Rest Park is now an area of open farmland alongside the Sherburn to Cawood road bounded by Bishop’s Wood to the East, identified on modern maps only by a farm named as Rest Park Farm. Older maps though show a different story. The Ordnance Survey map published in 1850 shows a substantial moated house called Manor Garth. Its former location is easily identified on the ground by the farm track opposite the existing house called Mattram Hall being the original access, but there is nothing at all to be seen on the ground now.
An archaeological survey was conducted in 1962 which identified a fourteenth century fortified manor house with a double moat, designed as a courtyard with ranges of rooms on three sides. The area delineated by the inner moat measures 77m by 70m. The courtyard was originally laid with cobbles, later with edge-set stones in elaborate patterns. The west range consists of 2 rooms, assumed to be public, with an undercroft and a tower added at some point. The South range is thought to have been half timbered and the East range were private apartments complete with a garderobe. They also found evidence of a chapel and a complex of ovens or kilns.
The Archbishop of York had been granted the Manors of Sherburn and Cawood in 937 making him a considerable medieval landowner in the area. He had important residences in Sherburn and Cawood, connected by the waterway still known as Bishop’s Dyke. The dyke was used to transport stone from the limestone quarries to the river in Cawood and it seems likely that the Archbishops and their household also used it to travel easily between their residences.
It is likely that Rest Park was enclosed as a deer park by Archbishop Walter de Grey in 1235 but building of the Manor does not seem to have taken place until the middle of the 14th century. The first documented evidence is an entry in the Patent rolls which shows that Archbishop Alexander Neville was granted royal licence to fortify the Manor at Rest Park in November 1383. The original buildings were replaced with crenelated ones, the moats were installed, and the tower built. These works were probably a recognition of the Archbishop’s status rather than any real need for defence.
Just why the Archbishops would see the need to build a Manor between their residences at Sherburn and Cawood will remain a matter of speculation. It has been suggested that the name Rest park refers to a place where the Archbishop and his household took their recreation. The Manor House at Sherburn, known as Hall Garth, was abandoned and demolished about 1361 and so it follows that Rest Park became the Archbishop’s principal hunting lodge.
There are a number of documents which demonstrate that the Archbishops carried out official tasks there until at least 1528. We are afforded an insight into Rest Park when archbishop Thomas Savage died in 1507 for the detailed inventory of his possessions contained a section on the goods held at his various estates. Inside the manor house were items such as brass pans, cheese barrels and cheeses, whilst quantities of malt suggest that brewing was carried on there. Some of the farm animals had been placed in the care of Sir Edward Savage but there were bulles, kye, old gootes and pacokes, this last reference is a colourful reminder that the park was a place where the archbishops might relax.
In 1545 the Manors of Sherburn and Cawood passed back to the King as part of a larger settlement of issues between the church and Henry VIII. The archaeological evidence would point towards Manor Garth being already out of use and abandoned by this time.
However it does seem that the Deer park remained with the Archbishop until at least the 17th century as witnessed by a case brought in front of the magistrates in 1638/9 for trespassing by a labourer from Barkston called Edward Bewley. He was accused of ‘breaking into the free park of the Most Rev. Father in Christ Richard, Archbishop of York and there chasing the deer with greyhounds, killing and taking away some of them’
Close to Rest Park lay Scalm Park, another of the archbishop’s possessions, and when William Storr was living at Scalm in 1678-1731 he linked the two parks in references which indicate that their boundaries were still distinct. He mentioned one coppice wood which ‘lay partly between the dam and A bank which goes from Rist Park and another which lay between that bank and bishop dike concluding that Rist park side is larger than Scalme side by 64 acres’.
The most recent reference to the Park comes in 1756 in the form of an appeal to take timber for building from a tenant at Rest Park, Edward Squire to the Steward Mr Bewley, which was dealt with at the Archbishop’s court held in Cawood Castle.
Acknowledgements : Numerous references to research conducted by Dr George Redmonds