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Ripon in 1841

RIPON, an ancient borough, parish, market-town, township, and bishopric, is in the wapentake of Claro in the West Riding of the county of York. It gives its name to an extensive liberty which has its peculiar courts. It is 208 miles north-north-west of London, 27 miles north of Leeds, and 24 miles north-west by west of York.

The parliamentary borough comprises the township of Ripon and a part of the township of Aismunderby-cum-Bondgate, including a population of 5,735. It returns two members to parliament. The municipal borough has the same extent : the corporate body consists of four aldermen and twelve councillors, with a commission of the peace. Till lately the liberty of Ripon contained 29 townships, parishes, and chapelries, 43,490 acres, and a population of 13,222 ; but by a statute of 1st Victoria, five parishes and townships situated in the North Riding, and comprising a population of 1,293 and 8,990 acres, were separated from this liberty. Besides extending over the liberty of Ripon, the parish is partly in the lower division of Claro wapentake, where it has 18,391 acres, and a population of 3,252. The bishopric of Ripon was created in 1836, out of the large dioceses of York and Chester ; it extends over a great part of the more populous districts of the West Riding, and over the liberty of Richmondshire in the North Riding.

According to the first historical notice of Ripon, Eata, abbot of Melrose, founded a monastery here in 661. A few years after, Aldfrid, king of Northumbria, gave this monastery to Wilfred, archbishop of York. Under his auspices both the town and the church flourished, and received many marks of royal munificence. He died in the year 711, and was buried in his monastery. The town is said to have suffered much by the incursions of the Danes in the ninth century, but it was made a borough by Alfred the Great. King Athelstan granted the monastery various immunities, among which was the privilege of sanctuary, which it possessed till that privilege was wholly abolished in England. The town suffered reverses in the wars against the Northumbrian Danes, in the devastations of the Normans, and in the invasion of Robert Bruce. Henry IV fixed his residence here when he was driven from London by the plague ; and in the civil war under Charles I the town was occupied by the parliamentarians under Sir Thomas Mauleverer, who was expelled by the royalists commanded by Sir John Mallory.

The collegiate church of Ripon, commonly called the Minster, now the Cathedral, is dedicated to St. Peter and St. Wilfred ; it is parochial as well as collegiate. Rickman speaks of this edifice as 'containing various parts well worthy of attention, particularly its west front, which is a very fine specimen of bold early English, and, except the battlements and pinnacles, without alteration.' The first stone of the present building was laid in 1331, but the choir was probably not finished till 1494. It is said to be one of the best-proportioned churches in the kingdom. Its length from east to west is 266 feet 5 inches, the transept is 132 feet long, the nave and aisles 87 feet broad, and the choir and aisles 66 feet 8 inches broad. It has two uniform towers at the west end, each 110 feet high, besides the great tower, called St. Wilfred's tower ; each of these towers originally supported a spire of wood covered with lead. Under the chapter-house is a vaulted charnel-house, which is much visited by tourists ; it contains an immense collection of human remains in good preservation, piled in regular order round the walls.

Trinity Church was built and endowed in 1826, at a cost of £13,000, by its first incumbent, the Rev. Edward Kilvington. The other places of worship are three Methodist chapels and an Independent chapel. St. Mary Magdalene's Hospital, founded by Archbishop Thurstan in 1144, is now divided into six dwellings for poor widows, who receive a small annual stipend. A chapel is attached to this building. In the hospital of St. Anne eight poor women are similarly maintained. The hospital of St. John the Baptist is occupied by two poor women, and the chapel formerly attached to it is now a national school with 200 boys. Jepson's Hospital is for the education and maintenance of poor orphan boys ; the funds have been increased by a small bequest, and now amount to nearly £180 a year, which supports and educates ten boys. There are also a few minor charities. The free grammar-school was founded in 1546 by Edward V, and afterwards endowed by Philip and Mary. Its income is at present £370 per annum. The property is let at low rents on leases of 21 years, renewable every seven on payment of certain fines ; these fines amounted in 1811 to £1,069, and in 1818 to upwards of £1,200. The master is allowed to take boarders, and other boys not on the foundation. The school is free, for Latin, Greek, and English grammar, to the sons of all residents ; a charge is made for writing and arithmetic. There is a girls' national school, which was built by Miss Lawrence of Studley; this and the boys' national school are supported by subscriptions. The Public Rooms at Ripon comprise a Dispensary, a Mechanics' Institute, a Subscription Library, and a News-room ; the edifice thus occupied was erected in 1834, at a cost of £2,500, in 200 proprietary shares ; an extensive pleasure-ground and garden is attached.

Ripon was once celebrated for its manufacture of spurs, which were in such high repute, that ‘as true steel as Ripon rowels' became a proverbial expression to denote honesty and courage ; it was also noted for its woollen manufactures, which however left the banks of the Ure for those of the Aire and Calder some centuries ago. The present manu facture is chiefly saddle-trees ; it also produces linens and malt. The marketplace is a spacious square, surrounded chiefly by shops and good houses ; in the centre stands an obelisk 90 feet high, which is surmounted by the arms of Ripon, a bugle-horn and a spur-rowel. This obelisk was erected by William Aislaby of Studley, who represented the borough for sixty years in parliament. The fairs of Ripon are six in number, and are chiefly for leather, cattle, and cloth. On the south side of the market-place is the Town-hall, built in 1801, at the cost of Mrs. Allanson of Studley ; it comprises a suite of rooms for the magistrates, assembly-rooms, and other commodious apartments. Four beautiful Ionic columns in front support a handsome pediment. The streets of Ripon are neither spacious nor regular, but they are generally clean. The Ure navigation was brought up to the town by means of a short canal in 1767. The fine domain of Studley is situated about three miles from Ripon, and includes the venerable monastic remains of Fountain's Abbey.