St Michael and St Lawrence Church, Fewston - St Andrew's Church, Blubberhouses

Part of the Washburn and Mid-Wharfe Benefice

St Michael & St Lawrence Church, Fewston

Line drawing of Fewston Church   

Building and History

This building is the Parish Church of a large parish which stretches from the top of the Kexgill Ravine to Lindley Wood Reservoir, and includes the communities of Fewston, Norwood, Timble Great and Timble Little, and Blubberhouses. It is a scattered community, and nowadays thinly populated. There are probably less than a tenth of the people here now than there were 150 years ago. In former times the Church itself stood at the head of a street of densely-packed houses which stretched down the hill to the River Washburn, and there was a public house and other houses opposite the gate on the north side of the Church, and more houses further along the road in both directions. It was the centre of a thriving community. The ruins of a large Vicarage, built in the nineteenth century on a site which had been used for the parsonage house since the thirteenth century at least, adjoin the churchyard on the west.

The Outside - a rare example of a Seventeenth Century Church

The tower of Fewston Church was built in the fourteenth century, of incised stone. The floor levels inside it were altered when the belfry and upper part of the tower were added about 1800, to allow for a bell ringing chamber on the first floor. The bells are dated '1808'. But what makes this church one of outstanding national importance from an architectural point of view is the rest of the building. In 1696 a fire destroyed the old medieval church, except for the tower. The pitch of the old thatched roof that caught fire can still be seen on the outside of the east wall of the tower.
The rebuilt church (1697) is one of the very few seventeenth century churches in Yorkshire. It is unusual because it was not built on a rectangular plan, like most churches of the period - the Wren churches built after the great fire of London for instance - but to the medieval plan, with a clearly defined chancel and nave. The beautiful stonework is best appreciated from outside - notice the cornerstones particularly. Admire the porch, particularly, with the date over the lintel. The massive wooden door is probably that of 1697. There is a little door on the south side of the chancel ­which is set in a careful framework of windows. This gives it almost a ceremonial appearance. The door does not give access currently to the inside.

Window in chancel of Fewston ChurchThe Inside

The most notable feature of the interior of the Church is the stained glass, which dates from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, and so was put in when the church was rebuilt or soon after. This was a period when very little stained glass was produced. The east window dates from an earlier period than the chancel in which it is now set; or, at least, the upper portions of it come from the fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries. They may have been in the old church, and re-used in the present chancel. Notice how the window is a little too tall for its present position. The font perhaps, and the font cover almost certainly, also date from the seventeenth century.
The coat-of-arms on the board above the tower arch is that of King George III. King George changed his coat-of-arms twice during his reign. This is the one he bore after 1801 (after the Act of Union with Ireland - notice the Irish harp) and before 1816 (when the territory of Hanover in Germany of which he was also ruler became a Kingdom, and the Elector's cap above the central shield was replaced by a crown). The three boards with the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments probably date from the same period. All four boards were restored in 1987. Notice the old gas light near the pulpit, a relic of an earlier method of lighting in the church. The fine clergy stall was made by the Otley Furniture Company in 1988.
In 2008 the bell tower was refurbished and the bells renovated and rehung.

What you can't see

Most of the original seventeenth century roof timbers are still in place above the ceiling. During repairs to the roof in 1986 it was discovered that the chancel was built later than the nave. The remains of an old pointed chancel arch were exposed in the roof space; its north side is in line with the north side of the present chancel arch, but its south side is about the middle of the present chancel. There is also some evidence that in 1697 the present arcade (the pillars) was the line of the outer wall and that the north aisle was added a little later. In 1884 the old oak pews were taken away in carts and sold. John Dickinson, in his diary which has been published as 'Timble Man' (Hendon Publishing, Nelson), records superintending the work. We believe that the ceiling also dates from this time. All the former altar ornaments and most of the communion plate was stolen towards the end of the twentieth century.


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