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Sunday, September 9, 2012

St. Oswald’s in Askrigg

The present structure dates back to 1446,
forty-six years before Columbus discovered America.

On this year’s vacation in England, we hadn’t planned a return visit to Askrigg.  We simply realized, during our week based outside Lancaster, that we had to return.  It wasn’t just the village of Askrigg that called us back, but the Yorkshire Dales as well.  So on the return visit, we enjoyed a relaxing drive through the gently rolling farmland, taking in a few stops along the way.  We arrived in Askrigg around noon, and after a picnic lunch, began our afternoon exploration by visiting its church.

We drove our chair into the church,
and secured it to a heater.
Then we left to explore Askrigg further.

What surprised me most, given the size of the village, was the church’s sheer size.  Size- and age-wise, St. Oswald’s in Askrigg compares favorably with St. Mary’s in Thirsk.  While St. Mary’s boasts a more elegant interior, Thirsk grew in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The money that accompanied growth and expansion funded St. Mary’s lavish interior.  That same money funded the additions to the smaller St. Oswald’s in adjacent Sowerby, as well as the building of its parochial hall.   By comparison, the farms around Askrigg, and the village itself, still harken back to an earlier era, which was one reason the production crew for “All Creatures Great and Small” decided to film there.  Lacking similar community growth and modernization, additions to the village church have been more modest.

According to the church website,
Nikolaus Pevsner,
an architectural historian,
proclaimed the nave ceiling
the finest in North Riding.
I enjoyed walking though the sanctuary.  With every step, I sensed a comfortable, down-home feeling. The worshippers clearly loved their church, just the way it was.  Posters displayed pencil sketches of how the church looked, inside and out, a hundred years ago.  Plaques on the wall weren’t the expensive affairs of more prosperous towns and cities, but they held their own allure.  I especially liked the tiles behind the altar that displayed The Lord’s Prayer, The Ten Commandments, and the Nicene Creed.  Of course, I also perused their collection of used paperback, and donated money for the two science fiction novels I left with.

Words to live by.
The affection and passion Askrigg holds for its church are evident on its website.  Despite all the changes time has wrought on England, St. Oswald’s seems to remain at the heart of the community.  Their pages celebrate numerous aspects of village life, including trumpeting new businesses, advertising opportunities to learn a different language, informing residents of other religious options, and celebrating notable locals, from an artist whose work has been exhibited in the National Gallery, to their beloved postman.  Thus, St. Oswald’s in Askrigg exemplifies a nation in which Church and State are one.  I cannot help but think that, if we someday return to Askrigg for an extended stay, we would attend St. Oswald’s regularly, and contribute to the vibrant life of this Yorkshire village.  

A pencil sketch of the interior circa 1890.  

Dragon Dave

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