Kirkby Malham

17 July 2008

Leaders - Robin and Rosemary Bundy and Kevin Illingworth

The party met in the Church in Kirkby Malham where Robin and Rosemary Bundy gave a talk about the history of the church which was founded sometime between the 7th and 9th C but the existing building dates from the late 15th century. The talk was followed by a guided tour of the interior and exterior. The dedication is to St Michael the Archangel but for some reason it was known as St James’ at the beginning of the 1900s. The advowson was in the hands of Dereham Abbey in Norfolk in medieval times up to the Reformation. The building has several curious features. Inside are niches in the columns, two so-called Celtic heads, a fine parish chest, an invasion beam to close the door, and named pews. Outside are the devil’s door, the main plaque on the tower showing E:MR (Erexi Maria Regina) in very unusual script - ‘Erected for Mary Queen of Heaven’ it is now thought , and another being the coat of arms of Fountains Abbey as chief landowners in the area. There are also four other coats of arms on the tower. An old font stands outside at the doorway and an ancient cross base nearby. In the graveyard is the well-known ‘watery grave’ of Colonel and Mrs Harrison whose army service kept him overseas away from his wife (although they were not finally buried either side of the stream because of a large boulder in one intended plot). The iron entrance gates were made by John Clements, local blacksmith, beautifully decorated with trout made by David Tippey.

Kevin then led a tour of the old houses in the village pointing out many features of their construction. There are many carved dated doorheads, but these lintels are not as decorative as some in Settle or High Bentham for example. There are different types of mullion windows, but other North Craven villages have a wider range of styles. We started with the vicarage (formerly known as Old Hall and Church End House) with its 3-storey porch and inscriptions of 1622 EKB, Restored 1866, north-east range 1874, now intended for other usage. The unlisted Victoria Inn (1840) has coursed watershot limestone to the front, with slightly watershot gritstone on the gable wall facing Main Street. These tilted stones result in a sloping bed, allowing penetrating water to escape. The bridge over Kirkby Beck has the Parish names of Kirkby Malham and Scosthrop inscribed on the top of the coping stones near the centre of the bridge, something very easily unnoticed. Most of the houses have names, including Hannah’s Cottage with its sundial, Lambert’s Holt, and the Rookery. In the right hand room of the empty Yeoman’s Cottage (1637) we could see the large segmental arched fireplace. County House (1738 with its curlicues) was once the police house. The Listed Buildings descriptions are not wholly accurate, as inspection of several places made clear. We finished by looking at an ancient piggery (17th or early 18th century) by kind permission of the owner, who then invited us to see inside Clock Cottage (1669 and late 18th century). By comparison, the neighbouring villages of Malham and Airton have more interesting and attractive features, such as the display of dovecotted porches on houses, decorated doorheads, joggled arch fireplaces (Lister’s Arms), and extra or double thickness west gable weatherwalls, as at Town End Farm in Airton.