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Watercolour of St Gregory's Minster


The watercolour painting of St Gregory's Minster

signed by the artist Alfred Durham, kindly donated to be sold for the benefit of The Friends, has now found a buyer.

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Saturday 12th May: Annual General Meeting and The Kirkdale Lecture

The Kirkdale Lecture 2018


will be given by Dr Philip Moore

Internationally acclaimed composer of choral and organ works, formerly Organist and Master of the Music at York Minster; recipient of the Order of St William of York; recipient of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Thomas Cranmer Award for Worship

Saturday 12th May 2018

St Gregory’s Minster Kirkdale

Open to all. Free admission. Proceedings begin 2.30 p.m.

Refreshments afterwards in the Millennium Room

at St Hilda’s Church Beadlam.

St Gregory’s Minster Kirkdale is signposted (via an unclassified road) off the A170 Helmsley to Scarborough road about half way between Beadlam-Nawton and Kirkbymoorside, on your left if you are travelling in the Scarborough direction. Grid ref: SE676858.1 1;  postcode YO62 7TZ. There is ample car-parking space at the church. Enquiries: The Honorary Secretary, telephone 01751 430255.

Friends please note: The Annual General Meeting will, as usual, be held before the start of the Lecture, and will start at 2.30 p.m. The relevant papers have been sent out to all Friends. Anyone who has not yet received them should contact the Honorary Secretary (as above).

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Sunday 13th May: 11 a.m.  Morning service in St Gregory's Minster including the Kirkdale Commemoration Litany of thanksgiving for founders and benefactors. 

Thereafter, Friends who have booked gather at The Golf Club, Kirkbymoorside, for lunch at 1 p.m. (approx.). 

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(fuller details nearer the events)

Sunday 2nd September 2018: Morning Service with guest preacher

followed by The Friends' Luncheon




THE FRIENDS OF ST GREGORY’S MINSTER       KIRKDALE  -  Newsletter – March 2018

Dear Friend

“I remember, I remember” not “the house where I was born”, but as a small girl having to recite a poem to visitors.  Heaven only knows what they had done to deserve this, but it happened with monotonous regularity.  I remember one (in my opinion) particularly saccharine, nay, mawkish offering, in which a surly King Winter was exhorted (with dramatic actions) to depart his court and “step outside” by a pert and bossy Spring who would then reign in his stead.  Hmmm.  All of which brings me to the point of hoping that we can, at long last, bid a vicious Winter farewell, and warmly welcome a restorative Spring and Summer.

As you will have perceived, this is a pre-amble leading to a fascinating set of reminiscences of life at St Gregory’s Minster, gathered in conversations with Edward, Gwen and Dorothy Wood. The Wood family began farming locally in 1891, and from that time has had close associations with the Minster.  Edward, having been christened at St Gregory’s, went on to sing in the choir with family members.  He remembers how the organ bellows had to be pumped by a small boy (Edward took his turn), and how amusing (for some) it was if the organ ran out of air, whereupon the organist hissed instructions crossly until order was restored.  He recalled that “you needed strength to work the bellows – hard work for a small boy”. Edward, like his father (Thomas Barker Wood) in due course became a churchwarden, serving for many years.  He recalled the huge undertaking to close down the ancient Boiler House (more of which later) and remove the floor gratings connected with the heating system.  He remembers that ladies used to get their stiletto heels stuck in the gratings, which was a nuisance for all concerned!  He and his brother Michael used to maintain the stocks of kindling and coke for the boiler, which was “quite an operation during the winter months”.

Edward told me of a local legend about the Minster.  It is said that a great pile of big stones had been gathered at the entrance to Wombleton, on what is now the A170, where the Minster was going to be built.  Over several nights these stones were mysteriously removed to the present site; it was agreed that this meant that the Minster should be built in the dale instead. He mentioned the two Minster  bells, which are thought to be “in conversation” with the bells of Kirkbymoorside church.  Those bells ask “Who rings the bells?” and are answered by St Gregory’s bells with “I do!” Edward also remembers the rood screen being erected in the chancel, and then subsequently being removed to the north wall.  (It is a locally made piece, beautiful, and worth notice.)  Likewise, he remembers the visit of Sir John Betjeman to the Minster; “he delivered a very good sermon”.   He said that his brother told him about the marriage in the Minster of former Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, to a local lady.  (Edward’s brother was a chorister and so was in a prime position to view events.)  Edward also told me that the ancient red cedar (by the church gate, at the top of the path) grew from a Canadian seed. (There are other Canadian “links” within the Minster.)

As a young man, Edward met and married Gwen.  They were married at Gwen’s home church, but on arrival at St Gregory’s, Gwen was warmly welcomed, and in due course found herself helping in various ways.  She became churchwarden at St Gregory’s, following encouragement from Leslie Mathews.  “Leslie taught me to be churchwarden” she said.  Until fairly recently there used to be two separate churchwardens – one for St Gregory’s and one for St Hilda’s. Gwen has maintained links with both churches, and helped, amongst other things, to organise new kneelers for both.  She remembers, how, following a visit from a botanical expert, the Minster  graveyard was found to hold eighty species of significantly important wildflowers.  Following this discovery it was decided that grazing sheep would be barred from the graveyard until the first weeks in July, at which point it was hoped the flowers would have re-seeded the area. 

Dorothy joined the Wood family when she married Michael, Edward’s brother.  She first came to the Minster on a school trip.  Her family moved to the Benefice, and she joined the choir at Easter, 1950, where she remained as a chorister, on and off, for some four decades or so.  She married Michael at the Minster in 1953.   She told me how she and Michael would come down to the Minster on a Saturday evening “after a local dance”, where Michael would go into the Boiler House to stoke up the fire, in readiness for the Sunday services.  She would check that carpeting was over the heat grids “to keep the smoke out of the church.”   Dorothy decided to leave the choir about twelve years ago, but she, Edward and Gwen, still continue to further, in so many ways, the existence and outreach of the Minster.  Thank you all.

The Friends’ Annual General Meeting will take place on Saturday, 12th May 2018, in the Minster, at 2.30pm.  This will be followed by the “Kirkdale Lecture”, given this year by Dr Philip Moore, on “The History of Church Music”.  Refreshments will be offered thereafter at St Hilda’s, Beadlam, in the Millennium Room.  On Sunday 13th May the Commemoration of the Founders and Benefactors of St Gregory’s Minster will be read during the Choral Service, and Luncheon (pre-booked) will follow at The Kirkbymoorside Golf Club.  Information and Booking Forms for the Luncheon are attached; please reply as promptly as possible.  I look forward to seeing you on 12th and 13th May.  Members of “our” Friends and of Lastingham Church Friends are jointly organising a day-trip by coach to Hexham Abbey, on Tuesday 18th September 2018.  Further details will follow in due course.

Sincerely, with very best wishes, and with thanks, as ever, for being a Friend,

Heather Harris

Chairman (Tel: 01723 850558; email:


The Trustees: Mrs Heather Harris (Chairman); Mrs Margery Roberts (Honorary Secretary); Mrs Diana Pearce (Honorary Treasurer); Professor Sid Bradley; Mr Bob Chapple; Mrs Erica Dineen; Mr James Lloyd; Mr Gordon Mellor and Mr John Turner.  “The Friends of St Gregory’s Minster” is a charity registered with the Charity Commission, Charity Number 700344



For a selection of earlier newsletters scroll on down






- Newsletter, January 2018

Dear Friend,

Christmas is past and gone, as is 2017, which in many respects was a doleful year, full of human tragedy and natural disasters.  It is salutary to reflect that though dreadful things may happen, to anyone, at any time, particularly in the exceptionally dangerous hotspots of the globe, where unkindness and cruelty seem to flourish, that basic human “loving kindness” also flourishes.  In a very minor way, this is echoed at St Gregory’s, where, following a request for cleaning help several stalwart and energetic Friends sallied forth in December, armed with brushes, dusters, polish, mops and vacuum cleaners.  Your “loving kindness” to the Minster has been gratefully noted; thank you, most sincerely. 

Standing as I am under the lintel of Janus’ doorway as it were, looking backwards in reminiscence, I feel we can also look forwards with hope.  Although we have lost some Friends (remembered with affection and gratitude), we have gained some new ones (welcomed with delight), so the “Status Quo” is virtually unchanged.

Remaining in  “backward-looking” mode for a moment more, I  am very happy to report that the long awaited professional cleaning of the Saxon Sundial has been completed; it is such a pleasure to be able to see the lettering clearly again.  In addition the expert conservator has cleaned the two tomb covers which flank the South Door, within the Porch – a great improvement.

Looking forward to February Fill-Dyke (if one can do this, as we seen to have had quite enough snow and rain already) and to the ensuing Spring and Summer months, the Friends will be offered the usual programme of events.  The Trustees are already working on arrangements for the AGM on Saturday 12th May, to be followed by a Lecture from a guest speaker, and tea thereafter; and during the Sunday morning choral service there will be the traditional recitation of the List of Benefactors. Luncheon will follow.  Details for this will follow in due course.  All I can say at this moment is that, as “The Friends of St Gregory’s Minster” celebrates thirty years of existence (1988-2018)  there will definitely be cake at the AGM tea! We celebrate St Gregory’s Patronal Festival, in September, and, again, the Trustees are working on arrangements for the Luncheon after the choral service.  Details will follow in due course.

If you have newly embraced computers and email, please do let me know your new email address.  Where possible email is the preferred mode of contact, as electronic mail is much cheaper, and faster, than “snail mail”.

Whilst on the subject of computers, you may be unaware that “The Friends of St Gregory’s Minster” has its own web-page, which can be found within this address: (click on “Friends of St Gregory’s Minster”).   

A final thought: the Minster is a peaceful, beautiful place, which has sheltered people for centuries.  There are experts within our ranks who can reflect on the Minster’s vast history (please see the Friends’ Monograph  Series) in a far more detailed and precise way than I.  Notwithstanding, it recently struck me that the building is not just a monument to, and of,  history,  nor simply a religious edifice, but a structure which has attracted the care,  concern and loving interest of so many people, from Orm Gamalson onwards,  throughout many , many years.  To this end I hope in subsequent Newsletters to record the reminiscences of those who have had a long association with the Minster.  I would, of course, be very interested to hear from any Friend who can help in this way.

I wish you a very happy  Spring, and thank you, as ever, for being such a loyal and supportive Friend. Sincerely,

Heather Harris

 Chairman; Tel: 01723 850558; email:





                       - Newsletter August 2016

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




               - 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

[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]




             - Newsletter November 2014


Dear Friend -   If you haven’t yet come across it, a really enjoyable excursion into the past 100 years or so of Kirkdale’s history awaits you in the DVD published by the Ryedale Family History Group in 2008: Kirkdale Parish Magazine 1942-1965 and A Short Account of St. Gregory’s Minster by the Revd F. W. Powell, 1909. To deal with the latter item first: Frederick Walter Powell, Incumbent from 1904 to 1930 (his remains lie in the chancel), originally wrote his booklet only a couple of years after moving to Kirkdale, as an appeal to “the public, who come so numerously to see S. Gregory’s ancient church” for gifts towards the extensive restoration of which the Minster then stood in great need. “To raise a sum sufficient to make the Parish Church fit for worship and to provide for the safety of its unique memorials, would be the work of years” he wrote, “[But] we do not doubt for a moment that this help will be forthcoming. We do not expect another son of Gamal to come, like Orm, and take upon himself the whole cost of the restoration (albeit he would have a very good reception), for S. Gregory’s Minster is not now, as it was in his day, ‘all broken down and fallen’; it needs, indeed, but a few hundred pounds to make it worthy of its purpose and of its patron. We cannot but hope that the English people who are giving their thousands for the restoration of Selby Abbey, will, of their bounty, spare one thousand to restore the ancient Saxon Church of S. Gregory’s, Kirkdale.” This major restoration was almost immediately tackled, in 1907; and in the reprint of his booklet in 1909 (the version on the DVD), giving a fairly detailed listing of the works undertaken, Mr Powell could thank “many kind and generous subscribers, whose help has allowed the work to be carried out within measurable distance of completion, for only £300 is now required to make up the amount of its estimated cost.” He wrote this history and account of the restoration of 1907, he says, “for the sake of those who may wish to know the history of this church in ages to come. Had the successors of Hawarth and Brand, the priests who inscribed on the Sundial the work of the first restoration, only given us some account of the structural alterations which took place from time to time, instead of recording the charges for whipping out dogs and destroying foxes, how different would be our knowledge of the former state of S. Gregory’s Minster.” That sentiment may be heard expressed again in conversations around the Minster at this very moment, as the experts debate the foundations exposed beneath the east end of the 1881 rebuild of the chancel, under the Archaeological Watching Brief (a condition of permission to improve external drainage).

     “Whipping out dogs and destroying foxes”? These are expenses which Mr Powell found mentioned in old registers of the church (reaching back, he reports, to 1578). In 1698 “the parson and the most respectable part of the congregation” were caused such annoyance “by the perpetual howling of dogs” (presumably brought to church by the least respectable part of the congregation!) that a man had to be paid ten shillings to drive them out. And well into the 19th century it was still a responsibility of the church (as was the case in many other rural parishes) to pay bounties for the heads of foxes and the skins of ‘foulmarts’ (polecats) which preyed upon the farmers’ chickens and the gentry’s pheasants: a shilling for a fox-head and fourpence for a foulmart.

     More relevant to our own attitudes towards St Gregory’s Minster are Mr Powell’s comments upon those visitors - “tourists” - who came “so numerously” to view the sundial. Barriers had to be raised to protect the church against them. They “deface its walls and portals by carving their names side by side with Edward the King, and Gregory, Saint and Patron.” Therefore included in the plan for restoration was “the removal of the more valuable relics to the interior, and the fixing of a pair of efficient gates to the porch, to replace the old ones long since disappeared.” The gates would be designed to ensure “the least disappointment to those who come to see the sundial, and not to deface the church.” Accordingly, lockable gates were installed and the two ancient tomb-covers were removed from the exterior west wall and mounted on plinths in the arcade of the north aisle. The church was always kept locked in those days and frustrated visitors would sometimes leave indignant messages of objection. The Vicar wrote: “The disappointment of the tourist sometimes assumes an angry tone. ‘My House shall be called the House of Prayer,’ writes one (on our notice board!) who tells us that he has come fifty miles to find the church door locked. If he came for devotion, we wondered why he came so far? and if he came to see the church, we thought he might have come a little further and obtained the key, which is kept at Nawton, and also found the church there, open and more suitable for the purpose of week-day prayer than the cold and damp S. Gregory’s. Another disappointed visitor also defaces the notice board to ask ‘if we are afraid the hymn books will be taken?’  ‘Worse things than that,’ we might answer, judging from the external desecration of the itinerant penknife. In answer to such as think all churches should be open, we can only say that the position of S. Gregory’s is so singular, there being no houses near in which a caretaker might reside, that to leave it open would be to court worse disaster than it has already suffered from unaccompanied visitors.”

     If, today, those 18th and 19th-century carved initials have themselves become a curiosity for visitors to ask about, the church still has specific cause to worry about the risks of the daily unlocked door. Yet in the Visitors’ Book is ample evidence that people greatly appreciate finding the church standing with arms (well, door) open to welcome in the visitor. It was during the incumbency of the Rev. Maurice Beardshaw (1935-56) that this policy was adopted, and from then on his monthly piece in the Parish Magazine makes intermittent mention of the quite significant income from visitors’ donations (and this happy situation still holds good today).

     However, barely two generations but two World Wars on from Mr Powell’s days, the Rev. Maurice Beardshaw’s ministry was having to adjust to a greatly changed society and parish. There was for a time the impact of a large military presence in the area. Families grieved over sons killed or maimed in the war. Demobilised men returning to civilian life suffered problems of readjustment in family and community. Facing the peace was as challenging as coping with war.  Disappointment over church attendance, even at the Church’s greater festivals, is a regular theme in the Vicar’s letter in the Parish Magazine. So is the constant struggle to meet the Diocesan Quota (“for which we are asked the sum of £19/12/- and we look upon it as a point of honour that this should be paid in full, as it has been done in many years past”). And then there was the organ. Damp and Mice. “The instrument […] is certainly a good one and deserves to be kept in good order and also complete in every particular.” But some of the stops have stopped working and some “give vent to ciphering notes when they ought not”! Messrs Harrison and Harrison came down from Durham and inspected its innards and presented an estimate for renovation which startled the Church Council. Yet already at the following Epiphany service the Vicar was able to call off a fund-raising meeting and announce instead a “munificent gift” - some anonymous donors  had sent him “a single cheque for the whole sum of money  required for this work (£44).” In a later magazine issued after Easter 1955 he was moved to write: “There must be very few Parish Churches in the land which could have exceeded the reverence of the Choral Communion Service at Kirkdale. It was over-powering and over-whelming in its reality and every one must have felt that they really had been at church.” Organ and choir were then, as they have remained, far more than an aesthetic adornment to worship in Kirkdale.

     The alert reader will not have failed to spot the theme lurking behind this selection of snippets from the records of Kirkdale. We, the parishioners, the congregation, the Friends, are privileged to have in our care one of England’s ecclesiastical treasures, which is also a living and thriving place of worship at the heart of a lively community. The needs it has always felt, the crises great or small it has always confronted, are still with us. The call upon the generosity of those who care for this place remains as burdensome as ever it was. The reward, there for all, whether givers or not, to enjoy, is often expressed in words found among visitors’ comments. They speak of the beauty and tranquillity of the ancient church in its natural setting, of the manifest care of those who tend it inside and out, of the aura of antiquity; and now and again of something intangible yet by some other faculty genuinely felt: a perception that, just as Orm Gamalson himself came to understand (in Herbert Read’s poem Kirkdale), the dove’s feather had fallen in “a holy place”.

     Mr Powell and Mr Beardshaw were fortunate with their benefactors, whose good works of giving still today form part of the fabric and furniture of the Minster. But they would surely have welcomed the support which a Friends’ organisation has proved it can deliver - and not in terms of cash grants alone but also in effectually attracting together and co-ordinating the enthusiasm and varied competences of people sharing a desire to do something for this place. Think, for example, of the intention, the talents, the organisation and the toil offered by Friends in the fine recently dedicated altar-rail kneelers, the solemn reinterment of handsomely recoffined ancient human remains in a fittingly marked grave, the special work-force mustered for cleaning the church after recent interior works, the conjunction of parish and Friends in pilgrimages, the archaeologist’s Friendly donation of services in kind, the generous donations to the Friends from the Ryedale Show Committee and from magnanimous individual Friends in support of special projects, the publication of scholarly monographs broadly relating to St Gregory’s and Kirkdale, and much more. All justifications for Friends to congratulate themselves.

     But there are more challenges upon us even now. The Trustees are poised to make very substantial grants to the JCC for necessary works on the Minster and its curtilage following the Architect’s Quinquennial Report; and for providing a toilet facility and for underwriting the recently launched Organ Appeal. Many Friends are also regular members of the congregation who are being asked to increase their direct giving to the Church. It’s a difficult time for givers and for the replenishing of coffers. So if you know of a modern-day son or daughter of Gamal who would like his or her munificence to be remembered for a thousand years, please put him or her in touch with the Vicar or the Chairman. We’d provide the persuasive dove’s feather and the memorial sundial.

   Finally, some updating. The Friends’ Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne in September was again a most memorable and enriching experience: scores of heavily pregnant seals joined in our open-air seaward singing. Our Patron the Abbot received us cordially at Ampleforth and made us work at construing the iconography of the Abbey Church. The Friends’ presentation of the exceedingly handsome new altar-rail kneelers has been mentioned above; as have the archaeological uncoverings . Another uncovering - of bats in the stables - has put an abrupt stop to work on the toilet facility, pending a costly Bat Report. Apparently we now also have bats in the belfry.

     Your Secretary, Treasurer and I, and all the Trustees thank you once more for your ongoing support and wish you a very happy Christmas. We hope to see you at one of the Carol Services.

Yours  - Sid Bradley (Chair)