On a hot and sunny Saturday in July, over 20 Friends and trustees gathered for the annual North Yorkshire tour.
Led by former trustee, Sophie Weston, the trip was a mix of the old and the new –starting with two ancient, small churches on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, before moving on to Ampleforth Abbey and the new visitors centre.
Trustee Jane Hedley shares her experiences and photos from the day. All Saints, Old Byland is situated just off the large village green, where we were able to park and follow the footpath to the ancient church. We were welcomed with coffee and biscuits and were given a talk by one of the churchwardens. The church is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a wooden church. Rams horns on the chancel arch and winged horses with a star motif on the porch indicate early Norman influence.
The winged horses were a design associated with St Oswald the Anglo-Saxon king defeated by the Normans, and this may show some defiance by the villagers in keeping them. The origins of the village make an interesting story. The Byland monks were thrown out of Scotland and were turned away by the monks at Furness, then came to Yorkshire. They settled at Tylas where the villagers were sent away and resettled at Old Byland. However the monks at Rievaulx disliked the bells at Tylas and vice-versa so they moved again and built the magnificent Byland Abbey which we know today.
The monks gave the font to this church and tiles in the sanctuary are identical with Byland Abbey tiles. Until the Middle Ages they remained owners of the village. The church was partly rebuilt in the 14th century after a fire and the chancel had a flat roof which collapsed as recently as 1981 to reveal high pitched medieval roof timbers. The whole village was sold in 1922 at the Station Hotel in York by the monks of Newburgh Abbey to settle debts.
Our next church was St Mary, Scawton, built in 1146 by the same monks who built Byland Abbey. The local landowner built the church to save the villagers walking to Old Byland for services. The most striking thing about the interior are the twin arches either side of the chancel arch with large squints.
On the North wall of the sanctuary is a mysterious trough and two columns with waterleaf capitals and a moulded cornice.
Our final visit was to Ampleforth where we attended the midday office and enjoyed our lunch in the Abbey Tearoom before a tour of the Abbey church, created by Giles Gilbert Scott. The Abbey was founded in 1802, originally as the lodge of the Fairfax chaplain from Gilling Castle. It is now the largest Benedictine Community in Europe.
Set in a private estate of 2000 acres of beautiful countryside the buildings are very impressive. ‘Mousey’ Thompson was responsible for all the choir stalls, and the Blue Hornton baldachino arch made in Austria which faces both east and west over the main altar is the centrepiece of the building. The significance of the items in the church was explained very clearly to us.
Our thanks to Sophie who organised another brilliant and very interesting day.