The Lastingham Group of Churches

Lastingham, Hutton-le-Hole, Appleton-le-Moors, Rosedale & Cropton


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Welcome to our church.  A real surprise to first-time visitors, this Grade I listed church, built in the 1860s in the ‘French Gothic Revival’ style by the renowned architect J.L.Pearson, has been called ‘the little gem of moorland churches’.  There is richly decorated stone and woodwork in French Gothic style, a hammer-beam roof and some first rate stained glass.  


The village of Appleton-le-Moors, with its classic medieval layout, is recorded in the summary of the Domesday Book of 1085.  It retains its original form of broad main road, back green lanes and uniform plots between. Many other original characteristics remain. The village is a rich source of archaeological finds, such as flint tools, tumuli, cists, Roman coins, pottery, and a medieval oven.[1]     Go to Appleton-le-Moors village website.


Appleton-le-Moors was originally part of the parish of Lastingham.  Before this comparatively modern church was built,  there was a chapel dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, probably on the site of Chapel Garth, from as far back as the late twelfth century until the seventeenth century.  It was a chapel-of-ease of Lastingham  (or ‘free’ chapel, meaning that it had independent means of support away from the parish church in Lastingham).  


It was in 1868 that Appleton became a separate parish, shortly after the present church was consecrated.   From 1953, however, due to the declining number of clergy, Appleton was held in plurality with Lastingham, until in 1984 it became part of the new United Benefice of Lastingham which, since 1986, had taken in the four parishes of Lastingham, Appleton-le-Moors, Rosedale and Cropton. (Hutton-le-Hole is a chapel-of-ease of Lastingham.)  This is to be welcomed, as it enables a fruitful sharing of resources. 


There is an act of worship at Christ Church on most Sundays and main festivals, and the schedule of services is worked out in association with the other four churches of the Benefice. For example, the main service each Sunday is the 10.30 Eucharist, held in each village in succession.  Services in this church are attended by people from all five villages as well as by visitors.


In addition Christ Church holds and hosts concerts, talks,  exhibitions and other events. It is hoped gradually to enlarge this programme.


The Consecration of the Church in 1866

The establishment of Appleton-le-Moors as a separate parish was largely the result of the efforts and liberality of Joseph and Mary Shepherd.  On 26 July 1866 the Archbishop of York, Dr William Thompson, visited the village to consecrate the new church, built by Mary Shepherd in memory of her husband who had died in 1862. The following contemporary account of the Archbishop’s sermon  is worth recording.


The Archbishop gave a faithful and able discourse from the Second Book of Chronicles, Chapter 6, verses 1,2.  In the course of it he alluded in impressive language to the touching story connected with the origin of the church: how that a poor lad went to sea from a Yorkshire village, with little education, with no interest, but with a sound and honest heart, and how with the energy which grows of itself on our northern soil he became at length the master of the vessel, and the owner of other vessels;  and in the evening of life returned to that small village where,  in all his wanderings,  his heart had ever been,  a comparatively wealthy man – the reward of many years of persevering toil.


He felt that he had begun life with no advantages of education, and his first resolution was that nobody should ever, if it pleased God to enable him to prevent it,  go out of that village without that advantage at least. In 1854 he built,  in co-operation with the vicar,  and supported at considerable cost,  a chapel school,  resolving to provide more enlarged and permanent means to secure mental culture and religious worship for his native villagers.


Few days were left him to think these beautiful thoughts – thoughts such as a man would wish to have with him when he dies.   God called him away by a most sudden summons on 11 August 1862. 


His widow, actuated by the same spirit of Christian liberality,  accepted as a sacred trust the undeveloped plan, and as memorials of her husband, she had the more munificently completed a beautiful church, parsonage, and school. Would that the great example of her liberality and acceptance of duty might stimulate others.


As soon as convenient Mrs Shepherd, with a loving regard for the spot, purchased the house and premises where Mr Shepherd was born and opposite to which he died on horseback; and here stand to perpetuate his memory and to realise the dearest wish of his heart, a suite of buildings well adapted to meet every requirement ‘to train the young of his native village in the way they should go.’  In style they are Early English, having in each gable a three-light decorated window – that facing the street being surmounted with a bell turret, low spire, and finial cross.


The former chapel school and Master’s house have been converted into a commodious parsonage, and near it, within the same enclosure, but with a defined boundary,  is the church.  It is emphatically a memorial one. He, indeed, in whose memory it was erected, sleeps fitly in the rural churchyard of Lastingham, far away from the world’s noise and show, among the scenes of his early boyhood, and along with his kindred’s dust;  and there a gothic enclosure covers his remains.  But in the new church is a special memorial in the form of a beautifully decorated chapel,  the stained glass and other ornamentations being designed to illustrate his life and character.


The Building

Christ Church was built to the highly detailed internal and external design of the celebrated architect J. L. Pearson.  It remains to this day substantially as designed and built. Pearson built many other churches throughout  the country, including Truro Cathedral, and was  also responsible for the extensive restoration of Lastingham Church in 1879.


Pearson was a spiritual man,  and he poured much of his faith into his design – as can be seen by a study of Christ Church, which was dubbed by Archbishop Thompson ‘this little gem of moorland churches.’  In John Betjeman’s English Parish Churches  it is described by the architect George Pace as follows:


A church finely conceived within and without by J.L.Pearson, the almost detached tower and spire and the apsidal chancel being its highlights. There is much competent French detail, but the tower up to belfry stage displays fully developed Pearsonic traits – which are best studied from the South-East corner of the churchyard. Around the vestry door and the window of the north chapel is much fanciful detail. The interior shows rich and effective use of ironwork and glass, quite definitely of the nineteenth century and the work of a real architect.


The building is a solid stone structure of mainly local materials, except for the external shafts of the openings which are of red Mansfield stone. Coloured stones, especially Rosedale ironstone, are used in bands and patterns with good effect.  It consists of nave, aisles, and chancel with an apsidal east end, suggested perhaps by that of the mother church at Lastingham.  The walls of the nave and chancel are the same height. There is a clear sense of a central axis from the Font,  the place of welcome, to the  Altar, the place of sacrifice and redemption.   An east-west axis is largely suppressed by the placing of the north and south nave windows out of alignment. 


An unusual feature is a narthex as a West porch opening into the church by two doors, between which stands the Caenstone font.  On either side of the doors are two blocks of miniature pews for children.  The children, having been welcomed into the family of the church when baptised in the font, would have sat here for the next stage of their journey of faith. Sunday School was taken in these pews; and from there they moved to the nave, and then on, up towards the chancel and the altar  rail, the place of full communion.  The placing of the font and these pews is thus highly symbolic, and Christ Church is a rarity in retaining the original features in situ. 


There is a chapel at the east end of the north aisle,  which was never finished but possibly intended to receive an altar-tomb with a recumbent effigy of Joseph Shepherd.  In 2003 it was given a simple refurbishment to adapt to be a place of prayer. In the Holy Week liturgy, its altar has been used on Maundy Thursday as the Altar of Repose.    


There is a tower surmounted by a spire 90 feet high, in an unusual position at the east end of the south aisle.  It contains a fine peal of six bells by Mears and Stainbank (now the Whitechapel Bell Foundry), which are currently in need of restoration.  The clock is by Smiths of Clerkenwell (labelled Boxell of Brighton), and was provided by public subscription in 1870.


The church was built by Appleton craftsmen:  Messrs Smith, builders, and Messrs Tomlinson, joiners.


The organ is by Forster & Andrews and dates from 1866. It originally had one manual and pedals, and was later enlarged to two manuals. It still has tracker action throughout, and now has ten speaking stops – nine on the Swell but only one on the Great.  It is an eccentric instrument, having its Swell keyboard below the Great,  but it is well-toned and has a lovely Oboe.  Note the fine casework and beautiful decoration of the front pipes.


The church was wired for electricity in 1949. The existing chandeliers were at first removed, but were adapted and restored in 1962. 


The Churchyard  The eastern part was consecrated for burials in 1921 by the Bishop of Beverley. Before then burials from Appleton-le-Moors took place in Lastingham. The churchyard gates, made by Mr E. Harding, the gift of Mr and Mrs C. H. Johnson of Hull, were dedicated in memory of their son Herbert in 1946.


The Decoration of the Building


The elaborate and splendid decoration of windows and walls contains themes from church and bible. There are also magnificent  scraffiti wall decorations, found in the Lady Chapel, apse walls, on the reredos and pulpit. Both were carried out by Clayton and Bell of London. 


The big circular west window above the entrance has a centre panel of a Christ in Glory, surrounded by ten panels depicting Christian virtues:

1.        Faith          

By faith are ye saved.

2.       Hope

 Hope to the end.

3.       Charity

Charity never faileth.

4.       Meekness

Blessed are the meek.

5.      Temperance

Add to knowledge, temperance.

6.       Patience

Be thou patient.

7.       Fortitude

Thy strength is of the Lord.

8.       Diligence

Be thou diligent.

9.       Purity

Blessed are the pure in heart.

10.   Truth

Serve him in truth.


The other nave windows depict incidents from the life of Christ.

West wall:   the Annunciation,  the Baptism.

North wall:  the Wedding at Cana, the Raising                        of Jairus’s Daughter, the Blessing of the Children.


The Pulpit is ornamented on its seven panels with bas-reliefs of prophets and teachers in Holy Scripture:  Noah, Moses, Elijah, Jonah, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul.


The North Chapel has four panels illustrating the dramatic ‘rough sea’ section of the 107th Psalm (Joseph Shepherd had been a seaman), with extracts from the passage:  


1.        They that go down to the sea in ships: 

       and occupy their business in great waters; 

       These men see the works of the Lord: 

       and his wonders the deep. 

2.        For at his word the stormy wind ariseth:

        which lifteth up the waves thereof. 

        They are carried up to the heaven, 

        and down again to the deep.

3.        So when they cry unto the Lord in their trouble:

        he delivereth them out of their distress.

4.        Then are they glad, because they are at rest: 

        and so he bringeth them unto the haven  where they would be. 


Above the eastern two panels of this sequence are three emblematical figures, one representing the Joseph Shepherd, in whose memory the church was built, the others Almsgiving and Teaching.


The Chapel’s North windows show the six Acts of Mercy mentioned in the 25th chapter of St Matthew’s Gospel:

1.        I was thirsty and ye gave me drink.

2.        I was an hungered and ye gave me meat.

3.        I was a stranger and ye took me in.

4.        Naked and ye clothed me.

5.        I was sick and ye visited me.

6.        I was in prison and ye came unto me.


The Chapel’s circular East window has a Christ on his Throne, surrounded by a number of figures which are probably (clockwise): 

1.        A workman.

2.        Mary Magdalene (as mentioned, there was a chapel in Appleton dedicated to her from the 12th century).

3.        The Virgin Mary with the infant Christ - wrapped either in the swaddling clothes or, as in Bellini’s  Presentation, anticipating the grave-clothes, as an infant pičta, recalling Simeon’s word to Mary at the Presentation:  And a sword shall pierce thine own soul . . . (Luke 2.35).

4.        ?

5.        A cripple. 


The inscription surely gives the key to its meaning – Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11.28).  The window shows people laden with various kinds of burden.


The Chancel, in its apse, focuses in both walls and windows on the Passion, Death and Resurrection. 


The five windows  each have three motif s as follows (from left to right, below upwards):

1.        Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Feet-Washing;

2.        The Thirty Pieces of Silver, the Agony in the Garden, the Arrest;

3.        The Via Dolorosa, the Crucifixion, the Descent from the Cross;

4.        The Burial, the Resurrection, the Empty Tomb; 

5.        The Garden of the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit.


The walls (clockwise)

North side: the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (the Palm Sunday story);

South side: the start of the Via Dolorosa from Jerusalem (the Good Friday story). 

Notice how both processions move towards the centre, the Altar, the place of sacrifice.


The Reredos


1.        The Institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper.


2.        The Four Beasts of Ezekiel, Daniel and the Apocalypse (the Winged Man, the Lion, the Ox and the Eagle),  which came to symbolise also the four Evangelists and Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.


3.        The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, Alpha and Omega, recalling the words at the beginning of Revelation:  Do not be afraid.  I am the  first and the last,  and I am the Living One;  I was dead, and now I am alive for evermore; and  I  hold the keys of death and hell.


4.        On either side, angels in attendance.  


One must readily agree that the rich and ornate decoration does illustrate remarkably both the ‘metanarrative’ of the life and work of our Redeemer and the Christian ‘Way’.


Parish Priests


In 1865 the Vicar of Lastingham, the Revd Richard Easterby, was appointed to officiate in ‘the new church or chapel’.  Before it became a separate parish church, it was probably served by the Revd W. Medcalf, ma.  



Vicars of Appleton-le-Moors 


Hugh Bethell Jones, BA 


James Morgan West, MA


William Acraman 


Thomas Lister, LTh


George Moore, BD 


Alfred Woods, MA


Francis Clifford Endicott, BSc 


Francis Endicott retired in 1951,  after 32 years.  He was to be the last Vicar of Appleton-le-Moors alone.  After this, the then Vicar of Lastingham,  Cecil Gordon Thompson, was appointed Priest-in-Charge.  Then, from 1953, the Parish was held in plurality with Lastingham,  until in 1984 it was joined to the newly-constituted United Benefice of Lastingham.  
Appleton Vicarage, designed by J.L.Pearson, which had been burnt down in 1931 and rebuilt in 1932,  was sold off in 1958.



Edward H. Mowforth, BSc


John Stewart, MA


Theodore H.J. Hawkins, BA


Francis J.A. Hewitt, BA


David H. Bryant, BD


Alastair S. Ferguson MA MB BS


Revised and expanded  by ASF and KLL, January 2006.   Special thanks to Margaret Allison, Shirley  Brooke  and  Phil Thomas for their comments and suggestions.


© Appleton-le-Moors Parochial Church Council 2006


[1] See A History of Appleton-le-Moors: a Twelfth Century Planned Village, by Margaret Allison (G. H. Smith & Son, Easingwold, 2003).  The village is mentioned in some detail, particularly the church and the other Pearson buildings, in Buildings of England – Yorkshire, the North Riding,  by Nikolaus Pevsner. 


  Lots of photos coming soon.



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