Sometimes a little accident can take you to a wonderful place. After a lovely walk to Goredale Scar, neat Malham in the Yorkshire Dales, we’d planned to stop and have a wander in the village of Airton. Instead, without thinking, I turned off and parked in the village – it’s almost more of a hamlet – of Kirkby Malham.
Other than a few houses, there’s a pub and a church. But what a church. It’s sometimes called the Cathedral of the Dales (which I didn’t know beforehand), and stepping inside, it’s easy to understand why. The details are here, but the beauty is in the viewing and the experience.
There’s been a church here since the eighth century, possibly the seventh. This building, St. Michael’s itself dates from the late 1400s, quite simple, but unusually with small, rounded-arch Italianate windows on the north and south walls and a simple but gorgeously crafted ceiling.
The font, though, is from Norman times.
It’s a church of old box pews, both the smaller ones from the 18th century, one of which has a name on it:
And the older, Jacobean, high box pews, which would likely have been reserved for the gentry.
There was gentry in the area, too, notably a family named Lambert who lived in the nearby village of Colton. Colonel John Lambert fought with distinction on the side of Parliament in the Civil War. He died in Plymouth, but a memorial to him stands in a chantry chapel. Next to it is the poignant memorial to his son, the last of his line, able to trace his ancestry back to the Norman Conquest. Sad enough, but the feat of being able to trace his family back that far in an age before genealogist, when parish registers and widely dispersed poll tax records and wills were the only paper is quite a feat.
There’s a lovely lych gate standing right next to the pub, and just inside, the village stocks, still used annually to raise funds.
And they do need funds. With a leaky roof, they after £100,000 to get things fixed. The vicarage, which was given a makeover in the 19th century, is a lovely, simple – but fairly large- building that dates from 1612.
Kirkby Malham, well worth a visit, a pop a few quid in the church box while you’re there. Helping to preserve history is never a bad thing.
To finish off, click here for a local folktale (like me, you might need to read the explanation at the end to understand it fully). Seriously, how can you resist something called ‘The Legend of the Banquet of the Dead’?