St Andrew's Church

In all there have been three Churches in the Parish of Bishopthorpe. The first was built in 1205c on the bank of the River Ouse in Bishopthorpe. The second was built on the same site in 1768 by Archbishop Drummond, after the demolition of the first. However, the building was continually flooded, and so the third and present church was built on new land between 1885 and 1899. The ruins of Archbishop Drummond’s church can still be seen at the end of Chantry Lane.

The first Church was built of stone in 1205c and was probably built in the ‘Early English’ style of architecture. In 1202 the Priory of St. Andrew was founded in York by Hugh Murdoc, who endowed it with rents and land in the village of Bishopthorpe. It was more than likely that Hugh Murdoc or the Monks of the Priory of St. Andrew’s were responsible for the building of this first Church here at Bishopthorpe for the use of the people of the village and hence its name. The name village was known by several names, including Thorpe St. Andrew, and then later Andrewthorpe; the name of Bishopthorpe was not used till later.

Walter de Gray, Chancellor to King John and Bishop of Worcester, attended King John at Runnymede in 1215, and as an reward for his loyal service was appointed Archbishop of York in the same year. It was Archbishop de Gray who bought some of the land in this village owned by the Priory and Monks of St. Andrew’s and with this land also obtained the gift of the living of the Parish of Bishopthorpe.

Archbishop de Gray built his residence here on part of the land he had bought, and it has ever since remained the residence of the Archbishops of York, except for a short period between 1644 and 1660.

Archbishop de Gray, probably the most popular of all the earlier Archbishops of York, died in 1255 after 40 years as Archbishop. His tomb can be found in York Minster.

Walter Giffard, one of Archbishop Walter de Gray’s many relatives, became Archbishop of York in 1266 and held the post till his death in 1279. Archbishop Giffard held the living of the Parish of Bishopthorpe but granted it to the Priory of St. Clement’s in York. They appointed the first Rector of Bishopthorpe in 1281.  His name was William de Cayingham.

The Priory of St. Clement’s, York, also held other lands and livings as well as that of Bishopthorpe, but lost all their titles, livings and lands in 1542 at the ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’. The living of the Parish of Bishopthorpe passed to the ‘Crown’: King Henry VIII and his successors.

All we really know of this first Church is it was built in around 1205 and pulled down in 1768. It was cruciform in plan with a small central tower at the crossing. A mention in old archives show that it had two bells.

We also know from burial records that there were parishioners buried in the aisles, and that in 1700 John Sharpe (Archbishop of York 1691-1714) erected a fine gallery, and the whole choir and chancel was repaired and beautified in 1707. We also know that the font which is recorded in the archives and stood in the centre of the Church is now in the Church at Askham Bryan, three miles away from Bishopthorpe.

The early English Piscina from this Church was found by Canon John Robert Keble (Vicar of Bishopthorpe 1891-1903), in the old Churchyard in 1895 and is now built into the sanctuary of the present Church. We do not know of any organ or musical instrument in this first Church.

Compiled by Michael Grace

The hundred years since the new St Andrew’s Church building was dedicated has been one of tremendous change in the life of people of the parish of Bishopthorpe. The new church was conceived, designed and built during the last decade of the century. It can be seen as one of the first of the many changes to overtake the village in the last 100 years as by occasional leaps the village became more and more part of York, changing and growing from a country village dominated by the manor house we call the Archbishop’s Palace into a commuter settlement dominated by modern housing estates and the car.

The Vicar of St Andrew’s in 1899 was Canon J R Keble. He had arrived in the parish in 1891 as Chaplain of Archbishop Maclagan and to serve a village of 426 souls. We are told that his ministry was much appreciated by the village, though to us the main visible outcome of his 12 years service in the parish is our church building, his History of Bishopthorpe and his name preserved in the Keble Park Estate.

Anyone walking down Chantry Lane to the river, especially during winter floods, will see the obvious reasons for abandoning the old church by the river. In fact there hardly seems to have been room for even a small church never mind a churchyard, as the river has cut back even further into its west bank in the last 100 years. The site of the old churches had always given trouble. An autumn flood recorded in 1892 reminds us of the problem, with the church surrounded by water which also reached well up the village street. The first hint of changes to come was the development of a new graveyard on the York road. This was dedicated in 1892, with the choir, wardens, Bishop of Beverley and Archbishop processing from the palace steps to the service.

Obviously space was at a premium around as well as in the old church!   Have a look at the old churchyard; the village was growing, albeit slowly, and there is no space for expansion for worship or burial!  The first burial in the new graveyard was in 1892 and is by the present church door.      

Archbishop Drummond’s 1768 St Andrew’s church was mainly of brick, and having needed expensive renovation in the 1840’s, cannot have been as well built as its contemporary the stable and brewery block which has survived. What we have of the old church left standing now is stonework added then at Archbishop Harcourt’s expense. By the 1890’s the building was in a poor condition again, really too small and threatened by the river, the pressure on for a replacement.

A scan of an information leaflet about the proposed new churchAs always in this situation, finance begins to dominate mind of the community and in 1895 a committee was formed to bring their hopes and plans to fruition. This committee was included the most senior churchmen in the area, as well as representatives of the “Big Houses” in the village.  Archbishop Maclagan was chairman and a C Hodgson Fowler appointed architect. The first estimates suggested that about £4000 would be needed. Raising money was no less of a worry in the 1890’s than it is now. The committee published regular information pamphlets, some including architects sketches of the proposed church and always including a list of the latest subscriptions. By autumn 1896 the committee felt their plans were far enough advanced for Canon Keble to announce in the parish magazine a general appeal to raise at least the rest of the money needed to start building.

Large donations of £500, initially, from the Archbishop matched by £500 he had squeezed from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, as well as £500 raised by other parishioners had set the appeal on the way. Canon Keble expressed the feeling that villagers had given as liberally they could, after all there were only 439 people in the village according to the 1901 census.  At this time people mainly took communion at Easter and Christmas and Whitsuntide when total communicants would be around 100 to 150 and offertories around £3.  The vicar opened the appeal to the Diocese and country as a whole, citing the 600 years of historical association with Archbishops of York. We seem to have benefited from the need to have a larger, more beautiful and dignified church in such an important ecclesiastical location which would be able to hold diocesan and provincial gatherings. Mr Brayley uses the word “worthier” in his “Annals” and I suspect he was not thinking of worthiness for worship of God!

The site of the new church was almost a forgone conclusion with the new graveyard recently established, although at first plans were drawn up for a new church on the old riverside site which Archbishop Maclagan favoured,  and then rejected due to the extra cost of riverbank protection. Do consider the other possible sites for a new church at that time, for example, on Main Street on the corner of Acaster Lane. Why choose Back Lane (only later renamed Church Lane) which would be more or less a farm track? Looking at the arrangement of the building and the main path on the original architect’s sketches, and contemporary maps the close link is to the Palace! Land costs and acquiring the land were probably not an issue as the Church owned most of the land around the village. It does look as if the new building needed to be easily reached by the Archbishop and his staff rather than be a focal point of worship on the village Main Street. The churchyard was only extended to Back Lane well after the church was built, so it was really beside the main road into York rather than on Back Lane, which is the way we see the church oriented since the changing  of the church path and the building of  the new  Church Halls and the car park. This extension can be identified easily by the bend in the main church path and the original York made iron fencing erected round the new burial ground that can still be seen in the Bishopthorpe (York) Road hedge.

Tenders were sought in an advertisement on 11 March 1897 which drew a range of estimates from £5407-0-8 to £7005-14-0; there was great disappointment because they were so high. Difficulties in money raising put off the start of building the new church from 1897 to 1898 and the committee decided to build the body of the church first and the tower later when they had raised the extra money. There were various plans considered, architectural sketches exist showing the tower on the south west corner as well as the west end of the nave which was chosen in the end. Various extras were discussed and some like the oak roof accepted. In the March 1898 pamphlet the estimate cost of the church was quoted as £4550 and the tower a further £2000.

The site to the north of the new graveyard was chosen and at last the building of the church began in February 1898.   By June work was far enough advanced for Mrs Maclagan to be able to lay the memorial stone on the East wall.   In December the Archbishop himself fixed the cross on the top of the East Gable. There was a definite effort to involve the whole village in this event as the school was closed so the children could attend, the boys in the choir leading the assembly in the singing of “When I survey the Wondrous Cross”. Scaffolding and a platform was erected so that the whole party could ascend to the gable of the East End for the ceremony, it was a very grand affair!  The church certainly had a good press officer at this period with long reports in the Yorkshire Herald.

In the March 1899 Parish Magazine Canon Keble could announce that the dedication of the new church would be that summer. The finances were in a state that is familiar to us: Liabilities were greater than the amount pledged at this stage by £1 000. A further appeal was made in the hope that the church could be dedicated on 25 July free from debt. Going forward in faith as always. I wonder if the Mr F Taylor who was in charge of recording gifts and sorting out the accounts worried about the situation as another £97 had to be found for drainage of  the site, £80 for the heating system, then  £100 for their Clerk of Works and as always on top of everything the architects fees of £210!  

The great day was on St James’s Day 25 July, 1899. The new church, without tower and with only £555 remaining of the debt, was consecrated by Archbishop Maclagan at a service attended by many dignitaries. The local papers again printed long and full descriptions of the events.  The instrument of Substitution making the new church the official Parish Church is dated 27 July 1899.

Apart from the regular newsletters published by the Committee during  the planning period   there exists the Public subscription list of 428 people from all walks of life that a Major Jefferson, printed at his own cost. Amounts promised ranged from the Archbishop’s very generous £700 (finally!) down to 6d. each from Miss Barker, Mr G Parker, Mr J Parker and Miss M Parker. Special offerings for furnishing the interior of the church were received from widespread sources, e.g. The College, Durham; Hampton Court Palace, Kingston-upon-Thames; Hascombe Rectory, Godalming, Surrey; Boston Spa; Tedworth Square, Chelsea; Dunster Castle, Somerset, and more.

The balance sheet in December 1900 shows that the final cost of the church building, excluding the tower, was £5 893-12-4.

Most of the contents of the church were new including the oak pews donated by “the clergy of the Diocese”. The only physical links with the old church were the Archbishop Musgrave’s throne, Archbishop Harcourt’s oak chair, a 13th century piscina (the small stone sink in the sanctuary) from the first church, and various memorial plaques. The organ, which was then only 15 years old and had cost £300 to build, was transferred from the old church later in the summer when they felt that the new church had dried out sufficiently. The font was brought in from the demolished St Crux church in York as were 2 bells.

With the new church building up and working, the old building was taken down, except for the stone west wall, and the archbishop erected a memorial cross on the site.

Changes, especially in worship, often upset people. The completion of the new church did not suit everyone it seems! One villager, a Mrs Sarah Brown, who used to attend the old St Andrew’s Church refused to go to the new church, preferring to walk to Holy Trinity, Acaster Malbis, each Sunday! Such reactions have been seen more recently with changes in our form and type of worship. Archbishop Maclagan had obviously foreseen this problem as he mentioned in his sermon at the consecration of the new church:

Archbishop Maclagan“All of you as you approached the church today and especially those of you who reside in the parish, must have felt very thankful to Almighty God that He had permitted you to erect a building so much more worthy of its high purpose than the building which has now been abandoned.  I know, indeed, how much your hearts are bound, many of you to that old building . . .  but yet you will feel, I am sure, that as in all earthly things one passes away and another comes, the old gives place to the new, so we have done well in erecting this beautiful House of Prayer.”

The last meeting of the New Church Committee was in November 1900 when with debt reduced to £160  and covered by a loan from a friend of the church, the committee disbanded.

 Fund raising to build the tower must have started more or less  immediately. By August 1902 The Church Tower Fund stood at £235-17-7 and by February 1903 there was £304-2-1 in the fund. In the end this money was used to buy and hang 4 bells as Archbishop Maclagan paid for the tower himself as a thank offering for his 50 years of service in the church. The tower was dedicated on 28 September 1903.

Canon Keble died on 14th February 1903 after a long illness and so never saw the church with Tower, though he knew it was in hand and soon to be built. The memorial stone was set at the top of the tower in the parapet by the new Vicar; Rev. Pennyman, on September 9 1903, so completing the building as we know it.

St Andrew's Church in 1903

Compiled by Tom Whaley, with thanks to the Borthwick Institute and Minster Libraries.

The Rev .W G Pennyman was instituted on Whitsunday 31 May 1903 and continued the tradition of being Vicar of Bishopthorpe and Domestic Chaplain to the Archbishop of York.

It was he, when he moved on from Bishopthorpe in 1910, who gave the lime trees to form an avenue for the proposed new path to the church, asking that they be kept small, which was done by pollarding right up to the late 1970’s. The new path and the avenue of lime trees were only laid out when the churchyard was extended towards Back Lane in 1914. These were the 23 trees that had to be replaced with the avenue of Sorbus Whitebeam between 1996 and 1998 after having been neglected for 20 years!

In August 1907, preparing his letter for the parish magazine, the editor (vicar) found a slump in news; things were “very flat” in the village. He commented that the parishioners were all(!) away, in Scarborough it would appear, with the Palace empty, barred and bolted and the vicarage more or less shut up. “Let us hasten away before the dog days are done, before the silly season drives us sillier. Let us cast work to the winds and be young again!” Guess who was reading the magazine, not presumably the palace estate, farm and market garden workers! However, even worse, the St Hilda’s Guild picnic plans had been abandoned due to thoughtless people backing out at the last minute! This drew the moral that people should remember those who put so much effort into preparing such events.

Thinking about the approaching new school year brought comments about an “epidemic” of sending Bishopthorpe children to York primary schools. The editor thought it important that parents should support the village school and that the York educated children generally do not grow up better mannered or better behaved. He did not consider the introduction of “town manners” into a “country place” progress at all!

Pre-war reports of the annual vestry meetings, which we still hold as the first part of our church AGM, give some idea of the current concerns within the church: There was often discussion of the accounts of the Sick and Poor Fund and the Chancel Fund. The Medical Club was an important village organisation at this time which provided cheaper medical care to those who paid a quarterly subscription. A Doctor was paid a retaining fee by the club which was run by the vicar who often needed to remind subscribers to pay up! During the Great War the Coal Club, which was organised to make sure that coal was available in the village, especially to those who had no coal house to store it, gets a mention as coal supplies became more difficult to get. As happened until quite recently, the vicar would appoint his Vicar’s churchwarden whilst those present… usually around 15 (men!) would elect the Peoples Warden. It sounds so familiar and typical to find minutes recording at great length the arguments about limiting the time a churchwarden can serve.

Perhaps the best indicator of the outside world impinging on a village like Bishopthorpe is the long discussion that took place at the April 1912 meeting about the best way to deal with “visitors from York” coming to church and sitting in seats usually occupied by parishioners. We need to remember that to get the building grant from the Incorporated Church Building Society, the parish had agreed to display the notice that all the seats in the church were free as opposed to paid for (that is rented) by particular people. Someone suggested that members of the congregation could let the Wardens know whether they were going to attend church for a particular service! The final decision was to make arrangements with wardens and sides men to welcome and seat visitors and keep the usual seats of regular members of the congregation until five minutes before the service started. In March 1913 defective heating and ventilation in the church was the main item discussed and the wardens were asked to remedy the problem that it was too cold at matins and too warm by evensong! It may well be that it was 85 years on before anyone else actually complained to the churchwardens that it was too warm in church after the heating system was overhauled in 1998!

The Rev. A S Crawley, who took over the parish in 1910, was also to return to Bishopthorpe in 1924 as Domestic Chaplain to the Archbishop. His curate Rev.E Gibbs was also Chaplain to Archbishop Lang. Together they guided the parish through the war to 1918. Our church records, building and grounds provide us with poignant reminders of this catastrophic era:

The letter from the vicar in the Parish Magazine for September 1917 was written; “some fifteen miles from the line”. (Probably somewhere near Ypres) where he was about to return home. The Rev. Crawley, with a Military Cross to his name by then, had been an Army Chaplain since 1915 and Rev. Gibbs had taken over the running of the parish as Curate in Charge of Bishopthorpe. In that same Magazine however, Rev Gibbs’ letter came from where he was preparing to leave for France as an Army Chaplain thanking the parishioners for all their kind leaving gifts. There was also a comment from the editor expressing how much the parish regretted the departure of their much loved curate, who had obviously made a tremendous impression on all, including the Archbishop and many young women in the village. By the January 1918 edition of the magazine the Vicar was back in harness, writing from Bishopthorpe again, and the ex-curate was out in the thick of fighting on the Western front where he was killed on March 29 – Good Friday.

The wartime parish magazines also give us a good idea of the involvement of the village directly in the war, through the roll of honour printed at the back. The September 1917 edition listed all men serving in the army (90) as well as the killed (14) and wounded/discharged (11). The village at the 1911 census had a population of 451 and by 1921 the census recorded 489 people, so this means that around half the men of the village were away at war in some capacity. Surely this is a fair measure of the great change that took place in our rural community! By the end of the war 17 men had died as a result of action, illness and accident.

Bishopthorpe War MemorialIt was not until 4 May 1921 that the War Memorial, with 14 names, was unveiled by the Archbishop. The completed memorial which included the gateway and walls was finally dedicated in March 1925. St Andrew’s church interior also gained from the memorials to the dead of the Great war, with the Sanctuary panelling given by his wife and children in memory of Mr A T Watson and the carved tryptych reredos above the alter given by Archbishop Lang in memory of Rev.E Gibbs. The oak tree in the Churchyard near the war memorial, planted by the Watson family in 1921, was grown from an acorn brought from the Great War Battlefields.
Carved tryptych reredos

In December 1918 the Rev C W Chastel de Boinville, who had also served as an army chaplain and been awarded the MC came to the parish. He is recorded as living the North wing of the Palace rather than the vicarage next to the old church. Much to the regret of any local historian he discontinued the Parish Magazine, noting at the time that it was losing £15 a year due to lack of support. This sum can be put in context by noting the income that the church was handling as well as the great concern about the poverty of many Anglican clergymen. The Poor Clergy Aid Fund was firmly supported by the parish, despite not being especially well endowed itself. In this period there were between 120 and 160 communicants at Easter and Christmas when offerings would be between £3 and £6. By 1920/21 the Churchwarden’s accounts show a turnover of nearly £400 which included donations to charities of around £44 and the Vicar’s Easter offering of £21, organist’s fee of £30, cleaner’s payment of £14-19-0, coal £22-8-0 and gas £3-16-3.

Financial worries come to the fore after the end of the war. Finance committee meeting minutes tell us that in the 18 months after the Armistice people had been giving less towards the Church Finance fund and there were worries that the cost of running the parish church were rising. Numbers of communicants at the main festivals were down somewhat from pre-war. In what we think of now as true Anglican tradition, a letter was sent out to all on the electoral role from the Vicar and Finance Committee asking for signed pledges of regular giving! The Rev Crawley upset some of the Finance Committee members who had been running things whilst he was at war and Rev Gibbs in charge, by wanting to renew the Freewill Offering Scheme that had lost so many of the smaller subscribers during the war and suggesting that the church needed to keep in contact with a wider range of people.

The 1919 Vestry Meeting discussed and approved the proposals for church “self-government” and hoped that they would be able to cope with the new system. The first Parochial Church meeting as we know them, was on 12 April 1920, drew 30 parishioners and was followed by quarterly PCC meetings. Business included dealing with the organ which needed cleaning and repairing and trying to decide who owned the grass in the churchyard – which I suspect was already looking untidy and certainly had not all been levelled! The PCC elections show that women were becoming involved in church government at parish and Ruri-Decanal conference (the forerunner of our Deanery) level. The meeting of 31 April 1921 carried a proposal supporting the feeling that it was time to change the system of endowment of parishes which still led to serious poverty amongst clergy in the less well-endowed parishes and without private income. Any current PCC member will be familiar with the opinion expressed even then that the Diocesan Quota increase was “more than the offertories could uphold”! By 1922 an envelope scheme was proposed to increase the income and it was suggested that the vicar announce the amounts of collections in services!

The development of regular freewill offering schemes led to the PCC finance committee producing an annual budget. In 1924 the committee budgeted £350 for 1925 and managed to have balance of over £90 from which they could transfer grants of £25 to each of the Fabric and War Memorial funds. By 1925 the vicar was explaining that the church was even going to have to pay a premium towards the Vicarage “Dilapidation”. Annual collection totals at this time were between £150 and £200.

In 1923 the discussions began in PCC that, together with the Parish War Memorial Committee, led to the completion of the main path and war memorial with the walls, steps and oak gates that were dedicated by Archbishop Lang in March 1925. The oak gates had rotted badly and were unusable by 1999. They were replaced and rehung in 2004.

The 1922 Vestry and Parochial Church Meeting in the schoolroom were attended by 40 out of the 216 on the church electoral roll. At this time the vicar and his wife lived in the north wing of the palace and PCC meetings were held there.

The widening of PCC discussions by 1922 led to decisions to make more of the Patronal Festival with a special service and social event, also a village fete was planned in the Palace grounds and “a strong ladies committee” formed, no doubt to handle social events, though the sides men and male members were to form the committee to organise the fete!

 The choir was a source of worry even then! Attendance by the boys was poor at practice and services and their robes in poor condition. A proposal to pay the choristers did not get far initially, though members of the PCC did agree to visit the school and choir practices to encourage the boys. In 1924 the PCC agreed that girls should be allowed to be probationers in the choir, however, standards had not failed completely, and they had to sit in the south aisle whilst the ladies choir was overflowing into the Lady Chapel. Mr Stanley Johnson was organist and choir master during this period. In 1928, when his father Mr Walter Johnson (always identified as “builder” to differentiate him from the W Johnson “market gardener” was presented with a prayer book for over 60 years as member of the church choir, he too had already served in the choir for 30 years. He was organist from the age of 16 until he died in 1950

At the April 1923 meeting there was discussion of the objectives of the PCC, when members were reminded that their responsibilities went beyond the church finances to spiritual matters, and the importance of supporting each other and service to the village. The vicar in a somewhat prophetic mode, commented on the advantages of living in a village rather than a town. This theme was taken up again 3 years later when Archbishop Lang, preaching at the annual service on the site of the old church, hoped that the growth of the village would not destroy the village tradition and spirit. The archbishop obviously felt that the site of the old church was an important symbol of this tradition; however he was not entirely backward looking as he understood that the village must develop.

The rate of growth of the village was soon to increase after 1925 when the builder W J Simpson was to start making his impression on the village with the 60 houses of Myrtle and Coda Avenue and Acaster Lane. Later came building on Sim Balk Lane and the Lang Road – Copmanthorpe Road area. By 1931 the village population had increased to 779 and in 1933 the parish declined an invitation to be included within the York City boundary, preferring to stay as Bishopthorpe Rural District, later to become part of Tadcaster RDC! Middlethorpe which is part of the ecclesiastical parish of St Andrew Bishopthorpe did become part of York. The population of the village reached nearly 1000 by the mid 1930’s, and the church electoral roll was up to 450. Mr Simpson’s firm alone is noted as having built 98 houses in the village between 1932 and 1935, so was responsible for most of this growth.

The minutes of the February 1924 PCC meeting were signed by the new vicar, Rev Canon F L Perkins who arrived in the parish that spring. The Rev and Mrs Perkins moved into the Old Vicarage, whilst Rev A S Crawley returned to the Palace as the Archbishop’s chaplain living his family with in the North Wing.

Canon Perkins is perhaps best remembered for his play; “The Bishopthorpe Play”, first produced in 1928, which was based on Canon Keble’s book. This was the first performance of the play that was to later to be developed into the Bishopthorpe “Pageant “ and be produced and performed by the community many times over the next 50 years. The first performance of The Play was in June 1928. Held in the Palace grounds it was produced by Rev. J A Hughes Warden of The York Settlement and involved a substantial part of the local community. About £150 was raised for village organisations including reading room, cricket, bowling and tennis clubs.

By 1924 the PCC was discussing the decaying stonework of new church especially the gables of the vestry. The church council consulted Professor Kendall, an eminent geologist at Leeds University, for advice on preservation of the stone surfaces as well as asking for a report from the architect Mr Brierley who was also involved in the war memorial completion scheme. As always, it seems, schemes needing major expenditure pile up! The war memorial completion looked like costing the church around £200 and Mr Brierley’s gable restoration scheme another £260. The memorial scheme got priority, it cost over £400 in the end, whilst the vestry gables were submitted to tests and the architects proposals deferred. This is the first mention of the restoration problems that have recurred due to the easily weathered limestone that was used as a facing on the church. Restoration of the church building becomes a recurring issue in PCC meetings from this time. By 1925 money was being set aside to renew the boiler.

In PCC meetings of the 1920’s the prayer book revision was also an important topic of discussion, with winter study groups being formed and visiting speakers invited. Discussions also revealed various forms of what was referred to as social work being proposed and action taken by the church including a boys’ club, girls’ club, men’s club, scouts, cubs and guides, choral society. Much effort was put into supporting the village Church school. The church was certainly playing a very active part in the life of the village.

An indication of the different tradition of worship at this time which is noticeable to our eucharistically centred church is Rev Perkins decision 1925 to form a communicant’s guild with meetings to be held before the major festivals when most of the congregation would make their communion. The church council agreed and a preparatory service was held just before Christmas 1925.

The creeping influence of the outside world on the village continued to worry the church council. Lengthy discussion and the special subcommittee needed to consider who could be buried in the graveyard, re-elected the increasing mobility of the community. The council also readily agreed to the erection of notices to deter river pleasure boat trippers from landing and picnicking on the old churchyard!

Canon Perkins died in 1932 and The Rev H C Warner was appointed by Archbishop William Temple in his place. He was also to serve the archbishop as Chaplain for 5 years.

In the letter from Archbishop Temple asking Rev. Warner if he would be interested in the post, is a description of what he saw as central traditions to St Andrew’s church at that time.

“…. we have an Eastward position and 2 candles, coloured stoles and frontals; choral celebration once a month. This suits the people here admirably. It would be a great mistake to introduce vestments or to stop monthly choral celebration. The house is charming, but very likely too large and the village is quite prepared to see it let or sold.”

Coming from industrial Luton to rural Bishopthorpe gave the Rev and Mrs Warner somewhat of a shock. They did move out of the old vicarage and lived on Main Street, which must have been quite a shock for the village. As Mrs Warner put it “… had he not stepped down from among the Big Houses ….” The present vicarage was planned and built during this period, but first occupied by the next incumbent.

 The Warners’ description of the village in retrospect provides us with a period view of the congregation and village in the 1930’s:

“On one hand there was “the village” with its feudal division into the Big Houses, who occupied the front pews in church, and the farms, market gardens and cottages, many of them having some connection, past or present, with “t’palace”, and fully persuaded that Bishopthorpe was the hub of the universe. On the other hand, there were “those uppish new villa folk”, as a very old villager tartly and most unfairly described them, who occupied the new housing estate growing up around the village as a business dormitory of York”
(With thanks to Mrs Warner’s biography of her husband.)

This young man, only 2 years ordained and somewhat of a protégé of Archbishop Temple, did not always please the older members of the congregation, but he certainly encouraged young people in the church, starting and running a group called “The Young people’s Own” for teenagers. He was criticised for running a mixed youth club; he was apparently “asking for trouble” according to some sections of the village. Rev Warner made an impact on the young people of the village!

Anyone concerned with choosing hymns for services would recognise the discussion in a 1933 PCC meeting in response to the question; “ … on what system are our hymns chosen?” asked at 10.30pm after a long meeting! The English Hymnal had been introduced in Canon Perkins time, the “known” hymn list was short and there were worries about “too many new hymns”. Promises were made that there would be “never more than one new hymn on any one Sunday and suggestions that there should be a hymn rehearsal to which the congregation should come! The Rev. Warner was also a great believer in the updating of the language of the liturgy, promoting and defending the 1928 prayer book vigorously and he was not averse to reordering the service when he felt it made sense.

Perhaps influenced by the presence of the Archbishops as Lords of the Manor and as employers and with a Church Village School, the village was mainly Anglican but the Rev Warner also made links with Roman Catholic families in the village apparently worrying that they had nowhere to worship locally and offering support. He was also a keen advocate of marriage preparation, and marriage guidance, and seems to have shocked some of the village with his very forward approach!

In 1939 The Rev W R Railston-Brown was appointed to the parish and moved into the new vicarage on Back Lane, and war broke out!

By the late 1930’s the growth of the village was reflected in the totals of Easter and Christmas communicants. Easter communicants in 1937/38 had increased to around 300 with about 250 at Christmas. During the war years there was a noticeable decline in these figures and in the post war years the totals of communicants at the main festivals stabilised in the low 200’s.

Easter 1938 services included communion at 6, 7 and 8 am as well as 11.15 after matins which along with evensong was the main service.

In 1945The Rev P J S Russell became vicar of Bishopthorpe serving the village until 1955.

Mr Taylor, who had served on the committee that oversaw the building of the new St Andrew’s, died in 1946 aged 83. He obviously had made a good job of the finances for he had been given the honour of choosing his seat in the new church. In the parish magazines of the 1890’s he was more likely to be mentioned for his cricketing than financial skills!

The 1951 census records show that the population of the village was 1182 and by 1961 up to 1263. The rapid growth of the 1930’s had been replaced by a lull before the next period of rapid growth from the middle 1960’s. The service registers at this time show Sunday by Sunday communicants to be around 20. The main festivals still drew communicants to take their Easter, Christmas and to a lesser extent their Whitsuntide communion with numbers at around 200 to 240. Producing a collection of about £15 at Christmas and at least double that for the vicar’s Easter Offering. The annual income of the church from collections through the late 1940’s to early 1950’s was between £350 and £400.

Some vicars often add notes in the margin of the service register. Whilst this often goes no further than excusing a small congregation with a comment on the bad weather, it can be a source of interesting information:

On Easter Day 1942 Archbishop Temple took evensong as William Ebor, on the Second Sunday after Easter he celebrated communion at 8.00pm as William Cantaur.

A delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church visited St Andrew’s Church in June 1945, their signatures take up half a page of the register.

On Sunday March 23 1947 the village was flooded above even the 1892 level.

On the first Sunday after Easter 1949 the objective of the offertory was the Electric Lighting Fund, things were progressing!

The first record of a broadcast from St Andrew’s is Christmas Day 1949 when Archbishop Garbutt and Rev Russell celebrated communion on the radio. Most of the parish took their Christmas Communion at 7.00am that day! In the early 1950’s the Midnight Communion was introduced. At Christmas 1955 it was noted that this service had proved popular and the plans were to continue with it. Another Christmas event mentioned in the Parish Magazines of January 1955 and 1956 was the Christmas “Mime”. This event, held in church involved people whose names crop up regularly over the next 30 or 40 years. Carol Woollcombe was involved in the production, John Graham was assembling staging and Raymond Richardson was congratulated for his musical accompaniment. Royal Air Force Acaster Malbis provided much needed hardware, staging marquees, music and muscle for events like the mime and the village fete, a reminder that the airfield was still operational. The Pantomime in winter 1955 was in St Andrew’s Hall (the Village Hall) to fund the Children’s Party and help with the completion of the playing fields which were due to be in use by the summer.

Early in 1956 The Rev R L H Lloyd started in the parish as vicar, from Coxwold and newly married.

By 1961 the condition of the fabric of the church was giving so much cause for concern that a brochure was published with photographs showing the poor state of the stonework and emphasise the urgency of the situation.

The cost of maintaining St Andrew’s in 1961 was more than £1,100 per annum (over £3 per day) whilst the income was less than £20 per week – half of this coming from collections and freewill offering scheme – the other half from special efforts, e.g. coffee mornings, garden fetes, etc. Christmas Day 1961 with 192 communicants produced a total collection of £19-11-1 whilst the Easter Offering had been £38-10-4 (for the vicar). A glossy brochure which included a message from Archbishop Michael Ramsey was produced to try to double that weekly amount to £40. Excess of expenditure over income in 1960 had been £62!!

The finances of the church, however, were soon quoted as being in “a most satisfactory” condition after the Christian Giving Campaign.

By the end of the Rev Lloyds time in the parish the pattern of Sunday worship still centred on Matins and Evensong. Holy Communion was usually at 8.00am. (6.00 and 7.00am communion services had been common at Festivals!) except once a month and on special occasions when there would be sung Parish Communion at 9.00am. “Children in Church” was a separate service at 10.00am. In his November 1963 parish letter, in the run up to Christmas, the vicar still felt it important to discuss the way the congregation should prepare for their Christmas communion, again reminding us that most people did not attend communion every Sunday (there were about 30 communicants on any “normal” Sunday) and that the major changes in worship pattern were still to reach Bishopthorpe.

At this time, the link with the Palace was still strong. For example, the tradition was that on the 4th Sunday in Advent the evensong congregation processed across the road, “after the 3rd collect”, to sing carols. A service was broadcast from St Andrew’s on New Year’s Eve 1961, this time a BBC television Watch Night Service with Archbishop Coggan giving his New Year message.

 In January 1964 the first pamphlets of Mr Brayley’s “Annals of Bishopthorpe” were published. These pamphlets, often bound into a booklet, remain the starting point and a very useful source of information and ideas about the history of Bishopthorpe up the mid 1960’s.

In March 1964 Mrs Alice Forth, involved in the Sunday School since 1913, died. Her obituary in the Parish Magazine gives some indication of Sunday School activity in the Parish over the 50 years she was involved. In Rev Pennyman’s time she had worked with the Infants groups and in Canon Perkin’s reign had produced the Sunday School Concerts, becoming “active in the dramatic life of Sunday School”. During the incumbency of Rev Warner when “almost every child in the parish went to Sunday School”, Mrs Forth and 2 assistants took the infants Sunday classes in the day school. During the Second World War Sunday School moved back to the church where infant’s classes were held in the morning and the primary and senior classes in the afternoon. After the war all the classes were amalgamated operating in church on Sunday mornings. At this time there was no separate space for Sunday School as the first church room had yet to be built.

After a thankfully short interregnum of 4 months The Rev Canon M Green, also with an MC to his name, was appointed as vicar and Honorary Chaplain to the Archbishop. He was instituted and inducted to the parish on April 7 1964. A particular feature of his time in the village from 1964 to 1972 was the surge of change in the church and village.

When Canon Green came to the village he made a “statement of intent” in which he declared his determination to develop the links between church and community and to keep an “open vicarage”. A feature of church life during his incumbency was the focus on drawing in younger people and the new villagers. Canon Green demonstrated the importance of supporting youth work, putting great effort into communicating with young people beyond the traditional Sunday School. There were Sunday night youth meetings for the over 14s called Pathfinders with a good response, if the December 1964 Confirmations of 13 boys and 9 girls were any measure! The choir also experienced an upsurge in chorister numbers (boys), though they did start to get quarterly payments! The choir also developed a winning football team. Young men, and their parents, from this era remember the choir camps and mountaineering trips for older boys after Easter or even Christmas and the minibus driven by the vicar.

“The bulldozers are at work”, is a quotation in the September 1964 Parish magazine as the church faced up to the next big change in the village; the growth of the “Bradley” estate. There was a determined effort by the church to make what was seen as inevitable change, “for the better”. Welcome teams were set up and leaflet produced and all the new families were visited using volunteers from both Methodist and parish church over the next few years. Involvement with the church was encouraged by holding new residents coffee mornings and by starting a Young Wives club and establishing street representatives. An impression of the rate of growth can be seen by the 100 families that moved into the village in the second half of 1965.

Towards the end of the decade St Andrew’s in conjunction with Bishopthorpe Methodist Church ran “Contact 68” and “Contact 69”. These schemes, combining house to house visiting, Lenten Services and house group meetings with visiting Missioners from the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield continued the attempt to cope with the growing village

It was in the late 1960’s that the form and focus of worship in the church began to change markedly. New forms of service Series 2 and 3 were being tried out and the introduction of Communion at 10.15am as the main service every Sunday replacing matins or the First Sunday in the month 11.00am Sung Eucharist from Easter 1968. There was a noticeable increase in the number of weekly communicants with the new arrangements, by that November numbers had climbed to about 80 on a normal Sunday.  

In 1967/68 there was another major development, with the building of the first hall and car park next to the church. This was seen by many in the congregation as a bold, foolish and expensive move, likely to spoil the view of the church! However, a small building went up to begin with and the extension followed. It did mean among other things that the congregation did not have to trek around to St Andrew’s Hall on Main Street for coffee after a service, and there were toilets at last for all! The hall was dedicated by Archbishop Coggan after matins on 4 February 1968.

January 1970 saw the first edition of the Link magazine published and circulated in the village by St Andrew’s Church. The magazine had the characteristics of previous Parish Magazines from the beginning of the century, though rather more glossy, and with aim of forging a link between churches and community in what was by then a much larger and still growing settlement with all the possibility of the new estates submerging the old village and its character. By the end of the year Canon Green was pondering on the problems of balancing the dual role church and community of Link as we still do nearly 30 years later.

1970 also saw the 6th production of the Bishopthorpe Pageant. Again this event drew together a large number of people from the village, young and old, involving many church members and including Canon Green as actors and in production. It was seen as a great success on all accounts.

Canon Green was appointed Bishop of Aston in 1972 and consecrated in Southwark Cathedral with his away fans of about 80 people from Bishopthorpe supporting him. In his parting letter he rejoiced in what he saw as a happy community with “thin, or almost non-existent” barriers between the “church” and the “world”. He also gave thanks for the “partners” of all ages and from old and new parts of the village who had shared his ministry and supported among other things, the changes in the way of worship of 1968 which he saw as a “great turning point”. There can’t be many parishes that have a Bishop as their vicar and Archbishop as a parishioner, even if only for the two weeks between consecration and moving to the new post, but Bishopthorpe did that year!

The advantage of having an archbishop and his office in the parish showed with the rapid appointment of Rev. M Escritt as vicar of Bishopthorpe and his institution on September 8 1972. Having been Chaplain to Archbishop Coggan for some years, the Rev Escritt, who had served in the Royal Navy for 13 years, was already well known in the village and the church. As a young couple married in 1970 in St Andrew’s Church, with a new family they formed another link with the many young families moving into the expanding housing estate of Keble Park. A new feature of the team at the vicarage was that both vicar and wife were trained for the full-time ministry. Later Margaret Escritt was to be ordained, work as a Prison Chaplain and be made the first woman Canon of York Minster.

In July 1974 St Andrew’s celebrated the 75th anniversary of the building of the new church. The vicar used the occasion to comment on the implications of the tremendous growth of the village, by then around 1000 houses, well over 2000 people and still growing, and the great importance of changing role of lay people in the church. Despite the many ordained ministers in the parish, both active and retired, St Andrew’s was well served by lay ministers. In July 1974 there were three Readers working with the Vicar in the parish including Mrs Coggan, soon to move on with her husband to Canterbury.

In February 1975 Lillie Baldwin the last verger at St Andrew’s Church finally retired (for the second time!) after 24 years service. Lillie was a familiar and very idiosyncratic feature at the back of church, respected perhaps even feared by some and treating all alike. One of her specialities was to insist on locking herself into the church after Midnight Communion at Christmas staying there to open up for 8.00am communion on Christmas morning! It was Lillie’s very generous bequest of her house on Copmanthorpe Lane to St Andrew’s that provided a large part of the cost of the replacement of the, so called temporary, church hall with the current building after 30 years.

Another servant of the church to make the press in 1975 was Raymond Richardson who was estimated to have cycled 45 000 miles between his home in Clifton and Bishopthorpe over the nearly 25 years he had played the organ for services at St Andrew’s. Mr Richardson, renowned for hardly ever missing a service, carried on as organist until 1990 thus must have clocked up in the region of 60-70 000 miles over the 40 years, wearing out numerous bicycles.

By the mid 1970’s the size of the congregation was causing worry as far as pastoral care was concerned. A somewhat unstructured pastoral care scheme developed operated by a team of lay visitors. By 1979 the vicar in his annual report said that he felt that lay visiting was opening up a vision of what the church should be like. The concept of “Shared Ministry” was being discussed and was developing in the Parish.

In May 1979 the church held a Renewal Mission led by members of the Society of Saint Francis. The focus was on “where we are”, “who we are” and “where we are going” with house meetings around the village and a Parish day away deep in the countryside at Wistow.

The 1980 Alternative Service Book was introduced in services for trial periods from September 1981. There was a careful attempt to balance the types of service and a pattern was developed that made use the different ASB rites and the BCP. ASB rites were, however, introduced for the main 10.15am Family Communion on Sundays and Rite A became the preferred liturgy.

On May 9 1982 10.15 Family Communion was broadcast from St Andrews by Yorkshire Television. It was said to be one the few advantages the church has gleaned from being near York Racecourse. Yorkshire Television had all their equipment in York for the race meeting and decided to make good use of it, killing two birds with one stone!

Rev P Rathbone became vicar of Bishopthorpe on 1 November 1983.

The application of the concepts of shared ministry continued in the middle 1980s with the introduction of lay assistants distributing the elements at communion as well as the support given to the training of more lay readers. 1997 to 1999 saw parish involvement in the Diocesan Lay pastoral scheme with members of the congregation doing pastoral care training including baptism preparation and follow up, sick and hospital visiting, marriage preparation, and work on bereavement and crisis management.

From 1995 the choice of hymns and songs for the main Sunday service was placed in the hands of the Worship Group. It was hoped that this increase in the number of lay people in the planning of worship especially the music would widen the range of music used, providing both a check on and an encouragement for developments in a rapidly changing area.

Through the 1980s and 1990s Bishopthorpe continued to grow steadily, reaching around 3500 people in about 1500 households, mainly through the “filling in” of spaces within the village. After refusing previous attempts to make Bishopthorpe part of the City of York the parish ends the century within the City boundaries but still a separate and identifiable village. Congregation numbers have tended to fall in line with national trends. This has been the source of much discussion in PCC meetings. Increasing the size of congregations and drawing more into contact with the church has continued to be high on the list of priorities throughout the period. One of the results of this concern has been the introduction a non-Eucharistic Family service on a monthly basis. Returning to a non-eucharistic main service is recognition that there are fewer people in contact with the church and that the informal All Age service may be more attractive and helpful to those on the fringe of the organised church and church life.

The first turf was cut for the new church hall in May 1994 after many years of awareness of the need, planning and hesitation. By the mid-1980s the organ had been feeling its age and was extensively renovated in 1990 at the cost of £20 000. The decision to do this put an end to plans under discussion at that time which would have involved an extension of the church itself to provide meeting rooms and all the necessary offices. The reasoning behind the new hall was limited space, especially the small number of rooms available for the various Sunday Groups carrying on the tradition of Sunday school, but at the same time as the main Sunday service. When planning started again, it was decided to have a separate building of a more permanent nature on the site of the previous hall providing a range of different sized rooms plenty of storage space and that it should be of a standard high enough to be let out for village functions. The building cost £140 000 and was dedicated in November 1995 by the Archbishop of York and by 1998 was bringing in a small profit for church funds.

In 1999 St Andrew’s church still had a full time minister serving village that is getting on for 10 times the size of the village that Canon Keble came to serve. The annual budget of the church by 1998 was over £46 000 of which £29 000 went to Diocesan funds. The weekly budget of the St Andrew’s church at the end of the century is about 5 times the annual collections total of 1920. The 1998 budget was about 100 times the 1925 budget! The finance committee is still worrying about making ends meet!

The church building continues to absorb large amounts of money to renovate the easily weathered stonework, and 1997-98 saw the renewing of electrical and heating systems. Overall the parish continues to show that it can rise what is needed to maintain the House of God in a reasonable condition and as a witness in the village.

Rev. Paul Rathbone retired in 2001, and was followed by Rev. Chris Coates.

Compiled by Tom Whaley, with thanks to the Borthwick Institute and Minster Libraries.