Sunday 11 June 2023

St Mary's Church ,Rievaulx

Overlooking the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey is the small parish church of St Mary.It sits quietly on the edge of the village. In the 13th century as the abbey's slipper chapel for pilgrims built into the abbey gates. Visitors removed their boots here and put on slippers, hence the name. Pilgrims came to Rievaulx to visit the shrine of St William, the abbey's first abbot. It was brought to my attention by a guest who was staying with us . Yes of course I had seen it before from the outside but my guest persuaded me to go to a service there, so I thought why not .Meeting me at the entrance apologising that she had misread the times of service. However the door was open and it was nice to have a peep inside. I always like to find different places for our guests to visit and you can stay as long as you wish .The grass outside was nicely mown and to sit in the North Yorkshire sunshine and munch your lunch that is a bonus in my books. The chapel was rebuilt as the parish church of Rievaulx in 1906-7 by Temple Moore, a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott. Moore doubled the size of the original medieval building and added the present chancel, vestry, and tower. The bell toiled the hourwhile we were in the church. We wondered whether someone had popped in unnoticed to ring thebell or it was some modern day device that it rung the bell automatically. Outside the west door is a memorial marked by a large wooden cross to Charles Duncombe, the 2nd Earl of Feversham. Known as Viscount Helmsley, Duncombe was a Colonel of Yeoman Rifles in the 21st King's Royal Rifle Corps. He died on 15 September 1915 at Flers, during the Battle of the Somme. He was first buried at Flers under a cross made from a nearby farmhouse. His body and the cross were brought home to England by his wife Frances and his son the 3rd Earl Feversham. The very touching epitaph refers to Charles and Frances with the simple phrase, 'They were happy here'. One oddity is an extremely small square window, no more than a square porthole, set into the west wall near the door. This is presumably a feature of the medieval chapel, perhaps intended as a leper window, allowing a view of the high altar from outside the church for those who were not allowed to enter the building. St Mary's is a very simple country church and well worth a visit taking time to step away from the humdrum of every day life. Its main interest lies in the fact that is was formerly the slipper chapel for Rievaulx Abbey and incorporates stonework from the abbey gatehouse. It has very good early 20th century windows and a touching memorial to the 2nd Earl of Feversham. It had a feel of a country wedding church scene with lots of flowers around the doorway and little bridesmaids running round a fairy ring laughing and giggling . Quite the Kate Greenaway scene.