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St Hilda, Bilsdale Priory

St Hilda, Bilsdale Priory

Within Bilsdale there are St Hilda's and St John's churches, chapels at Chop Gate and Fangdale Beck, both closed, and the former Friends Meeting House at Laskill.

St Hilda's Church is set on the roadside between the hamlets of Urra and Seave Green, Chop Gate.  The earliest records of the church are in 1122, but it is probable that the site had been used for religious purposes much earlier.  When repairs were being made to the church in 1813 an inscribed stone from the early church was discovered. This is now set above the porch doorway, it reads:


which translates as "Lord William builds this church in honour of the chaste virgin St Hilda". William was the father or uncle of Walter Espec.  Walter founded Kirkham Priory early in the 12C and granted the church and surrounding area, subsequently known as Bilsdale Kirkham, to the Priory St Hilda.

Very little is known about the early architecture of the church building but a simple Norman font, with marks indicating that it had a lockable cover (so about 12/13C), can be seen in the porch.  A medieval carved head, crosses and fragments of window tracery are now kept within the church.  The Tenor Bell is inscribed "Ave Maria Mater" and has the mark of Walter of Easingwold, a potter of York, who obtained his freedom to trade in 1327.

There are records of the incumbents from 1407.

Following the dissolution of Kirkham Priory in 1539, ownership of Bilsdale Kirkham and patronage of the church passed to the Manners family, Earl of Rutland, who retained most of the area until 1801 when the Duncombe family purchased it to complete their ownership of Bilsdale.

The present church was commissioned by the Earl of Feversham, and designed by Banks and Barry, St James, London in 1848. The building was constructed by George Vasey of Whitby.  He and his 16 workers stayed at Bilsdale Hall during construction which was completed in 1853.

The Parish was divided in 1896 when a new church, St John's, was built at Fangdale Beck and a new ecclesiastical parish, Bilsdale Midcable, was created.  However in 1953 it was decided that the two churches should share the same vicar, who resided in the vicarage at Fangdale Beck. In 1974 the parish of St Hilda's joined with Ingleby Greenhowe and Kildale then in 1979 St John's, Bilsdale Midcable, was incorporated to form Upper Ryedale. This is now the Stokesley deanery.

Published: 25 2022 (Updated: 26 2022)

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