Bolton Percy is an important village historically as it was the parish centre, although the township itself was not particularly large. We are fortunate to have a map of the parish from 1596 – the oldest such map in the South Ainsty area. The size of the parish meant that it was always a valuable ‘living’ because the vicar could claim tithes from a large number of people. The village was held by William of Percy at the time of Domesday in 1086.
The church of All Saints dominates the village and is one of the finest 15th-century parish churches in Yorkshire. It was built 1421–23 and was consecrated in 1424. The original church was a pre-Conquest foundation and it is the only one in the South Ainsty area that is listed in Domesday. The interior has been remodelled but retains the 17th-century box pews. The font dates to the 12th century, and the while the prominent sundial near the church gate was erected in the late 16th century by the Rev Bunny, the shaft is probably Anglo-Saxon in date. A falling congregation has meant it has been a struggle to maintain the building in the late 20th century, but recent fundraising and successful grant applications has seen essential repair works being undertaken.
The church formed one part of the Rectory Close, which originally comprised the church, the gatehouse, the rectory and a huge tithe barn. Sadly, only the church and one half of the gatehouse remain today of the medieval buildings. The gatehouse is one of the oldest secular buildings in the area and dates to the 1490s. The current structure had a matching half on the other side of the archway. The timber-framed superstructure was built on brick foundations. The carvings around the building include a fine ‘Green Man’. The gatehouse was rescued from dereliction by local villagers in the 1970s and was used for social events. In the early 2000s it was bought by the Vivat Trust and renovated as a holiday let but the Trust later went into administration and the gatehouse was sold as a private residence.
The late Marjorie Harrison, one of the founder members of the South Ainsty Archaeological Society, was one of the leading lights in the renovation and in 2014 the Society erected a plaque in her memory under the archway. Marjorie also researched and wrote several books on the history of the area.
In the Hearth Tax of 1674, the Rectory Close was recorded as having 12 hearths, so the rectory was clearly a large medieval building, although this number may have included a bakehouse. The tithe barn, which survived into the 20th century (although we have no pictures), was 120 feet (37m) long which illustrates what a wealthy parish it was.
The village itself was on a rather restricted site, which may explain why it never developed in the way surrounding settlements did. The original school opened in the late 18th century, in what is now the Parish Rooms opposite the church. In 1904 it moved into a purpose-built building designed by the local architect Walter Brierley at the other end of the village; it closed in 1993, by which time there were just two pupils on the roll.
The Methodist community originally met in Manor Farm, although there was later a small chapel in Marsh Lane. This is now a private house.