Members of the Heritage Project Team with the Archdeacon of York and the Bishop of Selby. Left to right: Roger Wandless; Caroline Wandless, Churchwarden; the Venerable Sarah Bullock, Archdeacon of York; the Right Reverend Dr John Thomson, Bishop of Selby; Judith Luscombe, Christine Mason and Chris Mason
A day of celebrations commemorated the 160th Anniversary of the Consecration of St Helen’s Church, Escrick by the then Archbishop of York, Thomas Musgrave, on 1 July 1857.
As was the case in 1857, the celebrations centred on the interwoven heritage of this, the third successive St Helen’s Church, Escrick village and the Escrick Estate. A programme with echoes of the 1857 Consecration included a special commemoration service in the morning, a ‘sumptuous’ hog roast buffet lunch at the neighbouring Parsonage Hotel, and a choral Evensong Service led by the Archdeacon of York, the Venerable Sarah Bullock, with the Sermon preached by the Right Reverend John Thomson, Bishop of Selby.
The day of celebration brought together both churchgoers and S Helen’s supporters from the wider church, estate and village communities.
Speakers of all ages, representing the shared heritage contributed to the special service by reading out reminders of notable local and wider history from the last 160 years. The service was led by the Rector of St Helen’s, Reverend Richard Kirkman and Malcolm Smith, who regularly leads Morning Service at St Helen’s. Musical contributions came from St Helen’s organist, Nigel Bellamy, the Escrick-based Tuesday Singers and the Celebration Singers who are regular contributors to St Helen’s special services and concerts.
Three generations of the Escrick Estate-owning Lawley family, who paid for the then new church and Rectory are commemorated in the Consecration plaque in the Church Porch and six members of the same family, now Forbes Adam by marital succession, were among the readers at the Anniversary Service. They included Charlie Forbes Adam, who is ‘Champion’ of St Helen’s current bid to secure a Heritage Lottery Fund Delivery Phase Grant for its “Walking through the centuries with a legless knight” heritage hub project.
On the 1857 Consecration Day guests from throughout the Diocese, including the Reverend Charles Kingsley, author of “The Water Babies” and the celebrated Alderman George Leeman of York, were treated to a ‘sumptuous feast’ at the Rectory, so it was particularly appropriate that the Parsonage Hotel, venue for that feast in its original role as the Rectory, kindly provided the venue for the ‘sumptuous’ buffet.
A notable local choir, the Selebian Singers enhanced the special Choral Evensong after lunch, to round off the commemoration of the last 160 years of a shared heritage which extends back to around 1200.
Reverend Richard Kirkman, Rector of St Helen’s, commented: “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to welcome Bishop John, Archdeacon Sarah and so many people from the wider community to St Helen’s, to celebrate a remarkable continuity since my predecessor Stephen Lawley welcomed the Archbishop of York and many clergy and local representatives to the Consecration in 1857”.
Caroline Wandless, Churchwarden and Heritage Lottery Fund Project Team Leader added: “Today’s celebrations emphasised the extent of the continuous heritage for which St Helen’s is the natural hub. The worship here at St Helen’s is very important to us and is part of a wider shared sense of heritage and belonging on which we are building. We aim to ensure a sustainable future where St Helen’s plays a central role in stimulating future generations of youngsters to appreciate the shared heritage of the community in which they are growing up.”