Londesborough lies on the western slopes of the Yorkshire Wolds, on gently rolling hills which slope down to meet the low-lying lands of the Vale of York. The present village is situated within a sheltered section of the western escarpment close to water springs which surface where the chalk geology of the Yorkshire Wolds meets the clay of the Vale of York. As with the rest of the Yorkshire Wolds there is no evidence for human activity during the Palaeolithic but humans have been living, and utilising the natural resources at Londesborough from the Mesolithic to the modern day a period of around 10,000 years. 


Mesolithic people led mobile lives, moving between different parts of the landscape as the seasons influenced their lives and the resources they had access to. This lifestyle meant that little immediately obvious trace of their activities was left behind, isolated flint scatters are often the only evidence we have. The Mesolithic story of Londesborough echoes the pattern of activity seen across the Yorkshire Wolds. Worked flints have been found in discrete locations, providing insights into the daily life of people living in this landscape. The flint tools would have been used for hunting related activities. Microliths would have been used as barbs for arrows and other composite tools. 


The gradual adoption of a more settled lifestyle can be seen in the archaeological record from approximately 4000 BC, when the first farming techniques and processes started to reach Britain and Ireland from continental Europe. People cleared woodland to create spaces to live and farm. Across the Yorkshire Wolds there is relatively little evidence for Neolithic settlements, the most commonly recorded sites from this period are funerary or ceremonial monuments. No archaeological evidence for Neolithic settlements, or funerary or ceremonial monuments have yet been found in Londesborough, but worked flints have. Two axe heads have been found at Londesborough, one made from chalk and one from greenstone. Axes would have been used to clear wooded areas for living and farming, and the material they were made from also provides an insight into the trade networks that were established during this period. The greenstone axe at Londesborough was manufactured at Great Langdale in the Lake District, a dramatic Neolithic quarry site. The first farmers in Britain kept in touch with a network of local and regional trading routes which may have been established through social and kinship ties. 

Bronze Age

Towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC archaeological evidence suggests that new groups of people came to settle in Britain from Europe. They brought with them the first metal weapons and jewellery, initially in copper and then in bronze, as well as a characteristic style of pottery that archaeologists have called Beaker pottery. The evidence for Bronze Age settlements on the Yorkshire Wolds is scarce and the story for the Bronze Age in Londesborough matches the rest of the Yorkshire Wolds. There is little evidence within the area for the settlements that these Bronze Age communities lived in. Five pieces of worked flint were recovered from topsoil at Londesborough Park in 2005, potentially indicating that people were moving across this landscape in the Bronze Age. 

Although we have almost no evidence for the settlements that the Bronze Age communities were living in, we do have evidence of a large reorganisation of the land in the later Bronze Age. A series of large linear earthworks of banks and ditches were constructed across the Yorkshire Wolds, today called the Wold Entrenchments. Part of such earthworks are visible on aerial photographs to the west of Londesborough village, as a linear mark in the soil ranging between 15m to 30m in width. It comprises a bank flanked by parallel ditches. People were living more settled lifestyles and were reliant on livestock and crops as the main source of their food, and controlling the limited water supply on the top of the Yorkshire Wolds may have been necessary, and it may be that the Wold Entrenchments were built for this reason. 

Iron Age

The archaeological story for Londesborough in the Iron Age appears to match that of the rest of the Yorkshire Wolds. There is an apparent explosion in the visibility of the communities living and farming in this area. Aerial photographs reveal numerous possible Iron Age farming settlements, seen as the cropmarks of ditches, field systems and enclosures. These cropmarks have yet to be investigated archaeologically so they cannot be firmly dated to the middle Iron Age but they are very likely to have been occupied in the late Iron Age and through the early Roman period. Aerial survey has also revealed evidence of two extensive settlement complexes, consisting of strings of enclosures for stock and habitation alongside a trackway. These settlements have been named by archaeologists as ladder settlements. One is located south of Londesborough Field and the second is to the west of woodland at Hammers Dale. The appearance of these settlements appears to reflect a change in the landscape in the later Iron Age, which may relate to wider social and economic change. The later Iron Age landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds would have been dominated by small villages surrounded by fields, which were farmed by individual families. The settlements were linked by trackways, creating a network of routes for communication and trade. Isolated finds, such as a copper-alloy button and loop fastener and a copper-alloy mount, also indicate some activity in this area during the Iron Age. 

The Yorkshire Wolds and the East Riding of Yorkshire are renowned for the quality of their Iron Age funerary archaeology, in particular the square barrow cemeteries that started appearing towards the middle Iron Age (c.400 BC). Square barrows were constructed as earth or chalk mounds, surrounded by a ditch. The main burial was placed in a pit and the mound constructed over it. Some elaborate burials are known, such as the ‘chariot’ burials found at Pocklington, Wetwang and Garton Slack. So far there is no evidence for any Iron Age burials in the Londesborough area: aerial photographs and survey have not revealed any possible indications that the communities living in this area were burying their dead here but by the later first century BC onwards burial rites appear to have shifted towards those which are less visible archaeologically. 


There is plenty of evidence for human activity across the Yorkshire Wolds during the Roman period, and this is matched in the evidence we have from Londesborough. Cropmarks of ditches, trackways, enclosures, a settlement and a road are all visible on aerial photographs and may relate to settlements dating from the 1st-4th centuries AD, as farming settlements continued in use after Yorkshire was brought under Roman control in c.70 AD. The Roman conquest appeared to have no immediate impact on the character and pattern of settlement on the Yorkshire Wolds, although most of the established sites were abandoned by the end of the 2nd century AD, at a time when fields became larger and corn-driers began to appear, indicating that large scale grain production may have been occurring across the region. Cropmarks of a Romano-British settlement at Londesborough were investigated in the 1970s, when fieldwalking retrieved sherds of 3rd-4th century AD pottery, indicating that this settlement was in use later than other sites across the Yorkshire Wolds. Roads were constructed across the Wolds, with a road from South Newbald to Malton running approximately north-south through Londesborough. A section of this road was discovered during the excavation of the lakes in Londesborough Park in 1730 AD. This road linked the port of Petuaria at Brough-on-Humber with the fort of Derventio at Malton, and then onto York. 

Although archaeological activity is yet to discover a lot of evidence for the people that were living here during the Roman period, there have been some tantalising discoveries of isolated finds across Londesborough parish. Personal items such as brooches, coins, toiletry items, greyware pottery, a ring and a stylus have been found, indicating that people were living in this area and may have also enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. 

There is little evidence for where and how people were burying their dead across the Yorkshire Wolds during the Roman period, and this is a similar story at Londesborough. An inhumation cemetery was found in Londesborough Park in the 18th century AD, and interpreted as a Roman cemetery; however, there were no grave goods to confirm this date and the burials may be related to later Anglo-Saxon burials found in the area. 


The evidence for Anglian and Scandinavian settlements on the Yorkshire Wolds is sparse; they appear to have been located close to water sources mainly along the wold-edge and around the Great Wold Valley. Settlement sites, farms and field layouts appear to have been completely abandoned at some point between the 4th-12th centuries AD. Although we have relatively little archaeological or documentary evidence for a settlement at Londesborough during this period, place-name evidence can provide us with an indication of the people living here. Londesborough’s place name probably derives from the Old Scandinavian personal name Loðinn or the Old Danish Lothæn and the Old English burh, which meant ‘Lothen’s fortification’. The place name of Easthorpe, to the east of Londesborough, is derived from the Old Scandinavian thorpe. These indicate that settlements in this area may have been established or named by someone of Scandinavian origin between the 9th-11th centuries AD. Earlier than this, at some point between the 6th-9th centuries AD, the community at Londesborough buried their dead in an inhumation cemetery near Londesborough Wold, and placed grave goods with their bodies. These grave goods included personal and domestic items, including glass and amber beads, bronze fibulae brooches, bronze and iron buckles, iron knives, and earthenware vessels. An iron latch-lifter had been placed in one grave: this item would have been used to lift a latch on a door and it is often a symbol of the authority of female heads of household. Isolated finds and the various locations of graves found suggest that the Londesborough cemetery consisted of a large number of graves, stretching over a large area from the top of Londesborough Wold down the slope to Londesborough Park and the village. At All Saints Church, a fragment of Anglo-Saxon cross-head is built into the wall over the door, carved with 11th century AD decoration. This implies the existence of an earlier church or religious site for the local community, not recorded in documentary sources. 


The Yorkshire Wolds is a region rich in evidence for the centuries after the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD. Small villages were established and stone churches were constructed, but there is no mention of a church for Londesborough in the Domesday Book of 1086 AD, and the earliest architectural features of All Saints is the nave which dates to the early 12th century AD. The fragment of Anglo-Saxon cross-head in All Saints Church may have come from elsewhere or it may have been used as a marker; crosses were also used to mark routes or boundaries and acted as meeting places for local communities. In the Domesday Book, Londesborough has a recorded population of 5.5 households, placing it in the smallest 40% of settlements recorded in the survey. The landholder was the Archbishop of York, Londesborough being part of the Archbishop’s manor of Everingham, who was also the lord in 1066 AD, but by 1086 AD the lands had been granted to two clerics and one man-at-arms, in return for tax paid to the Archbishop. The lands totalled ten ploughlands (one ploughland was the area that could be ploughed by eight oxen in one year, approximately 120 acres), and had three lord’s plough teams and six men’s plough teams. A plough team was a group of eight oxen, sometimes belonging to the peasants and sometimes to the lord. There was also ten acres of meadow, which would have been used to graze animals, and two mills, probably water mills based near the springs. The value of the lands in 1066 AD was £14, by 1086 AD it was only £6. The decrease in value may be a result of the damage caused by fighting after the Conquest. About 10% of all the estates in the Domesday Book were recorded as waster, but there is no mention of this in the Londesborough entry. The estate passed to the Fitzherbert family in 1108 AD, the Broomfleet family in the 14th century AD and then to the Clifford family in 1469 AD.

Conditions on the higher parts of the Yorkshire Wolds were not favourable for farming, the area was almost treeless and there was little shelter for animals or crops. Londesborough’s location on the gently rolling hills of the western slopes of the Wolds was ideal for farming. The village is sheltered and close to water springs, making it a fertile area for agriculture. The remains of ridge and furrow earthworks can be seen on aerial photographs of the Warren Dale area, and a series of levelled lynchets can be seen on the slopes to the north and east of Easthorpe Farm. Both are evidence of the amount of land that was being cultivated during the medieval period.  Compared with the low-lying clay areas beyond, the Yorkshire Wolds was the foremost producer of wheat and barley. In addition to these crops, farmers may have been growing a variety of other crops such as rye, oats, peas, flax and beans. The mills mentioned in the Domesday Book would have been used to grind corn to make flour. Produce grown in the Londesborough area may have been sent to the nearby market of Market Weighton, just over 2 miles to the south-east, which had been granted its charter to become a market town in 1251 AD. Weekly markets at Market Weighton were held on Thursdays until 1458 AD, when the market moved to a Wednesday and annual fairs were held in May and September. 

The 14th century AD saw a shift in the agrarian economy as a result of falling demand for grain following the Black Death and a series of epidemics, which drastically reduced the population. Areas devoted to grain production would have ceased to be economically viable as labour costs rose and prices fell. The result of this can be seen in the remains of villages which were either reduced in size or deserted. In the east of Londesborough estate lies Easthorpe, today only consisting of a few isolated farms. In the medieval period this was a small village, which was probably deserted towards the end of the medieval period. Possible earthworks have been identified, but they may be associated with Londesborough Hall or Park rather than Easthorpe village.  

Post-Medieval and Modern

Little is known about the earlier medieval manor house, but in 1589 AD a three-storey seven-bay castellated stone building was built by Francis Clifford, presumably to replace the earlier manor house. In 1643 AD Londesborough estate passed to Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, after his marriage to Lady Elizabeth Clifford. He was created the 1st Earl of Burlington in 1664 AD and appointed Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire in 1666 AD. In the late 1670s the 1st Earl and Countess of Burlington enlarged the existing Elizabethan manor house by adding two, three by seven-bay brick wings to the north and south. These additions were of red brick and slate with stone dressings. The south side overlooking the parkland then became the main front. 

Following the death of the 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1753 AD, the estate passed to his son-in-law William Cavendish, later the 4th Duke of Devonshire. William and the next two Dukes had little interest in Londesborough, and the hall and estate were neglected. William Hickington, a poet from Pocklington, captured the air of neglect at Londesborough in the 1760s:

“Sometimes to lonely Londesbro, I retire

And the still garden’s empty walks admire,

Those walks where Cavendish enamour’d stra’d

While round their Sire his smiling pratlers play’d,

Ah, scenes how changed! where each dejected face,

Now sadly shows the death of Devon’s grace.”

On 23rd March 1818 the Rev. John Tyson, curate of Goodmanham, wrote that “It is this day announced that the Duke of Devonshire intends to pull down Londesbro’ Hall to build farmhouses of and to destroy the whole beauty and antiquity of Londesbro’ “. A month later Tyson recorded that the workmen had begun to demolish the hall. The park was divided into two farms and the great lake drained. In 1839 AD a new smaller house was built to the north-east as a shooting box, and in 1845 AD the estate was bought by George Hudson, Chairman of the York and North Midland Railway. Hudson used the purchase of Londesborough to build a railway line between York and Market Weighton. The line opened in 1847 AD, with a private station constructed at the western end of the Londesborough Avenue. Later the station served the villages of Londesborough and Shiptonthorpe before closing in 1965 AD. The shooting box was enlarged in 1875 AD into the present Londesborough Park by Lord Albert Denison who acquired the estate and the title in 1850 AD. He reinstated the park and lake and the grounds of the demolished hall were conserved. In the later 19th century AD a whole series of houses were built in the village. The estate was sold to the Lupton Booths in 1923 AD and it subsequently passed to the Ashwin family. 

Complementing the main house and gardens, there was a park at Londesborough in the medieval period, but little is known of its history. In the medieval period parks were a private enclosure in which deer were kept, often on the edge of a manor. The majority of parks in the East Riding of Yorkshire were established in areas of woodland on low-lying land, and Londesborough is the only park on the Yorkshire Wolds established before 1500 AD. The earliest reference to it dates to 1581 AD which states that “one certain inclosed ground called the park lying between the site [of the manor house] on the west and the highway leading to Beverley on the north and north east…..which said park is now divided into these several closes”. Three of these closes bore the names East Park, West Park and Trusley Park. The reference to disparking the land at Londesborough (converting back to something other than a park) indicates that it had been emparked prior to 1581 AD. This matches what was going on in the rest of the East Riding of Yorkshire in this period: only a few new parks were established between 1400-1600 AD and many existing parks were abandoned. Between 1596-1646 AD there are records of venison being brought into Londesborough from the other Clifford estates, suggesting that no deer were kept at Londesborough after it had been disparked. Deer were being kept by 1650 AD, when Christopher Smith of Hayton was brought before the Justices at the East Riding Quarter Sessions for stealing a doe from Londesborough Park. A ‘pale’, or fence, would have surrounded the park to keep the deer in, and there are references to the paling of the park in 1652 AD and 1656 AD. The emparking of estates caused friction with the local tenants and villagers. In 1679 AD warrants were issued against “the people that carried pales out of the park”, either trying to poach the deer or steal the pale wood. 

The park was extended in 1724 AD to total 230 acres of land, with another 38 acres of arable and meadow land added five years later. In 1739 AD 400 acres of agricultural land to the south and west of the estate was purchased, in the area of Easthorpe. Early 18th century rental documents appear to refer to ten cottages and four farmhouses there. The settlement was depopulated by Lord Burlington and in 1738-9 AD five cottages were demolished as a result of extending the park. Following the inclusion of this land into Londesborough Park, the settlement at Easthorpe was reduced to one farmhouse and one or two cottages. 

Two series of large ponds were added, the largest group consisting of eight lakes which cascaded from the north-east corner of the park to a new large lake. The smaller group of rectangular ponds ran into the great lake from the north. On the west side of the lake was the kitchen garden, moved from its original position to the north of the hall to a larger four-acre site in 1730 AD. The kitchen garden was walled and divided into four sections. In the north-west corner a greenhouse and hot-houses were built, where guavas, melons, pawpaws, pomegranates, oranges, lemons and pineapples were all cultivated. A 1792 AD plan of the kitchen garden shows that a small water course from the Great Pond ran down the centre of the garden, with another water course, the Mill Race, running along the outside to the south-east. The site of a watermill, the “old mill”, is also marked to the south-east, and Lord Burlington’s Gateway is shown in the north-western wall. Plums, apricots, vines, pears, peaches, nectarines, cherries, whitecurrants, and currants were all grown for the consumption of the household. 

Lady Burlington was responsible for the addition of the formal gardens which surrounded the house, designed by Robert Hooke in 1676-7 AD. A birds-eye view of the hall, gardens and park was drawn by Leonard Knyff around 1700 AD, which provides a highly detailed view of the area. It also shows Londesborough village and All Saints Church. To the north of the hall, between the house and the village, are the walled kitchen garden, orchards and stables, separated from the village by a wall. The village consists of an east-west road, parallel with the park boundary, with houses on the northern side. Behind the houses are gardens, orchards and fields. 

The ground to the east of the hall was raised behind an arched terrace wall, which still survives today, and the area it enclosed was grassed. Within this area were five statues and at the eastern end was a circular pond with a fountain, creating an apsidal end. Beyond this is the park. Deer and cattle are shown in the park, the deer were introduced back to the park by 1650 AD. To the south the arched terraced wall continues parallel to the hall, with a flight of stone steps leading from the top of the terrace into the park, where a semi-circle of trees leads to a wide avenue through a plantation. To the west of Londesborough Hall are a series of formal gardens, each enclosed by walls. Beyond the gardens an avenue of trees heads west, ending at a gate. To the north of this avenue is All Saints Church and on the northern side of the road are six Almshouses, founded in 1680 AD. To the south of the avenue is a bowling green, laid out in 1678-9 AD, with plantations to the south and west. 

In the 1730s the 3rd Earl of Burlington remodelled the gardens on the west side of the house; the progress of these changes was drawn by Thomas Pattison in 1739 AD. The plan shows a move towards a more natural style, with the introduction of meandering walks and irregular areas of water. The creation of a new area to the north of the tree-lined avenue saw the demolition of houses and cottages to the west of All Saints Church, and the replacement of the bowling green to the south of the avenue for a rectangular pond. From the 1720s the tree-lined avenue extending westwards from the west gardens was lengthened to join the York Road, creating an avenue over one mile long. It was completed in the early 1740s. The 3rd Earl of Burlington was also an amateur architect and rebuilt many of the village houses in the 1730s. 

After the estate passed to William Cavendish in 1753 AD, Londesborough was only visited occasionally by the Devonshire family throughout the next 90 years, but despite the neglect from the Devonshire’s, the gardens and parkland were still kept in good condition. In 1806 AD the future 6th Duke of Devonshire commented that the park was beautiful and the gardens pretty and in 1812 AD commented that “the garden here is in great beauty, and there are numbers of curious flowers beginning to bloom, but one part of the walk….is rather nuisance by the smell of the wild garlic which cannot be got rid of, or rooted out”. Following the demolition of the hall in 1818 AD the gardens were still kept in good order, and continued to be used by the successive owners of Londesborough. 

The house and gardens are still privately owned and in 1977 AD the village, the present house and grounds, the old hall site and formal gardens, the kitchen garden, the lake and part of the parkland were included within a Conservation Area. The special character of Londesborough is defined by: the parkland with its open meadows and group of trees and the remaining features of the former Hall; the historic village core along Low Street which displays a wide range of building styles and materials; and Middle Street where the houses are more uniform as most were built in the same period and show a unity of design. As well as being included within Londesborough Conservation Area, numerous sites were listed in the 20th century AD to preserve them. Londesborough Park is now a Grade II* listed park, which includes the deer park and gardens. Listed buildings include: the gateway to Londesborough Hall, constructed in the 1660s; the terrace wall, steps and urns; the gates and gateway; gates, gate piers, flanking walls and abutments; the garden walls and gateway; the late 17th century AD stable block; the six Almshouses founded in 1680 AD; and cottages and the rectory on Low Street. 

Although the house and gardens are still privately owned and not open to visitors, public footpaths, including the Wolds Way, cross the parkland for everyone to enjoy the traditionally-managed parkland surrounding the estate village of Londesborough. 

Neave, David. “Lord Burlington’s Park and Gardens at Londesborough, Yorkshire.” Garden History 8, no. 1 (1980): 69-90. Accessed April 1, 2020. doi:10.2307/1586681.