undertaking, which was issued in Feb. 1816, is here reproduced, for, as displaying tho,
extended scope of a design, of which he was eventually able to accomplish but a small
portion, it may certainly be regarded as one of the most remarkable effusions that ever
proceeded either from the pen of Dr. Whitaker or from any other literary projector,
however confident and ambitious :
Prospectus of A GENERAL HISTORY of the COUNTY of YORK. BY THOMAS DUNHAM WHITAKER, LL.D.
F.S.A. Vicar of Whalley, and Rector of Heysham, in Lancashire.
TFIE History of Craven, together with the republication of Thoresby's Ducatus Leodiensis, and the
supplementary volume which accompanies it, having already embraced more than one fourth part of this great
county, both in extent and population, the Author of two of these works, and the Editor of the other, has
been induced to submit to the Public, and especially to the Nobility, Gentry, and Clergy of Yorkshire, such
an extension of the plan, as will gradually comprehend the whole.
AVith respect to the limits of such an undertaking it is impossible to speak with precision: an unexpected
redundancy of materials in one part, and an equally unforeseen deficiency in a second, may frequently occur,
and yet be very far from balancing each other; but, as a conjecture, rather than an assertion, it may be stated
that seven folio volumes, of about five hundred pages each, and of the same type with the supplementary
volume to Thoresby's Ducatus, will probably complete the work. To render this limitation, with respect to
the treatment of a subject so extensive and multifarious, the more credible, the Author wishes it to be
understood that his great objects in the use of the materials to be committed to him will be selection and
compression. Subjects which are really important, either in point of picturesque beauty, of antiquity, or of
their connexion with historical facts, will be treated of in detail: those, on the contrary, which have none of
these recommendations, will, as far as it may appear consistent with accuracy, be thrown into the shade, in
order to give relief and prominence to the others.
The Author's researches, besides a personal application to original authorities existing in public libraries,
and, where he may be permitted, in private collections also, will extend to an exact survey of every parish :
thankful as he shall always be for previous directions to objects of curiosity, he will take nothing upon trust.
He will see every thing with his own eyes ; he will make minutes upon the spot. In order to the attainment
of the same accuracy in those parts of his subject which depend upon written evidence, he most respectfully
desires the representatives of ancient and noble families, who may be induced to encourage the projected work,
to consider what a stamp of authenticity is impressed upon the whole by a general opinion of its having been
1 It will he remembered that the Magnet Britannia of the brothers Daniel and Samuel Lysons, a really sound,
substantial, and comprehensive, if less brilliant, work, was actually in progress at the same time, though unfortunately
lingering in its laborious course. The counties were taken alphabetically, and published, Bedfordshire, Berkshire,
shire, 1818; Devonshire, 1822. There this excellent work stopped. It must also be borne in mind that at a time
when Whitaker had not yet conceived his own magnificent scheme, he had done ample justice to the Magna Britannia
in the Quarterly Review for May 1811 : " On the whole, considering the laborious work of Messrs. Lysons as a series
of volumes for the purposes of reference, we think it entitled to much and general commendation.
The arrangement also is clear and the style perspicuous and unaffected. These are praises which belong to the
authors ; the defects of the work arise out of the plan itself perpetual abridgement where detail was loudly called for,
and mortifying transitions from one subject to another at the moment when interest and anxiety were beginning to be
excited." The apology for which limitations must always be Est quodam prodire tenus si non datur ultra.
been, with very few exceptions, the happiness of the Author to have drawn from the' first fountains of
information. In this age of general intelligence and liberal communication little, it may be hoped, remains of
that absurd jealousy, by which the ancient stores of families were supposed to contain unknown and
unsuspected secrets, which might shake the titles to estates. The most superficial knowledge of the law of
England, as it exists at present, must in a moment remove every such apprehension. Discovery, while it is
the most animating object of a topographer, can alone give an interest in the minds of real judges to a
topographical work. What, for example, would have been the feelings of the writer, what the loss and
disappointment of his readers, had he been debarred from access to the stores of the Cliffords, in their two
surviving branches at Skipton and Bolton? And can it be supposed that in a county, which for several
centuries has been the principal residence of so many noble families, distinguished for their activity and
exertions in war and peace, the grantees also of so many religious houses, there should neither have been
curiosity to collect, nor care to preserve, the evidences, which from time to time had fallen into their hand ?
Antiquarian research, and even poetry itself, have of late been turned to the elucidation of ancient manners:
and the pursuit is a decisive proof of the superior intelligence and curiosity which belong to modern times.
Heretofore, when an antiquary had given a tolerable view of the ruins of a religious house, the name of the
founder, the date of the foundation, with the manors and carucatcs which it possessed, in faithful and dull
detail, his office was performed, and his readers were satisfied. Meanwhile it never occurred to the one or the
other that all this was the body only, not the soul of monastic history; that monkish manners, a system of life
not only picturesque and magnificent, but combined in some degree both with piety and usefulness, was a
study for philosophers; that all its varieties are yet accessible, and what is better, accessible not by means of
direct and formal narrative, but through the medium of inference and induction (one of the most delightful
exercises of an intelligent antiquary) in the compotuses of the religious houses. To the stores of this nature
which are reposited in the libraries of ancient families, and still perhaps unexplored, the Author looks with
anxious expectations: but in the Harleian and Cotton libraries, and above all, in the indigested, but almost
inexhaustible, collections of Dodsworth, he reckons with certainty on much original intelligence.
Besides those objects of research which are already pointed out in other topographical works, he is aware
that throughout the progress of a personal survey he must be indebted to the original information of
respectable persons resident on the spot for a knowledge of many interesting objects hitherto unnoticed, and
of discoveries which have lately taken place. On this subject he respectfully addresses himself to his brethren
the parochial clergy, whose local knowledge of their respective districts, as well as intimate acquaintance with
their own parish registers, and the antiquities of their churches, renders them peculiarly qualified to
communicate hints and directions to an inquisitive stranger. Such communications the Author will always
receive with gratitude.
For a continuation of the catalogues of incumbents from the time of Charles II. when Mr. Torre's
collections cease, the author will feel himself much indebted to their living successors.
To add materials to a history of manners as well as of places, any intelligence with respect to the birth-
places of eminent persons, as subjects for short biographical memoirs, and any account of curious and ancient
customs, will best be derived from the same respectable and intelligent authorities.
Architecture, ancient and modern, civil, military, and ecclesiastic, will always be regarded in this work
with peculiar attention; and the magnificent seats of the nobility and gentry, with which this great county
abounds, together with the distinguished specimens of art in painting and sculpture with which they are
severally adorned, will not fail to receive a due tribute of respect.
Picturesque natural scenery, as well as the efforts of modern taste in the production of scenery which rivals
nature, will in no instance be passed over without attention.
xxviii BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS OF
The entire text of Domesday, Leland's Itinerary, and many portions of that of Camden will be incorporated
with the work. The late returns of population will also be subjoined to the account of every parish.
A work of this nature would be extremely imperfect without genealogical accounts of the principal and
ancient families of the county; yet of all branches of antiquarian literature, none has remained to the present
time in such a state ef error and confusion, especially with respect to the earlier descent?, as genealogies. On
this subject, however, the author is quite at ease, as no pedigree will be inserted in the following work which
has not been either compiled, or at least revised and corrected, by one of the most skilful genealogists in the
kingdom, William Radclyffe, esq. Rouge Croix, so that each may be considered as having received the stamp
of official authority. Much more amusing and instructive memorials however of the ancient nobility and
gentry of Yorkshire will be given at the close of their respective genealogies, in original letters and other
curious documents, principally referring to their services on the Scottish border, from the reign of Henry
VIII. to that of Elizabeth. To these, of which a very large and valuable collection has been entrusted to the
author, will be added facsimiles of the autographs.
As a proper accompaniment to genealogies, the armorial blazonings, which once adorned the windows of
almost every church in Yorkshire, though the greater part of them are now no more, having been preserved
by the care of Glover and Dugdale, in their respective visitations, will be enumerated, and many of them
Nearly allied to the subject of genealogies is that of epitaphs, with respect to which a system of very strict
selection will be observed. The bulk of this work will never be purposely swelled by prolix and tumid
panegyrics on inconsiderable persons; and it may sometimes happen, according to the merit or demerit of each,
that a monument will be given without an epitaph, or an epitaph without a monument. Elegance in the
composition, or distinguished merit in the subject of a monumental inscription, will alone ensure its insertion.
Subsidiary to the Author's department in this laborious work arc those of the draftsman and the engraver,
concerning which the public have a right to be informed that no expense will be spared to render the History
of Yorkshire what, in the present state of the national taste, can alone procure for it a favourable reception
truly magnificent. To this end distinct but superior artists will be engaged for subjects of landscape and
It is sufficient to name J. M. W. Turner, esq. R. A. in the former of these departments, and Mr. Buckler in
One species of ornament will be peculiar to the present work.
It was the complaint of Stukeley, an excellent draftsman, that the Roman antiquities of Britain had never
been drawn. Even in Ilorsley's Britannia Romana, the inscriptions are represented by miserable scratches of
mere outlines. In the History of Yorkshire they will be engraved from finished drawings, in all the softness
of mouldering antiquity.
The engravings will of course be numerous, as no object of real beauty or importance will be omitted; but
in the outset of the plan it is no more possible to conjecture what will be the number of these embellishments,
than to pronounce with tolerable accuracy on the quantity of letter-press. It is obvious, however, from the
character of the different districts into which the county of York is divided, that the number of plates must
vary greatly in different volumes.
The work will commence with an account of the portion of the North Riding popularly called the County
of Richmond, together with those parts of Lonsdale and Ewecross which are included in the Everwicschire of
This part, which is already in considerable forwardness, will be put to press in the course of a few months.
It will naturally be asked, what use is intended to be made in the ensuing work of the well-known publica-
tions by which the county of York has already been partially illustrated. Of these, perhaps, the most cele-
THOMAS DUNHAM WHITAKER. xxix
brated, Thoresby's Ducatus, has been completely reprinted in conformity with a plan which had been partially
executed before the undertaking now proposed was thought of. But the example will not be followed in other
instances. Drake's Eboracum, for instance, though a work of great merit, contains too much matter of a sort
purely local to be incorporated, in its present state, with a general history of the county. Its contents will
therefore be melted down into a general mass; the less interesting portions will be rejected; and an uniform
sible to the author. Minor works of the same nature, all of which, however useful within the respective
districts of which they treat, are liable to the same objection as parts of a more extensive undertaking, may, it
is hoped, be brought to undergo the same process, and to endure the transfusion of their better and brighter
parts into the projected volumes without a murmur.
Such is the general outline of a work, undertaken, as the author freely confesses, at too late a period of life,
but under the cheering influence of some encouragements and expectations with which he could not have
flattered himself earlier. In the course of three months, however, will appear what may properly be regarded
as a more extended prospectus, or rather specimen, of a general History of Yorkshire; that is, the Supple-
mental Volume to Thoresby's Ducatus, executed precisely according to the Sketch which has been traced on
the present sheet.
In order to remove a doubt which has been suggested, the Subscribers to the present volumes are requested
to observe that they will form integral parts of the general work, and that they (the Subscribers) will be enti-
tled at a fair price to all the supplemental matter and engravings which it may be judged expedient to insert
in the correspondent parts of the general work when reprinted.
The work will be handsomely printed in folio, on fine demy paper, and the large-paper copies on super-royal
drawing paper, and will be delivered to the subscribers in Parts, price 21. 2s. each, or on large paper, with
proof impressions of the plates, price 4/. 4*. each Part.
The'impressions of the plates will be delivered in the exact order they are subscribed for.
Subscriptions to be received by Messrs. LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, and BUOWN, Paternoster Row,
London; Messrs. ROBINSON, SON, and HOLDSWORTH, Leeds; Mr. JOHN HURST, Wakefield; and by all
the other Booksellers in the county.
The printing of the work will commence as soon as 500 copies, ov as many as will cover the expenses, are
[This Prospectus is followed by a list of Subscribers for 57 copies on Large Paper, and 81 on Small Paper.]