Historical Mystery

Michael Pearson
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Whilst visiting St Alkelda’s church, in Giggleswick, to view the newly installed stain glass window of the saint, I came across three medieval stone effigies. The most complete, and readily recognisable as a knight, is that of Sir Richard Tempest. The sculpture has lost both hands and part of the right foot. The other two, effigies of his two wives, have been more seriously vandalised. They are missing their heads and much else, but there is still some colour to their clothes. There are also two small hidden animals.

Sir Richard Tempest was born in 1425 and was a Lancastrian in the War of the Roses. He fought at the battle of Wakefield and then at Towton. In 1464 he betrayed Henry VI who was captured and sent to the Tower. Having switched sides, Sir Richard was granted lands confiscated from the Tunstall family and went onto fight at the battle of Bosworth. Unlike Richard III, Tempest survived the battle. When he died three years later he was supposedly buried with the head of his horse in Giggleswick church.

Many questions remain unanswered. Why does Sir Richard’s effigy display the ‘S’ collar associated with Lancastrian supporters? What is the significance of the goat, on which his head rests? Why were the sculptures vandalised and by whom? Finally, why did his effigy suffer so little damage compared to those of his wives?

So get detecting: visit the crime scene and have a closer look at the victims. There are no witnesses to question but plenty of leads for further research. Hopefully you can answer the questions and solve the mystery — and even write an article for the Journal.