The name Kirkbymoorside suggests one of the key reasons for the settlement’s establishment, that being the shelter offered by the southern slopes of the moors into which the town nestles. The Ancient Britons left behind flint and stone axes, and traces of their Celtic language in the street names of Tinley Garth (garden) and Howe End (a ’howe’ being a burial mound). Anglo-Saxon and Viking artefacts include a silver coin dating from around 790, found within the grounds of the parish church of All Saints.


With William the Conqueror came the ’Harrying of the North’; Saxon landowners gave way to his supporters and in Kirkbymoorside Torbrant was replaced by Hugh Fitzbaldric and then Robert de Stuteville. The Stuteville family built a moated wooden castle on Vivers Hill behind the church with commanding views of the town and beyond. The town grew in importance and prospered under the Wake family to whom it passed in the 13th Century and in 1254 the Wednesday Market, which still thrives today, was established along with an annual fair.

In the 14th century the Black Death hit Kirkbymoorside and soon the wooden castle was in decay and a loss of order within the town followed. This changed after 1408 when the Nevilles, an illustrious family, took over. They built a fortified manor house or "castle" to the north of the town with a well stocked deer park. Sadly only a frgment of this house remains in present day Manor Vale, but the Meville coat of arms can be seen on some of the roof bosses in the parish church. The Neville family remained Catholic after the English Reformation and took part in the doomed Rising of the North' in 1569. Charles Neville, Earl of Westmoreland, made his escape in thick snow toScotland, aided, so it is said, by a blacksmith from Castlegate, who reversed his horse’s shoes. NevilleCastle quickly declined and nearby High Hall became the new manor house. Kirkbymoorside continued to develop as a market town serving an agricultural community. By 1660 there was a grammar school in the building which now houses the library and a Quaker presence was established in West End. Lords of the Manor were often absentee, although one, the notorious George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham did not escape Kirkby. He was brought back to the town after catching a chill whilst fox-hunting nearby and died in Buckingham house, which bears a plaque to his name. His remains were taken back to London, although his entrails were buried in the local churchyard.

The largest building, in the middle of the town is the Toll Booth and War Memorial Hall. The Toll Booth was built about 1730 with stone taken from the ruined NevilleCastle. The Market Hall housed shops at street level, the next level a courtroom and the third a number of workshops. There were stone steps leading from the Market Place down into a vaulted cellar that served as the town prison or ‘hoppit’. In 1871 a fire gutted the building and it was rebuilt in 1872. The townspeople obtained the now two-storey building in 1919 by public subscription to honour local men who served and died in the Great War. Memorial plaques are erected to those that served and died in the two world wars. It has been used as a cinema and dance hall. Joe Ffoord was able to provide the town with a regular supply of water with his skillfully engineered system of open rills. The biggest change, however, was the enclosure of the open fields farmed in common. This new system favoured the bigger farmers whilst the others faced hardship, especially when the new cotton factories of Lancashire reduced the work put out to cottage spinners. So, in 1834, Parliament decided that any help given to the ’deserving poor’ should be within a workhouse and in 1850 Kirkby’s first was established in Tinley Garth, with a police station comprising of a house and prison, being built nearby in the following year.

The Methodists and the Independents both had chapels and were joined by the Primitive Methodists in 1861. The Victorian vogue for the Gothic made its mark with the extensive redesigning of All Saints Church by the celebrated architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott. By the 1881 census Kirkby1 had a population of 2377. There were two printers, two chemists, a baker, a cooper, six blacksmiths, several boot and shoe makers, a butcher and cattle dealer, a grocer, six joiners and a solicitor, not to mention eight inns and three refreshment rooms.

For those wishing to discover more of the history of our town, the “Kirkbymoorside’s History Trail” booklet is available from the Town Council Office and other selected outlets