The development of the village was heavily influenced by the absence of a Squire. Surrounding villages were part of the holding of a lord of the manor and, as such, restrictions were imposed on land ownership. For example, Catholics were prevented form owning land on the Gilling Castle estate leading to the siting of Ampleforth Abbey in its current location.

The situation is described in The Squire-less Village, a letter from Partick Rowley, the vicar of St Hildas. (Extracted from Local Population Studies, August 1969).