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Penhill Benefice - St. Andrews Church, Aysgarth

Penhill Benefice

Living and Sharing the Love of Jesus Christ in the Community

St Andrews Church, Aysgarth

As, due to Covid-19 restrictions, there are no printed guides available in the church at present and it is difficult to access the war memorial plaque the following are now available online -

Aysgarth church - a guide

War Memorials and Graves at Aysgarth church 

Celebrating new life - 

For over 1,000 years people have come this site overlooking the now famous Aysgarth Falls to worship Jesus Christ and give thanks for the new life he gives to all those who believe in him.

From them the church has inherited a special heritage which can be felt when quietly meditating and also seen in some of the beautiful wood carvings, stone sculptures and stained glass windows.

Medieval treasures -

Sadly a Saxon Cross was stolen from the church in 1966 and very little remains of the medieval church. But St Andrew’s did provide a safe haven during the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century for some exquisite examples of medieval wood carving such as the Jervaulx Screen.

The walls of the church were in such bad condition in 1866 that St Andrew’s was almost entirely rebuilt. After that it was endowed with some splendid examples of Victorian craftsmanship like the magnificent East Window and the stone carved reredos depicting Leonardo de Vinci’s Last Supper.

The 19th century saw more gifts to the church including a large mural, an impressive font, the carved pulpit and the East Window in the Lady Chapel.

The church will open from 9am to 6pm in summer (or until dusk in winter) when the pandemic lockdown is eased. 

The churchyard and family history -

As St Andrew’s has a large parish covering the villages of Aysgarth, Carperby, Thoralby, Thornton Rust, Newbiggin in Bishopdale and West Burton as well as the outlying farms in Bishopdale and Walden it is not surprising that there are over 1,000 gravestones in its churchyard - reputedly one of the largest in the country. There is a list and plan of the churchyard by the plain glass window at the west end of the North aisle. (In July 2010 a workparty raised several of the toppled gravestones.)

Concert venue -

A large nave altar space was created in 2007 and with its good acoustics the church has proved to be an excellent venue for a variety of concerts throughout the year from those by local brass bands and choral groups to renowed instrumentalists.

A warm welcome -

Today there is a warm and welcoming worshipping community at the church with members drawn from throughout the parish. All are welcome at the services and at other times for quiet reflection or to leave messages on the prayer tree.

There is a strong tradition of lay involvement in the life of the church and links with the villages especially through regular drop-in-for-coffee mornings and events such as carol services at Christmas. Due to the pandemic these will be resumed once it is safe to do so  For more about Aysgarth church see posts on Pip's Patch

Fun time -

The harvest in 2019 was well and truly celebrated at St Andrew’s! We gave thanks to God for the beauty of our natural world and for the social ties that bring us together as friends and neighbours in a fantastic Flower Festival. Our flower arrangers are renowned for their creativity, skill and imagination but they excelled themselves in their displays celebrating some of the local organisations in our parish. Who knew there was so much going on in our villages? (Click here to see photographs by Pip Pointon.)

A children’s session of fun and games attracted a low turnout but, led by a roller-skating scarecrow (Steve Hamilton), we all had huge fun rescuing the animals in Noah’s ark, passing round the potatoes and finding the harvest mice hidden in church! In the evening we had a full house at the Falls Café for our hog-roast and ceilidh, with music provided by the inimitable Roosters Band. It was a great joy to see so many young people, including children, join in the dancing with great enthusiasm – and then come to church the next morning to round off our celebrations with a Harvest Thanksgiving Service, led by Revd Kathy Couchman. Her moving and memorable sermon struck a chord with many of us and was much discussed afterwards.

Thank you to everyone who gave their time, energy, skills and money to make our Harvest Celebrations such a success. We raised just over £800 and renewed our fellowship with members of the parish – and beyond! We will continue to collect tinned and dried food for Caring For Life until the end of October: a list of suggested items and a box for offerings can be found at the back of church. Juliet Barker

Easter Sunday is also usually a fun time for children (and adults!) at St Andrew's as they gather to decorate eggs and biscuits during the service and then enjoy egg-rolling afterwards. 


Margaret Ferguson

Juliet Barker

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