News, Diary, Current and previous Newsletter





At the AGM in May 2017, the meeting unanimously confirmed the election of Mrs Heather Harris to succeed Professor S. A. J. Bradley as Chairman of the Trustees of the Friends of St Gregory's Minster. Mrs Harris has served for several years as a Trustee. Professor Bradley remains a Trustee.


Watercolour of St Gregory's Minster for sale


The Trustees have kindly been offered an original watercolour painting of St Gregory's Minster

signed by the known artist Alfred Durham, with the suggestion that it might be sold

in aid of The Friends. Anyone with an interest in the painting is welcome to contact the Chairman

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led by the choir of St Gregory's Minster Kirkdale

at St Gregory's Minster



4 p.m. SUNDAY 17TH DECEMBER 2017

Admission is free but the number of tickets available is strictly limited

Tickets will be available before and after the Services from 26th November, and by post from that date from Mrs Julia Maynard, The Old Forge, Pockley, York YO62 7TE

Please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope with postal applications

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For a selection of earlier newsletters scroll on down


I had never heard of a takeover bid being made on a church until …
Recently digging into archives relating to Kirkdale in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, I came across a letter beginning: “Sir, I am requested to act as Secretary to the Earl of Feversham and to write to you about the living of Kirkdale in this neighbourhood.” The letter, dated 28th May 1875, is addressed to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford whose Chancellor, together with the Masters and the Scholars of the University, had owned the advowson (the rights of patronage) of St Gregory’s Minster ever since “the parsonage impropriat of Kirkedale in the County of Yorke with all the Rightes apperteyninge thereunto” was bequeathed to them by the Will of Sir Henry Danvers (Lord Danby), proved in February 1644.

    Lord Feversham (left) - William Ernest Duncombe (1829-1915), 1st Earl of Feversham - was the owner of Duncombe Park, Helmsley, and at that time a very considerable presence in “this neighbourhood”. His wealth, generosity and concern for the spiritual well-being of his tenants, employees and other parishioners in villages where he owned property and land have benefitted, for example, Harome (St Saviour, 1861), Beadlam (St Hilda, 1882-3), Kirkdale (The Vicarage, 1894) and Rievaulx (restoration of the 13th c. Gate or Slipper Chapel, 1907). But however personally zealous Duncombe was in this respect there can be no doubt that another formidable force stood half-concealed behind the modest designation of “Secretary to the Earl of Feversham”:  Charles Norris Gray, Vicar of Helmsley (below, left).

“The Eton-and-Oxford-educated son and grandson of bishops, bearded like an Old Testament prophet, driven by unstoppable righteous energy, as keen on hygiene and sanitation as he was on high-church devotions, Gray could ‘hold his own in a boxing match against any of his parishioners with one arm tied behind his back’, according to one historian.” ( The author of this appraisal of Gray (journalist Martin Vander Weyer) goes on to speak of “Gray’s determination to provide a place of worship in every hamlet under his sway” and his “passion for church-building” (largely at Duncombe’s cost). It would be naïve not to see Gray’s personal ambitions lurking behind the aristocratic front of his approach to the Oxford dignitaries.

     “Sir, I am requested to act as Secretary to the Earl of Feversham and to write to you about the living of Kirkdale in this neighbourhood. I understand that the University recently gave some intimation that they were willing to part with the advowson to the Archbishop of York, but that he did not wish to proceed in the matter. The Earl of Feversham who has some property in Kirkdale Parish would not be unwilling to take the advowson of the living in [exchange for (crossed out)] return for aid given to him towards the building of a Church or of a Parsonage House. May I ask whether the University are still desirous of parting with the advowson and how far they would be willing to meet the views of the Earl of Feversham. I remain, Mr Vice Chancellor, Sincerely, C. N. Gray.”

         What Gray evidently expected to appeal to the University in this proposed transaction was the prospect it offered the University of offloading its obligation to pay a stipend to the Vicar and its legal responsibility for the upkeep of the chancel. This the university would achieve by paying the earl a sum of money which, Gray suggested, would be used to build another church or a vicarage (of which Kirkdale stood in great need). Evidently the Vice-Chancellor wrote a polite reply to Gray assuring him of personal attention to the matter.

Shortly afterwards, encouraged by what was probably no more than a bland courtesy, Gray wrote again - this time coming on more strongly. Clearly he thought it should be obvious that the earl would be doing the University a favour by taking the Kirkdale advowson off their hands. He wrote: “I know that Lord Feversham would not be likely to accept of any proposal which was not made on very favourable terms. For we must not forget that there is 1st. No Church amidst the population but only an old unrestored one far away from any habitation in a field by itself. It would require a new church at Nawton. 2. That there is no Vicarage House. 3. That the Endowment is miserably small. 4. That it is avery extensive & difficult Parish - in fact, length without breadth. Believe me, My dear Mr Vice Chancellor, with many thanks for your kind promise of personal interest in the matter. [Etc.].”              

        Time passed, apparently without any further evidence of that personal interest the Vice-Chancellor had blandly offered. Gray - now bristling, one might imagine, with that “unstoppable righteous energy” which, some said, finally drove him to his grave (though he had by then exceeded his three score years and ten) - determined to give the screw another twist or two in a new letter, 29th March 1876.

         “At the present moment the University is paying a considerable sum annually to Mr Tudor [Charles Tudor, the incumbent 1863-1877], and is continually being pressed by him, and not without reason, to augment the living. It is therefore a continual loss & expense to the University and is likely to cost them still more. Under these circumstances would not the University be willing to transfer the advowson to Lord Feversham on condition that he improved the living by some fixed annual sum (from some properly invested capital of course) [inserted]. Such a plan would save the pocket of the University, for the living is a considerable annual loss to them. It would also save them from any further payment by way of increasing the living. It would also be fairest for the living, for the University could hardly honourably sell the living just to free themselves from the responsibilities which at present attach to it.”

         Perhaps Charles Tudor was quietly party to this scheme: certainly, as Gray evidently knew, he had written independently to the University, cogently pleading (with a tabulation of his living costs) his need of an improved stipend. But it seems very likely that officers of the University - notable among them W. B. Gamlen, the long-serving Secretary to the Curators of the University Chest (the office which handled the University’s properties) who was in intermittent correspondence with the incumbents and took an educated interest in the church - were better informed of, and certainly possessed of more respect for, the antiquity of the Minster than was Gray.

At any rate, the earl’s commercial proposition left the University unpersuaded; and in the end the formidable Vicar Gray of Helmsley failed in his perhaps over-played bid to secure the advowson in a bargain package which, in the longer run, would more than likely have left the remote St Gregory’s Minster - the church rebuilt from a ruin by Orm Gamalson eight centuries previously - alone and deserted in its field, to sink once more into ruin, while a new parish church was built in Nawton. Instead, shortly afterwards, in 1881, the University resolved to fund (“at a cost of over £600,” the archives record) a complete rebuilding of the chancel. Mr Tudor, however, saw no adequate increase in his stipend and in 1877, a year after Gray’s failed deal with Oxford, he resigned the living to move to North Newbald in the East Riding, a more populous and probably more prosperous parish than was Kirkdale. So ended the takeover bid for St Gregory’s Minster, 1875-76.

         There is much in the archives to remind us of where we, the Friends, stand in the long history of Kirkdale’s fluctuating fortunes. Thanks particularly to Frederick Powell, Vicar 1904-1930, we have inherited a church still endowed with ancient cultural treasures even though they, like the building itself, have suffered many a trauma. It is a church which embodies in its history and in its very fabric testimony to remarkable continuities in the Christian life of North Yorkshire and of the country as a whole. To share some of the responsibility for looking after this treasury is a worthy commitment for which every Friend is entitled to take credit, and from which to take justifiable satisfaction.

         As we wait for various projects and plans to reach finalisation, there is little to report at this time. Forthcoming are the Patronal Festival on Sunday 4th September followed by the Friends’ Luncheon (detailed information comes to you with this Newsletter); and the week-long residential visit to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) from Monday 12th to Friday 16th September.

Further details of these and other matters of relevance and interest to the Friends can now be accessed online at the website: Please, please, if you have any interest in becoming a contributor to our new but growing website, in any area whatsoever, don’t be slow to contact us - ‘us’ being the small group of five who have put the website together in the hope that others will join in to enrich and improve the service it can give to those who visit it with a purpose or come across it while surfing the wide ocean of the internet. Initially, contact either Susan Binks ( or me, Sid Bradley (

         On behalf of all the Trustees, best wishes for the remainder of the summer and the autumn, especially to all those depending upon a good harvest. The next Newsletter should appear in November, with (among the rest) news about Christmas in Kirkdale.


    Sid Bradley, Chairman of the Trustees, The Friends of St Gregory’s Minster


Chairman: Professor S. A. J. Bradley, The Flat, 70A Gillygate, York YO31 7EQ. Tel: 01904 659784. Email:

Hon. Secretary: Margery Roberts. Tel: 01751 430255. Email:

Hon. Treasurer: Erica Dineen, Lytel Garth, Keldholme, YO62 6ND. Tel: 01751 431377. Email:



- newsletter april 2016                                                   

Dear Friend -

Since the last Newsletter went forth, the festival days of Christmas and of Easter have passed. We hope that, in whatever way, these were joyous times for you and your family and friends. Now April has arrived and, though the climate seems to have changed somewhat since Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of “Aprille with his shoures soote” which “the droghte of March hath perced to the roote” (April with its sweet showers, which has pierced the drought of March to the root) - when the stirrings of Nature pricked little birds to make melody and encouraged people to think of pilgrimage to distant shrines, above all, Canterbury - nevertheless, amidst fitful sunshine, biting winds and occasional hailstorms, primroses, violets and the earliest bluebells are blooming in Kirkdale.[1]

     More mundanely, it is also the season in which the Trustees look back over the Friends’ activities and expenditures of the previous year and furnish a report, for information, to the Joint Church Council. This year, Trustee Heather Harris kindly took over that task from the Chairman and it is from her report, now submitted, that the following summary points are taken. In response, Andrew, as Vicar and Chairman of the JCC, has written that “The Parish of Kirkdale owes the Friends a debt of gratitude for all their generous support and concern.” The Trustees hereby gladly pass on these words of appreciation to each and every Friend and donor.

     At the year’s end Friends’ membership stood steady at 168 comprising 122 life members and 46 ordinary members including two children.

      Over the year the Trustees have made grants to cover extensive works, inside and outside the church building and within the curtilage, chiefly arising from the Quinquennial Report - the five-yearly health check on our Grade 1 Listed Building. We have also covered the fees payable to the Architect both for this report and for overseeing the ensuing works. The annual premium payable for insurance of the Minster is a considerable recurrent expense faced by the JCC, which again the Trustees agreed to cover. We found funding to pay for the provision of the long-awaited toilet facility. Having previously participated in the reinterment of remains exhumed in archaeological work - by securing the gift of a coffin and (out of particular respect for the oldest remains enclosed) contributing an ancient Anglo-Saxon prayer to the short re-committal service composed by Andrew - the Trustees commissioned a headstone put in position last year under the shade of the Friends’ mulberry tree. Several Friends have generously promised gifts to allow us to commission a refurbished ‘Friends’ Gate’ into the ‘new’ churchyard, adjacent to the grave and the tree, thus creating a rather charming Friends’ corner there. Friends visiting the churchyard might wish from time to time to place flowers there? The Kirkdale Monograph series - the booklets publishing select Kirkdale Lectures and other occasional writings broadly relative to the Minster - continue to generate a modest profit for the Friends. In 2015 the Trustees reprinted the monograph on Orm Gamalson’s sundial. The sundial is overdue for specialist cleaning: for this purpose the Trustees have earmarked a grant to the JCC.

      So much for the disbursement of the Friends’ monetary resources over the year. But the contributions made by the Friends in fulfilment of the aims of our charitable Constitution extend also to services of one sort and another, including for example provision of guides for pre-booked visiting groups; occasional church-cleaning squads; organisation and guiding of visits to church-historic venues in the form of one-day or residential pilgrimages (last year a day-visit to Bridlington Priory; this year, in September, a five-day residential visit to Lindisfarne); maintenance of an information board in the Minster; collaboration in establishing and funding the new website ( on which we have set up Friends’ pages; and … reception of a flying visit by BBC Radio York for some Saturday morning listeners’ competition. One way and another, the Friends make a difference - a big difference - to the care and the thriving of Kirkdale’s ancient Minster. The Trustees have regular cause for appreciating the support they get in administration of the Friends’ generous resources to these ends. Please feel good for your part in all this!

            It follows from the above, that (as anticipated and planned) reserves have been significantly depleted during this period. Moreover, several new commitments for 2016 have already been undertaken by the Trustees, in response to JCC needs, including consolidation of the surface of the overflow carparking area at

the Minster. The accounts remain in a prudently healthy condition, but the Trustees have recently resolved to look into measures towards replenishing the reserves. These will have to be evaluated in careful collaboration with the JCC who are mounting their own fundraising programme including an appeal to meet the cost of restoration work on the organ. More on this topic can be expected over forthcoming Newsletters.

      The Trustees have recently co-opted a new colleague, filling a vacancy on the committee: she is Mrs Margery Roberts. The Friends’ Constitution requires that confirmation of the co-option be sought at the next AGM. Margery lives in Kirkbymoorside. She has kindly agreed to take over the Honorary Secretaryship when Florence Elgar (who was plunged straight into the job without initiation five years ago and has served valiantly, efficiently and indispensably ever since) retires at the AGM in May. Sorry though the Trustees are to lose Florence, they have welcomed Margery warmly and with some relief at the prospect of continuity in the Secretaryship.

      The new website mentioned above is worthy of a few more words here. Having been mooted for several years it suddenly became an immediate objective, thanks to the initiative of Susan Binks who called together a small working party of five people late in the year with the objective of getting a site up and running ahead of Christmas 2015. The Trustees just had time to affirm a long-standing conviction that the Friends would gain from a substantial online presence and that it made sense to collaborate on one site with the ‘Kirkdale Churches’ while preserving a separate identity of The Friends - and the website was indeed online in time to announce Christmas. Such feedback as we have received has been constructive and supportive. It is not - as yet - an interactive site (we cannot, for example, collect online bookings for Friends’ events), though we expect that further facilities will be added if, after a trial period, the site proves itself to be popular and of significant use. Our high hope is that there will be Friends who will participate in the various potential activities of the site. One immediate objective is to develop an area of the site as an extension to our publishing commitment through the Kirkdale Monographs. In this area we can publish supplementary illustrations to Lectures which would be too many and too expensive to include in the printed version of the Lecture; and perhaps publish a whole Lecture, text, illustrations and all, where pictures are a primary component of the exposition. The webmaster for the Friends’ Pages is (provisionally) Sid Bradley: please do contact him with any constructive criticisms, suggestions for development of the site or items you would yourself like to submit for consideration. Are there, for example, any secretive poets out there among the Friends, who might venture to offer something to the (experimental) collection of Kirkdale-related pieces which currently sits there nervously and tentatively online?

     Dates to pencil into your diary now include the forthcoming Friends’ Weekend (Saturday-Sunday, 7th-8th May), including the AGM, the Kirkdale Lecture, the Service of Commemoration of Founders and Benefactors, and the Friends’ Luncheon. Bishop Paul Ferguson, Bishop of Whitby, will officiate at the Service. Papers are enclosed with your Newsletter. Friends co-host the traditional annual visit to Kirkdale made by a group from Sankt Nikolaj Kirke, the Danish Seamen’s Church in Hull - this year on Sunday 7th August. Their new pastor,  Arne Kristophersen, will preach at the morning service; and afterwards there will be an informal pub-lunch and a short local excursion followed by tea. A Friends’ Luncheon follows the Patronal Festival on Sunday 4th September. The Friends’ residential pilgrimage to Lindisfarne is from Monday 12th to Friday 16th September (contact Sid Bradley if you are interested in taking one of the few places still available). Though not a Friends-arranged event, the Floral & Choral Festival Weekend at St Gregory’s Minster is surely one to put in your diary now: Friday 17th June to Monday 20th June. The theme of the Flower Festival is to be based on popular hymns, enhanced by a background recording of those hymns, sung by the Choir of St Gregory’s Minster. On the Saturday evening there will be a concert featuring the Choir.

     Finally: no sleuth has yet emerged from among the Friends with answers to the cryptic allusions contained in the early 19th-century poem on Manor Vale, published in the last Newsletter. However, one Friend astutely searched the poet’s name (William Ellerker) and found it occurring in a local record of around the right date, though there was no further information in that source which might have confirmed that the poet had been found. So we must leave the poet to “wander the long summer day … in the Garden of Eden, now called Mannor-Vale” and the mystery of the Phoenix must remain a mystery for now.

With all good wishes from the Trustees for a pleasant Spring and for enjoyable social encounters over the coming year.


Sid Bradley,Chairman


Chairman: Professor S. A. J. Bradley, The Flat, 70A Gillygate, York YO31 7EQ. Tel: 01904 659784. Email:

Hon. Secretary: Florence Elgar, 19 Meadow Road, Pickering YO18 8NW. Tel: 01751 477112. Email:

Hon. Treasurer: Erica Dineen, Lytel Garth, Keldholme, YO62 6ND. Tel: 01751 431377. Email:

[1] Incidentally, ancient pilgrim-routes are an interesting feature of the English landscape, criss-crossing the country as they do. Very likely our ‘Thurkilssti’, passing north to south close to the west of Kirkdale, was one - giving St Gregory’s Minster a role as a place of refuge and refreshment, spiritual and corporeal, upon the journey? Presumably there are known pilgrim-routes to Lastingham (see A topic for a future Kirkdale Lecture?




newsletter november 2015


Dear Friend - St Gregory will surely not mind yielding place to St Nicholas (logo, above) in honour of the approaching season. Since this is meant to be a quizzical newsletter, you are left to track down for yourself  the somewhat macabre legend of the saint’s miracle involving three young tonsured clerks in a tub. Another puzzle is coming up in a moment - but first some news.

     Works enabled by substantial grants from the Friends have continued over the autumn. Final repair jobs on the chancel floor and the path to the church door are now in hand. And - good news - the stables have been declared bat-free and installation of the toilet facility has been resumed. The JCC and the Trustees have been made aware of voices opposed to this development but they stand confident of the long-growing demand from congregations at worship, weddings and funerals for a civilised and hygienic provision, and confident that grants made from the Friends fall indisputably within the terms of the Constitution approved by and registered with the Charity Commission. Let it be said once again that for their part the Trustees have no intention or ambition to turn the stables into a Tourist Centre or a facility open to the general public other than on church occasions. No passer-by is likely even to notice that there is a toilet facility behind the locked stable door. The problem of water and waste has been addressed by ‘harvesting’ rainwater and installing a modern ‘soakaway’. Your Chairman hereby volunteers to go on to the cleaning rota.

     The generosity of Friends - and what that generosity betokens as regards esteem for and loyalty towards St Gregory’s Minster - continues to deliver wonderful surprises to our Treasurer and the Trustees. Since the Newsletter’s passing mention of the gate leading to the ‘reinterment’ grave, arranged by the Friends, beneath the mulberry tree donated by the Friends, unsolicited cheques and pledges have come in which have enabled the Trustees to offer the JCC a grant to refurbish the entrance with a Friends’ Gate. The JCC have gratefully accepted. To put this generosity in perspective: it amounted within a few weeks to about one-third of the very generous donation we have been fortunate to receive annually from the Ryedale Show Committee. This is very heartening ongoing generosity and the Trustees here express their gratitude to all the donors.

     And on the subject of generosity towards St Gregory’s Minster … it is too often forgotten how much the church depends for its day-to-day and season-to-season maintenance not solely upon expendable funds but upon voluntary help of the most practical sort. Cash value cannot be placed upon the donations individuals make in terms of hours spent maintaining the church and its curtilage in that order and cleanliness which pays respect to the antiquity and dignity of St Gregory’s Minster - issues which the Friends Constitution commits us to; but it can realistically be said that donations of this kind equal and often exceed in value individual cash donations. Let us therefore neither underesteem them, nor forget to offer them, if and when we can. As a matter of fact, they are needed now, in the immediately forthcoming weeks. The Trustees hope volunteers will come forward, in the name of the Friends, to lend a hand. Initially, please contact our Treasurer. It is hoped that sometime in December a Trustees’ Workforce can be organised, like the one which moved in last year after the contractors moved out. Not made up of Trustees alone (!), but augmented by others of good will; but your Chairman, for his part, will make every effort to be there, equipped to tackle serious cleaning. Please look out and listen out for the call.

     Finally: the Trustees recently approved a proposal to set up a Friends’ online site, hosted by ChurchEdit, in conjunction with the five churches in the benefice. It will be linked to the home page of this combined site but will have separation of identity. A small committee has been meeting regularly to build the site.  If our collective learning curve continues to curve in the right direction, the site could go online well this side of Christmas.

     And now - a rather curious puzzle. We offer no prizes, other than the credit (perhaps) of solving an intriguing historical enigma with a local bearing.

     A poem has come into the Friends’ possession, handwritten on paper, and dated 1808. The paper’s watermark appears to confirm that it is of the date of the poem written upon it - that is, from the reign of George III. It is signed by William Ellerker who evidently had affectionate links to Kirkbymoorside. So there’s the first challenge. Who knows, or can discover, anything about William Ellerker’s identity?

     The poem is mainly about the beauties of ‘Mannor Vale’. Manor Vale, says the website of Kirkbymoorside Town Council (which owns and manages the area), is a narrow, Y-shaped dry valley cut into the Jurassic strata of the Tabular Hills which form the southern fringe of the North York Moors. It is located at the northern edge of Kirkbymoorside, within easy reach of the town centre. It is extensively used by the local community for quiet recreation and has open public access.* (Thus spake the Town Council: see what the poet made of the same stuff!).

     For the most part, it is a fairly conventional poem in praise of a piece of romantic Yorkshire landscape. And - fair enough - this landscape excelled all others in all of Britain. In particular, it excelled Vauxhall, Richmond and Spring Garden. These places are perhaps not too difficult to track down? (If this were a more conventional puzzle, a clue could have been offered in a puzzling question: Why should H.M. The Queen be glad that they tarmacked over Spring Garden?). Then the poet gets really mysterious. So what can you suggest by way of interpretation of “the Phoenix”, somehow connected with “St James’s”? This Phoenix (unlike the one of Greek myth) is defined as female. She is “the first Phoenix that Britain has seen, / Of happy blest islands she now is the Queen”. The echoes of her praise resound even up here in Yorkshire, in sweet Manor Vale. Here is the poem (in Mr Ellerby’s spelling). Over to you, dear Friend.  If anyone finds out anything plausible, we’ll publish it. Suggestions to the Chairman, please …

            Verses wrote on the Mannor-vale Kirby moorside

                 1.   Leave courts and great cities, ye innocent fair,

            Hast, hast all to Kirkby and breath the fresh air,

            There you’ll Paradise find where no fiend can prevail,

            In the Garden of Eden, now called Mannor-Vale.

                 2.   The birds sing in concert and hop on each spray -

            O here let me wander the long summer day.

            All nature smiles round me, no cares can assail

            Whilst I tread the green verdure in sweet Mannor Vale.

                 3.   The hills on each side me are covered with trees,

            Soft Zephyrs blow gently and waft a cool breeze,

            Each sense is delighted, black envy turns pale

            And dares not approach me in sweet Mannor Vale.

                 4.   Sometimes I sit down in the dear rural shade,

            And muse on the wonders kind nature has made,

            All appears to my fancy like some fairy tale,

            Whilst I view all the beauties of sweet Mannor Vale.

                 5.   Vauxhall and Spring Garden, whoever have seen,

            Or the Grotto at Richmond adorned by a queen,

            Will despise all such trifles if once they regale

            In the Garden of Eden now called Mannor Vale.

                 6.   But hark! I’m amazed! Sylphs buzz in my ear,

            Away to St. James’s, the Phoenix is there!

            The Phoenix resounds through hill’s vally and dale,

            And Echo repeats it in sweet Mannor Vale.

                 7.   Old poets have told us in prose and in rhyme,

            That only one Phoenix can live at one time -

            To describe the rare Phoenix all numbers will fail,

            But I’ll still sing her praises in sweet Mannor Vale.

                 8.   This is the first Phoenix that Britain has seen,

            Of happy blest islands she now is the Queen

            Long long she shall reign if my prayers can prevail

            Which I’ll offer up daily in sweet Mannor Vale.

Enjoy the Carol Service in December, and your Christmas celebrations. All good wishes from the Trustees.


Sid Bradley (Chairman)

* [Retrieved 16 November 2015]