Skelton was formerly in the ancient Forest of Galtres and its Saxon name suggests that it began in the 8th or 9th century, probably as a small settlement perched on a little shelf of land (Skel). The oldest feature of the village mentioned in the Doomsday Book is Pannall's drain or sike first dug in Saxon times near the village sign on Moorlands Road.
The typical medieval pattern of “toft and croft” agriculture can still be traced in the long, narrow plot boundaries extending back from The Green. The village remained as a mainly farming community well into the 20th century when, at the turn, its population was 274. By 1951 the population of the village was still only 480. However, subsequent expansion, as a commuter settlement, with the Meadows and Brecksfield in the 50’s and Grange Park from the late 70’s saw this figure rise to 1600 (2011).
The Church of St Giles’ (formerly known as All Saints) is a Grade 1 listed building and was built in 1247 at the same time and by the same masons who built the North transept of York Minster, with the restorations in 1814-18 by Henry Graham and 1863 by Ewan Christian.
Skelton Manor (Grade ll* listing) has mid-16th century origins and in the 18th and 19th centuries several more large houses were constructed – Skelton Hall (1839), Skelton Grange (built 1675, re-built in the 19th century, demolished in the 1970's), Fairfield (late 18th century and now a hotel) and Moorlands (1864). The beautiful wood, once part of the Moorlands estate, is now a nature reserve looked after by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
Tollbar Cottage (1760) next to Skelton nursery became the 'Turnpike' with windows facing every direction to see the approaching toll payers as it was by the side of the old A19. There was also a gate to prevent non-payers sneaking through. However, some people avoided payment by going to Skelton Landing by the river Ouse (boats would load and offload goods but now abandoned) and walking along the river.
The “Blacksmiths Arms” was the village alehouse and smithy at least from the early 17th century. It still has the Mounting Block outside to help ladies mount their horses. There was a second public house, the “Bay Horse”, which also had a smithy, in what is now Paddock House, until about 1936.
A school was mentioned by the Archbishop in 1774 - a Dames School run by a lady instructing in
the principles of Christian religion. Also in the eighteenth century there was a small school at the rectory where the boys were tutored by the incumbent. However, the first official school was at Pyramid House on the Green (mid-18th century) with an arresting pyramidal roof. It transferred in 1873 to the present Village Hall and then to the bigger, more modern school in Brecksfield in 1957.
The old part of the village became a conservation area in 1973.