Red cliff or bank, Old Scandinavian rauthr + klif: Rawcliffe East Riding of Yorkshire. Routheclif c.1080
A Dictionary of English Place-Names, Oxford University Press
Part of a flat countryside, with Lincolnshire only six miles away, it stands on the River Aire. The busy road from Goole bounds Rawcliffe's fine park before passing through the heart of the village, where many old houses and a modern church are gathered round a spacious green shaded by trees.
It was the home of one of Yorkshire's oddities, Jimmy Hurst, who lived here in George the Third's day and sleeps in the churchyard. He wore yellow boots, a rainbow waistcoat, and a hat nine feet round, and lived in a house near the river. He made a pair of wings and tried to fly, but his most remarkable invention was a coach like a Chinaman's hat on wheels. It was the wonder of all who saw it as he drove up to London, where he met the king. For over 90 years he was one of the queerest of all Yorkshiremen, and when he died, his coffin was carried by twelve old ladies, a Scotsman with a bagpipe and a Yorkshire fiddler accompanying them.
The King's England, edited by Arthur Mee
Rawcliffe is one of the prettiest villages in the area and consists of pubs, nice houses and a church all standing around a large village green. There is a fair on the green once each year. The River Aire runs peacefully round the back of the village and the riverbank forms a nice sign-posted walk to Goole. One of the local pubs used to have a quiz which was free to enter, had generous prizes and you even got a free pie and pea supper in the process.
From Selby Abbey to the West Riding County Council
There is a pleasing simplicity and continuity at the core of Rawcliffe's history from 1069-1919. For in 1069 it was one of the estates given to Selby Abbey by William the Conqueror at its foundation. Through the subsequent centuries bequest (and probably purchase) strengthened the Selby connection. In time Rawcliffe became to Selby as Chequers to 10 Downing Street. For the Abbot built here a Manor House that was both a "holiday home" for the monks and great house for the Abbot. By a wise interpretation of the Rule most large monasteries had such a place where from time to time the monks could enjoy a "change of air" and some modest relaxation from the strictness of the monastic life. We can imagine some hard-worked monk at Selby murmuring to himself "only three more weeks and I"m off to Rawcliffe". Clearly Rawcliffe was a good place to be for there are records of important visitors staying there with the Abbot. But this holiday atmosphere did not prevent the Abbots from showing a continuing concern for both the economic and spiritual well-being of the Community. The financial problems of a Mediaeval Monastery are fascinating. Basically they needed money to pay for the raw materials and the work-force without which their increasingly ambitious building programmes would fail. That sometimes centuries would pass between the beginning and finishing of some great enterprise was almost entirely due to lack of money. For the great estates with which an Abbey like Selby was endowed, though they could produce food with which to feed the great household of the Abbey, did not by themselves produce money. Hence the great rivalry between the monasteries (notably between Selby and St. Mary's, York) to ports establish on their estates. These not only increased the opportunities of selling their own produce, but also, more importantly, gave a cash income from tolls and dues.
That Rawcliffe is on the Aire at a point where it is still reasonably navigable and has dry access by a long established road to inland Yorkshire made it an obvious place for a port. The Poll Tax returns of 1379 show that Rawcliffe was, for those days, a sizeable place and this prosperity must have been based on trade rather than agriculture. Without the help of any large single contribution from a nobleman they paid £2/8/8. The residents included one "schypmanne" and two ladies called "Avelline". The survival of documents from the past is very haphazard but we know that in 1322 "William de Howden of Rawcliffe and John son of Ranulph de Roucliff were given a licence to trade - but with the condition that they did not communicate with the Scots or the men of Flanders".
Rawcliffe was part of that ancient Royal Estate which made up the "spirituality of Snaith" (which was why the King could give it to Selby) and so was always part of the Parish of Snaith. But nonetheless, for over 900 years there has been a place of worship at Rawcliffe. The first chapel was licensed in 1078 but this may have been simply a room in or adjacent to the Monk's House. But in the 14th Century permission is given that the people at Rawcliffe "should have in their Chapel newly built, a baptismal font, but without prejudice to the Mother Church of Snaith". This Chapel was necessary, we are told, "by reason the same parochians cannot resorte to their paroche churche many tymes for the weteness of the ground and grete inundations of waters".
The 1379 Poll Tax tells us of "Master John, Chaplain of Rawcliffe" who must have a strong claim to be the first "Vicar" of Rawcliffe whose name is known to us. With the passage of time some "well disposed people" gave "certain parcells of land towards the levinge of the incumbents thereof".
The "Old Days" lasted longer in Rawcliffe than elsewhere. For with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 the last Abbot of Selby became transformed into the first Squire of Rawcliffe. He had made his peace with Henry VIII and emerged with a pension of £100 and ownership of Rawcliffe Hall with its "nine rooms, namely, Hall, Great Parlour, Buttery, Kitchen, Larder, Milkhouse and Brewhouse on the ground floor and two Chambers above". The old Abbot's death (and burial at Snaith) in 1558 must have seemed like the end of an era. Yet the pattern set by Selby over nearly five hundred years of a resident landlord concerned with both the economic and spiritual well-being of the community was going to survive for nearly another four hundred years.
In 1558 the Abbot's estate at Rawcliffe was purchased by John Boynton. The family prospered quietly and this meant the building of a new house to the east of the village (on the site of the present Rawcliffe Hall) in the 17th Century style to replace the now hopelessly out of date mediaeval house. This new house had three storeys: on the ground floor was the Hall, Dining Room, Drawing Room Study, Library, Kitchen, Pantry and Service Room; the second floor had six chambers with Closets and Dressing Rooms, and a further "chamber up the back stairs", on the third floor was the "Men's Chamber" and the "Clarks Chamber" and six Garretts opening off the long gallery.
The Boynton era lasted until the very end of the 18th Century and saw another major attempt to develop the port, and for a time between 1720 and 1780, Rawcliffe became an important trade centre. The main trade would seem to be from small vessels that took the products of the West Riding to Hull, but there was also a trade to London and further afield. And as in the previous age, the spiritual needs of the people were not forgotten.
The late 17th Century sees a succession of acts of generosity by the Boyntons. Sir John Boynton (the builder of the new house) gave a Silver Chalice to the church in 1684. His brother Francis who had left Yorkshire for a merchant's life in London in 1694, bequeathed £500 to the Chapel of Rawcliffe together with lands in Rawcliffe and Newland with which to endow a school. And Matthew Boynton, the youngest of the three brothers, who succeeded Sir John at Rawcliffe Hall (for Francis no doubt was doing too well in London to come home) built and endowed almshouses for four poor widows and left an endowment of £20 per year for the benefit of the Minister of the Chapel at Rawcliffe. Matthew died in 1700 and we are told that his widow "Mrs Judith Boynton rebuilt the present beautiful chapel at her sole expense."
From 1794 onwards for "Boynton" read "Creyke". The actual succession is a complex tale for, for a number of generations, the estates had passed through the female side with the husband then taking the name of "Boynton". But Ralph Creyke, who married the heiress of Rawcliffe in 1772 traced his ancestry back to the Danes. This family with its headquarters at Marton Hall, near Bridlington, had been an important part of the Yorkshire land-owning squirearchy for centuries. He had no intention of abandoning his surname.
So in 1794, when Matthew Boynton died, Ralph Creyke and his wife Jane and their family came to Rawcliffe. The Creykes seem to have been both richer and livelier than the Boyntons. And they very much followed in tradition of their Selby and Boynton predecessors in caring for the economic and spiritual well-being of the neighbourhood.
The second and third Ralph Creykes at Rawcliffe were both noted agriculturalists. As Sir Tatton Sykes transformed the Wolds with new farming methods, so Ralph Creyke "transformed the face of the Marshland area from swampy wet peatland to fertile arable land". His son (1813-1858) made considerable use of the method of warping by which the waters of the river are allowed, under controlled conditions, to flood the land so that the rich soil they are carrying is deposited on the land.
The fourth Ralph Creyke (1849-1908) however, focussed his energies on the industrial and commercial expansion of the neighbourhood. His agriculturalist father had, in the spirit of the family, welcomed the Railway to Rawcliffe in 1847. There is hardly an enterprise linked to the expansion of Goole in which his son's name does not appear. He worked hard to ensure that there were sea-going ships based in Goole. In his spare time he was also Member of Parliament for the neighbourhood. But side-by-side with this commercial acumen went a real commitment to the well-being of the village. In 1842 Ralph Creyke (the 3rd) was the principal subscriber to the building of the new church. And in 1908 it was Ralph Creyke (the 4th) who extended it with a fine new chancel. Similarly in 1824, 1854 and 1875 varying Creykes played a significant part in the founding (or helping with the founding) of schools. In 1897 Rawcliffe Hall was almost totally destroyed by fire and promptly rebuilt in great style. The Architect was Walter H.Brierly of York.
In 1908 Ralph Creyke died. His funeral marked the end of an era as surely as that of the last Abbot of Selby exactly three hundred and fifty years earlier. Surprisingly, despite his creation of a Creyke Chapel in Rawcliffe Church and his father's burial there, the decision was taken that the burial should be with his ancestors in Marton Church. The funeral procession to the special train at Rawcliffe Station led by the Chief Constable, and with the whole village taking part dramatically represents the wealth and confidence of Edwardian England. At first it is not so easy to see why it was a turning point. For now a fifth Ralph Creyke lived at Rawcliffe Hall with his widowed Mother and his Brother. But in 1914 came the Great War and both brothers were officers in France. Edward the younger brother was killed but Ralph returned safely. But not to Rawcliffe for long. "The new squire," I"m told by one who knew him "went in for night-clubbing in London". In 1919 suddenly the whole estate was sold. Rawcliffe Hall and the acres around were bought by the West Riding County Council. The house was to be used as a home for the mentally handicapped and the land was divided into small holdings for returning soldiers and a number of fine houses built. The distinctive style can best be seen in the "White Houses" along the Rawcliffe-Goole road. Alas, few of these small holdings flourished and they have now been for the most part absorbed into larger units. Major Ralph Creyke went to live in London. There are no links between the Creykes and Rawcliffe except that a great nephew of the last Ralph Creyke (who lives in Ireland) bears the barren title of "Lord of the Manor of Rawcliffe".
This apparently inexplicable flight is part of a pattern. In parish after parish in the Diocese of Sheffield after centuries of peaceful succession the gentry sold up and fled in the years immediately after the Great War.
The Church and the Clergy
Until 1824 (or even perhaps 1842) Rawcliffe was part of the great parish of Snaith. That the Vicar of Snaith since 1910 has been the Patron of Rawcliffe and so had had the prime responsibility of choosing the Vicar witnesses to that link. But nonetheless Rawcliffe Church has had much the same sort of history as an ordinary parish. There have been three (or perhaps four) churches in the village and they seem all to have been on the same site. The first was that "new built" by the Abbot of Selby round about 1350 in which, perhaps for the first time, a Font was allowed so that the children could be baptised locally and so escape the journey to Snaith. This ancient Chapel nearly perished at the Reformation when all "Chantry Chapels" were being done away with because they, allegedly, encouraged superstition. Yet Rawcliffe was spared "so that parishioners should cristen and have all manner of sacraments ministered there, saving burying". That was in 1540. One and fifty years later devotion destroyed the old Chapel when, around 1700, the widowed Mrs Judith Boyton "rebuilt the present beautiful Chapel at her sole expense".
In 1754, at last, the grievance about burials was put to rights when one of the Enclosure Acts both provided land for a burial ground and financial compensation to the Vicar of Snaith for the loss of funeral fees. One can"t help feeling that this was the issue, rather than the "wetness of the ground" that through the centuries had kept all burials at Snaith!
In 1841 the brave decision was taken that the now populous village needed a new and bigger church. A popular firm of local architects, Hurst and Moffatt (who were later to build Goole Parish Church) produced plans for a church with three galleries to seat 700 people and cost £1,840. 1842 was not a good year for church building and it is difficult to be really enthusiastic about any of Hurst and Moffatt's churches. Yet it stands well on the village green and by 1851, as the Census Records show had over 500 people through its doors on a Sunday.
To us today the 20th Century decision to extend the church by the building of a chancel in a totally different style seems ill-advised. I"m led to believe that the intention was eventually to rebuild the whole church in the style of the new chancel, but events worked against this.
Clearly the fourth Ralph Creyke expected his family to be at Rawcliffe for centuries to come. After the great fire of 1897 the Hall was rebuilt bigger, grander and more splendid than before. And the new chancel, though it was no doubt intended to meet the liturgical needs of its day - nearly every church by 1910 had a large robed choir and that needed choir stalls and they needed a chancel - was also designed to be a Creyke family burial Chapel. After 150 years the family had apparently decided that they now belonged to Rawcliffe and not Marton, for the new church was built in 1908 - the year that Ralph Creyke died. His son's disinterest in Rawcliffe, the Great War, and then the sale of the Creyke estates has meant that the curious amalgamation has become acceptable through three quarters of a century's familiarity.
Since the Middle Ages there must always have been someone who was responsible for "the Cure of Souls" of the people of Rawcliffe. And though strictly speaking that person was the Vicar of Snaith in practice the "cure" has usually been exercised by a Chaplain or Curate appointed by either the Abbot of Selby or, after the Reformation, by first the Proprietor of the Snaith Peculiar and then by the Vicar of Snaith.
From the earliest times no doubt the Abbot of Selby appointed the "Chaplain" or "Curate" at Rawcliffe. And so as it grew into a proper parish the Abbot's successor, the Proprietor of the Peculiar of Snaith, became the Patron and so Rawcliffe has the same succession of "Yarburghs" and "Deramores" as Snaith and Whitgift. But this stopped in 1910. For in that year the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were prepared to increase the benefice income but, by a rule of those days, they were not able to do this if a parish had a lay person as Patron. So in 1910 the Patronage was transferred to the Vicar of Snaith, who has preserved the ancient link between Snaith and Rawcliffe by appointing the Vicar of Rawcliffe since 1910. But Rawcliffe is a completely independent parish. The Vicar (now the Rector) of Snaith has no other rights in the parish than that of nominating the Vicar.
Rivers, Rectors and Abbots, David Lunn - Bishop of Sheffield, 1990