Discovering the Past
The foundation stone for St Mary the Virgin, Embsay with Eastby church was laid on the 22nd January, 1852 in the presence of mill workers and villagers. The church was built in the early English gothic style and consecrated on 17th May, 1853. This Victorian church was built mainly for the mill workers and poor of the parish. At this time there were six cotton spinning mills in Embsay and Eastby. Prior to the church being built Anglicans either worshipped at Holy Trinity Church in Skipton or from 1849 they could take attend a communion service in a consecrated room at the National school, now Embsay Primary V.C. C of E School on Pasture Road.
The church was built near the site of Embsay Priory, an Augustinian order, which was founded by Cecily de Romille and her husband William De Meschines in about 1120, dedicating it to St Mary and St Cuthbert. The main priory moved to Bolton around 1154/1155 to land given by Cecily’s daughter Alice De Romille. The foundation at Embsay remained until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538. Bolton Priory sits in the village of Bolton Abbey, so named after the arrival of the railway in the 1850’s.
Over the years the interior of the church has altered slightly with the addition of a kitchen and inside toilet, removal of a few pews and installation of stained glass windows. The first stained glass window to be installed in 1870 was the east window as a memorial to Revd Henry Cooper, St Mary’s first incumbent who died in 1865. He was called a perpetual curate because he received an annual stipend. The title ceased to be used in 1868 and completely removed in 1968. This colourful, expensive window depicts the Ascension and was made by John Baptiste Capronnier from Brussels in Belgium. It cost £250 at the time, equivalent to £34,000 today. There is also a memorial stained glass window to those who died in WWI, made by C.E. Kempe and Co. A window by Shrigley and Hunt commemorating the 40 years Revd Charles Vernon Brown, served as vicar of St Mary’s from 1884 to 1924. Lastly four medley windows made by reusing broken pieces of stained glass and forming them into patterns, these windows date from the late 19th Century.
Revd Henry Cooper Memorial East window by John Baptiste Capronnier
We have two booklets for sale in the church:
The History of the church, Embsay with Eastby from 867AD
Reflections on Glass
The Stained Glass Windows Of St Mary the Virgin Embsay with Eastby
Researched and written by Jennifer Stearn, Nigel Osborn, Sue Stearn and Tony Stearn
In the meantime, our historical research continues!
Some other sources of the History of Embsay and Eastby, St. Mary’s church and Embsay Priory are available at:
- Embsay Library and Skipton Library – Local History books and files
- County records office Northallerton
- The Embsay and Eastby post website https://theembsayeastbypost.com/category/history/