Pickering Chronicle -1
Today, in common with the rest of the Church, I celebrated the Mass of
Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
Very much not in common with the rest of the Church, I also
commemorated Richard Rolle, who died on this day a very long time ago,
and who is celebrating his 700th birthday this year. This was the
parish of his birth - he was born in Thornton le Dale, just up the
road. He has never been canonized, or even beatified, but one lady in
the parish has a devotion to him and asked me to give him a mention.
This must surely be the minimal possible degree of veneration, way
below beatification - to have one lady in your home town with a soft
spot for you. But I hope I enjoy as much veneration in 700 years time.
Yesterday I took a ride around some of the remoter parts of my parish,
ending up at Levisham, which is as remote as could possibly be - only
one road in, and that a glorified cart-track running down the side of
one mountain and up the side of another. The village is totally cut
off from the outside world when it snows. Amazingly though there is a
railway station, with steam trains (yes) running into Pickering. You
can hear the engines singing "I think I can."
In Levisham I found the tine church of St John the Baptist, largely
rebuilt during the 19th century, but retaining some medieval features,
as the leaflet I purchased there reveals:
"This church, formerly a Chapel of Ease [Ease! You need a helicopter
to get there!] became the Parish Church, dedicated to St John the
Baptist, in the 1950's when St mary's, the Church in the valley, ceased
to be used.
"In the porch is a list of the Rectors of Levisham going back to the
year 1260, reminding us of the long succession of Christian ministry in
"The building incorporates reminders of the whole period of Christian
presence in Levisham. In the porch are broken portions of a carved
grave stone depicting a dragon in Scandinavian style, thought to be
from a pre-conquest graveyard.
[Yes, a dragon! I was unable to discern any genitalia, either male or
female, but members may wish to parachute in and check for themselves.
A real interlaced nith-draca!]
"The font is from Norman times or earlier. It was originally in St
Mary's but was turned out and replaced with something more 'modern'
when the church was rebuilt in the early 19th century. The ancient
font with its rough surface and crude carvings of a cross and Bishop's
crozier was carted away to a farmyard where it was used as a cattle
trough until it was rescued and restored to its proper use when the
Chapel of Ease was rebuilt."
Of St Mary's Church in the Valley the leaflet says:
"The original Parish Church was St Mary's, now a ruin, in the valley
between Lockton and Levisham. The circumstances in which it was first
built are not known. It may have been built by Ralph de Bolbeck, Lord
of the Manor of Levisham in the 13th century, who also held land in
Lockton, on a site that was convenient for both his manors. The
ancient gravestone with a sword carved on it may be his. There are
indications of the site of a house in the field above the church, which
could have been de Bolbeck's Manor House.
"Later, St Mary's remained the Parish Church for Levisham while Lockton
became a Chapelry in the Parish of Middleton.
"The site of the valley church would not always have been the quiet,
secluded spot that it is today. The main road from Whitby to Pickering
came down Lockton bank [je m'étonne!] and followed what is now the
bridle path to Farwath, on old maps named as 'Sleights Road'. In
medieval times, we can imagine the church standing near a busy road
carrying farm traffic on its way to market, officials going about the
business of the royal Forest of Pickering, churchmen and pilgrims
travelling between Whitby Abbey and York Minster."
[It takes some imagination, to be honest.]
In the slightly less tiny and much less inaccessible village of
Lockton, stands the larger church of St Giles, where I also found a
"The Church is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1068 [sic. - 1086,
surely?] - 'There is a Priest and Church of Locketon" and the earliest
detectable stonework is from the 11th century.'
[Though it would take a Sherlock Holmes to detect it.]
"The name Lockton is thought to be derived from the Saxon 'Loca's
place' or 'Loca's farm,' so it may be that it had its origins at that
That is all the information relevant to students of medieval religion,
though there is a fair bit of 17th-century work - Jacobean communion
rails, a font and pulpit of the later part of the century.
Perhaps I shall make some further perambulations of my parish in the
The Supple Dean.
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