All Saints is located in Newton on Ouse and there has been a church here since Saxon times. The name ‘Newton’ comes from neap, of modern construction, and ton, a town literally the new town. Situated on an elevation on the banks of the River Ouse it would have been offered a good defensive position as well as a prime opportunity for trade along the river. Before the York and Newcastle Railway was opened the Ouse provided the best way of transporting coal, lime and other agricultural produce. There were also brick and tile works alongside the main occupation of agriculture.
Earliest known church building: Early 1100’s
We know there have been at least four different churches on the current site and it would certainly have been a good location to build on. Situated in an elevated position, with a good view of the river, it would have been both visible to villagers as they went about their lives and a defensible position against would-be invaders. The tradition of building church towers was started by the Saxons as a defence against attacking Danes. A large stone tower gave a good view of the surrounding area and offered a safe refuge in times of attack.
We can’t be certain of the exact age of the tower at All Saints but we do know that it is the oldest part of the church. The large, regular stones suggest that it dates from the Norman period - after the Norman Conquest of 1066 there was a rapid development of motte-and-bailey castles as the new ruling class sought to ensure they stayed in power. They also believed that their success was due to the support of God. To show their gratitude and to glorify Him hundreds of parish churches were built or rebuilt during this period as were almost every English Cathedral and major abbey.
The tower is listed as early 12th Century although it has been suggested that it could be late 11th Century. The suggestion is partly based on the fact that the tower, as originally built, was tall in comparison with the general character of Norman towers, which tended to be low and heavy. A local architect, Chris Wells, drew what he thought the original upper stage of the tower would have looked like. This drawing was based on the description in Thomas Gill’s ‘Vallis Eboracensis’ namely that the upper storey of the tower featured a window on each side with double semi-circular-headed lights, supported in the centre by a deeply receding cylindrical shaft. Gill believed that this belonged to the very earliest period of Norman architecture, if indeed it might not have aspired to a still earlier date.
First record of the church: 1089
The earliest record we have found relating to the church dates from 1089 when it was given by Ralph Paynel, High Sheriff of York, to the priory of Holy Trinity, York when he re-founded the service there. The priory had been badly damaged during the Norman Conquest and was described in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘a ruined and poverty stricken church.’
Re-founding the priory was most likely a devout act by Paynel, to atone for the damage caused during the Conquest. The actual charter of the re-foundation states that it was done so for the souls of King William I and queen Maud and the health of king William II. Newton church provided the monks with a valuable source of income to pay for the repairs and rebuilding as they could then claim the tithes from the villagers.
It is to be hoped that Paynel passed on a church in good state of repair to the monks at Holy Trinity so that it was an asset rather than a burden as they repaired their own church. This would fit in with a late 11th Century date for the tower if the church at Newton had been recently rebuilt as part of the building boom following the Conquest.
However, if Holy Trinity, which was listed as one of the five great northern churches in the Domesday Book, had not yet been repaired it seems unlikely that a village church would have already been rebuilt.
The grant of the church by Paynel to Holy Trinity was given royal charter status between 1109 and 1114. After Ralph Paynel died around 1124 his lands passed to his son William. By 1140 William had chosen to support Empress Matilda, the only living legitimate child Of King Henry I, as she contested the attempt by Stephen of Blois to seize the throne.
Stephen was successful and after William Paynel’s death around 1145-47 he seized the Paynel lands and gave them via marriage to Paynel’s daughter Alice, first to Richard de Courcy and, on Richard’s death to Robert de Gant. Although upon King Stephen’s death in 1154 William’s sons were able to reclaim some of the lands
A sought after gift: 1190-1220’s
Between the end of the 12th Century and the early years of the 13th Century the church changed hands several times in a somewhat confusing fashion. We know this from records of the advowson being passed from one person or religious house to another.
An advowson gave the right to put forward a candidate for the role of parish priest to the Bishop. This priest would have been entitled to tithes from the villagers. If a religious order had the advowson they could place a monk in this position and therefore retain all of the income from the church as there would be no need to pay a stipend to a Rector
The advowson of a church was a valuable commodity and could be bought and sold like any other property. Sometimes the advowson was granted to a religious order only for the lifetime of the original holder. On their death it would pass to their heir who could decide whether to continue the gift, claim the tithes themselves or sell it on.
There are three charters mentioning the church which were granted between 1191 and 1214. The charters themselves are not dated but we can estimate from when the individuals involved were in power.
There is a charter recording that John de Courcy gave St Leonard’s Hospital in York all of his land in Newton as well as the advowson of the church. John de Courcy was the son of Alice Paynel through her first marriage. Gifting the advowson to a religious house, especially a hospital, was believed to aid your soul in its attempt to reach heaven.
It appears that the monks of Holy Trinity Priory had a close relationship with St Leonard’s Hospital and that it was not unusual for parcels of land to be transferred between them. Thus despite the church having been given to St Leonard’s there is charter where all claim in the church of Newton on Ouse is passed from Robert (the Prior) and the brethren of Holy Trinity, York to William de Place and his heirs. The monks did however retain two-thirds of the tithes and received an income from these until at least 1379.
The next charter states that William de Place then gifted two-thirds of the church to William de Bayeux, his kinsman and Rector of Newton church. De Bayeux then gave up to St. Leonard’s Hospital the income he should have received from farms in Newton by the charter of John de Courcy. There were close ties between the de Places, the de Bayeux and the de Courcys who were all heirs to Paynel lands.
The dissolution of the monasteries resulted in the advowson of All Saints, Newton on Ouse passing to the owner of the Beningbrough Manor. You can read about this next period in the history of the church on the 'All Saints & Beningbrough Hall' page.