Coxwold then & now
Sunday February 24, 2019

Coxwold Village - Pastures and Moors


A Brief History of Coxwold

The oldest recorded spelling of the village name is Cuhu-walda: Cuhu is a personal name and walda is a wood.  In Norman times it became Cucwald: cuc is to crow as a cock.  It seems the correct origin of the name is a matter of choice.  The outline of the village remains feudal, and is practically unchanged since it appeared on the first known map of 1605.

In the Domesday Book the village was still called by its Saxon name, CucvaltCuc to crow, and valt a wood.  Some sources translate this as Cuckoo Wood, a name that still rings true in the month of May.  Through centuries of irregular spelling Cucvalt became Cukewald in the 13th century, Cuckold in the 17th century, Coxwould in the 18th century and, finally, Coxwold.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066 the Colvilles, a Norman family, became Lords of the Manor and Coxwold is recorded as a Manor in the Domesday Book.  Colville Hall, on the site of the original manor, is to the south west of the church and the adjacent farm is still called Manor Farm.

St Michael’s Church with its octagonal tower, pierced battlements and crocketed pinnacles was built around 1450 on the site of an earlier church: for a small village church it contains some exceptionally fine monuments of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries by sculptors as famous as Grinling Gibbons and Nicholas Stone.  Fragments of early glass are encased in the high tracery of its windows.

Shandy Hall was built c.1450, possibly as a priest’s house.  After the Reformation it became part of the Bellasis (Newburgh Priory) Estate, and was extended in the 17th and 18th centuries.  By then it was known as Parsonage House.  The Reverend Laurence Sterne lived in it for eight years, writing in the tiny study and, in the minds of many, revolutionising the English novel with his works “Tristram Shandy” and “A Sentimental Journey”.

To the north east of the Church over the road is the Old Hall. This was built as the Grammar School in 1603 by Sir John Harte, a lad from Kilburn who went to London to become an apprentice grocer, married his master’s daughter and in due course became Lord Mayor of London.  The school was closed in 1894 and is now a private residence.

Although, in common with many rural villages, Coxwold no longer has all the amenities of former years, it still retains a range of services remarkable for its size.  Guidebooks old and new describe the variety of buildings and history of the village and detailed information is readily available in the Church foyer.  The Coxwold Local History Society maintains an Archive of the Village: this can be searched by arrangment with the Society Secretary, John Robinson.  It is hoped that the Archive will be digitised in the near future.



Coxwold Today

Coxwold is a compact village; there are fewer than 300 inhabitants and about 100 dwellings of different kinds.  Many of the houses still retain their garths – long strips of land behind each house.  A very large field, common land until the 1960s, is still called the Town’s Pasture, and was jointly grazed until 1965.  Sterne, on his favourite walk to Byland Abbey, must often have crossed this pasture which lies just beyond Shandy Hall.

However, Coxwold does not live (entirely) in the past: links with the outside world both physical (good roads, cleared in the winter and regular bus services - see the News and Information pages) and virtual (superfast broadband) ensure that everyone who comes here can keep in touch both near and far.  Plan your trip well and you can reach Coxwold from London by public transport in around five hours.  Other interests include a good pub (The Fauconberg Arms), a garage, and tennis courts.

Coxwold Then and Now
Coxwold Then and Now
Coxwold Then and Now