The church was at the first place upstream of Richmond where the River Swale could be reliably forded. Most of the lead mines were north of the river. It was where the lead mined & smelted in many parts of the two Dales could be taken across the river and on by pack-horse over to Leyburn and thence by boat down the River Ure to the coast. The River Swale is not generally navigable even below Richmond.
It is likely that there was a Saxon church on this site as we know that St. Paulinus (AD 644) baptised many converts in the River Swale only a few miles downstream at Catterick. However, there is no evidence of this.
Plan1. The original 12th century church with a Norman (round-headed) arch at the East end probably leading to a small semi-circular apse. The red circle indicates the existing Norman column of this arch.
Plan 2. In the late 12th century a tower was added. A pointed arch was inserted under the Norman window to give access to the tower.
Plan 3. In the 14th century the chancel was enlarged to its present size and the chancel arch enlarged. An aisle was added on the south side with an altar at the east end and the south nave wall replaced by pillars and four pointed arches.
Plan 4. In the 15th century a north aisle was added running the full length of the church. The four arches and their pillars added in the north nave wall are similar, but different to their south aisle partners. The north aisle was narrower than the present one.
Plan 5. In the early 16th century the south aisle was extended eastwards to form the Blackburn Chapel. This part was wider than the original south aisle. Where the two walls join is a hagioscope, an angled small window, often referred to as a ‘lepers’ squint’, which gives a view of the altar from the outside so the ‘elevation of the host’ may be seen.
In the later 16th century the north aisle was re-built to its present width and the tower was also re-built.
By the 1890s the church was in a poor condition and a very substantial restoration was carried out and the church was re-opened in 1896.
There is a printed booklet with many photographs and a much fuller history and description of the church available for purchase in the church.
Grey: modern church plan
Red: 12th century Norman
Green: 14th century alterations and additions
Blue: 15th century additions
Purple: 16th century additions
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