The Parish Church of St Thomas a Becket
by our friend and benefactor, the late Ian Haden

Evidence of a Saxon Church

The early history of church life in Hampsthwaite is far from clear and is to some extent based on supposition. The best evidence of its existence in the 5th and 6th centuries lies in the discovery of a number of stone grave covers during the restoration of the present church in 1901. Located beneath the foundations, these were identified as Saxon or early Norman in design and workmanship. Several of them had been incised with crosses in the Celtic style. All have been preserved, the two largest standing adjacent to pillars within the church and the remainder (apart from two recently moved inside the church to prevent further erosion of the stone facing) being set in the walls of the porch.

From this discovery it is feasible to deduce that a burial mound existed – and there may even have been a church made of wood on the site. If so, it would have been close to the Roman road, from Aldborough to Ilkley, which crossed the nearby river and extended almost the whole length of the parish.

The first known church to be built here was probably completed about 1180 and is believed to have been constructed by Hugh de Morville the then Constable of Knaresborough Castle and one of the four knights responsible for the murder at Canterbury in 1170 of Archbishop Becket. The knights were later pardoned for their crime by the Pope who (it is thought) required the building and dedication of the church as part of the penance imposed upon Hugh de Morville. The church is believed to be one of only two churches in the Church of England to currently enjoy that dedication to St. Thomas a Becket.

No information has yet been found of the design or size of the first church, which may have been enlarged in the middle of the 13th century by the addition of a south aisle. Evidence for this? – the base of the pillars which lie two and a half feet below the present floor level and which may have been used as the foundation for the later church built about 1340-60.

Rebuilding the church during the 14th and 15th Centuries

What happened to the first church is pure speculation. We know that, after their victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the Scots invaded the Dales area and damaged a number of churches. Hampsthwaite Church was probably destroyed in the period 1318-19 and then rebuilt sometime between the middle of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th centuries. The strongest evidence for this lies with the lower portion of the existing tower and the south facing window in the belfry, which belong to the early decorated style of architecture. It is possible that the belfry window was originally the west window of the nave and that it was inserted in the tower where an off-centre split window previously existed. The upper part of the tower is perpendicular in style and may have been added in the 15th century. Of particular interest are the initials on one of the pillars, which are believed to be those of the mason who carved the stone.

There are no precise details of the design of the church, but when it was pulled down in 1820-21 it appeared to have been enlarged or altered at least three times. The first building was long and narrow with a high-angled roof, which can be clearly seen inside the church on the east-facing wall of the tower. Some time later the south wall was removed and a side-wall, with a lean-to roof, was built outwards. In place of the south wall the main roof was supported by a row of octagonal-shaped pillars, bearing pointed arches, with the clerestory windows above. The final alteration was to remove the clerestory and to cover the whole church with a single, wide roof. In the south aisle, at the west end, a piscina (stone basin) was found, above which were two brackets set into the wall. They probably supported some sculptured figures and were part of the chapel (or Chantry) dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin and St. Anne.

Rebuilding the church in 1820-21

In 1820, the Vicar, Timothy Metcalf Shand, and the churchwardens sought permission from the Diocese of York to pull down the nave and chancel of the old church, leaving the tower untouched. Presumably, by now the needs of the parish required a larger church. The new one was of poor architectural quality, as may be seen in the four photographs now preserved in the church. It was built to the design of Knaresborough architect Thomas Driffield, who directed the rebuilding work carried out by James Foxton of Ripon. It is reported that Foxton charged £390 and that most of the cost was borne by the rates.

The nave and chancel were almost certainly built on the same foundations as the earlier church, but the south aisle was enlarged to a size greater than the combined nave and chancel. New stone was used for the outside, but the inside walls incorporated much of the old stone. Over the whole building a single low-pitched roof was fixed, with its apex placed away from the centre of the tower while, extended right across the tower and ruining its proportions, was the high gable end, the line of which can still be seen today. Inside, the roof was supported by wooden props (nine inches in diameter), which were fixed to the bases of the original pillars. The ceiling was plastered, with six plasterwork decorations, intended to be used for hanging oil lamps.

The church inside was austere, with very plain furnishings and a single stove at the back to provide heat! No doubt everyone made a beeline for it in the cold winter months! At the east end of the church was a small sanctuary, enclosed by a heavy wooden communion rail, while on the wall behind the altar were four wooden tablets, of which two were inscribed with the Ten Commandments (now preserved in the belfry). Both the nave and the side aisle were furnished with high-backed pews, the ends being fitted with wooden doors. At the back of the church was the large stone font, thought to be Norman, with a tall cone-shaped wooden cover, recently removed from the tower, repaired, polished and suspended from the ceiling above the existing font.

Across the area of the tower an oak gallery from the earlier church was refitted. It still bore the original inscription on a plaque: MR. THOMAS LEUTY BUILT THIS LOFT AT HIS OWN EXPENSE 1725 – T. ATKINSON, VICAR

Above the gallery was a clock with a wooden face and inscribed AR 1711.

The church, described as a barn-like edifice, was clearly too large for the parish and it remained in use for only eighty years.

Restoration of the church in 1901

Herbert John Peck came to Hampsthwaite as curate in 1896. Realising that the church was too large for the size of the parish and following the building of three daughter churches at Thornthwaite, Darley and Birstwith, he instituted a restoration scheme to make good the mistakes of the earlier 1820 design.

Hodgson Fowler, a Durham firm of architects, drew up the new plans, which involved the removal of the ugly roof and of the walls down to their foundations. It was during the excavation of the building that a number of ancient grave covers and stones – one of which had been used as a base for the south wall – were found.

Hodgson Fowler’s original design was considered to be too costly. It was, therefore, decided to omit the short transept from the south aisle in the final plans. In spite of the change, the restoration was to produce a well-proportioned building. While its architecture would not conform to any acknowledged style, it is now thought to be similar to the 14th and 15th century building pulled down in 1820.

The walls of the nave and chancel were rebuilt on the same site, but the church was made smaller by moving the south aisle inwards by eight feet. New stone pillars were built on to the existing pedestals, which were topped by arches to support the roof. They gave a much improved outside appearance, as the tower was no longer dwarfed by the roof and the nave and aisle were in proportion.

Inside, the gallery at the west end was taken down to reopen the tower arch. All the old pews were removed, their wood being used for replacement ones and for facing the inside wall. The oak panelling from the front of the former gallery formed the first pew in front of the lectern. John Haxby, the village joiner and parish clerk, carried out all this work with considerable skill. Some repairs were made to the Jacobean pulpit and it was remounted on a new stone base. Similarly, a new octagonal stone base was made for the large stone font.

The Registers

The Church Registers date from 1603 and the baptism entries are complete. Missing are those for marriages from 1638 to 1652 and for burials from 1645 to 1652, a period of civil unrest, when the Commonwealth was established under Oliver Cromwell; a period too when the Puritans forced Parliament to ban the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and when bishops and cathedral clergy were removed from office and many restrictions were placed upon the parochial clergy.

It is interesting to note in a Parish Magazine of December 1950 that for many years until this (20th) century, the marriage registers in Hampsthwaite Church contain the mark (X) of the bride and bridegroom.*

All church registers, except for the current ones, are stored at the Record Office in Northallerton, with the information from them now on microfiche. In the past, however, they were transcribed and edited by Dr. Francis Collins and then printed in 1902. The cost was largely borne by Bishop Stubbs of Oxford, whose ancestors lived in the parish, and some copies are still in existence.

In the brochure of the bazaar of 1901 there are a number of interesting extracts from the burial registers:
J.F. Master of the Workhouse at Saltergate Hill, upward of 23 years
Elizabeth M. Drunk and drown’d on the Lord’s Day.
F.H. Killed by a cart
G.F. Anabaptist (16th century Protestant Movement); privately interred
R.R. Died and buried in 8 hours
W.M. Killed by foul air in sinking a draw well
G.S. A poor honest Bactchellor, aged 74
J.H. Killed by the fall of a tree seeking to catch a squirrel
T. Smith Heckler (= person who combs out flax fibres) –weighed
H.S. Who hang’d herself on Good Friday 19 stone. Papist.

A tour of the church

Ancient Grave Covers and Memorial Stones

The two sepulchral stones (or grave covers) near the west door and behind the lectern are identified as Saxon or early Norman in origin. They are over five feet in length and both have Celtic crosses carved on the stonework. Other stones from this period, with a variety of crosses, are set in the walls of the porch. One carving is thought to be that of a fish.

On the Baptistry wall is an old grit-stone tablet bearing an interesting inscription in antique capitals:

Feb.18.1653. The.earth.my mother.was. my mother.is. and.thine.shall.be. Oh.think.it.not.amise.her.to.obey. I.was.a.man.like.the.repent. feare.God. love.all..and.follow.me. Francis Jeffray.

Francis Jeffray lived at Kettlesing and was both a prominent churchman and a benefactor to the people of Hampsthwaite. Originally, the tablet was set in the east wall of the porch, but because of deterioration of the stonework it was restored and fixed to the south wall of the Baptistry in 1992.

The earliest memorial stone is set in the floor of the pulpit. It bears the inscription:

Here lies the body of M. Watermoth who died this life
the 8th of June ANO DM MDCCIII (1703)

An unusual feature is the carving of crossbones, which presumably would have been combined with a skull, the old warning of death. The stone probably lay in a passageway and through the centuries the skull was worn away.

The Font

The large rough stone font is believed to be from the Norman period and is certainly the oldest relic from the early church. It is in the shape of a plain bowl, with its outer diameter measuring just under three feet. During 1901 restoration – as mentioned elsewhere – the font was fixed on to a new octagonal-shaped base.

14th Century Brass in the Chancel Wall

The most unusual memorial in the church is the brass mounted in the north wall of the Chancel. It contains a figure and an inscription and may be compared with the great Flemish brasses at Kings Lynn and Newark. There are very few such figures and, in 1895, it was drawn to the attention of the Society of Antiquaries – through whose generosity it was rescued from lying loose, refixed in new stone and set up in the vestry during the 1901 restoration. Later it was removed to the Chancel wall. The Society identified the figure as that of a civilian and dated it 1350-60 or earlier. It has long, flowing hair, beard and moustache and wears a short, close-fitting, tight-sleeved cote-hardie (= body garment), buttoned down the front. Over the shoulder is a cape with a hood and under the cape are pendant streamers from the hood. Round the hips is a plain belt to which is fastened a pouch carrying a knife. The thighs are clothed in tight-fitting hose, but the lower part of the legs and feet are missing. A piece has also disappeared from the head and the streamers are broken. Unfortunately, the figure has been overscored with an inscription of Elizabethan date:

Prayse (=pray or praise) God for ye
soule of AD Dyxon
uncle to Vycar Dyxon
Aug. 18 1570

Such an inscription is an unusual one to be found during the reign of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I. The identity of the figure is not known nor the reason for the inscription cut across it at a later date. From 1558-87 there was a vicar of the parish named Thomas Dickson and it could be that the brass was taken from another grave by a vandal to do duty for the vicar’s uncle.

The Jacobean Pulpit

This pulpit is probably the only one to have been used in the church and is thought to be made from Jacobean oak. It is in the form of a hexagon, with five decorated panels. Their form and dark brown colouring are characteristic of the early 17th century period. During the restoration some repairs were made to the woodwork and it was then that it was re-mounted on a new stone base.

Church Panelling

Some of the woodwork from the 14th and 15th centuries was almost certainly destroyed at the time of the building of the 1820 church. Fortunately, one of the most interesting items, the churchwardens’ pew, was retained and is now sited along the west wall of the Baptistry. On the back panel there is some carving:


To the right is a composite panel, in which there are two sets of inscriptions:

and underneath

The names and initials are those of the churchwardens representing the townships (or village communities) of Hampsthwaite, Felliscliffe, Birstwith and Darley. On the nearby tower wall is another panel with the name WILLIAM TRAMHA 1685 printed in black. He too was probably a churchwarden.

Church Furniture

In the Sanctuary are two high-back oak chairs of the Elizabethan period. The backs are elaborately carved, each with distinctive designs. Of the same period are the two cupboards in the vestry. Adjacent to the lectern is an old oak chest in which was kept a ferrule about 15 inches long. Half ruler, half cane, with an oblong, flat end, it was formerly used to punish unruly boys after the service.

Old Clock Face and Coat of Arms

On the tower wall at the back of church are the wooden face and hands of an old clock, with the initials and date AR 1711. No doubt it ticked away time through many a long sermon. The blind violinist and joiner Peter Barker (1809-73) was proud of his lifetime care of the clock. Several other ‘clever fellas’, according to him, had failed to repair it and it seemed doomed never to go again, but he ‘teak her to pieces, give all t’ pivvits a nice sup of oil and put her togidder ageean’ – much to the astonishment of the Reverend Thomas Shann when he first heard the time of day strike once more. Sadly, the mechanism has disappeared with the passage of time. It was only recently that a visitor to the church, who restored very old clocks as a hobby, volunteered to do what he could with ours – that was until he realised that only the face and hands remained.
Fixed above the door is the large royal coat of arms. Of the Regency period, this was probably installed when the 1820 church was built. Of note is the central escutcheon, bearing the arms of the Royal Dominions of Germany. It is surmounted with the Royal Crown of Hanover, which replaced the Electoral Bonnet in 1816.

Memorial Plaques

The church has a number of interesting memorial plaques on the walls. The earliest, on the south wall, is for William Pullein, who was married in Hampsthwaite church in 1605 and died in 1622. The plaque states that he bequeathed five and a half acres ‘to the poor of Hampsthwaite, Felliscliffe, Birstwith, Menwith with Darley and Holme.’ This is an early reference to the extensive parish at that time. The actual memorial was erected on 18th December 1905 by a descendant, Catherine Pullein, and includes the names of other members of the family.

Thomas Leuty’s memorial – it was he, aforementioned, who built the loft at his own expense – is in the vestry adjacent to the safe. He lived at ‘Holm in this parish’ and died at the age of sixty- eight. The Holme was a thatched cottage on the east side of Darley, which was accidentally destroyed by fire during its restoration a few years ago. Above the memorial to Thomas is one in remembrance of William, believed to be his father and of the same address.

On the east wall of the tower is the memorial to John Swale, who died in 1909. His widow, Mary Ellen, provided the clock in the church tower.

On the south wall, adjacent to the stained glass window, is a tablet to William Simpson of Felliscliffe, who died in 1776. He claimed to be a direct descendant of the ‘Saxon Thane Achil’, who – at the time of Edward the Confessor – held large estates in the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire and at Wipeley (now Clint). After the Norman Conquest, the thane was dispossessed of most of his land, but remained at Wipeley where he died in the reign of William the Conqueror. The family continued to live at Wipeley until 1698, when the estate was sold to Sir John Ingilby Bt. of Ripley. The tablet also commemorates William Simpson’s wife – not mentioned by name – who died in 1741 at the age of thirty-one.

Six former incumbents are remembered, the earliest being Thomas Atkinson, who was the vicar from 1715 until his death in 1737. The inscription states that he was born in the parish and ‘descended from an honest and ancient family ‘.. in every way he was qualified for the sacred function and performed his duty with great care, zeal and diligence.’ The conclusion is particularly touching: ‘He lived beloved and died lamented by his parishioners and acquaintances.’

There is a memorial on the north wall to Joseph Wilson, who came to the parish in 1770 as a curate and who a year later was instituted as vicar. He was the father of Bilton Josephus Wilson, a well-remembered and respected friend of the village, who endowed the school in 1865 with the sum of £45 per annum.

Two members of the Shann family served as vicars for a total of sixty-five years: Timothy Metcalf Shann, vicar from 1790 to 1839, had the unusual distinction of being instituted to the living on two occasions; his nephew, Thomas, who followed him, remained until 1855, when he resigned because of ill health. It was at this time that the patronage was in the hands of the Shann family and continued through successive heirs until 1923.

Near the pulpit is the memorial to Henry Deck, vicar for thirty-six years from 1862 and predecessor of Herbert John Peck. Canon Peck’s outstanding ministry is commemorated with a wooden plaque on the north wall.

Stained Glass Windows

All three stained glass windows are the work of Shrigley and Hunt of Lancaster and London. The east window depicts the Resurrection. In the lower centre light is ‘The angel at the tomb’, with a finger pointing upward and the inscription ‘He is not here, but is risen.’ Above it is the risen Christ, with his hand raised in blessing. In the left light is St. Mary Magdalene and in the right one is St. Peter. Below St. Mary are the two disciples at Emmaus, saying to Jesus, ‘Abide with us, for it is evening, and the day is far spent.’ Below, St. Peter shows Christ’s appearance later that day to the disciples in the upper room, saying, ‘Peace be unto you.’ At the top, in the tracery, Gabriel is appearing to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is announcing, ‘Thou shalt bring forth a son and shall call his name Jesus.’ This east window was the gift of Sir Frederic Aykroyd Bt. of Birstwith Hall and it commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. It was unveiled by Sir James Roberts Bt. on 13th October, 1925 and was dedicated by the Bishop of Ripon, the Right Reverend Thomas Banks Strong.

The window on the north wall of the Chancel consists of one tracery light and two main ones: the former depicts the Pelican in Her Piety; the latter two illustrate the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, with Mary and Joseph on the left and Simeon and Anna on the right. This memorial to William Edward Aykroyd and his wife Alice was given by Sir Frederic in 1942.

The third window – on the south wall of the aisle – depicts the Adoration of the Magi. This was a gift from Mrs. Robert Burton of Burton Leonard and her sister Miss Jane Atkinson of Harrogate in memory of their parents. The family had a long association with the parish of Hampsthwaite.

The Bells and the Church Clock

There is room in the belfry for a full peal of eight bells The original and largest – tenor – bell was hung in 1620 and bears the inscription:

To God that doth dispose all things;
To Him all Glory and Praise we ring.

In 1626 a middle weight bell was installed, also with the inscription:


Then, in 1738, the smallest weight was hung and it bears the inscription:

Jona Hardcastle, Tho. Rhodes, Jona Hutchinson, Hen. Ransome

Some years later the middle weight bell was found to be cracked and the tenor bell fell and broke into pieces. They were then recast in 1857 and the tenor was inscribed:

Given to the parish of Hampsthwaite by

Finally, in 1934, all three bells were recast and rehung in the tower. A special service was held on 29th September, 1934 and at this they were rededicated by the Bishop of Pontefract.

In 2000 three new bells were added. Two were purchased by two local families from All Saints, Wokingham in Berkshire. An appeal was set up for the purchase of a newly cast third bell and to cover the cost of installing all three bells. The new bell was cast (and the other two bells retuned) by Taylors of Loughborough . They were installed in 2005 by an employee of Taylors enthusiastically assisted by the bellringers.

We cannot leave this section without mentioning one special bell-ringer, Saddler Haxby, whose photograph – courtesy of his grandson – is attached. His skill was such that he could ring all three bells at one and the same time! Quite an achievement!

The present church clock, made by J. Smith and Sons of Midland Clock Works, Derby, was given – as previously mentioned – in memory of John Swale by his wife Mary Ellen. In recent years it has twice been given a face-lift, the second time being in 1997, when the tower was repointed.

The Woodforde-Finden Monument

The monument at the back of the church is in memory of Amy Woodforde-Finden, the well-known composer of the Indian Love Lyrics, which obviously still have popular appeal, having been broadcasted in a special radio programme not so many years ago. Her connection with the village came through her stepson, Eric, an invalid who lived here in the care of the local doctor. When he died in 1913, he was buried in the churchyard – along with his father, Colonel Woodforde-Finden, who passed away three years later.

Amy, one of nine children, was born in 1860 in South America, where her father was British Consul in Valparaiso. On his death, the family came to live in England. Some years later Amy travelled to India, where she married Colonel Woodforde-Finden. After three years, when her husband retired, she came back to England to compose both songs and song cycles based on the music of the east. The Indian Love Lyrics were an immediate success and were followed by The Pagoda of Flowers, A Lover of Damascus and On the Jhelum River. She died on 13th March, 1919 and was buried alongside her husband in the churchyard.

The monument takes the form of a recumbent figure of the composer, worked in marble by the London sculptor George Wade. The head is crowned with a laurel wreath, and at each corner are cherubs, representing the angels who ‘bore her to heaven.’ Scenes from some of her songs are depicted on the sides of the monument, together with the Burmese pagoda, the Shwe Dagon from the Pagoda of Flowers. It was unveiled on 15th April, 1923, when the full Harrogate Municipal Orchestra was present and played some of her compositions.

The Organ

Prior to 1880 a Harmonium was used to accompany the services. Thereafter, according to information contained in old documents dated 1858-77, a successful fund-raiser led to the purchase of the first pipe organ in 1880. This was a single manual instrument with pedal board, built by the firm of George Holdich in London at a cost of £120. It was hand-blown, but unfortunately of poor tonal quality. From 1901 the organist for over forty years was Elizabeth Milner, who had to suffer its inadequacies.

In 1948 the decision was made to replace it with the present organ, made in 1891 by Forster and Andrew of Hull. This instrument was originally built at a cost of £325 for St. Martin’s Church in York. When it arrived in Hampsthwaite it was installed for a total cost of £1,000, which was paid out of church funds. Forster and Andrew were noted for building high quality instruments suitable for smaller churches.

The organ has two manuals, pedals and sixteen stops. Apart from lowering the pitch of the original Oboe stop to a Contrafagotto while it was at York and then recently replacing this with a two-rank Mixture here in Hampsthwaite, the organ has remained unchanged from its original specification.

The dedication and opening of the organ took place on 12th January, 1949, when a recital was given by Dr. Francis Jackson, who was the organist and Master of the Music at York Minster. Included in his music that evening was Widor’s Toccata from the Fifth Symphony.

Due to deterioration of the wood in the tracker action, a major renovation of the organ took place in 2007-8. This involved removing all the mechanical action between the pipes and the two manuals and its replacement with an electro-pneumatic system. With the introduction of super and sub-octaves and the incorporation of stops on the manuals into the pedals, the existing pipe-work is now used more extensively.

A walk outside the church

Members of the Thackeray family, from whom William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) of Vanity Fair fame was descended, are buried in the churchyard. The grave is a flat stone on three square uprights and is somewhat crudely carved with names commencing in 1740. In 1804 a brass tablet was fixed on to it with an interesting inscription:

Here lies the body of Thos. Thackeray of the Town, son of Joseph Thackeray, clerk of the parish, who departed this life 21st Jan. 1804 aged 56 years. Farewell vain world I’ve had enough of thee. I’m careless therefore what thou sayst of me. Thy smiles I court not, nor thou frowns do fear; my cares are past, my bones lay quiet here. What fault thou foundst in me take care to shun. Look well at home, enoughs time to be done.

The porch was erected by the Thackerays at the time of the Restoration. Over the door is a plaque in memory of William Makepeace, with the following inscription:

To the memory of William Makepeace, who suffered at the stake for the Protestant faith at the end of Queen Mary’s reign and also in memory of his descendants, the Thackerays of Hampsthwaite, who owed their manliness, goodness and success in life to their training in homes of piety and great simplicity. This porch has been added to their parish church by a few of their surviving descendants. Ps. xv 1.2.

The Lychgate and the War Memorial

The lychgate at the entrance to the church is the work of Robert Thompson of Kilburn. It was given by Lady Aykroyd and was erected in 1938 in memory of her parents, Sir James Roberts Bt. and Lady Elizabeth Roberts. Sadly, in comparatively recent years the original four-legged ‘Thompson mice’ have been damaged. Nearby, is the War Memorial, which commemorates the men from the village who died in the two world wars. It takes the form of a Celtic cross on a stone plinth and lies in direct line with the cross on the altar in the church. This was stipulated by Canon Peck and the churchwardens in their application for a faculty from the Diocese.

Some Interesting Graves

The oldest grave is a flat stone lying on the ground. About six feet by two feet, it bears the letters WD and the date 1640. The only person with those initials buried in that year was William Day. A family of this name lived in Birstwith during this period.

At the east end of the churchyard is the grave of Peter Barker, the blind joiner and cabinetmaker. Born in Hampsthwaite in 1808, he lived in the cottage adjacent to the church. Allegedly a mischievous youth, he had musical gifts and was a talented violinist, an ardent member of the choir and a bell-ringer. As a joiner he was self-taught and made sturdy chairs, tables, chests and picture frames, a feat which amazed his sighted craftsmen friends. When re-panelling a pew, he revealed some carving two hundred years old. The inscription on his tomb reads:

‘Though blind from infancy he was skilful as a cabinet-maker, a glazier and a musician. By sense of touch he searched the Scriptures daily. Jesus took the blind man by the hand, whereas I was blind now I see.’

A much-visited grave in the churchyard is that of Amy Woodforde-Finden – and nearby is that of Canon and Mrs. Peck. There is an interesting headstone to the memory of Jane Ridsdale, who lived in Hampsthwaite, but died at Swinton Hall, near Masham at the age of fifty-nine. From it we learn that she was ‘in stature only thirty-one and a half inches high.’

At the side of the porch is a sundial, mounted on a stone pillar, which is dated 1672. Unfortunately, it was vandalised in recent years and the pointer is now missing.

Members of the Tetley family, who lived at Hollins Hall, are buried in the churchyard. They founded the brewery at Tadcaster and in the 1950’s handed over the Hall to Dr. Barnardo’s.

Edward Greenwood, who died in 1852 is buried here and there is a memorial plaque in the chancel. He was a local benefactor, who enlarged and partly rebuilt Swarcliffe Hall. As he was unmarried, on his death the estate passed to his brother John Frederick, who was largely responsible for financing the building of Birstwith Church in 1856-57.

Vicars from 1900 to the Present Day

Herbert John Peck came to Hampsthwaite in 1896 and served as curate to Henry Deck. On the latter’s death he was appointed vicar and was instituted on 25th June, 1898. Thus began the second longest ministry in the parish.

Without doubt Canon Peck’s incumbency was outstanding, not only for his leadership in the restoration of the church, but also for his ministry in the parish where he was very well liked. He is said to have carried in his pockets a bottle of cough mixture, a bottle of tonic and a spoon. Any parishioners whom he met who looked peaky had a dose of one of his concoctions poured out for them. This, of course, was in the days when there was no free medicine and when farm labourers earned only a pittance.

He was a familiar figure as he rode around the parish in his four-wheeled wagonette. Then, in 1921 he changed to a Humbrette cycle-car before purchasing a twelve horsepower Austin Tourer. He knew everyone in the village and, during his fifty years’ ministry, he baptised, married and buried many in the same family. The traditional round of services were taken each Sunday and he was known to preach long sermons – in response to which some of the teenage boys are said to have bowled the brass collection plate down the aisle as a reminder of the time! He made Plough Sunday a special occasion. On it a specially cleaned plough was taken to the altar to be blessed. He was an active supporter of social events in the village and in particular of the Hampsthwaite Feast.

Canon Peck was elected a Proctor in Convocation for the Ripon Diocese in 1921 and for many years he attended the Church Assembly (now = the General Synod) in London. For his notable work in the parish and for his efforts on behalf of the Diocese, he was made an Honorary Canon of Ripon Cathedral in 1929. He retired to Harrogate in 1946 and died on 11th September, 1949 at the age of eighty-one.

Next, in 1946, upon demobilisation from a chaplaincy in the RAF, came Alec Thorpe Goodrich. He entered fully into village life and was to be seen riding around Hampsthwaite on his horse. He resurrected the ancient ceremony of ‘Beating the Bounds’ and the blessing of the crops on Rogation Sunday. This involved a procession around the village, joined by members of the Methodist Church and Saltergate Hill Mission Church.

In 1948 Mr. Goodrich and the PCC decided to replace the inadequate organ with the present instrument. As a result, the music at the services improved considerably and St. Thomas a Becket Church became the first in Nidderdale to broadcast a service. This took place on 29th April, 1951 at 7.40pm, when Evensong was sung, with Walter Bussey as the conductor and Leonard Houseman as the organist. After a short ministry, the Rev’d. Alec Goodrich resigned in 1952.

The next incumbent, for twenty-one years from 1952, was William Suthern. He was a priest who thought deeply and prepared thoroughly. His attention to detail in the conduct of the services was well known and many commented upon the beautiful way that they were taken. Being a man of musical gifts, he trained the four-part church choir to a high standard of singing rarely heard in a village church. His thoroughness showed in the many good decisions made by the PCC about the fabric of the church, which he said that he wanted to leave in the excellent condition in which he had found it on his arrival. In the latter part of his ministry he was also the Rural Dean of the former Deanery of Nidderdale. He retired in 1973.

John Frederick Walker came to the parish in 1974. Soon after his induction at Hampsthwaite he threw himself into the work of the parish, visiting extensively and seeking new members for the church. As a former Ecumenical Officer for the Wakefield Diocese, he was keen to extend the hand of fellowship to the Methodist Church and was responsible for encouraging the many joint services.

Mr. Walker was a man of strong faith and firm principles and he was held in high regard by many in the parish. A powerful preacher, he challenged dated thinking and always gave a clear message. He retired in 1986.

Previously in banking, Anthony George Hudson began to train for the ministry in his mid-forties. After his ordination in 1984, he served his curacy at St. Mark’s Church in Harrogate. In 1987 he was appointed priest-in-charge of Hampsthwaite and Killinghall. When the two parishes were united in 1994, he became vicar of the combined parish. A year later he was made Assistant Rural Dean of the Harrogate Deanery.

Mr. Hudson quickly showed his skill in overseeing a number of improvements to the church. This included enclosing the belfry arch with a well-designed window frame and distinctive glazing, and the installation of a false roof in the choir vestry to form an upper floor for bell-ringing. Later work included the fitting of the Sanctuary gates to match the design of the existing rails, a new altar frontal and carpets for the Chancel and Sanctuary. When the Diocesan Surveyor reported that the tower needed repairs, Mr. Hudson and a sub-committee organised a scheme to raise £12,000 so that the work could proceed free of debt.

Apart from his parish work he was in demand for his financial skills, serving on the Diocesan Board of Finance. He resolved the difficult task of apportioning the Parish Share amongst the churches in the Harrogate Deanery.

A man of artistic skills, he designed and made his own stoles and worked tapestry kneelers for the Sanctuary. He retired in 1999 to live in Harrogate.

Church Community Room and Tower Room

The church community room was completed in 2005 and dedicated by the Bishop of Knaresborough. It was built by C.F.Batchelor and intended for use, not simply for church meetings but, by all the residents of the village. From funds raised for hanging the new bells, it was also possible to fit a spiral staircase to the first floor of the tower. Both ground and first floors were renovated for use by the choir and the bellringers.

NB. Here ends Ian Haden’s account.


The Reverend Christella Wilson (known as Chrissy) was inducted as Vicar of the Benefice of Hampsthwaite with Felliscliffe & Killinghall and Birstwith in 2014. Chrissy served for 5 years and moved to the Durham area on sabbatical in October 2019.


The Benefice is currently in vacancy. Details of the position will be available soon.