Village Spotlight: Muston

All Saints' Church in Muston.
All Saints' Church in Muston.

Quite why Muston is so-called is open to question. One theory is that the ‘mus’ comes from it once being mouse-infested; the ‘mus’ could also refer to the marshy plain that the village rests upon. Indeed, until the Malton and Yedingham Drainage Board got to work in 1801 (disbanded in 2014) poor drainage was a constant problem for villagers.

To the outside world, its Scarecrow Festival is what has done most to spread Muston’s fame to international status.

The main street of Muston.

The main street of Muston.

It started in 1999 after Godfrey Allanson (then Mayor of Scarborough) formed a friendship with the then Mayor of Harrogate who came from Sawley where there was an established scarecrow festival.

Last year over 100 scarecrows were entered with a Paddington Bear winning the public vote but ‘Get off my chips’ (showing a harassed chip-eater stalked by seagulls!) won the official vote. Around 18,000 visitors descend on Muston in the week and it takes ten car park attendants to oversee arrangements. The substantial money raised is ploughed back into the village, supporting the village hall, its kitchen, the cricket team and Muston in Bloom.

The All Saints’ Church dates from 1115 when it was commissioned by William Egant of Barlby Abbey; a vicar was ordained and Muston given Parish status 154 years later. One of All Saints’ most famous incumbents was one John Dobson who was hung, drawn and quartered in 1538 for having the temerity to support Rome against Henry VIII’s reformations. Despite many villagers standing up for him in York as ‘a decent fellow’, he met his end in London.

In the 1860s a horrendous storm literally blew off the church roof and only a sterling money-raising effort by Admiral Mitford (then Lord of the Manor), the vicar and George Beswick of Gristhorpe made it possible to reopen the church in 1864.

Garden scene at Muston.

Garden scene at Muston.

Muston went through a troubled time in the Civil War with its Royalist sympathies. Sir Micail Wharton from Muston was in charge of the Scarborough Garrison until a Roundheads’ cannonball ended his tenure. The Roundheads passed through Muston on their way to Bridlington and Muston villagers were sheltered in Gristhorpe. A close bond was formed which lasts to this day!

Records of 1341 show that a windmill was at Muston’s centre and its proprietor must annually pay Arnold de Buckton six pence or a pair of gilt spurs as rent. Interestingly, permission has just been granted to restore this windmill, the stump of which can be seen in the vicinity of Filey School. Thereby hangs a tale.

Filey School was actually sited in Muston Parish but by employing ‘sleight of hand’ East Riding persuaded the boundary commission to move the Parish line so that Filey School could be a part of Filey Town. Muston were the losers.

Indeed the Parish of Muston once stretched all the way to the coast where there was a strip of beach actually called Muston Sands. At the time of the change there was some dissatisfaction among villagers who thought a small fortune could have been made out of donkey rides and ice cream sales.

Muston village sign.

Muston village sign.

Godfrey Allanson, my main source, recalls that in the 1950s Muston had two pubs, a tailor, a blacksmith, a wheelwright, a joiner and undertaker and ‘three and a half shops’.

In the 1950s the Vicarage (which had housed the ‘heretic’ George Dobson) was turned into flats and whenever Adam Faith performed at a Scarborough venue, this was where he stayed. Those flats have now been turned into St Mary’s Priory which houses three Catholic priests (adjacent to All Saints’ C of E church) who work in the Scarborough area. The Rev Dobson would have been proud!

Muston was once the home to three chapels – a Primitive, one that belonged to a sect which had been left money in a will and, most interestingly, a wooden Methodist chapel. This last was moved on wheels all the way from Scarborough and re-assembled in the village. What a day that must have been.

Muston’s population tells a tale of our times. In 1801 it was reported to have 236 people but the expansion of agriculture saw a 40 per cent increase in the next 20 years to 350 souls. By 1841 that had become 417, the highest in its history. Such were the numbers that, with the spread of education, a Muston School came into being in 1857. All education was transferred to Filey when the school closed down in 1964, but its numbers swelled to 71 at the high point round about the Second World War.

What of the modern Muston? It has an enthusiastic Parish Council of seven members who meet on a monthly basis.

Cricket has been a mainstay in the village for many years and during the 1920s Muston was quite famous for its ladies’ cricket team.

The Ship Inn continues to thrive where many such small villages have been unable to sustain their local. Sadly, the Cross Keys with its old quaint beams and low ceilings is no more, but its reason for closing was not strictly economic: the brewery needed a new licence in Hull and the rules say that a new one cannot be created within the same brewery group.

Apart from a successful Young Farmers Club, Muston has a well-attended Monday Club which meets in the Village Hall monthly to hear invited speakers on various topics. The Muston in Bloom committee has won general approval for the great job it has done in making the place look year-round attractive.

The holiday cottage trade has been beneficial to Muston, it being quite common for vacationers to be so taken with the village and its environs that they settle upon it as a place of retirement. This has done much to stem the tide of younger people drifting away which was a common feature in the 1970s.

If you liked Muston sufficiently to want to live there, you would get a pleasant surprise at the house prices. A two-bedroom barn conversion for £140,000 seems a real bargain, with a four bedroom detached house listed at £250,000. Compared with other property in the Scarborough area, Muston seems to offer a quiet but interesting life with friendly folk at a reasonable cost. Certainly not enough to scare a crow!