/12/16 John Hewison, William Lolley 1769
QDT/2/12/17 John Hewison 1770
QDT/2/12/18 John Selby, Richard Clarke 1771
QDT/2/12/19 John Selby, Richard Clarke 1772
QDT/2/12/20 John Selby, Richard Clarke 1773
QDT/2/12/21 John Selby, Richard Clarke, Thomas Williamson 1774
QDT/2/12/22 John Selby, John Battle, William Hessle 1775
QDT/2/12/23 John Selby, William Hessle 1776
QDT/2/12/24 John Selby, William Hessle 1777
QDT/2/12/25 John Selby 1778
QDT/2/12/26 John Selby 1779
QDT/2/12/27 John Selby, Thomas Williamson 1780
QDT/2/12/28 John Selby 1781
QDT/2/12/29 John Selby 1782
QDT/2/12/30 John Selby 1783
QDT/2/12/31 John Selby 1784
QDT/2/12/32 John Selby 1785
QDT/2/12/33 John Selby 1787
QDT/2/12/34 John Selby 1788
QDT/2/12/35 John Selby 1793
QDT/2/10/11 Alehouse recognizance for Joseph Young of the 'Board' at Ellerton. Surety: John Peas of Howden, cordwainer 1822
QDT/2/10/53 Alehouse recognizance for Joseph Young of the 'Board' at Ellerton. Surety: Martin Field of Melbourne, yeoman 1823
QDT/2/10/96 Alehouse recognizance for Joseph Young of the 'Blue Board' at Ellerton. Surety: Robert Smith of Ellerton 1825
QDT/2/10/141 Alehouse recognizance for Joseph Young of the 'Boat' at Ellerton. Surety: Richard Selby of Ellerton 1826

Publicans in the Trades Directories

1823: Ellerton, Young John, shoemkr. & vict. Board


1840: Ellerton, Hustwick Geo., blacksmith and beer hs. Young James, vict. & shoemaker


1857: Ellerton, Hustwick Geo. Half Moon, & smith. Tate Thomas, Boot & Shoe, & farmer


1872: Ellerton, Cass Henry, Half Moon, & blacksmith. Tate Thomas, Boot & Shoe


1879: Ellerton, Tate Thomas, Boot & Shoe


1889: Ellerton, Tate Margaret (Miss), Boot & Shoe P.H.


1892: Ellerton, Tate Miss Margaret, vict., Boot and Shoe Inn


1913: Ellerton, Tate Joseph. Boot & ShoePH. & wheelwright


1925: Ellerton, Tate Joseph, Boot & ShoeP.H. & wheelwright