Places: Church of St Michael and St George, Castleton

In any English village, you can usually guarantee the presence of two establishments at minimum: a pub and a church. Castleton is no exception, and indeed boasts two pubs, the Downe Arms in the village centre and the Eskdale Inn out by the railway station. Church-wise, though, it’s surprisingly impoverished. There’s the Wesleyan Chapel, which keeps the neighbourhood supplied with coffee mornings and musical interludes, but there’s only one traditional-style parish church.

That one church, though, is worth a visit. So a few days ago, during a brief break in the foggy weather of the last two weeks, that’s precisely what I did. Welcome to the parish church of St Michael and St George, Castleton:

Church of St Michael and St George, Castleton

Daffodils and silver birch outside the church

To find St Michael and St George’s, you go downhill from Castleton’s centre, following the road signs for Danby; the church is on your left as you head out of the village, set back amid trees, daffodils and a thick carpet of green grass. It was built in the 1920s to honour the fallen of WWI, consecrated on 28 July 1926, and replaced an older “tin tabernacle” – a prefabricated, corrugated-iron church that dated back to 1863. Architecturally it’s plain by comparison with the glory of many older English parish churches, with almost nothing in the way of stained glass or ornamental stonework. The porch is a small, unassuming entrance, given an extra rustic touch by the broken wooden rake that hangs in one corner:

The church porch

Wooden rake

A rake in the rafters.

It does also contain this tiny stained-glass window, the only one in the church, which is partially assembled from fragments of what looks like a much older window:

Stained-glass window

Stained-glass window detail

Detail of the window; below the shield with the three lions of England, fragments of older, broken stained glass can be seen.

I don’t know but I’m guessing these pieces might be all that remains of a previous church, either on the same site or close by. If I ever find out more I’ll let you know!

There are two other significant piece of ornamentation inside, though. First is the beautiful reredos or painted panel behind the altar, featuring the church’s two patron saints with their respective dragons:

Altar and reredos

Second, there are the oak pews, panelling and fittings, made by a renowned craftsman who was himself a native of the Moors: Robert “Mouseman” Thompson, of Kilburn. Thompson’s nickname came from his trademark: a little wooden mouse that he would carve somewhere on the pieces he made. His work was in high demand and can be found all over the North – his workshop is still in business to this day – and I have fond memories of hunting under tables and along wainscoting for Thompson mice in the library of my own alma mater, Bradford Girls’ Grammar School. St Michael and St George purports to have a total of ten mice:

Card listing the church's carved mice

These cute laminated cards are provided in the church to guide would-be mouse hunters.

I didn’t come close to finding them all, but here are a couple that I did:

Mouse on wood panelling

This mouse is on a panel just to the right of the organist’s seat.

Mouse on wooden pew

This one is on one of the pews.

I also took this shot of the lectern base, which shows the beautiful rough-chiselling technique that’s also characteristic of Thompson’s work:

Base of the lectern

The organ and pulpit show the same simple yet graceful style:

View of the organ pipes

The pulpit

I also noticed, hanging in a corner of the narthex (the area at the western end of the nave), this: a Cradle Roll, showing the births and baptisms for the parish. This one covers a range of dates in the first half of the 1940s:

Cradle Roll

And on the way out, if you’re looking carefully, there’s one final mouse:

Church gate and mouse

Squeak squeak…

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Places: Church of St Michael and St George, Castleton

  1. Hop over that gate and get a good shot of the reredos, would you? I am stuck on parish churches– when I visited my then-fiance Francis in the south by London, I dragged him to every tiny church I could see. The mouse hunt is lovely– i tell you, in the States, those would be chipped off and stolen by now.

    • I did try for a closer shot of the reredos while I was there, but I’m afraid it was to no avail – my camera simply couldn’t do anything with the combination of a relatively dark painting and the bright light coming through the glass directly above it. Sorry! I live in hope of affording a decent camera at some time in the not-too-distant future though, and if I can get my hands on one, I’ll certainly try again for you – it feels like a crime to be photographing these beautiful places on such inadequate technology as it is…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s