Studford Ring

The earliest record of human habitation near Ampleforth is Studford Ring.  Now a low bank with small trees and within it, the earthwork. According to English Heritage, this is a group of nine Bronze Age (or earlier) round barrows, now levelled. All were thoroughly robbed in 19th century and re-excavated in 1966 discovering Neolithic and Bronze Age sherds and finds on old ground surface.

The word stud seems to have conjured up a link with horses and it has been described as a medieval horse enclosure, a cattle fold and a watering hole for the Hambleton Drove Road.  The Drove Road went from Hambleton to Oldstead, several miles way, but a spur may have gone towards Malton past the ring. 

The Domesday Book

The village name is of Saxon origin. In 1086, following the Norman Conquest in 1066, when the Domesday Book was compiled, the village appears as Ampreforde,  meaning the ford of the sorrel or spacious passage across the water. There are two sites for what today people call fords, both are covered by bridges and are only true fords in very wet weather. Sorrel still grows freely around the village.   

Two Domesday entries refer to the present day village, probably because it was divided between different “wapentakes”, the land units used in the Danelaw, that part of England ruled by Viking kings from about 884 until 1066, similar to Hundreds in the Anglo-Saxon part of England. These were known as  Ampleforth Birdforth, Ampleforth Oswakirk and Ampleforth St. Peter. 

Village Development

In 1086,  Ulf, the Saxon, had a manor; the Archbishop of York, eight acres of meadow, and a wood pasture half-a-mile in length and the same in breadth; and Copsi, the Saxon, had one ploughland which belonged to Hugh, son of Baldric. The land belonged to the manors of Coxwold and Carlton Husthwaite. There were 54 villagers. 

After the conquest, Ulf’s Manor was given to the Archbishop of York. By the 13th century land in Ampleforth belonged to Byland Abbey and Robert de Ros, Lord of Helmsley, who built Helmsley castle and was one of the 25 knights who signed Magna Carta in 1215 as guarantors. 

The village remained divided into 3 townships reflecting the pre-conquest situation until 1887 when it changed to Ampleforth Birdforth and Ampleforth Rydall/Ryedale.

The development of the village was heavily influenced by the absence of a Squire. Surrounding villages were part of the holding of a lord of the manor and, as such, restrictions were imposed on land ownership. For example, Catholics were prevented form owning land on the Gilling Castle estate leading to the siting of Ampleforth Abbey in its current location.

The situation is described in The Squire-less Village, a letter from Partick Rowley, the vicar of St Hildas. (Extracted from Local Population Studies, August 1969).

Quakers in Shallowdale

Ampleforth had a Quaker settlement on the edge of the village, in Shallowdale to the west. The 16th century Carr House Farm was occupied by flax workers to weave flax into linen.

In 1693 a Meeting House with a burial ground was built in Carr Close (now Westwood Lane) on land leased from William Stead. The majority of local friends came from Helmsley, but the Meeting also included the parishes of Coxwold, Kilburn and Scawton. By 1743 only two of the 59 families in Ampleforth were Quaker. The Meeting changed its name to Helmsley in 1797 and by 1803 was meeting in Helmsley.

The Meeting House was demolished in 1808. Its remains and the burial ground are adjacent to Snake Villa on Westwood Lane.