Population 260 (2000 ) Brandsby + Stearsby
This history of Brandsby is really the story of the Church, which is known to have existed in the year 1086 and is recorded in the Domesday Book, and of Brandsby Hall, which adjoins it.
Situated on the wooded slopes of the Howardian Hills and overlooking the broad Vale of York, the village comprises two separate settlements connected by a broad avenue of trees. Formerly the houses clustered round the church, but some two hundred years ago the then incumbent of the Hall, objecting to the proximity of the villagers, demolished their houses and replaced them out of sight at the west end of the estate.
The first written record of the Church refers to one Walter, the priest of Brandsby, in the year 1175. He was followed in 1228 by a Rector named Thomas de Riperia, or de la Ryner, whose family was of Norman descent and had come over with William the Conqueror. Thomas had inherited the patronage as the result of intermarriage with the Mowbrays, Roger de Mowbray having been given the Manor of Brandsby by the King as a reward for "valorous service". Roger appears to have been a romantic figure about whom many legends are told: it is said that he returned from the Crusades on one occasion with a friendly lion and the two of them took up residence near Thirsk!
In 1308 Richard de la Ryver became the Lord of Brandsby and Clerk to the Church. Two of his descendants, Thomas and John de la Ryver, were buried in a specially built chapel within the old church in the years 1451 and 1455 respectively.
Then followed a succession of priests and rectors appointed by the family until, in 1581, through a marriage with the heiress of the de la Ryver family, both the estate with its Elizabethan manor house and the patronage of the church came into the hands of the Cholmeley family, who remained closely associated with the village for the next three hundred years, providing a long lineage of squires. Unfortunately, there exist few records of this period as one of the Cholmeleys went out of his mind and not only destroyed all the family archives, but is also said to have thrown his wife to her death from an upper window of the Hall. Legend has it that her ghost can still be encountered from time to time, walking the lawns in front of the house!
In 1767 Francis Cholmeley, who was a self-taught architect and had acted for a time as agent to the Fairfax family at Gilling Castle, set about the complete rebuilding of Brandsby Hall. At the same time it was on his initiative that the old and ruinous Norman church adjoining the Hall was pulled down, some say because it interfered with the view. But little is known about the old building.
Francis Cholmeley, however, not only donated a fresh site to the north-east of the Hall, but furthermore met the entire cost of building the new church in 1770, apart from the sum of £45 which was subscribed by the parishioners. The result of this was the unusual and distinguished edifice which the village has inherited today, the only church in the district built in the Classical style.
The last of the Cholmeley squires, Hugh Charles Fairfax Cholmeley, died in 1940 after a reign of 51 years. Although the old estate is no more, the farming tradition in Brandsby continues.
The old independent parish of Brandsby is now a part of the combined benefice of Crayke with Brandsby and Yearsley under a single incumbent, but Christian witness continues in the village as before. Today Brandsby has about 100 houses and farms, and is in an area designated as of outstanding beauty.
R C Sissons
Brandsby-cum-Stearsby - from Baine's Directory of the County of York 1823
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BRANDSBY, a parish in the wapentake of Bulmer; 6 miles ENE of Easingwold. Brandsby Hall, the seat of Francis Cholmley, Esq. Here is a very neat little church dedicated to All Saints, the living is a rectory, in the patronage of Thomas Smith, Esq. Population including Stearsby, 277.