Vicar in Vacancy
The Vicarage, Church Lane, Boroughbridge YO51 9BA
Mrs Penelope Denny - 01423 322901
Mrs Fiona Merchie - 01423 322526
Church Committee Chairman & Treasurer
Mr Mike Wildblood - 01423 324518
For Church services & dates please see the ‘Events’ tab of the website or call one of the contacts. Alternatively, services for the Unitred Parish can be viewed at http://boroughbridgechurches.uk
Safeguarding - our policy can be read here. This contains details of what to do if you have concerns.
History of the church:
Situated in the quiet village of Lower Dunsforth the present church's foundation stone dates from 1860 replacing a much earlier church that had occupied the site for at least 800 years. Designed by Mallinson & Healy it is built from hammered sandstone in the geometric style. Having a striking south west tower which houses an interesting early eighteenth century clock mechanism, other noticeable features include a font and reused arch in the vestry both dating from the twelfth century.
Parish Communion Services are usually held onthe first and third Sundays of each month at 9.30am. Tel 01423 322433
ST MARY'S CHURCH, DUNSFORTH
A HISTORY, 1861-2011
Welcome to this short history of St Mary's and its activity in the community, which has been produced to help celebrate its 150th Anniversary.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Julie Sanderson and her daughter Vicky Story, who over the winter months undertook painstaking research and produced the first draft. Others in the village have assisted in editing the text and in contributions relating to the more recent history, from minute books and from personal reminiscences.
Ken Holmes has helped significantly. To mark the millennium he compiled a booklet entitled "A Millennium Commemoration of a Small Yorkshire Village" and he has shared his research with our authors. We hope that together the two booklets will give a clear picture of the Dunsforths' area through the ages.
The text of this booklet makes no mention by name of present residents. This was a conscious decision to avoid inappropriate emphasis of any contributions and unintended omissions. Nonetheless we are immensely grateful to all who have worked hard in recent years to restore the fabric of our lovely building and to promote the influence of the church in our community.
Other events to mark the 150th Anniversary include a concert by Musica Viva, a showing of the Kruckenberg slides and the dedication of a new altar frontal.
Christians have always had a real sense of history. It is a sense of history that moves in a linear fashion, rather than being cyclical as many older cultures used to be. We believe that we are moving from creation to the final consummation of history: Genesis to Revelation in biblical terms. History matters for us, not just in a nostalgic way or a merely academic, dry or dusty sense, but because it is a story. Indeed the word history contains that very word.
Our faith is the story of God and us. The church in Dunsforth is our own outworking of that story in our own context, with our people and indeed ourselves fully involved in it.
St Mary's church is a place of community and faith. It is the only community building in our village and tries to fulfil various roles. Its spire can be seen as pointing us to God, its nave and chancel are where we come to meet and to worship.
It has been and is a place where the important elements in our own personal and family history are enacted and enabled, our births celebrated with Baptism, our marriages witnessed and celebrated and the end of our mortal lives marked with a service and probably a gravestone. These sacraments are a visible sign of a spiritual reality and St Mary's provides for them in our community, making visible and possible many of the less tangible parts of our lives, both individual and communal.
History has to be learned from. For Christians it informs the present and guides us to the future, but through our Lord Jesus, who the Bible tells us is the same yesterday, today and for ever. He promises to be with us always, even to the end of time.
As we celebrate this specific point in our history, may the past inspire us with thanks for those who have gone before and influence our present and future, whatever that may bring. Our prayer is that God will continue to be with us, to inspire us and to guide us, as we celebrate this landmark in our on-going history.
With every blessing,
Revd. Philip Smith
St. Mary's Church, Lower Dunsforth, is not just a symbolic structure, it is primarily a place of worship although, with its various social activities, it also forms an important core of village life. The present mid-Victorian church replaced the ancient Chapel-of-Ease in 1861 and so, in this year 2011, we are celebrating its 150th anniversary.
After the Norman Conquest William I laid waste most of the north of England, but with this invasion came not only a reinforcement of the Christian religion but also the unmistakable Norman style of architecture.
William de Dunsford was the first recorded chaplain in Dunsforth in 1352, whilst John Tankard was at Roecliffe in 1353. They must have known each other and both are thought to have taught literacy to the laity. The office of the churchwarden began in the 12th century and by the 16th century women, very infrequently, also served. Churchwardens were elected and usually held office for a year. They were accountable for their stewardship, the laity's share of fabric repair, the provision of church books and all other items essential for divine worship. William de Dunsford was the son of a local landowner at a time when it was customary for one of the landowner's sons to become a priest. It is sometimes thought that William gave his name to the village. But it is most likely that the name Dunsforth is derived from the Saxon name "Ford by the Hill", the hill being the high ground at Marton-cum-Grafton.
From the twelfth to the seventeenth century the connection between Dunsforth and Aldborough must have been close as Dunsforth formed part of the parish of Aldborough. A quote from 'A History of Harrogate and Knaresborough', by Professor B. Jennings, M.A. states: "In the early part of the twelfth century Aldborough became a compact lordship which included Milby, Marton, Grafton, Dunsforth, Roecliffe and the new market town of Boroughbridge. It was heldtogether with the Honour of Knaresborough until the seventeenth century."
It seems that the lordship was sold into private ownership by Charles I, possibly to help pay the mounting debts incurred during wars against Spain and France. Following this its history becomes less clear and the Dunsforth chapel appears to have become even more isolated, though the close connection between the mother church of Aldborough and the Chapel-of-Ease remained. Although the lordship of the Manor of Aldborough changed frequently after 1628, it is thought that Dunsforth remained part of it. Despite the tides of change and troubles in the country, the chapel, together with the people of the area, survived the turmoil.
The original Chapel-of-Ease stood on the site of the present church and, until it was demolished in 1860, was the only medieval building to survive in Dunsforth. Architectural evidence states that it was built in the style that prevailed from nearly eight hundred years earlier, which dates it back to the twelfth century. In a photograph of the original chapel it is just possible to make out a lepers window (a squint) at a lower level on the south side of the chancel. The building was gradually improved over the centuries, the size of the nave increased and windows, a porch and belfry were added.
Chapels-of-Ease from medieval times were provided to give people living in scattered and isolated communities access to places of worship and were probably also a resting place for travellers. Access to a church was extremely difficult due to the long distances to be travelled, often over difficult or impassable tracks in bad weather. This area was especially difficult as flooding regularly caused problems. Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, life for the inhabitants of these scattered communities must have been harsh, but their religious beliefs remained strong, with the church playing a central role in their lives.
People within these communities, who were able, gave monies to the monasteries through the churchwardens. These monies were thought of as a gift and the monks recorded them and remembered the benefactors in their prayers.
Following the dissolution of the monasteries and the break from Rome these gifts were paid directly to the churches, where there was an altar in the chantry, specifically for the chaplain to say the prayers of "Special Intentions".
Saxton's 1577 map of Yorkshire showed Roecliffe's ancient Chapel-of-Ease, but it no longer appeared in a map of 1629. The old chapel on St. James' Square, Boroughbridge survived until 1851, but the Lower Dunsforth chapel stood until 1860, a fact that says much for the local support that maintained this small place of worship over the years.
Until the building of the new church in 1861 all burials had, since the Middle Ages, taken place in Aldborough. It must have been an awful and arduous task to have carried a loved one away from the village to be laid to rest in another and it would have been made worse by the almost non-existent tracks (whins). Perhaps the coffins were carried by horse and cart at some point of the journey.
Baptisms had often taken place in the home or in a separate ceremony in the church. Later, in the nineteenth century, the Revd. Sykes very gradually overcame strong opposition and baptisms began to take place during services in the new church.
REMNANTS OF THE CHAPEL-OF-EASE
The Chapel Wardens' and Constables' Book of 1716-1861 shows that in the eighteenth century the little chapel at Lower Dunsforth also served Upper Dunsforth and Branton Green. It also gives vivid glimpses of Dunsforth during this period. The book (which is now lodged in the County Archives) is bound in thick brown leather, of foolscap size and on the fly-leaf dated Feb. 9th 1716 is written the inscription: "This book bought by the consent of the Neighbours for the use of the Chapel Wardens and Constables of Dunsforth by William Clarke, priced four shillings."
This historically important book shows that between the mid-18th century and 1832, the parishioners were often only able to pay their annual £10 covenant to the vicar of Aldborough for the services of a curate with gifts made from "Queen Anne's Bounty." The chapel wardens also had secular duties as constables and amongst the many entries, it lists that the main duties of the wardens concerned:
• Expenses for visits to Ripon & York - (occasioned by the visitation to the Archdeacon).
• Visits to Aldborough - (mainly to make payment for the services of a curate).
• Church Upkeep - (for example, in 1722- "Font mending 6/6d, 1725 - Repairing stalls & shifting fowls out of the Chapel 6c1").
The Chapel Wardens' Book also highlights important events such as the Gunpowder Plot (Guy Fawkes Day) when there was bell ringing and ale and cake for the villagers. This tradition no doubt harked back to the fear of the Stuarts and Catholicism.
Some of the churchwardens were quite frugal with their expenses although others, it would seem, did themselves rather well, as shown by the large 1721 pewter beer tankard and plaffer that are prize possessions inherited from the Chapel-of-Ease. An even older treasure was an engraved silver chalice lid , circa 1600, which, in 1999, was removed to the safety of the Ripon Cathedral Treasury where it can be viewed as part of an exhibition of historic church silver.
The bells are two of the most interesting features of the church and came from the old Chapel-of-Ease. The tenor bell is believed to date from about 1550 and was thought to be cracked when inspected in 1987. The inscription is puzzling, "ANELEH ATCNAS," but the Vicar of Wath in 1873 interpreted this as, "SANCTA HELENA" written backwards. Perhaps the workmen who made the bell were illiterate or had an ale too many and accidentally reversed the letters. There is a legend that this bell originally came from St. Mary's Abbey in York and may have given the name to the chapel although at the time there was also great veneration for the saint and several other local churches bear the name Mary. The second bell is the one used to call people to church and also tolled slowly, as a passing bell, to respect bereavement. It was made in York in 1671 and the inscription reads, "GLORIA IN ALTISSIMIS DEO."
Re-built within the vestry of the present church stands a Norman arch. This is thought originally to have been the inner doorway of the chapel. A corbel (a projecting stone support) is also incorporated in the vestry and it too is believed to date from that time.
The only other relic of the Chapel-of-Ease is the Saxon font, which is badly broken. The damage is so severe that there is a suggestion that it was caused deliberately, possibly during the Reformation when the chapel, like other churches in the area, was vandalised and burnt and the font probably thereafter lay un-used for years. The records show that among the baptisms in the parish many were of children born to families working the barges that thronged the River Ure. There was a tradition in the villages of baptisms being conducted at home, which may have developed because there was no font in the chapel. Certainly Revd. Sykes had some difficulty persuading the congregation to have their children baptised during services in the new Victorian font.
A CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE
The demolition of the Chapel-of-Ease must be viewed in the context of major changes in the wider Anglican church in the mid-19th century. The Religious Census on Mothering Sunday the 30th March 1851, recorded those attending places of worship in England and Wales in the morning, afternoon and evening services.
Further analysis demonstrated that organised religion, Anglicanism in particular, had failed lamentably to spread the Word amongst the new town-dwelling masses. This considerable jolt resulted in a spate of church build-ing and the creation of additional dioceses and parishes, particularly in the industrial towns and cities.
THE DIOCESAN RESPONSE
The considerable jolt referred to above did not go unnoticed in the Diocese of Ripon and the steps taken to redress the situation in Aldborough and the surrounding area were considerable.
The Revd. G K Holdsworth Vicar of Aldborough from 1822 to 1863, was involved or instrumental in the building of three churches during the last 20 years of his long ministry.
St. Mary's Roecliffe - The new church, dedicated in 1844, replaced an ancient chapel said to have stood where the present school stands today. It was financed by Andrew Lawson, squire of Aldborough, Boroughbridge and Roecliffe who also appointed the priest, donated the land and endowed the church.
St. James' Boroughbridge - The old church that stood in what is now St James Square was demolished and the new building in nearby Church Lane was dedicated in 1852.
St. Mary's Dunsforth - The new church stands on the same site as the ancient chapel and was dedicated in 1861. In the 19th century the parish consisted of Lower Dunsforth (161 persons in 1881) and Upper Dunsforth with Branton Green (population 109). With such a small community the 1860s building programme of church, vicarage and school/ schoolhouse was very ambitious and the main driving forces were two young clergymen: Revds. C.R. Scholfield and F.G. Sykes, both the sons of affluent men. Without their dedication, connections and family money it is doubtful that the fine Church of St. Mary's would be celebrating its 150th Anniversary in 2011.
THE NEW CHURCH
In 1853 the old Chapel-of-Ease was described as: "A primitive and basic structure consisting merely of a nave and chancel with a brick bell turret about two yards square, perched like a pigeon house upon the west end; it is a wretched building in the old barn style of architecture."
In 1859 an architect's report recommended the demolition of the old chapel and authorisatiort to do this was obtained from the Bishop of Ripon in May 1860. Inevitably regrets were expressed that attempts were not made to restore the old building, (there is a suggestion that both Revd. Sykes and Mr. A.S. Lawson would have liked it to be preserved) but it was finally agreed that a new church should be built. This must have seemed an enormous undertaking for the small community.
The Revd C. R. Scholfield led the project and the building of the school and the school house was completed before the church. The total cost of the new buildings was £2,267.12s 10d. and these funds gradually came not only from local villagers, but also nationwide and even from America. A donation of £140 was received from American friends of Revd. Scholfield and helped to pay for the screen behind the altar (reredos), the octagonal pulpit of Caen stone resting on marble pillars, the font and the floor tiles.
Public subscriptions raised £1,334 Os 3d, including £75 from Queen Victoria, £50 from the Bishop of Ripon and £392. 11. 4 1/2d. (being the largest single donation) from the father of the incumbent, W.R. Scholfield Esquire of Ripon. The value of money was very different in 1860 when £1.0.0 had the same purchasing power as £65.00 today. Local people made a tremendous effort to achieve the total required as life in the villages was already extremely arduous and it is not surprising that some donations were as low as 1/6d.
The foundation stone of the new church was laid on 14th June 1860, with the inscription: GLORY BE TO GOD THIS CHURCH DEDICATED TO ST MARY WAS REBUILT ON THE SITE OF THE ANCIENT CHAPEL AD 1860 THIS STONE WAS LAID JUNE XIV BY W. R. SCHOLFIELD ESQ.
A burial ground was a welcome addition for bereaved members of the community and the money needed was primarily raised by the Revd. Scholfield. At this time the church was progressing well and the school/schoolhouse had been completed. A public holiday was declared and the village celebration was reported in the press:
At lpm about 100 children met for cake and wine [ginger beer?] at the house of the church warden. There followed a procession with flags and banners, then prayers and speeches and an account of the ceremony; some coins and a newspaper were placed in the foundation stone. The day ended with games etc at 9pm."
The architects for the new church were Mallinson & Healey, of Bradford, the most important church architects in the West Riding during the mid- and late Victorian periods. They recommended that the new church should be: "a somewhat larger building, to seat one hundred adults and constructed of Rainton stone, using the old materials chiefly for the foundations and for the internal face and fillings of the walls". In the event, the materials used were hammered sandstone from the Lingerfield quarry near Knaresborouh and square-cut stone from the Brusselton quarry near Darlington. The timbers from the old roof may have formed the seat joists. The architects' fees were £123. 18. Od and the legal fees £58. 17. 4d.
Like most Victorian church architects, Mallinson & Healey worked in the Gothic style, and at the time when St Mary's was designed they favoured 'Decorated Gothic', that is, a style based on medieval models of c.1300. This was the preferred style in the 1850s and 1860s of the so-called 'High Church' movement, which was responsible for so much of the revival of Anglican church life and church building at this time.
The clock was originally housed above the stables at Red House, Moor Monkton where it was struck by lightning. It strikes the hour upon the ancient bell and was made in York by the famous clockmaker Henry Hindley (1701 - 1771), the maker of York Minster's original timepiece. An elderly churchwarden, who had already donated £50 towards the building of the new church, had a great love of clocks and bought the Red House clock for £16. He was instrumental in ensuring that an expert clockmaker in Knaresborough repaired the clock to the highest standard and the face was given a much needed second hand.
Stained glass windows The renowned glaziers Wailes made the east "Double Light" stained glass window which was donated by the Vicar of Aldborough. Wailes also made the large plain west window as well as the two lovely little side chancel windows, which Revd. Scholfield paid for in memory of two of his brothers.
The church was consecrated on 24th September 1861 by the Bishop of Ripon and later in the day Archdeacon Dodgson also held a service .The Archdeacon, interestingly, was the father of Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll. The church had been built by the sheer determination and fund raising efforts of the worshippers, their relatives and others with village connections.
On completion the new church still needed major investment before it could be considered fully serviceable and in 1865 a great problem arose when the inner and outer leaves of the north wall started to separate due to a lack of bonding. It was with difficulty that the vicar and churchwardens raised the £50 necessary for repairs. Other expenses included the installation of the clock in 1865, the relaying of the floor tiles in 1899, the lowering of the oversized pulpit and the purchase of a lectern. The church was initially designed to hold about 130 worshippers and records show that over 100 regularly attended, regardless of poor transportation and difficult tracks.
Eventually, nestling amongst the trees, stood the new church of St. Mary's, with the school and schoolhouse on the right and a site awaiting the new vicarage on the left. At the completion it is recorded that the respected architect Sir George Gilbert Scott wished he had seen the demolished chapel but: "Greatly admired the new church and realised the enormous effort that the villagers and wider community had put into the building of a wonderful new place of worship."
In 1861, when the local population was 260, St. Mary's congregation regularly reached 90. However by 1890, when the population scattered over a wide area had fallen to 136, church attendance became worryingly low and Revd. Sykes had to work hard to guide the parish through one of its many difficult times.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Ladies Association for the Support of Home and Foreign Missions was introduced and Mrs Lawson of Aldborough held the first of many fundraising bazaars; perhaps these were the forerunners of our present church fetes and country fairs. Both were greatly welcomed and brought new life to St. Mary's.
St. Mary's Church and the school/schoolhouse were com-pleted in 1861, at which time the Building Committee: "Regretted that it did not possess the means of building at the same time a Parsonage House there being no accommodation for the clergyman within two miles and a half of the village, but they confidently hope soon to accomplish this very desirable object, as they have the opportunity of receiving £900 if they can raise £300 by the 25th November."
It is almost certain that the aforementioned £900 was paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners by the wealthy Sykes family. The new vicarage was completed in 1866 and provided a suitable new home for the newly appointed incumbent Revd. F.G. Sykes who took up residence in October of that year.
The Ecclesiastical Commissioners paid £1,663.5.3 towards the cost of the Vicarage, whilst Revd. Sykes paid an additional £872 for stables, outbuildings etc. Interestingly, the total cost of the vicarage (£2,535.8.4) was about twelve per cent higher than the basic cost of the church, school and schoolhouse and in its day must have provided a quality of living never previously seen in the parish. At some stage, possibly in the mid-1920s, the vicarage was sold. In May 1933, when known as 'Nether Garth', it was sold again, along with all of the contents, by order of the Executors of the late Vice-Admiral Sykes CMG. This Sykes was most probably related to Revd. Sykes and it is interesting to speculate exactly how the property came into his possession. Possibly the family had a "first refusal" agreement with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in view of their earlier investment.
VICARS AND INCUMBENTS
In 1860 the Revd. G.K. Holdsworth the Vicar of Aldborough was assisted by three incumbents:
• Revd. R.D. Owen, priest in charge at Boroughbridge, appointed in 1855
• Revd. C.R.Scholfield, priest in charge at Dunsforth, appointed in 1858, whose primary task was the re-building St. Mary's.
• Revd. W.H. Thompson, priest in charge at Roecliffe, appointed in 1858.
Robert Deaville Owen BA, Trinity College Cambridge 1845, MA 1848, incumbent at Boroughbridge 1855, Vicar of Aldborough when Revd. Holdsworth retired in 1863.
Charles Richard Scholfield BA, Trinity College Cambridge 1855, MA 1858, curate at Harrowden (Northants) and Maiden Bradley (Wilts), then incumbent at Dunsforth. Following the completion of St. Mary's he returned to Maiden Bradley in 1863. Appointed Vicar of Madehurst (Sussex) in 1866, but returned to Yorkshire and served for 20 years at Great Ouseburn. He died in London aged 70 and is buried at Great Ouseburn.
Frederick Galland Sykes, Scholar of St. John's College Cambridge, BA 1857, MA 1860. Ordained by the Bishop of Oxford in 1858 and served as curate at both Colnbrook and Slough before being appointed incumbent and perpetual curate at Dunsforth in 1865. Dunsforth was designated a separate parish in 1867. Revd. Sykes was appointed vicar and spent the rest of his career in the parish. His son, Revd. Stephen Sykes, was the Vicar of Aldborough 1929- 1936 and both led dedicated and generous lives.
Unfortunately we know very little about the background and interests of Revd. Sykes, although much useful information on the church and village is contained in his handwritten "Doomsday Book," which is now held by the County Archives at Northallerton. He does, however, have a place in the history of Association Football, because whilst at Cambridge in 1856 he was one of the ten undergraduates who drew up the "Laws of the University Foot Ball Club." These survive to this day almost unchanged as the "Rules of Association Football." The Committee consisted of two men from each of Eton, Rugby, Harrow and Shrewsbury plus two others (George Perry, Clapham and Trinity, and Frederick Sykes, privately tutored and St John's). Frederick and George were mediators or perhaps acted as arbitrators and owed their place on the committee to the fact that they had not been to one of the major public schools.
A country vicar needed to be practical and in 1872, "Parson" Sykes as he was known, built a cow shed at the vicarage. A lovely story describes that when his cow was close to calving, the vicar riding in his pony and trap led the animal slowly to a farmer friend in Boroughbridge. In due course the new born calf was put in a bag in the rear of the trap whilst the vicar and the cow walked the three miles back to Dunsforth. The farmer was later repaid with llb of currants to mix with the cow's mash!
VICARS AND CHURCHWARDENS 1924 - 2011
The success of the village church depended through the centuries on its congregation. We are fortunate today that they struggled, often in harsh conditions, to ensure that there was always a holy place in Dunsforth in which they could worship.
Since 1924 each and every vicar listed in the Appendix has contributed to the making and survival of St. Mary's. In recent years the vicar has been assisted by curates Tim Tunley and Caroline Hewlett and for many years by John Moss, Lay Reader. In addition, Revd. Susanne Jukes occupied the post of Associate Priest for a short time.
RENEWED LIFE OF THE CHURCH
Although retired, Revd Atherley continued to visit St. Mary's for a monthly service of Holy Eucharist. By 1974 the congregation had sunk to a seriously low level and with the departure of Mrs. Mallett from the village, the already intermittent Church Council meetings ceased entirely. It was not until 1977 that Revd Noyes convened a meeting consisting of stalwarts of the old Council and half a dozen or so newcomers. The timing was right and from then until the present, St. Mary's has flourished.
FABRIC OF THE CHURCH AND CHURCHYARD 1977 -
In 1977, and with the knowledge that for many years only the most vital repairs had been carried out, the newly established Church Council embarked on a 20 year renovation programme, which was regularly delayed by a shortage of funds.
Stove. The original coke-fired stove deep beneath the nave's iron grille had long since ceased working and in an effort to heat the church, the new Committee's first priority was to buy two Calor gas heaters, which were horrid to light on cold and foggy winter mornings.
Repairs. Raising the £4,000 needed to completely re-wire the church and finally install excellent radiant wall heaters was a tremendous task. Then followed the need for new gutters, where cheap plastic instead of the architect's preferred, but expensive, cast iron was used. By 1996 the spire was in urgent need of re-pointing. With determined fund-raising and a great deal of village support over the course of 20 years, money was found for all of these tasks.
Harmonium. The original 1861 German-made harmonium was, if one ignored the woodworm dust, an attractive instrument. However only Mr Mann (who was, by 1994, a very "old man") could play it with any ability. The other regular organists disliked it intensely and were highly relieved when it was finally replaced by a modern electronic organ.
Following World War I the villagers eventually found the money needed for two inscribed marble tablets. The first was inscribed to "Honour the Dead" - and the dead were a sadly large number for such small villages.
The second was inscribed to "Those who Served". Originally they were set into the wall of the Club/ Games Room that had previously been a tiny Methodist chapel opposite the Angler Inn. Some years later, again when money was short and the building needed to be demolished, the plaques were moved and placed in a brick and render memorial in the churchyard to the left of the gate and subsequently largely hidden by a hedge.
As the result of a questionnaire, the Village Millennium Committee agreed that one of their projects should be to raise funds and build a new war memorial. It was to be sited in a paved half circle of ground previously part of the churchyard and bordering the pavement. The architect's design was universally approved and it was agreed that the two tablets from the earlier memorial would be incorporated and a new plaque added carrying the words "And those who served their country in World War II." On Remembrance Sunday 2000 the congregation gathered proudly for a service around the completed memorial.
Also to mark the millennium, thousands of tiny yew trees were distributed throughout Britain for planting in churchyards. They were propagated from ancient trees growing in the Lebanon that were alive at the time of Christ and represented the continuity of the Christian faith over the two centuries. The St. Mary's millennium tree is growing vigorously in the east of the churchyard.
It was in 1977 that carol services were revived, probably after a long interval, and they have become the highlight in St. Mary's Annual Calendar of Services. The church is splendidly decorated by the ladies of the village and the soft light of dozens of red candles casts a warm glow as children gather happily around the crib. The congregation draws together in the singing of timeless and much loved carols and the scene is set for the celebration of Christ's birth.
Until Mrs Mallett left the village, church fetes were held in the garden of her home, The Old Vicarage." In 1980 the new residents also opened the vicarage gardens for the first of what were to become 25 successive church fetes, although in later years they were usually held at Matteson Farm. In 2005 the fetes were replaced by country fairs that are organised and supported in much the same way. These events, as well as helping to raise money towards the then £8,000 annual Parish Share, have drawn almost the entire village community together. It is worth noting that the Tewitt Youth Band have played at all but one of these events and now the children of the original musicians play their part.
In the early 1980s an enthusiastic group of ladies in the parish began making much needed new kneelers for the church. After a great deal of thought and planning a total of 80 kneelers were worked, each to an individually chosen theme - weddings, deaths, military service etc. All of these have been and will continue to be admired and a cause of interest for years to come.
Further kneelers were made to celebrate the millennium and a wedding kneeler, in 2011.
For many years the popular evening Harvest Festival service was followed by supper and a whist drive in the old schoolroom. However after the County Council sold the building in 1988, a simple morning service was substituted and the congregation fell away sharply. In 1990 Revd. Cooper proposed that the Harvest Festival service should revert to the evening and that farmers, villagers and children should offer "fruits of the earth" at the altar. On these occasions the church is beautifully decorated, often with a spectacular apple pyramid on the font. Hot vegetable soup followed by apple pie and cheese are served in the church and the large congregation often remains talking late into the evening with a comfortable feeling that all is safely gathered in."
During the dark days of World War II the spire of St. Mary's must have been a welcoming and comforting sight to villagers and strangers, particularly to the many Royal Canadian Air Force airmen serving at nearby Linton-on-Ouse. In 1995 Lower Dunsforth celebrated the 50th anniversary of V. E. Day with an exhibition in the church of war memorabilia -uniforms, wartime food rations and photographs, all of which were souvenirs belonging to local families. It was a great success and a wonderful tribute to all who were involved in the war and who vividly remembered those years.
In the church's lower belfry some splendid graffiti can be found, the oldest of which date from when the church was built and include names of the various people then associated with St. Mary's.
There are also names of servicemen and visitors, but the most popular, ever since the 19th century, have been made by those just married in the church. These young couples have written the date and their names hoping to mark the start of a long and happy marriage! The church architect said that these graffiti were historically important and should never be removed.
The Yuletide suppers were first held in the late 1980s and continue to the present time. Despite snow, ice and fog these gatherings have proved to be popular evenings for the villagers and visitors alike.
In 1998 the construction of the inner bund around the village inspired the production of a musical entertainment in the church. The Flanders & Horovitz musical 'Captain Noah & his Floating Zoo' was re-written and the Dunsforth version was called 'Captain Jim & his Amazing Technicolour Flood bank'. The major stars of the show were the children of the village who, wearing yellow hard hats inscribed 'Banks Builders' (the bund's construction contractors), built the amazing " multi-coloured flood bank" of large cardboard blocks across the chancel steps. As well as being an entertainment it also succeeded in encouraging the children to become at ease and happy in what could be a slightly forbidding building.
In the last few years the Cameo Group (Come and Meet Each Other) was introduced by Revd. Jukes and meets monthly for prayers, discussions and refreshments at Ure Lodge.
THE CHILDREN'S MASKS FOR 'CAPTAIN JIM'
The Revd. Richard Cooper became vicar in August, 1990 and is remembered for his inspiring sermons. For example, he was stunned when he reached St. Mary's on 31st August 1997 to learn of the death of Princess Diana. He strolled around the churchyard for a short while and then returned, having replaced his previously planned sermon with a brilliant and memorable address about The Establishment" and Diana's role in bringing her own brand of caring to refresh it.
After Richard Cooper became the Rector of Richmond in 1998, Revd. Philip Smith, was promoted from the curacy and remains our supportive vicar to the present time.
FABRIC OF THE CHURCH AND CHURCHYARD 1998 - 2007
In 1998 the Parish architect Dr. John Baily, formerly architect to Lincoln Cathedral, said:
The church is now nearly 140 years old and is showing signs of its age. We must be prepared to face a continuing programme of repairs to return it to good order."
The Church Council realised that the considerable amount of money needed could not be met solely from the community and this resulted in help being sought from charitable trusts and even the National Lottery. The first success was the greatest with an impressive £18,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which St. Mary's was required to match with L=1,000. The award had to be used to re-build completely the historic clock, re-point the wind-eroded interior of the spire, replace the worn stone louvres with oak and finally repair the broken stone cross on the nave roof.
Leaded glass windows are expected to last 100 years but by 2000 those at St Mary's had long exceeded that time. First the large east window was repaired as it had become dangerously "loose." This was followed by the replacement of the four nave windows, three of which were paid for by donations made by individuals to commemorate loved ones. The fourth window was paid for by the Church Council in memory of Mary Hird, an outstanding and exceptionally long serving member of the congregation.
The new windows were attractively glazed using clear "Antique" glass (Polish-made with imperfections). The original Victorian windows had been made from ridged glass that had darkened over the years. Now the light streams in and the congregation can look out into what, particularly on sunny days, is a very attractive churchyard.
One of Dr. Baily's suggestions was that the ceiling should be painted a warm terracotta colour. This idea was welcomed, the ceiling was painted and for a short time all went well. But then large flakes of paint began floating down leaving unsightly white patches, the result of using emulsion paint on top of years of lime wash. It took another five years, often spent battling with the unbending Diocesan Advisory Committee, before permission was given to line between the exposed rafters with thin terracotta coloured plaster-faced insulating board.
Finally there were the floor tiles, another big job as many were cracked and broken. Others rose and fell awkwardly over the thinly laid sub-floor. Fortunately they could be completely replaced with identical tiles supplied by the very company in Stoke-on-Trent who had provided the original tiles in 1861.
These large and essential projects added up to about £50,000 a sum that could only have been achieved with the help of grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and many and various trust funds.
Since the 1970's the residents of the Dunsforths, in common with villagers throughout Britain, have changed from farmers and farm workers to commuters and people living in retirement. In spite of these changes the church continues to be the religious heart that helps keep the village alive. One hopes that in future years the commitment to the church by the parish will be as great and supportive as it was 150 years ago when the foundation stone was laid. The beauty of St Mary's stems not only from the neo-Gothic architecture in its idyllic setting, but from the dedication and devotion shown by generations of its parishioners.
The clock was originally housed above the stables at Red House, Moor Monkton where it was struck by lightning. It strikes the hour upon the ancient bell and was made in York by the famous clockmaker Henry Hindley (1701 - 1771), the maker of York Minster's original timepiece. An elderly churchwarden, who had already donated £50 towards the building of the new church, had a great love of clocks and bought the Red House clock for £16. He was instrumental in ensuring that an expert clockmaker in Knaresborough repaired the clock to the highest standard and the face was given a much needed second handAPPENDIX
Vicars at Dunsforth from 1924:
Walter Robinson 1924
Stephen Sykes 1929
Harold Merryweather 1937
Cyril Jackson 1944
William Griffith 1947
G A Potter 1951
L Irving 1956
C.G. Atherley 1957
R Barton 1973
Roger Noyes 1974
Richard Cooper 1990
Philip Smith 1999 Rev Dr. Diane Westmoreland 2016
Archie Sykes ? -1973
Valerie Thompson 1988-2007
Mike Cotton 1988-1993
Christine Turner 1993-1999 & 2012-2017
George Calvin 1999-2003
Val Bailey 2003-2008
Fiona Merchie 2007-present
Louise Leong 2008-2012 Penelope Denny 2017-present
This booklet initially was intended to tell a simple story and many have contributed to its telling. As a consequence references have not been rigourously collated. However the majority can be obtained from material that has been assembled and which can be made available for inspection, through the churchwardens, in the vestry of St Mary's.