Topcliffe, North Yorkshire

Topcliffe is a village and civil parish in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, England. The village is situated on the River Swale, on the A167 road and close to the A168. It is about 5 miles (8 km) south-west of Thirsk and 11 miles (18 km) south of the county town of Northallerton. It has a population of 1,489. An army barracks, with a Royal Air Force airfield enclosed within, is located to the north of the village.

Front Street Topcliffe - - 324849.jpg
Front Street, Topcliffe
Topcliffe is located in North Yorkshire
Location within North Yorkshire
Population1,489 (2011 census)[1]
OS grid referenceSE402760
Civil parish
  • Topcliffe
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townTHIRSK
Postcode districtYO7
Dialling code01845
PoliceNorth Yorkshire
FireNorth Yorkshire
UK Parliament
List of places
54°10′41″N 1°23′13″W / 54.178°N 1.387°W / 54.178; -1.387


Topcliffe Motte, Maidens Bower

The name is derived from the Old English words topp and clif and combined give the meaning top of the cliff, from its position at the top of a steep bank overlooking the River Swale.[2][3]

The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as "Topeclive" in the "Yarlestre hundred." At the time of the Norman invasion, the manor was the possession of Bernwulf. Afterwards it was granted to William of Percy.[4] The manor became the chief seat of the Percy family until the middle of the 17th century, though there was some confusion of the line of inheritance in the 12th century. There was a short interruption to this line in the 15th century when the manor was granted to the Neville family following the death of Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland at the Battle of Towton in 1461, where he was fighting for the Lancastrians who lost. This was reversed in 1469 and the manor restored to the Percy family. In the 16th century there were two other brief periods when the manor was granted first to the Archbishop of York and then to the Earl of Warwick. The manor was restored to the Percy family in 1557. The last of the family to hold the manor in their name was Josceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland, though it passed to his daughter who married Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. Their son inherited the manor, but he died heirless and the manor was passed to his nephew Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont. The manor remained in the Wyndham family into the 20th century.[5][6]

A motte and bailey castle was built at the strategic location of the junction of the River Swale and Cod Beck about 1071, soon after the Harrying of the North and re-fortified in 1174 by the Percy family. This was the principal residence of the Percy family until the early part of the fourteenth century, when Henry de Percy purchased the barony and castle of Alnwick. The castle was succeeded by a moated manor house on an adjacent site, of which earthworks also remain.[7] The manor house was the home of John Topcliffe, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, who died in 1513.[5]

The village was the centre of a large ancient parish in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The parish included the townships of Asenby, Baldersby, Catton, Dalton, Dishforth, Eldmire with Crakehill, Marton-le-Moor, Rainton with Newby, Skipton-on-Swale and Topcliffe. All of these townships became separate civil parishes in 1866.[5]

The village used to be a stop between Baldersby and Thirsk on the Leeds & Thirsk Railway. Topcliffe railway station was opened on 1 June 1848 and closed on 14 September 1959. It was located at the junction of the A167 and Catton Moor Lane to the north of the village near the present day MoD base.[8]

Topcliffe AirfieldEdit

During the Second World War an airfield was constructed 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the village which was for some time a Royal Canadian Air Force base. After the war it had a number of roles until 1972 when much of it was taken over by the army and converted into Alanbrooke Barracks.[9] The airfield continues to be used for RAF glider training.[10]


The village is located in the Thirsk and Malton UK Parliamentary constituency. It is also in the Sowerby electoral division of North Yorkshire County Council and the Topcliffe ward of Hambleton District Council. The population of this ward taken at the 2011 Census was 2,604.[11] Topcliffe District ward includes the settlements of Skipton-onSwale, Catton, Dalton, Crakehill, Sessay and Hutton Sessay.[12]

The civil parish of Topcliffe is bounded by the civil parishes of Sowerby, Carlton Miniott, Catton, Rainton, Asenby, Crakehill and Dalton.[13] The local Parish Council has five members.[14]


The village is located on the east bank of the River Swale just north of its confluence with Cod Beck, one of its major tributaries. The villages of Baldersby St James, Cundall, Dishforth, Catton, Rainton, Asenby, Crakehill and Dalton all lie within a radius of 2.5 miles (4.0 km). It lies on the A167 road from Darlington to its terminus at the junction with the A168. It is 2.8 miles (4.5 km) east of the A1(M).[12]


On the early morning of 3 December 2010, the weather station air temperature was −19 °C (−2 °F), making it the lowest temperature ever recorded in Yorkshire.[15][16] It regularly features in the Met Office stats as having the lowest minimum temperature anywhere in the UK.[17][18][19][20][21]


In 1881 the UK Census recorded the population as 615.[6] The 2001 UK Census recorded the population as 1,336 in 400 households. The population was 58.7% male and 41.3% female.[22]

The 2011 UK Census recorded the population as 1,489, an increase of 11.45% compared with the previous census. The population was 59.1% male and 40.9% female. The ethnic mix was made of 92.4% White British, 1.5% Mixed race, 2.6 Asian. 1.9% Black and 1.5% other race.[1]


Topcliffe Mill

The village is surrounded by farmland and it played an important role in the past as a major market place, much lessened these days.[6] There are a number of small businesses in and around the village. There is a large industrial estate within the Parish boundary on the outskirts of neighbouring Dalton. On the outskirts near the bridge over the river is a caravan park.

On Catton Lane just outside the village is Topcliffe Mill, a Grade II Listed building.[23] A mill at Topcliffe was mentioned in the Domesday Book and may have been situated on the current site of the Roller Mill, which produced flour until 1961. It had been converted into a restaurant and now houses apartments.[24]

Culture and communityEdit

Topcliffe is home to Deer Shed Festival, an annual music festival established in 2010, which attracts over 10,000 people to the village every July.[25]

Topcliffe has a park and two pubs, The Angel (currently closed for refurbishment) and The Swan. The old school house of Topcliffe is now a post office, the toll house is now a cottage.

Topcliffe has been extended over the years. East Lea was built in the 1950s and has been developed over the years, by the demolition of some old houses on a sizeable plot of land, to make way for extra houses. In the late 1980s, Manor Close and a small part of Winn Lane were built on the site of a farm.


The village lies on two main routes through the county, the A167 and A168. The A168 bypass was first considered in 1963 as part of "The North East Programme for Regional Development and Growth". Work did not start though until 1976 and took two years to complete.[26]

The village is served by the bus route between Ripon and Northallerton.[27]


The primary school at Topcliffe

There has been a school in the village since the establishment of a Free Grammar School in 1549. A school house was built in 1822 on the site of one previously erected in 1695. The Grade II listed building is located in the north side of the St Columba churchyard.[28]

The current primary school at Topcliffe was opened in 1966. It is a Church of England and caters for mixed genders from years 1–6, and a playgroup. It has a student capacity of 114.[29] The school is within the catchment area of Thirsk School and Sixth Form College for secondary education.[30] The nearby Army Barracks operate a school primarily for Service personnel. It was opened in 1953.[31] Queen Mary's School is a private day and boarding school for girls. Boys may attend up to age 7 (Year 2) and does not have a sixth form.


The Church of St Columba, Topcliffe

The village has a church dedicated to St Columba. As the name suggests, there has been a church in the site since early Saxon times, possibly around the time of St Aiden's mission in 650AD. The present building date from the 13th century with improvements being made throughout the ages. It is a Grade II* listed building.[5][6][32]

There is a Wesleyan Methodist Church in the village built in 1840 located in Church Street opposite St Columba Church. It is a Grade II Listed building.[33]


Topcliffe Football Club play at the Playing Fields on Winn Lane, next to the Bowling Club. They play in local leagues but have been in existence since at least the 1920s.[34]

Notable residentsEdit


  1. ^ a b UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Topcliffe Parish (1170216951)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  2. ^ Watts (2011). Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-names. Cambridge University Press. p. 622. ISBN 978-0521168557.
  3. ^ A.D. Mills (1998). Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford Paperbacks. p. 466. ISBN 978-0192800749.
  4. ^ Topcliffe in the Domesday Book. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f William Page, ed. (1923). "Parishes: Topcliffe". Victoria County History. A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2. pp. 70–80. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Bulmer's Topography, History and Directory (Private and Commercial) of North Yorkshire 1890. S&N Publishing. 1890. pp. 835–839. ISBN 1-86150-299-0.
  7. ^ Topcliffe Maidens Bower
  8. ^ "Disused Railway Station". Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  9. ^ RAF History: Bomber Command Topcliffe
  10. ^ World Aero Data EGXZ
  11. ^ UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Topcliffe 2011 Census Ward (1237325087)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  12. ^ a b "OpenData support | OS Tools & Support".
  13. ^ "Parish boundaries". North Yorkshire County Council. 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  14. ^ "Parish Council". Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  15. ^ "Record Low Temperature". BBC News North Yorkshire. 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Cold weather". Yorkshire Post. 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  17. ^ "North Yorkshire village coldest place in England so far this winter". 28 December 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  18. ^ "North Yorkshire shivers as temperature reaches minus 6C". 22 November 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  19. ^ "Plummeting temperatures and frost will put 'vulnerable lives at risk' - Ice fog on the way described as 'a driver's worst nightmare' by safety expert". 21 January 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  20. ^ "UK weather forecast: Cold snap continues as mercury dips below zero and fog coats country". 19 January 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  21. ^ Roberts, John; Ginley, Joanne (28 November 2010). "More snow on way as temperatures plummet". Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  22. ^ "2001 UK Census". Office for National Statistics. 2002. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  23. ^ "Mill listing". English Heritage. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  24. ^ "Mill" (PDF). Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  25. ^ "Deer Shed Festival 11". Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  26. ^ "Bypass" (PDF). Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  27. ^ "Bus service". Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  28. ^ "Old School listing". English Heritage. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  29. ^ "School Details". Ofsted. 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  30. ^ "Browse school information for your area". North Yorkshire County Council. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  31. ^ "MOD school" (PDF). Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  32. ^ "Church Listing". English Heritage. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  33. ^ "Methodist church listing". English Heritage. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  34. ^ "Football Club" (PDF). Retrieved 24 February 2013.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Topcliffe, North Yorkshire at Wikimedia Commons