Where it all started

The seeds of St John’s were sown 2nd December 1822 when the above letter was written to the Dean of Ripon, Robert Waddilove (1736-1828). The illuminated letter on parchment still exists.

“Dear Sir

We the undernamed inhabitants of Sharow, Copt Hewick and Bridge Hewick being very desirous of attending the service of the Established Church and anxious that our children and our servants should be bred up in its principles, feel sorry that we cannot be accommodated in the Minster on the Sabbath days to join the sacred services of the same owing to two considerations  –  the inadequacy of the church to contain numbers and the increased and increasing population of Ripon with Bondgate.

We therefore with the inhabitants of the Townships before named have consulted together on the propriety of making an attempt, at least, to build a chapel in connexion with the Church of Ripon, at Sharow, that place being most central to the other Townships. As our project is not set on foot in hostility to the Dean & Chapter, nor against the interests of the church over which they preside, we look forward to your valuable co-operation and support.

Under this impression and being convinced of your good wishes for us all, we beg to solicit an interview with you on this important subject, leaving time and place to your own appointment, in order that we may profit from your suggestions and more fully develop our plans; the prominent outlines of which are –  the building of a chapel and a permanent provision of a clergyman to officiate therein

The population seeking for this accommodation exceeds three hundred souls.

The favour of your answer will much oblige the Townships on whose behalf we make this application as well as ourselves.

We have the honour to be Rev’d Sir, Your most obedient servants

Geo. Knowles                              Wm. Charnock

Signatories include: Sharow 114; Copt Hewick 108; Bridge Hewick 89.”

St John’s Today

St John’s Church is located in the Parish of Sharow with Copt Hewick & Marton-le-Moor which embraces the communities of Sharow, plus Nunwick and Hutton Conyers to the north; Ure Bank to the west; Copt Hewick, Marton-le-Moor and Bridge Hewick to the east; all situated a mile or two east and north of the ancient city of Ripon in North Yorkshire, England. Research reveals a church of considerable interest despite being less than 200 years old, but historical records are funny things! There are several places where ‘established facts’ don’t quite fit together. There are also gaps still to fill. So research continues.

The Ripon Connection

It is difficult to imagine Ripon Cathedral being regularly packed for services in the early 1820s, as the letter implies, but that is the implication. Remember, worshipers would have had to travel, in some cases several miles, by horse or horse and carriage or trap, but perhaps mostly on foot, maybe some on ‘velocipedes’, the precursor of the bicycle which did not arrive for another 40 years. There were no metalled roads as we know them today, rather country tracks. Even the weather was harsher with meaningful snow falls most winters. No reply to the letter has been unearthed but subsequent happenings clearly reveal the Dean responded positively and speedily.  The foundation stone was laid 13th January 1824.

A Waterloo Church?

Churches built about this time are often, if erroneously, referred to as Waterloo Churches.  ‘The Church Building Act, 1818’, passed by Parliament, committed £1 million to build new churches, in words sometimes associated with the act, “lest a godless people might also be a revolutionary people”.  The government was alarmed at the rapid spread of nonconformist denominations equating them to radical political views. It also believed that a churchgoing public, especially in the rapidly growing industrial areas, could be better held in check than the large groups of people who were removed from Anglican influences. As a less emotive reason for building churches, they were to be the nation’s token of Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the victory at Waterloo.

The government appointed a commission to administer the funds, the men serving on it became known as ‘Church Commissioners’ although strictly speaking they were the ‘Parliamentary Commissioners’. They were disbanded when the money ran out and are not therefore the precursors of the present Church Commissioners. The Commission assisted the construction of many churches across the country and architects were required to keep costs to a minimum. These ‘Commissioners’ Churches’ were generally built of cheap brick, with stone dressing only for windows and doors. Interiors were usually galleried on three sides. Four South London churches were purposely dedicated to the four evangelists – St John’s, Waterloo; St Matthew’s, Brixton; St Mark’s, Kennington; St Luke’s, Norwood.

The Studley Connection

St John’s was largely funded by Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence of Studley Royal. She donated in the region of £2,000. Elizabeth was the last of the Aislabie family line, heiress to a vast portfolio of property across York and North Yorkshire. Without her addition, the church would have been a lesser structure, if it had been built at all.

The Church Commission

St John’s Sharow is built of stone and much more elaborate than almost any Commissioners’ church. It has traceried windows and is built in an area which was not particularly industrial and not likely to be a hotbed of radical thinking. The design is therefore far more expensive than the Commissioners would have allowed had they borne the main part of the cost. Indeed, one expert on church buildings says he would be surprised if they had given anything!  Traditionally it has been held that there was a grant from the Parliamentary Commissioners of £400 yet no verification of this has been uncovered. A plaque on the south wall of the Tower Room reads:

This Chapel was erected in the year 1825. It contains sittings for 550 Persons and in consequence of a Grant from the Society for Promoting the Enlargement and Building of Churches and Chapels 280 of that number are hereby declared to be Free and Unappropriated for ever.                James Newsam,  Minister; John Wrather, Francis Parker,  Chapel Wardens

This society made many grants generally of between £100 and £500 during the 19th century, usually specifying a number of seats which had to remain Free and Unappropriated. Many churches had raised a substantial proportion of their income from seat-rents which meant that those who could not afford them were banished to the back of the church or gallery.  Such rents were gradually abolished until by the end of the 19th century they had largely disappeared. It would be surprising indeed if one of the church-building charities such as this were to have given money to a church which was funded in any way by the Parliamentary Commissioners. Additionally, the more one learns about the initiator and architect George Knowles the less likely it seems that he would allow himself to be constrained by a body such as the Parliamentary Commissioners! Other funding came from public subscription, the total cost being about £5,000.

A Community Venture

As a result of all that has come to light during recent researches it is clear St John’s Church was created as a result of local initiative, largely funded locally but with the grant from SPEBCC, probably of £400, and that there was no involvement of the Parliamentary Commissioners. St John’s Sharow should not therefore be described as a Waterloo church.

Consecration and dedication to St John the Divine took place on 28th September 1825 by the Archbishop of York,  Edward Venables Vernon Harcourt (1757-1847). Sharow was at that time in the Diocese of York and the first Vicar of Sharow was James Newsom. When completed in 1825 St John’s was rectangular with a gallery to the west. Absence of pillars and  the fine gold-embossed flat roof contribute greatly to the dignity and utility of the building. The Ten Commandments, engraved in marble, are mounted in the wall above and behind the pulpit and reading pulpit. The tower held six bells, cast in 1824 by John Mears.

Chapel of Ease

Initially, the church was referred to as the Chapel of Sharow and served as a chapel of ease to Ripon.  Sharow was an Ecclesiastical District, not a Parish, and its boundaries were set out in an Order of Council 4th December 1829. The New Catholic Dictionary defines a Chapel of Ease thus: Chapel of Ease. A church or chapel built in an outlying district of a parish, so called because it is intended to relieve the parish church and accommodate the parishioners living at a distance from it….

In 1825, Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence of Studley Royal gave the Parsonage, a farm house called Throstle’s Nest, to the parish. She also donated the Master’s House and small schoolroom now known as School House (first record of a ‘school’ in Sharow). Throstle’s Nest Farm is not named as such on any old maps of Sharow but ‘Parsonage’  does appear on maps dated 1834, 1852 and 1856 whilst on a map dated 1890 the same property is shown as ‘Vicarage’. From 1977 this property was occupied by the Archdeacon of Ripon until being sold by the church in 1983. Today it is a private residence known as St John’s House. In the mid 1980s renovation work involved the lifting of a timber floor. This exposed bones which on examination proved to be cow bones tending to confirm that the property may, at some time, have been a farm. At this time, “music consisted of a very poor barrel organ and the voices of the old Clerk and one or two others. The school was very small and the scholars few”.  One record suggests there were 7 fee paying scholars.

There is a plaque in the Tower Room which reads :

This tablet is here placed to record the munificence of Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence of Studley Royal, who in her lifetime gave sites for this church and its Parsonage and largely contributed to the erection and endorsement of the former and the repair and enlargement of the latter. She died the 30th of July 1845 and was interred in a vault in the Parish Church  of Kirby Fleetham in this diocese.

This lady’s input was very substantial; cash donation of £2000 for building; land on which it was built, a farm house for The Parsonage, to say nothing of schoolroom and master’s house! But just who was this lady? She never married and care must be taken not to confuse her with her aunt, Mrs Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence who was a daughter of the Aislabies  of Kirkby Fleetham estate. A map of 1834 shows a ‘Mrs’ Lawrence holding significant land in the area of Sharow Lane and Lowfield Lane, Sharow. One time owner of the Unicorn Inn in Ripon there could still be much to be unearthed about Elizabeth Sophia Lawrence!

Two stone monuments on the west wall of the nave raise interesting questions as the first commemorates a lady who died in 1824, just two months after the foundation stone of the church was laid. What exactly was her connection with the Parish, with Sharow village, and the partially constructed church? The inscription does not help us:

In memory of Frances Relict of Wm Fenwick Esq. Late of Bywell in the county of Northumberland. The beloved and respected wife of the Revd. Septimus Hodson Rector of Thrapston in the county of Northampton. She died March 21st 1824 aged 63  “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me” Job 29:11

And the second monument:

Sacred to the memory of The Revd. Septimus Hodson Late Rector of  Thrapston in the County of Northampton And Perpetual Curate of Little Raveley In Huntingdonshire. He died on the 12th day of December AD 1833 In the seventy first year of his age. His widow offers this poor brief tribute To his beloved memory “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me”

Edward Cookson succeeded  James Newsam as Vicar of Sharow in 1838. It seems that Rev Edward Cookson BA came to Sharow having previously been the incumbent at St Mary’s Church, Quarry Hill, Leeds. (Genuki Genealogy UK & Ireland). Edmund Grey was the next Vicar of Sharow being in office from 1852 to 1884.

Stained Glass

Stained glass in St John’s, some of which is of outstanding quality and historical interest,  is the subject of separate notes. Within the church are numerous monuments and plaques generally relating to a specific person who played some identifiable role within the church’s development. However some give little or no clue to the background. Perhaps somewhere there is someone who can add to our present knowledge.

Stone Plaque Nave North Wall, 1854 adjacent to pulpit

Near the East window1) In an extramural vault erected by George Knowles Esq. Lie the remains of Harriot Wormald Eldest daughter of Samuel  Wormald Esq. of York Who died at Scarborough 29th March 1854 Aged 68 Years In affectionate remembrance This monument was erected by her sister Ann Widow of the above George Knowles

1) Location of the original east window before new chancel constructed.

In 1854 Revd S H Powell, of Sharow Hall, gave various items to St John’s including:

the stone Pulpit bearing the inscription: “In memory of Thomas Hopper of Sharow Lodge who died the XIX day of March 1849.”

the Reading Pulpit bearing the inscription: “In memory of Catherine the wife of Thomas Hopper of Sharow Lodge who died the VIII day of October 1842”.

Altar Rails and “three handsome Oak Stalls in the Chancel” 2).

2) Nearly 20 years prior to construction  of the present Chancel.

In the same year, 1854, Edwin Walter Robert Williams was appointed Master of the Parish School and retained the position for 45 years. There is a brass plaque to his memory on the south wall of the Side Chapel.

“To the glory of God In memory of Edwin Walter Robert Williams For 45 years Master of the Sharow School Who died May 9th  1899 aged 74 years This window is dedicated by parishioners, scholars and friends.”

There is an unconfirmed reference to school construction taking place in 1857 but in 1863 School House was enlarged and improved. On the south wall of the Tower Room is a plaque reading:

Sharow Church of England School AD 1857 George Knowles formerly of Lucan House Sharow, and afterwards of Scarborough Esqr bequeathed £400 for the yearly Augmentation of the salary of the Master or Mistress of this School which was placed with the Charity Commissioners for Investment in the Funds. The trustees of this gift are the Bishop of Ripon, the incumbent  of Sharow, and the Churchwardens of Sharow, for the time being.

Plaque Tower Room North  Wall dates back to 1860 and reads:

This tablet is here placed to perpetuate the memory of Catherine Mason of Copt Hewick who died on the 3rd day of March Anno Domini 1860 aged 79 years And to record her benevolence in having during here life time invested in the National funds  the sum of £1000 sterling to augment the stipend of the incumbent of this church. And in having by her will bequeathed the sum of £500 sterling likewise invested in the same funds for the National school attached to this church.

A “ finger organ” was given by Revd G Mason of Copt Hewick Hall in 1862. This was the expression used in the early 19th century to describe a small organ with keyboard distinguishing it from a barrel organ. A brass plate attributes it to Abbott but that company did not exist at this time so he is likely to be responsible for later improvements. Today, located in the North Choir3), it is electrically pumped, has a pipe rack, integrated two manual console, drawstops with ivory labels and concave pedalboard with radiating wooden sliders.

3) It is not clear just where the organ was located before the chancel was added

1866 saw installation of the first water heating system in St John’s Church. It cost £90.

The stone font was donated by Mrs Reynard in 1867. Originally it stood beneath the tower being moved to its present location in the Nave just inside the south door in 1983. It is inscribed around the top: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all. At the foot of the stone font are two brass plaques engraved:

In affectionate remembrance of Margaret, 2nd wife of Thomas Mason Esq. Of Copt Hewick in this Parish. Died January 12th 1829  Aged 40 Also Margaret Elizabeth, infant daughter of Edward Horner and Elizabeth Reynard. Died January 6th 1851

George Knowles, architect of St John’s, was generous towards the church both during his life and in his will. On the Nave south wall is a stone monument bearing the inscription:

In memory of George Knowles Esq. Formerly of Lucan House Sharow And afterwards Of Wood End, Scarborough Where he died 23rd June 1866 aged 80 years An able and successful civil engineer He cheerfully dedicated to God a portion of his own gifts. He designed and superintended the building of this church And bequeathed the interest of £500 to the parochial school attached to it Also of Ann Knowles Widow and relict of the above who died at Wood End 22  January  1867 aged 72 years She bequeathed the interest of £200 towards the ……. of this church and churchyard”

Integral to this monument is a carved scene of a broken bridge with overhanging tree. A broken column traditionally symbolises end of life or life cut short. It also represents the eventual ruin or decomposition of us all. A draped or broken urn symbolises sorrow or mourning. So the designer of this monument clearly used appropriate artistic license bearing in mind that Knowles, the architect, had built bridges.

Until 1868 St John’s had been part of the Parish of Ripon but in this year, whilst Edmund Grey was Vicar, Sharow became a separate Parish.

Two smaller bells, cast by Warners in 1871 were added to the original six in the tower .

A new Chancel, Gothic in style, was added in 1873, at a cost of £1,585, the east window was moved to its present position in the new chancel, and an altar cloth was provided at a cost of £40. It was not until the following year, 1874, that “Oak Stalls” were completed at a cost of £65, largely due to the endeavours of a Mr Snowden. About this time the gallery at the west end was removed. Ten years later in 1884 a “new and commodious vestry” was built at a cost of £70.19s. The vestry is kept locked today but anyone fortunate enough to see the inside will appreciate how standards have changed over the last 120 years!

A second church building was erected in the parish in 1876 –  Holy Innocents, Copt Hewick.

Amazingly, in 1881 an oak reredos was placed behind and over the altar obscuring the view of the very fine East Window. As a result of the re-ordering completed in 2014, this fine work of art in stained glass can now be seen again in all its glory.  

The reredos was donated by Revd Powell.

Reredos. An ornamented, painted or carved wall or screen behind and above an altar or communion table.

Henry Drury Cust-Nunn was appointed Vicar of Sharow in 1885.

Two Stone & Brass Wall Plaques on the south wall adjacent to the Reading Pulpit:

Sacred to the memory of the Revd George Mason of Copt Hewick Hall for many years the rector of Scruton in this county. He died at Eger in Bohemia June 13  1867 and was interred on 27 of that month in the adjoining cemetery aged 62 years. “I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. From Henceforth yea saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labours and their works do follow them”

In loving memory of Helen his wife Eldest daughter of Henry Francis Shaw Lefevre who spent her long widowhood at Brighton “A succourer of many”and died there October 21  1893 aged 65 being laid to rest with her husband in this churchyard “They that sow in tears shall reap in Joy” This tablet is here placed by her sister Mrs Wickham. The children of her mourned and beloved sister Lady Farrer Mrs Hamilton sister of the said George Mason and her daughter Lady Hulse

Modern lighting, with a corona, standard and hanging lamps, was added in 1901 at a cost of £21.13.11. In 1910 “six lamps were hung in the church to replace candles”.

Whilst Joseph Blades Palmer was Vicar, 1911-19, pinnacles were removed from the tower.

Stone War Memorial  on the nave north wall:

Greater love hath no man Than this that a man lay down his life for his friend To the glory of God In proud and ever living memory of the men of the parish of Sharow who in the Great War 1914 –1918 laid down their lives so that those at home might dwell in safety (22 names are listed ) At the going down of the Sun and in the morning we will remember them.

1919, Reginald Edward Pownall appointed Vicar of Sharow.

Brass Wall Plaque below the plain window towards the west of the nave south wall:

To the glory of God and in thankful memory of Walter Pick Who served this church over 65 years as chorister, bellringer, sexton and sidesman. Born 3rd May 1850. Died 11th Sept 1926 This tablet is erected by the parishioners. “Lord I have loved the habitation of Thy House”

At each side of the South Porch are oak plaques, a ‘Record of men of the Parish of Sharow who served in and survived the Great War 1914 – 1919′. There are a total of 122 names listed.

Henry Meyer Worsley was appointed Vicar of Sharow in 1934.

Framed Watercolour Painting – by Margaret W Tarrant, For the Children’s Corner, St John’s Church, Sharow In loving memory of Alastair E M Balores For 5 years a little chorister of this church called to higher service June 25th 1935 aged 12 years

Whilst Eric Gordon Parry, appointed 1958, was Vicar of Sharow there was a major fund raising effort which enabled restoration work to take place on the church and belfry between 1961 – 1962 at a cost of about £3,500. This included a steel frame in the bell tower inserted by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough replacing the original wooden frame which was rotting. St John’s is fortunate to have a very fine peal of bells which are rung regularly by teams of visiting bell ringers.

The furnishings in the Side Chapel date from 1961. At the time the donation was anonymous but it does seem general knowledge that Mr & Mrs Coulman of Copt Hewick Hall made the donation to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. The furnishings were created by the skilled Ripon craftsman Mr J R Thorpe and follow a Jacobean motif. In 2005, after the closure of St Mary’s Church Marton-le-Moor, an alter table was imported into the side chapel from St Mary’s.

On the south wall of the Tower Room is a plaque reading: Robert Cubitt Pearson, Bellringer in this church From 1908 to 1964 Captain of the Ringers for 33 years Died 30th October 1964

Small Oak Table  by The BeaverMan, Sutton Under Witchwood: In memory of John & Christine Jacques 1968

Sydney Clarence Jones was appointed Vicar of Sharow in 1971.

 Since March 1976 the Dean of Ripon has been the Incumbent (vicar) of the Parish of Sharow with Copt Hewick and in 1977 John T Hymas was appointed Priest in Charge.

In 1982 a number of pews were removed, the heating system upgraded, carpets and curtains were added. The following year, 1983, the font, previously situated beneath the tower to the west, was moved to its present location in the Nave adjacent to the south door. In the early 1980s a number of local ladies formed an embroidery group. Between them they produced a very fine collection of  vestments, altar cloths and kneelers for which today’s worshippers are very grateful.     

In 1983 Paul A Summers took over as Priest in Charge followed by Clive N R Mansell in 1985 then by M Paul Spurgeon in 1989.

Usually retained in the vestry for safe keeping are three banners: St John’s Sharow Mothers Union; St John’s Sharow Schady (Young peoples group) ; St John’s Sharow Sunday School.Book Cupboards to the rear of the back pews, bear a plate engraved: Kindly donated by Mrs Mary Parry 1902 – 1986. Mary Parry was the wife of Eric Gordon Parry, former vicar of Sharow.

The fine oak and glass screen between Nave and Tower Room was created by BeaverMan, Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe, about 1994. His signatorial beaver is carved on many items in St John’s. This screen bears a plaque inscribed,

This screen was erected in loving memory of Susan Marian Deeming 1949 – 1993 who loved and served this community and especially its children and young people.

Oak Stand & Glass Case by BeaverMan, contains the Book of Remembrance and was presented by the Friends of St John’s Church Sharow August 1994. Two Oak Candle Stands 1995 adjacent  to this memorial: Presented to Sharow Church In memory of Ernest & Myra Rumbold By their family 16th April 1995.

Large Oak Table and Small Oak Table, by BeaverMan, and both bearing plates engraved: In loving memory of Joseph Alton Spilman  1913-1990 Margaret Spilman  1911- 1996

Penny M Driver was Priest in Charge for ten years from 1996. 50% of her time was committed to diocesan duties. Penny was appointed a Canon at Ripon Cathedral in 2002 and in 2005 received the Sue Rider Yorkshire Women of the Year Career Award. At Easter 2006 Penny left this parish to take up duties as Archdeacon of Exeter.

1998 saw a major boost to the music in the church when John Croyle was appointed Parish Musical Director. His skills on the keyboard, vocally and as a leader of the small choir he formed were of great benefit. A Clavinola replaced an old piano in 2000 which has proved to be a versatile addition to the church’s musical resources. John moved on to be Tenor Songster at York Minster in 2004 but the benefits of his work live on.

There are a number of smaller items with no know attribution, including  Oak Hymn Board; Wood and stone Crucifix; Oak Reading Lectern; Oak Candle Stand by BeaverMan.

1999 saw the PCC stage an ‘Extravaganza’ of events in the village marking the ending of the 2nd Millennium. This merged into the ‘Millennium Star’ project celebrating the dawn of the 3rd Millennium with a 46ft star shining from the tower for three months. Sharow Millennium Star Commemorative Book is on view in St John’s telling the story of Sharow Millennium Star and recording names of several thousand people who supported it.

Kitchen and toilet facilities were added in 2001. The Tower Room was improved to make it a comfortable place for smaller meetings including Edward Bear Club, Luncheon Club, PCC meetings, choir practices, and  more. In 2002 pews at the rear of the church were removed, the floor levelled, carpet laid. All this greatly improved in the utility of the church.

Since 2001 services at Holy Innocents, Copt Hewick have been limited but on the fifth Sunday of the month (4 times a year), and on other special occasions, the congregation of St John’s gathers with friends in Copt Hewick for a united service.

Sharow C of E Primary School, is located just west of the church on Berrygate Lane. In recent years improvements have been made greatly benefiting scholars and teachers alike. For some years School House was the residence of the Parish Priest but in 2003 reverted to the school when the Parish Priest moved into a modern property in the village. School House was quickly brought into use by the school with the After School Group “3.15”.  In 2005 building work commenced to make School House more suitable for school use. The newly renovated property was formerly opened by Bishop John Packer of Ripon & Leeds on Friday 21st October 2005.

2005 also saw the closure of St Mary’s Church Marton-le-Moor with several items being moved to St John’s inclduing an electric organ, engraved: In memory of George Frank 1889 – 1973.

In a service at St John’s Church Sharow on Wednesday 10th January 2007 Bishop James of Knaresborough licensed Revd Peter Clement as Director of Ordinands for the Diocese of Ripon & Leeds and at the same time licensed Peter as the Priest with Pastoral Responsibility for the Parish of Sharow with Copt Hewick & Marton-le-Moor.

Editor’s Note: It will be appreciated by readers that these notes include informed opinion as well as established facts but they are to the best of our knowledge correct. Research continues and as more material becomes available the document will be updated. Information for this document has been gleaned from many sources, local, county, and further afield. But much of the authority of it derives from Mr Colin Menzies,  a well known authority on church buildings. Should any reader have additional information or grounds for suggesting corrections please contact [email protected]

10th January 2007