The Lastingham Group of Churches

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


      York  35 miles   ·   London  242 miles

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 Whitby  28   ·  Scarborough 23   ·   Pickering 7   ·   Kirkbymoorside 5


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The name ‘Cropton’ comes from Anglo-Saxon roots meaning ‘hill-top settlement.'  The village stands on the edge of the northwest-facing scarp of the Tabular Hills, above the valley of the River Seven. Cropton is recorded in the Domesday Book. The wide village street will date from earliest times, when it was an area of common grazing to be shared by the houses on either side.

Near the church and to the west are the remains of a Norman castle. A couple of miles to the  north-east are the remains of Cawthorn Roman camps, which appear to have been used for military manoeuvres and training. Part of a Roman road can be traced from the camps onto Wheeldale Moor.

Today the inhabitants of Cropton include farmers, commuters, people in the tourist industry and retired folk.  There is one pub, the New Inn, which has its own brewery in the village. Quite a lot of social events take place – thanks largely to the 2004 refurbishment of the village hall.

The village church (since 1986 a fully-fledged parish church) is dedicated to St Gregory the Great. It stands to the east of Castle Hill.  From the hill a fine view was once visible over the valley of the River Seven towards the moors to the west and north-west. On the ridge a mile and a half to the south-west is the steeple of Christ Church, Appleton-le-Moors, now sadly obscured by trees.   

The church was formerly a chapel-of-ease within the Parish of Middleton.  In 1986 Cropton with Cawthorne became a  new parish, and a member of the new United Benefice of Lastingham with Appleton-le-Moors, Rosedale and Cropton.

There is no record of when the original church was built. The plain circular font is probably Norman, and possibly in the Saxon tradition. A chaplain was attached to the church in the 14th century – perhaps the chaplain to the castle mentioned above. 

We know that in the late 18th century the building was slated, after alterations which probably included the addition of a south porch.

In the 1840s the church was severely damaged by fire, and rebuilt between 1844 and 1855. Some of the materials of the original church were re-used, but some were sold off. An apsidal sanctuary was added. A bellcote with two small bells was provided in the west gable. The cost of the rebuilding, which was £500, was raised by a levy of £1 upon the parishioners, a grant of £35, and the rest by voluntary subscription. 

At the time of rebuilding, the vicar of the parish (of Middleton) was Charles Mackereth, and James Dixon was the chapelwarden of the Chapelry of Cropton. Cropton and Lockton were each chapels-of-ease attached to Middleton.  In 1865 an afternoon service was held at each once a fortnight, with Holy Communion being celebrated only twice a year. The attendance at each service was between ninety and one hundred and ten.

Some entries in the accounts, 1816 - 1891 

An account book was found in Pickering some years ago, extracts from which were published in a local newspaper. 

·           In 1816 the church windows were fitted with bolts and shutters, costing nine shillings and sixpence.

·           Church dues were paid by all the leading Cropton families, the highest being from George Thorp, Pennock Thompson, Joseph Wood, Jonathan Goodall, William Green and Joseph Berriman. The principal payments were to the churchwardens of Middleton, the mother church.

·           In 1819 a Book of Common Prayer was bought for £2.

·           In 1823 a new Bible (presumably for the lectern) was bought  for £2.2s.8d.

·           In 1822 half a stone of hair was mixed with half a caldron of lime for repairs.

·           In 1866 tuning of the harmonium is the first mention of such an instrument.

·           In 1868 a charge for candles was first recorded.

·           For some years, surplice washing cost five shillings per annum.

The Windows

There are six stained-glass windows, five in memory of the Thompson and Liddell families, and one of James Reckitt.

North wall

The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant

St Michael

Chancel: the three windows illustrate the words of Christ:

“I am the Light of the World.”

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” 

“I am the Good Shepherd.”

South wall, west end

“In grateful memory of the men of Cropton who gave their lives for us in the Great War of 1914 to 1919: John Roberts, Thomas Smithson, James Barker, Herbert Barker.”

Other memorials

The men who fell in the Second World War are commemorated by a wooden tablet on the north wall, which was previously attached to an organ subscribed to in their memory.

Also, in and around the village, are four wrought iron seats inscribed with the following names:  J. Cameron, F. Dawson, J .F. Flintoft and E. Peirson.

On the north wall of the church is a splendid stone memorial, decorated with carved military weapon and urn, to the late Captain George Lee.

Other gifts

In the apse are two brass candelabra, each holding twelve candles, which were given by the Reckitts of Keldy.  The lectern has a small brass plate in memory of the Revd William Scoresby.  Two wrought iron flower pedestals were given about 1972 in memory of the Revd A. T. Barker, a former vicar of Middleton, and of Mrs Annie Grayson, a Cropton parishioner.

The Organ

We have already mentioned a harmonium that existed in 1866, and a pipe organ which was provided in memory of those who fell in the Second World War.  This organ seems to have become derelict by the 1980s, and at some stage a Hammond organ was introduced.

In 2004 St Gregory’s acquired its lovely 1899 Harrison & Harrison pipe organ.   Half of the funds for this were raised from donations, mainly from around the village,  and the other half were raised out of the generosity of four charitable trusts. On 22 February 2004 the instrument was dedicated and played by the Archdeacon of Cleveland, supported by the newly-founded Benefice Choir. It was clear that the sound of this pipe organ was so much better than what we had become used to.

The Churchyard

A faculty for burials was granted in 1760, and the earliest stone is probably that of Sarah Sturdy, near the church door and dated 1760. 

It is recorded that stocks were in use in the churchyard in 1567, and again in 1613.

To the south of the church there is the base and part of the shaft of a 10th or 11th century stone cross. An old rhyme records a custom of its use in caring for thirsty travellers:

On Cropton Cross there is a cup,
And in that cup there is a sup,
Take that cup and drink that sup,

And set that cup on Cropton Cross top.

Attached to the base of the cross is a small metal plaque, recording the deaths of several of the Adamson family from 1767. 

In 1874 additional land to the north-west was donated by the Thompson family for a churchyard extension, and in 1920 the land to the south-west.

The monumental inscriptions were recorded in 1983 by Barbara Aconley, and copies deposited at Pickering Library, the Northallerton Archives Department and the Borthwick Institute in York.

The lower part of the original churchyard, to the south, is now maintained as a conservation area for wildlife, and in summer many species of wildflowers and butterflies can be seen there. In 1986 Richard Bell, mbe, churchwarden, recorded 113 species of tree, wild flowers, etc. and though none were rare, there were some uncommon ones. The cherry tree near the Cross (see above) was planted in his memory. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust noted 43 types of lichens in 1990. In 1982 some of the trees bordering the path were felled to let in more light and new trees were planted on the slope in 1984.   In 2004 a lime was planted by Elisabeth Blizzard in memory of her husband. 

Independence – and then membership of a new group of churches

St Gregory’s long association with Middleton and the Pickering Deanery came to an end in 1986 when Cropton became a parish in its own right.  The vicar at the time was the Revd Francis Hewitt.  Celebrations were held to mark the occasion, including the dedication by the Bishop of Whitby and a procession through the village, all followed by a parish tea. After the creation of the new parish, Richard Bell led a walk round the northern section of the boundary in the tradition of the ancient practice of beating the bounds. He was accompanied by many of the church’s congregation, taking members to sites overlooking the moors which some of them had never seen before.

At the same time the parish of Cropton joined the newly created United Benefice of Lastingham, Appleton-le-Moors, Rosedale and Cropton, in the Helmsley deanery.

The Silver Chalice dispute

Some time after the creation of the new parish, a solution to an on-going dispute about a silver chalice was agreed. This chalice, dating from 1493 and apparently discovered in the vicarage attic, had been sold in the mid 1970s for £25 000, to the London Goldsmiths Company. The apportioning of this windfall was a knotty problem, but after much soul-searching, the decision of the York Diocesan Consistory Court was accepted by the separated parishes of Middleton and Cropton. The parish of St Gregory thus received the sum of £7,500, a very welcome addition to its financial assets.

Methodism in Cropton

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, is known to have preached in Pickering in 1790, during his final tour around England. 

In addition to the Anglican chapel-of-ease of St Gregory, there have been three Methodist chapels in the village. The Zion Primitive Methodist Chapel, built in 1852 after the split between the Wesleyans and the Primitives of 1849,  is now the only active one. The original Wesleyan Chapel was converted into the Village Reading Room, containing about 400 books, through the auspices of Lt. Col. Thompson of Sutherland Lodge. The Reading Room, now the Village Hall, refurbished in 2005, bears the date 1898. Squire Gill built an extension to the rear for larger functions, known as  ‘dance-end’ by some older village inhabitants.

A new chapel was built at the opposite side of the road to replace the earlier one, but this has been a private house since the 1960s.

The ‘Yorkshire Evangelist’, Thomas Langton, who was by all accounts a great gourmand, may have been the man who brought Methodism to Cropton. He was an apparently worthy Malton preacher. A Cropton Anglican churchwarden, who did not approve of his methods, labelled him ‘a great, fat, overfed fellow who consumed vast quantities of his various hosts mutton, beef, ham, eggs and preserves.’  But these warnings so roused the people’s interest that they flocked to hear him. Many were said to have gone home converted, including the churchwarden!

More recently, an important part of Methodist worship in Cropton has been the ‘camp meetings’ and ‘love feasts’, which took place up to the First World War. Fervent singing and praying at the afternoon camp meetings, every August Bank Holiday Sunday, preceded the open-air evening love feasts. Speakers addressed the evening gatherings of the Primitive Methodists. Biscuits and a pot of water were handed round the congregation to help along the singing. The meetings began at the top of the village but later the whole group marched down the street towards the chestnut tree, singing rousing Methodist hymns all the way.

The chapel anniversaries were for many years another Methodist tradition. The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists held separate anniversaries and sang in their own respective choirs. The present Methodist chapel proudly houses the Reginald Harvey Cup, won by a Cropton choir at a Pickering Eisteddfod in 1970. In the afternoon of each anniversary the children recited their own special pieces (they participated in the two anniversaries if they could) after which everyone sat down to tea. Later in the evening supper was provided, the hospitality each year supplied by the families of the village in turn. These events were exciting highlights in village life. The present-day Chapel Anniversary is a reminder of that earlier tradition. Annual Sunday School outings were a special day for the children: each child was given sixpence to spend. Everyone enjoyed these wonderful occasions.

The present

St Gregory’s continues as a traditional village church, with a service on most Sundays and main festivals, and a loyal core congregation.  In these times in which, it seems, there are so many other things to do, as well as a social climate that is not altogether conducive to churchgoing, this is no mean achievement.

A recent innovation has been the introduction of a Visitors Book.  We did not know what to expect – did anyone ever visit our church?  Evidently they do.  The entries show that we are a more visited church than we thought, and comments indicate that people value its peacefulness. 

There are now features of our church life that are shared with the other four churches of the group: the choir, discussion groups, fundraising and social activities.

It is also good to put on record our continued relationship with Cropton Methodist Church, with the sharing of one service each month. 

At the time of writing there are the various uncertainties the Anglican Church is going through. We must be confident that faithfulness, goodwill and generosity will keep St Gregory’s in good heart, so that the cycle of the prayer and worship of the congregation will continue to be a blessing to the village and even to the wider church.  As we become the more aware of the vulnerability of the church these days, we make every effort for there to be business as usual.


This is an edited and expanded account by ASF and SB of parts of Cropton History Group’s booklet  Cropton’s Story, 1995 (ISBN 0948228 75  X).  Material is used by kind permission of the successors to Cropton History Group.

Special thanks to Barbara Aconley and John Rushton.

© Cropton PCC  2006


Pictures coming soon.


St Gregory the Great lived from about ad 540-604. He was a pope, diplomat, teacher, spiritual writer, compiler of the Liturgy, and arranger of ‘Gregorian Chant’. He masterminded the re-founding of the English Church, sending Augustine (of Canterbury) who landed at Thanet in the year 597.  His feast day is 3rd September.

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