November 2015


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 Kirbymoorside

                 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


* [Retrieved 16 November 2015]


The Trustees: Mrs Heather Harris (Chairman); Mrs Margery Roberts (Honorary Secretary); Mrs Diana Pearce (Honorary Treasurer); Reverend Susan Binks; 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.