InCh, short for “Internet Church”, was a history project by parishioner Don Jackson, written in 1998. It is a very early example of a Church documenting its history on the (at that point only nine years old) “world-wide-web”. It is presented here in its original form, with only minor stylistic changes and correction of typographical errors.

The Parish Church of St Mary at Whitkirk

Whitkirk is within the area of the ancient British Kingdom of Elmet, conquered by and added to the territory of Edwin, King of Northumbria. He was baptized in 627 and there is reason to believe that between then and the Conquest, Elmet never lost its faith. In that case there is a strong possibility that there was on the current site a wooden place of worship which would be dark in colour. This was at some time not too long after the Norman Conquest replaced by a stone structure which would be white – the “White Church” hence Whitkirk.

Certainly Whitkirk is not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, since there was no settlement there – the Church strictly is in Colton. It must be remembered that the Domesday Commissioners were not looking for Churches as such, but for chargeable land and possessions. There is mention of a Church at Gipton, both Gipton and Colton were part of the same Manor so the Church on the Whitkirk site is probably that one. Certainly there is no other evidence of a Church having existed at that time at Gipton. The earliest known occurrence of the name Whitkirk (Whitechirche) is a charter confirming to the Knights Templar land including Whitkirk in about 1154.

The advowson (right to present the incumbent) usually followed the ownership of the land at this time and the clergy were often representatives (vicarii) of religious foundations. Whitkirk’s first known Vicar is listed in the Inquisition of Templars’ Estates (taken in 1185) which records that “the church of Whitkirk is in demesne, except the altar, which Paulinus the priest holds for three marks.” The list continues unbroken from that date until the present incumbent who is the 44th. As may be expected, over such a long period there were many characters (In 1349 there were two people claiming to be the lawful Vicar of Whitkirk). Some of them went on to much higher office in the Church. Some fell out with their Churchwardens. Some appeared only briefly at Whitkirk, leaving the work there to Assistant Curates.

The advowson belonged to the Knights Templar from before 1135 until 1312, when the Templars’ property was dissolved. From that time until 1540 The Prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England (Knights Hospitallers) presented the Vicars of Whitkirk. In 1540 that order was dissolved and its property seized by King Henry. From this property (amongst other similarly acquired) Henry founded Trinity College, Cambridge and in 1546 the “rectory, advowson and all appurtenances of the premises at Whitkirk” was presented to the Master, Fellows and Scholars of the College, who continued to be patrons until 1898, when the advowson was obtained by the Hon. Mrs. Meynell-Ingram of Templenewsam and subsequently vested in the Meynell Trustees, with whom it rests to the current day.

The Church Building

Of the very early building, no hard evidence exists, but we are most probably right in assuming that in the 12th. century, there existed a building comprising a rectangular chancel and unaisled nave. The width of the 12th century nave is probably represented by the present nave and it seems that part of its north and south walls have been reused and survive in the square plinths on which the present pier bases stand. In the 13th or early 14th. centuries the short chancel would receive an eastward extension, according to the custom of the time. At the same time, it seems that there was a widening of the chancel to the width of the nave. The new walls would be raised outside the earlier ones.

A north aisle about the same width as the present north aisle may have been added to the nave. There may also have been a south aisle. In the 15th. century the nave aisles were probably rebuilt and the South aisle altered to the width of the south (Holy Trinity) Chapel which was probably built in the 14th. century. The clerestory, porch and tower would be amongst the latest additions to the fabric. By her will dated 10th July 1454 Dame Joan Wombwell bequeathed forty shillings for the making of the Whitkirk bells and it is reasonable to suppose they were to hang in a new tower.

The fabric appears to have remained unaltered from the 15th. to the 19th. centuries. In 1855-56 the East walls were rebuilt and the roofs largely renewed and at this time the 18th. century three-decker pulpit, box pews and western gallery disappeared. In 1901 an eastward extension of the chancel and the building of a new vestry were completed and at the same time the South or “Temple Newsam” chapel, the burial place of the Ingram family was refurbished and embellished by the Hon. Mrs. Meynell- Ingram of Temple Newsam.

The next major alterations were in 1980 when the Church took its present appearance. Structural faults in the floor of the Chancel made it necessary undertake major internal building work and the opportunity was taken to reorder the Church in accordance with modern liturgical thought. The High Altar which stood under the East Window was shortened and brought forward. The remaining part of the Altar stone was placed in the South Chapel. The North Chapel was removed and the Choir transferred to the West end. The 1889 font and cover were removed and what is believed to be a Saxon font bowl re introduced. The Congregation are now enabled to communicate around three sides of the Altar. Strangely, despite the alterations, installation of modern lighting and similar up-dating the atmosphere of the ancient building remains.

It happened at Whitkirk – Long Ago

These extracts originally ran as a monthly article in the parish magazine and are reproduced here by permission.


On January 3rd. 1645, the puritan Long Parliament caused the abolition of the Prayer Book and the substitution of “The Directory for the Public Worship of God”. Every parish was bound to possess one and anyone found using the Book of Common Prayer, privately or publicly, was to be fined £5 for the first offence £10 for the second and imprisonment and loss of all goods for the third. Mr. Charles Proctor, Vicar of Whitkirk since 1635, who was of Puritan sympathy (and thus retained his living), would undoubtedly use the Directory with great pleasure.

On the 12th. January 1763 at its meeting, the Vestry ordered “that two sufficient oak beams be put under the floor in the steeple next below the framing of the bells to support the said floor and a new sole tree under the great Bell and also a new upright post in the said sole”. The bells alas are no longer rung because of the unsafe condition of the wooden beams (It is not thought that the guarantee for this work was for 235 years!)

Until very recently it was necessary for a new incumbent to read aloud and publicly at a service the 39 Articles of Religion. On 10th. January 1864 George Moreton Platt did this before the congregation assembled for Divine Worship on Sunday afternoon.


On February 16th. 1808, the Church was broken into very early in the morning and “the large folio Bible, three surplices, three Communion table cover, the tablecloth and napkin” were stolen. On the 24th. February the Vestry resolved “that the Churchwardens be authorised to offer a reward of 25 guineas for the discovery of the person or persons who robbed the Church to be repaid on their commitment, and a further reward of 25 guineas to be paid on their conviction “

This break-in involved the Church in considerable expense, which is recorded in the accounts. The new Bible cost £1.11.6. The surplices and napkin cost £4.8.3 and their making up 10shillings and 6 pence. The reward was advertised widely and there is a record of them being posted at “York, Wetherby, Tadcaster, Knaresborough etc.” The advertising cost in total the sum of £2.2.3. There is no record of the thieves having been caught and of course the Ecclesiastical Insurance Company were not around at that time to make a claim from!


By Act of Parliament passed 24 August 1653 only marriages solemnized before a Justice of the Peace were declared lawful. Of such marriages there are seven entries at Whitkirk during the years 1653-5, e.g., ” Walter Moyle of Twyford in the County of Middlesex Esqre, and Mrs Mary Stapleton of Templenewsame in the County of Yorke were married before Sr. Arthur Ingram Knt., Justice of the Peace for the West Riding of the County of Yorke afforesaid, the xxith day of March 1653. Ar. Ingram.”. Four of the seven couples were married before John Savile, Esq., a West Riding Magistrate, another before Martin Iles and another before

Henry Roundell – both “Justices of the Peace within the Borrough of Leeds”

The vestry, on the north side of the east end of the church has been there -in various guises- certainly from 1666 and probably long before. The current vestry dates from 1901, but references to “ye vestry” appear in the Churchwardens’ Books quite regularly before that. On the 24th. March 1791 it was agreed “that the Floor of the Vestry shall be new laid with Boards in a good and sufficient manner”


Easter has in the Church from time immemorial been a ‘Feast of Obligation’ i.e. a day on which all members of the Church should make their Communion. Frequent celebration of the Eucharist is a fairly recent development. In the earliest available book of Churchwardens’ accounts, that for 1653, Holy Communion was administered only four times a year, -at Whitsuntide, Michaelmas, Christmas and Easter. Of these Easter was most notable in that on Easter Monday the Annual Parish Vestry meeting took place. At this meeting, as of now, Churchwardens were elected and any other Parish business transacted. It should be noted that there was no Parish Annual Meeting as we now have, since P.C.C.’s were not yet formed and it was assumed that all those living in the Parish would be Churchgoers. Any other necessary business between Annual Meetings was dealt with by calling a Vestry Meeting.

It was apparently the custom at Whitkirk to hold the Easter Monday meeting at the Brown Cow with a Parish Dinner, paid for by the Churchwardens (presumably from Parish Funds). In 1809, they paid the Brown Cow the sum of 10 shillings and 6 pence (about 52 pence). By 1827, this had gone up to £1. And in 1829, the Vestry meeting resolved “that the sum of Thirty shillings (£1.50) shall be allowed in future for the expenses of every Easter Monday – and the above sum not be exceeded”


Last month was the Feast of Easter. May sees Feast of Whitsuntide. This also was a Feast of Obligation, and one of the four times at Whitkirk that Communion was always administered., It is worth noting that by the middle of the 18th century, the number of communion days had increased to nine, though it would seem that the number of communicants was less

The Churchwardens’ accounts for the 18th. Century reveal various payments regarding the Communion Plate and vessels. On May 31st. 1794 for example there is an entry “To plate fetching from Templenewsam 2s3d” and “To Butler for plate cleaning – 2s6d”. In the 1773-74 accounts there is a payment of 1s6d “for the plate bringing from Lord Irwin’s to the Church 6 times ” and in 1784-85 to Grace Mason. Sexton for fetching and carrying the plate to Templenewsam at 6d a time the sum of two shillings and six pence.

These and similar entries seem to indicate that when not required at Church, the plate was kept at Temple Newsam – probably on account of thefts – and brought down when required.

Now, some 200 plus years later, the wheel of time seems to have come full circle. After many years being kept in a box in a vault at the Bank, since it could not be taken out and used for fear of theft, the major silver belonging to the Church is now in safe custody once more at Templenewsam as part of a display, with the proviso that when needed in will be brought down from the House to the Church – though it may well cost more than 6d (two and a half pence) a time!

See also the entry in Clocks for what happened on 4th. May 1772


See the entry in Clocks for what happened in June 1786


The Advowson (the right to present the Vicar) at Whitkirk belonged to the Knights Templar from before 1135 until 1312 when the Templars’ property was dissolved.. From then until 1540 The Prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England (Knights Hospitallers) presented the Vicars of Whitkirk. In 1540 that Order was dissolved and in 1546 the “rectory, advowson and all appurtenances of the premises at Whuitkirk” was presented to the Master Fellows and Scholars of the newly founded Trinity College by King Henry VIII. They continued to be patrons until 1898 when the advowson was obtained by the Hon. Mrs. Meynell-Ingram of Templenewsam and has since been vested in the Meynell Trustees.

We are fortunate that we possess a list of the names of all the Vicars from Paulinus the Priest (the first) to John Day our 44th. Incumbent.

It became customary for new incumbents to be presented by the Patron of the living to the Bishop, then for them to be Inducted into the living (usually by the Archdeacon) and for them to “read themselves in” by reciting the 39 Articles of Religion in the face of the congregation at a service. There was often considerable delay between these processes.

July seems to have been a favourite month for one or more of these processes at Whitkirk. Radolphus Clement, Prebendary, was presented by the Prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England and instituted on the 4th. July 1324. Williuam Baker, presented as before was instituted on 14th July 1429. William Every was presented in July 1495. Peter Simon M.A. Fellow of Trinity and Chaplain to Lord Irwin was presented to Whitkirk by Trinity College and instituted on July 12th 1743.

In October 1749 Mr. Simon was also instituted (on the presentation of H.M. the King) to the Vicarage of Welton in the East Riding and held both livings until his death. In his absence from Whitkirk duty at Whitkirk was done by “the Rev. Mr. Capstick”

The list of Vicars (strictly Curates) and Assistant Curates contains the names of many notable Churchmen and even more interesting characters and shows how the history of the Church follows the history of the Nation.


The actual date of the Consecration of St. Mary’s is of course lost in the mists of antiquity. One of the earliest clues to the date of the Patronal Festival is contained in a document of the early 13th. Century where it is stipulated that the grantee should attend Whitkirk Church annually on the 15th. August (the Feast of the Assumption) This was probably the Patronal Festival at that time. In 1536 Convocation directed that all Dedication Feasts in England should be celebrated everywhere in England on the first Sunday in October and Patronal Feasts should no longer continue to be observed “except they were such Holy days as were universally kept”.

Within Whitkirk Parish for many years the Sunday after the 26th. August was observed as Halton Feast Sunday In this connection it should be remembered that in 1752 came the reformation of the calendar and the 11 days between September 2nd and September 14th. were omitted. Taking those 11 days from August 26th. brings us back to August 15th.

Nicholas Asquith of Hackney in his Will of 1635 directed that the Vicar of Whitkirk should preach a sermon in his memory “…on the first Sunday next after the 12th. August being the day on which formerly and usually they have used to have a general feasting of mirth in ye parish”

In the Churchwardens accounts are several references to the Feast Day. As an example in 1656 there was a charge for a warrant for Tom Harrison and others for disorder upon Halton Feast Day.

In the latter part of the 18th. Century there was a growing custom of having a number of Children baptised on the Feast Sunday and in the first issue of the Whitkirk Parish Magazine (September 1866) the Vicar, the Rev. G.M. Platt says “Halton Feast Sunday – families long parted can again worship God together. Such reunion is the right way to enjoy the feast. Other kinds of harmless mirth should be deferred till Monday”

The current observance of the Patronal Festival on September the 8th (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) was begun by the Rev. G. Sharp, vicar in 1907, since the Assumption was not a Festival of the Prayer Book Calendar.

Halton Feast however certainly continued until the 1930s in that towards the end of August a travelling fair took up residence for a week in the village on land behind where Temple Motors now are.


The current cemetery at Whitkirk is filling rapidly and it will not be too long before active search will have to be made for further accommodation. This however is no new problem – though the solution may be more difficult to find. Considering the antiquity of the Church site at Whitkirk it is probable that there has been a “God’s Acre” or place of Christian burial there for nigh on a thousand years. Incidentally, the reason for the term “God’s Acre” is because it was laid down in the year 943 that the measure of a burial ground should be ‘a lawful acre in length’. The ground lying to the South of the Church was the first to be used. There was a superstition that the North side of a Churchyard was less sacred than that on the South.

The Churchwardens’ records and accounts often have references to the Churchyard. On September 23rd 1824, a Vestry meeting resolved that “a small addition be made to the Churchyard on the North side by the purchase of part of the old Vicarage parallel to the Church…” and that the then wall should be taken down and re-erected so as to enclose the new purchase. There was also provision for re-aligning the footpaths. This piece of land was in 1832 was used for the first time for a burial, that of William Richardson aged 3 years, of Seacroft who was buried on September 14th.. This land was not however formally conveyed (and therefore not consecrated) until 1847, when another piece of ground adjoining the North side which contained about 10 perches and was used by the schoolmaster as a garden, having been fenced in, was added to the Churchyard.

There were further additions in 1853. The Vicar’s two cottages and the Girls’ Sunday School were pulled down and a small triangular piece of waste land at the South East Corner of the Churchyard was given b y Hugo Meynell-Ingram, Esq. These three pieces of land, having been fenced in were consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon on October 24, 1853. A new wall of the East side of the churchyard was built at the same time.

By an order In Council dated October 22nd 1856, burials in the Parish of Whitkirk were to be discontinued in the Church itself (with the exception of the Waud vault and then only from the exterior and under stringent conditions) and no new burial ground should be opened. When a few years later more land was needed for a burial ground the problem arose again. This time it was solved in 1862 by pulling down the Whitkirk Boys’ School (which stood north of the then Churchyard near the Selby Road and West of and about in line with “Glebe House”, then the master’s residence. Permission was granted on the 2nd. September 1884 for its use as a burial ground, superseding the Order of 1856. This land was consecrated by the then Bishop of Ripon (Dr. Robert Bickersteth) on September 29th. 1864.

In 1869 there was a project for enlarging the Churchyard southward by taking in a small portion of the Vicarage grounds. (Not of course the present Vicarage but the one built in 1823 which was demolished when part of the Glebe was sold and the current Vicarage built). This however was abandoned in favour of an acre and a half of land being granted by the Hon. Mrs. Meynell-Ingram of Temple Newsam for a burial-ground for the Parish. This is the site of the current burial-ground, west of the Church and on the South side of Selby Road and incorporates “a certain close called Rawlinson’s Close”. Approval was given by the Home Secretary in a letter dated 17th. May 1873 and the required other conditions were fulfilled and the new burial ground was enclosed together with a further half acre of land conveyed by Mrs. Meynell Ingram “ a Cemetery for the interment of persons not of the Church of England”. The new ground was consecrated by Bishop Bickersteth on October 17th. 1874 who insisted that a line of six boundary stones be laid to mark off the Church of England ground from the non-Anglican.

Only the lower half of the Anglican plot was used until 1972 but by this time the site was being filled and the portion nearer the Church was brought into use. Shortly after, a portion within the ground, nearest the Church was designated as an area for cremation plots. Increased housing within the parish means that within the foreseeable future, the current provision for both burial and cremation plots will be exhausted and as was said at the beginning – where now?


The 14th. October 1423 saw the Institution of John Thetford, the 12th. Name on the list of Vicars of Whitkirk. He was presented to the Bishop by the Prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England. In his will, he describes himself as “…vicarius perpetuus ecclesie parochialis de Whitkyrke” His Will must have been made just before his death, for though we have no actual date for his demise, the Will is dated 26th June and was proved on the 14th. July in the year 1429. He requested to be buried in the Church and appointed as his executor Alfred Manston. Burial within the Church was at that time fairly common for prominent people, and many former clergy also were buried within the Sanctuary or Chancel, though traces of their actual place of burial have been lost, except where the gravestone is still extant – as is the case of Martha Tottie (1735 aged 83) who was “esteemed by all for her Piety and Charity”. John Smeaton (Obit 1792) is buried under the new sanctuary and an inscription on the York Stone of his initials is a marker.

It is unlikely that there was any attempt to warm the Church generally before the middle of the 18th. Century though the Churchwardens’ accounts from 1664 onwards include charges for coal. There is no evidence where this was burned, but there are references to the Vestry fire, so it must be assumed that there was a fireplace there. This would be required for the comfort of the officiating clergy and also the meetings of parishioners (Vestry meetings) when they from time to time participated in Church business there. It was at one of these meetings on the 2nd. October 1823 that it was resolved “That two new stoves, properly secured by stonework, be erected – one in the vacant space on the North aisle – the other at the entrance by the Chancel”.(There was at this time a North doorway). These stoves were replaced in 1846 at a cost of £25 3s. There were further attempts to heat the church, mainly unsuccessful, until in 1877 the first heating by pipes (“central heating”) was carried out and in 1883 the system, part of which still survives in the piping, was installed at a cost of £104. The boiler house was underground and approached through a trapdoor and flight of steps outside the North wall of the Tower. It survived, with amendments until the 1980 re-organisation of the Church, when a boiler room was built inside the base of the Tower.

The bells, which are at present unable to be rung for safety reasons, are themselves worthy of a separate page, but this month on the 4th they were rung 104 years ago for a special occasion. The then Duke and Duchess of York (later to become King George V and Queen Mary) were the guests at Temple Newsam of the Hon. Mrs Meynell Ingram and the bells were rung in welcome. They were in Leeds to open on the following day the new Hall of the Yorkshire College (now Leeds University) and the Medical School. For their efforts the ringers were paid the sum of 11s (55p). A year earlier on the 6th. July they had been paid £1.2s to ring in celebration of the marriage of the Royal couple

See also the entry in Clocks for what happened on October 2nd 1823.


It happened in Whitkirk long ago – as long ago as 710 years in fact. On November 19th 1288 Roger ‘dictus do Thorp arches’ priest was Instituted to the Vicarage of the Parish Church of Wytekirk on the presentation of Brother Robert de Turville Master of the Temple in England. Roger is the third on the list of Incumbents of the Parish and the first whose Institution or Induction date is certain. The actual date of his Induction we do not know, the information we do have being from the letter which was sent to ‘the archdeacon or his official’ in order that the archdeacon should carry out that duty.

On November 18th 1540 the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem in England were dissolved by Henry VIII and the right to present the Vicar was taken by the King. From then until 1546 the land revenues were let on lease to Robert Wood, who had formerly held them and subsequently on his death to his widow Agnes. In 1546 the King founded Trinity College, Cambridge and endowed it with a grant, amongst others, of the “rectory and advowson of the vicarage of Whitkirk and all appurtenances of the premises in Whitkirk”

The churchwardens’ accounts contain many different payments to the bellringers for special occasions, sometimes public celebrations and sometimes for local affairs. This month in 1918 on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour for example, the bells were rung to celebrate the Armistice of the First World War. One date which occurs consistently is the 5th. November when a peal was rung in celebration of the King’s escape from the Gunpowder plot. This practice continued certainly until the year 1759 – some 154 years after the event.

The practice of excommunication for various reasons (including non-attendance at church!) was still practised in the 17th century and onwards and the Churchwardens accounts for 1667 show that on 17th. November the names of 13 people were published excommunicate in Church by the then Incumbent Mr. Richard Wright. Some times the offenders did a public penance (for moral misdemeanours), sometimes a private penance but the practice was growing by this time of Commutations by which the offender paid a sum of money. This practice was frowned upon by some of the Archbishops, but continued just the same. The Churchwardens doubtless received the money with gratitude.

Arthur Martineau
Arthur Martineau

November 28th. 1845 saw the consecration of the Church of St. James at Seacroft- – the district there subsequently becoming a separate ecclestical parish. The total cost of the building was £3,090 -10-8d, of which the then Vicar of Whitkirk, Mr. Arthur Martineau gave £1,062. There had been a school at Seacroft since 1840, to which Mr. Martineau had given the sum of £120.


A firm date arising from our research is the 19th. December 1546. This was the actual date of the founding of Trinity College Cambridge by King Henry VIII and the granting to the Master, Fellows and scholars of various grants mainly from the revenues of dissolved religious houses. Included was the rectory and advowson of the Vicarage of Whitkirk.

The Vicar after the Commonwealth period was Richard Wright, who “read himself in” on the 23rd. June 1661. He had apparently been vicar at Bardsey before coming to Whitkirk. Towards the end of his life (he died in 1674 and was buried at Whitkirk on the 14th. December) he was often ill and unable to take services and there are a succession of entries in the Churchwardens’ accounts of payments to visiting preachers. The average payment would appear to have been one shilling (5p), though there is a payment to “a poore minister that preached here” of five shillings and in addition he received 4 pence worth of ale (about 2 new pence).

On 5th December 1669 Mr. Browne preached and on the 12th December in the same year Mr. Gargrave preached. They both received the customary shilling. Mr. Gargrave may well have been Mr. Cotton Gargrave who was “a clergyman and Chaplain to the first Lord Irwin” – Henry Ingram Esq. Of Temple Newsam had been created Viscount Irwin in 1661, but he still only got his shilling!

The celebration of Communion at Christmas has of course taken place without a break since the building of the Church – and probably before the current building was erected if there was in fact a Saxon building on the site. During the Commonwealth of course, this was the only celebration of Christmas and was a very solemn affair. The Churchwardens accounts show various expenditure on bread and wine for the Celebration. Candles too were a frequent item of expenditure and there is an item in 1758 for “Candles for Christmas Day” of 2 (old) pence. Were these special candles? History alas does not tell us.

One thing which did happen – certainly during the 18th. Century, was that the silver was brought to the Church from Temple Newsam House, where it was kept and there are items for fetching it, and for cleaning it. Now of course it is on display in the House. How long this continued is uncertain since there is an account of the Church Inventory of 1869 which records certain items as “being kept with the plate at the Clerk’s House”.

In 1770 the Churchwardens paid on December 24th the sum of two shillings and six pence “for one of the sacramental cups mending and for a corkscrew and for a brush to clean the plate withal”. (One wonders whether the Wardens had at some time been found lacking of a corkscrew to uncork the Sacramental Wine and decided to keep one in the Vestry). In December 1926 Mr. J.W. Morkhill presented to the Church a solid silver alms dish, 12 inches in diameter, which was probably first used that Christmas

See also the entry in Clocks for what happened at 2.30 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1877


Clocks were known in England as early as the twelfth century, though they do not appear to have had dials before the fourteenth century. The hours and usually the quarters were struck by figures called jacks. At Whitkirk there is no evidence of the existence of a clock before the middle of the seventeenth century, though, since the first reference is to a repair, there may have been one earlier.

Thereafter, the Churchwardens’ accounts have frequent entries for repairs, renewals and alterations to the clock. In 1654 they paid 1s (5p) for “Oyle for ye clock” and 16s for “3 bell ropes and 2 clock ropes”. In following years, the repairs for the clock became more frequent and expensive until in September 1771 arrangements were made with “Dolliff Rollinson of Halton in this Parish for the repairation of the Church Clock”, for the sum of £7. This estimate proved very wrong, since on the 4th. May 1772 there was a Parish Meeting to consider what further payments ought to be made and to decide the form of a new outward facing clock face.

(There was certainly a clock face inside the church at this time. It was above the Western Gallery and until hidden by the Organ in 1931 the face could still be discerned. It ceased to function towards the end of the 19th. Century)

By 1786 It was agreed that “the Church Clock should be repaired and altered according to Mr. Smeaton’s Direction… the money to be defrayed out of the Church Assessment. (John Smeaton F.R.G.S Builder of the Eddistone Lighthouse, who lived and worked in the Parish and is buried in the Church). This clock was set up in June 1786.

Up to now the clock probably only had one hand, since there is an entry for October 2nd 1823 authorising the addition of a new minute hand to the clock.

In 1877 the newly-formed Church Improvement Committee resolved “that Messrs Potts be asked to send an estimate for a new Church Clock with striking apparatus”. Eventually the new clock was set going by the Vicar and Churchwardens in the presence of Mr. Potts, maker at 2.30 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1877. This basically is the clock which is still in use and in fact is maintained by the successors of its original maker.


The use of bells in connection with church services is very ancient – possibly from the 5th. Century. From the 7th. Century, notices of bells are frequent.

By the middle ages the use of bells was quite frequent and seem to have been used for two purposes (a) to announce the immanent beginning of various services and (b) to draw the attention of those within the church or within the vicinity to certain of the more solemn parts of the service, such as the Elevation of the Host – hence at Whitkirk, we still ring a hand bell within the Church at these points though the original intent (that of drawing attention when the service was not in the vulgar tongue) no longer applies and certainly until the 1950’s a single bell was rung from the tower at the consecration.

By her will dated 10th. July 1454 Lady Jane Wombwell left money for a peal of bells, of which no details of the actual bells remains and it is assumed that these were to hang in the tower built about that time. The 1552 and 1559 Books of Common Prayer contain instruction that the Curate when about to say Morning or Evening Prayer

“in the Parishe Churche or Chapell where he ministereth shall tolle a bell thereto a convenient tyme before he begyn, that such…” By 1662 the direction was slightly altered – “shall cause a bell to be tolled etc.”, presumably that the Verger could arrive earlier than the Priest and do the task!. There was also a Canon which required that “when any is passing out of this life, a bell shall be tolled and the Minister shall then not slack to do his duty”. And after the party’s death, if it so fall out, there shall be rung no more than one short peal and one other before the burial and one other after the burial” Canons since Saxon times had required the ringing of the “passing bell” that all within hearing might pray for the departing soul.

Whitkirk Churchwardens’ accounts contain numerous references to the Church bells which seem to have been one of the most expensive items. From the accounts, which refer to the great, middle and little bells there would appear to have been three bells certainly from early in the 17th century and always one or other was in need of attention. Annually there was a payment for a new bell rope and “Grease for ye bells” also appears yearly. Many of the payments to the bellringers mark national affairs. The 5th. November was celebrated yearly for example and the Restoration of the Monarchy. Ringing out the Old Year and Ringing in the New, which had taken place for many years was finally discontinued shortly after World War I.

January 1763 saw much work on the framing for the bells, but by 1780 it was necessary to rehang the great bell. The Vestry meeting which authorised this work suggested that Mr. Smeaton (John Smeaton) might like to inspect the work and approve it when finished before the payment to John Hardwick, the carpenter.

In 1801 a Vestry held in December agreed to purchase four new bells, the balance after disposing of the old bells to be met by an assessment on the Parish. There were obviously difficulties involved in this project, because a Vestry meeting in July 1802, set aside this decision and made a new one, which in effect reduced the number of the bells to three. These were duly obtained and hung in the tower on the third floor – the ringing chamber being on the first floor below the clock..

Each bell is inscribed THOMAS MEARS OF LONDON FECIT 1803. They weigh in total 24cwt 1qtr 5lb. It is probable that the old bells were transported on the Aire & Calder Navigation to Hull and thence by sea to London. The new bells would be returned in the same way. “Warfage (sic) and cartage” of the old and new peals amounted to £206.19.11. The bells were re-hung in a new oak frame in 1875. Further repairs to the gearing and woodwork continue to crop up in the accounts. The bells of course were silent during the second World War and though attempts were made to continue the full peal, the availability of ringers made it more difficult. The annual inspection pointed out with more and more urgency that ringing was becoming more and more dangerous because of the state of the wood framing, and the effect on the tower fabric until finally only the small bell was rung and it was made possible to do this from the tower floor. This also has fallen into disuse and it has in recent years only been rung at the Induction of a new Incumbent to signify to the Parish at large his “taking possession”. So alas – there were no bells rung at Whitkirk to welcome in the new Millennium. Final thought – was there a bell in 999AD, and if so, did they ring in the new Millennium?

Note: Thanks to a restoration project ending in 2020 all three of the church bells can once again be rung.

Glebe Land

If you are interested in history, have a look at the introduction to some pictures in the Picture Gallery about houses being built on the Paddock field.

Note: We are sadly unable to find an archive copy of neither these pictures nor the introduction to the picture gallery. The Paddock Field was an area of land to the south of the church, which was sold and used as land for housing.

Parish Accounts

The earliest extant accounts of the Churchwardens at Whitkirk are those for the year 1653-54. Excepting for the years 1657-58, 1660 -1 and 1661-2, which are missing, accounts are preserved from that time down to 1687-8 but after that date none are to be found until 1747. Reference has been made to items in the accounts from time to time in this series, but it was thought that it might be amusing to extract from the earliest accounts some of the more unusual (to our current thinking) items. Certain of them require more explanation to fully understand than is possible here, but it is hoped they will give a flavour of that long ago age.


Payed for bread and two gallons and a halfe of wine for Whitsuntide communion mvhb s10s 8d
Given by consent of Mr. Proctor and divers Partitioners to 5 poor Irish people1s 0d
Payed to the High Constable upon a warrant for lame soldiers and prisoners in Yorke Castle£1. 2s.4d
Payed for a spade and shovel for ye church4s 6d
Payed to the clockemaker for mending the clocke and for making two doores for ye clockehouse and covering it13s4d
Charges att meeting of ourselves and ye Overseers about putting forth poor Apprentices2s4d
Payed for apparell for Dickinson’s children which were put forth as poor apprentices19s8d
Payed for silk to cover ye Pulpit Quishin with10s0d
Payed for a lanthorne for ye Clarke to ring 7 of ye clocke with1s0d
Paid for candles for him to ring 7 of ye clocke with1s0d
Paid to the Clarke for his yearly stipend for writing for us and the Overseers and for making our Accompts and engrossing them5s0d

The total disbursements this year were £15 2s 9d which left a balance in the Warden s’ hands of £2 1s 7d

[Update:- The projected capital and revenue expenditure for the Church and associated buildings for the 5 years 1999-2004 averages at nearly £27,000 per year]


The most notable thing about the accounts for this year is that the Churchwardens are given as “Thomas Poole, John Swindon and Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector”. Cromwell’s name is missing from the names of the Wardens for 1655-6 but re-appears as “Oliver,Protector” in 1656-7


Payed to Wm. Wormell for pointing, plumming slaiting and flagging the Church & for lime and haire, sand, flags and slates and for leading them & for Laborers with other charges upon him and his laborers£2.14s0d
Payed for a hacke3s0d
Paid for glazening the Church windows£1.0s0d


For a Register Booke & mending the Church Bible£1.10s0d
Spend upon the Bookbinder when we bargained with him1s0d
Charges in Christmasse upon ourselves and the Oveseers att a monthly meeting & about dividing the Lady dole4s2d
Charges at Seacroft on Good Friday when we went to get in our Assessments there1s0d
Pd to James ffletcher for a Gray’s (badgers) head8d.
Payed for bread and wine for all the communions at Easter and for fetching wine£3.7s2p


Paid for sending the money to Yorke which was collected in ye Church for the poor people of Poland & for an Acquittance (receipt)3s0d
Given to Wm. Lum in his sicknesse and to his wife at his burial1s0d
To Wm Pease for mending the North doore to keep ye water out of ye Churche3s0d
To James Nicholson for cutting ye doore shorter2d
More to Wm Pease for laying the flagges where the earth was settled at ye going into the midle Allie1s0d


To John Mounsey for a ffox head1s0d
Pd to John Gray and John ffox for glazening the church windows & pointing them£1.3.9d
Bestowed on them in ale att severall times1s2d
For 16 pounde of leade to mend ye Church leads with2s8d
For fetching the leade att Leeds3d
More to John ffox for sowder and for sowdering and mending the Leads3s5d
For a latch to pull ye Church door to wth6d
Pd to James Nicholson for towling ye sermon belle4s0d
More to him for whipping dogs4s0d
Pd for his coate and making it16s6d
Given to ye ringers for ringing upon ffriday ye 4th May instant, upon the news of ye Agreement between ye King and Parliament6d

Upon which happy note we close this current selection from the accounts. 

Silver and Plate

There is no record of St. Mary’s silver and plate prior to the 17th. Century. Very little pre-Reformation plate exists in the country. Many church goods were appropriated (and embezzled) at the middle and end of the 16th. Century. We know from records that William Scargill bestowed on his chantry when he founded it a chalice and paten of silver gilt and two silver phials (valued in 1548 at 8 shillings) amongst other gifts. The chantry belongings were, however, legally separate from the church plate and were probably removed to the Jewel House in the Tower of London to be taken to the Mint from time to time to be made into coin. What happened to the Church plate, we know not.

Of the current silver and plate in the ownership of St. Mary’s, the following are a selection. This list cannot obviously cover all the items :The oldest is a communion cup, of sterling silver, inscribed “Henrie Lord Ingram Viscount Irwin to ye Church of Whittchurch 1666” He of course was the first Viscount Irwin. The cup is actually dated by its mark as 1609 and possibly formed part of Viscount Irwin’s personal plate before it was presented to Church.

There is another communion cup, the full provenance of which is not known but it is dated 1654. The makers mark, though clear, is not traceable. There was a fire in the Assay Office in 1681 in which all the makers marks were destroyed. Those who had died or given up work in the meantime did not apparently re-register their marks and this cup was obviously made by one of those.

There were two sterling silver alms dishes given by John More of Austhorpe, who was the builder of Austhorpe Hall in 1694. John was baptised, married and buried at Whitkirk One of the dishes 26.8 cm in diameter was given in 1685 and has an inscription in Latin. The maker again is unidentifiable The other dish is 28.3cm in diameter and was made by Charles Rhodes. It was given in 1687 and is inscribed “Ex Dono Johannis More Anno Dom : 1687”

There is a pair of flagons each 16inches (40cm) high each inscribed “GIVEN BY HENRY LORD IRWIN IN Ye YEAR 1742 AND ANN HIS WIFE TO THE CHURCH AT WHITKIRK” (This was the 7th Viscount Irwin who was responsible for the creation of the Long Gallery at Temple Newsam House) The flagons were made by Ann Craig and John Neville and hall marked in London in London in 1742. One of the flagons contains photocopies of the makers bill and receipts. The total cost was £93-9s-1d. The original account is in Leeds Reference Library.

In December 1926 Mr. J.W. Morkhill presented to the church a solid silver alms dish 30cm (12 inches) in diameter bearing the arms of Morkhill in memory (according to the inscription) of his mother, who had died the same year at Newfield-in-Malhamdale. Some 4 years later Mr. Morkhill gave a chalice of silver gilt, bearing the shield of Morkhill.

There have been many other generous gifts to the Church up to and including the present day, only a few of which can be mentioned because of the pressure of space. A chalice and paten of silver parcel gilt was given in 1914 by the Rev. Brett Guyer, the then Vicar, in memory of his father. 

In 1915 the Vicar the Rev. E. W.Wilson began the use of incense at Whitkirk and a censer, incense boat and spoon of Heemil silver were obtained by subscription. A communion cup given by Miss J.M.Woodhead in 1936 in memory of her sister Mattie. A ciborium and wafer box presented by Miss Kathleen Toes in 1946 in memory of Jenny Galloway. In 1961 Mr. and Mrs. Fred Schofield presented a chalice and paten in memory of Mr. Schofield’s parents and in 1977 a ciborium was presented in memory of Mr. Fred Schofield, a long standing churchwarden who had died in office the previous Christmas. 

There are many other items, each with its own story, some sad, some romantic. For many years, it had become necessary in view of the value of many of the items to keep those of special historical interest in the bank, keeping out only those in constant use. The others were taken from the bank vaults and used or displayed on special occasions such as the Patronal Festival. Eventually, in view of rising bank charges and insurance cost and conditions they were not removed at all. In the year 2000 after much discussion it was agreed that they should be lent to Temple Newsam House to be placed on display for all to see with the provision that they could be returned to Church as required. As an example of how History repeats itself – there are numerous items in the Churchwardens accounts in the 18th and 19th centuries of payment for “bringing the church plate from Templenewsam” for it was there it was stored when not needed. Communion was at that time of course very infrequent.