A bit about the history of the Church

The Village

According to the Dictionary of Place Names – Healaugh means ‘High forest glade or clearing’ Heah leah. Healaugh appears in the Domesday Book as ‘Hailage’ and must have been a village in Saxon times. It stands about 100 feet above sea level. It’s said that just north of the church there used to be a castle; according to Leland who wrote an account of his travels through England, there were substantial stone remains of the castle which he saw when he visited Healaugh in Henry VIII’s reign. The stone has probably been used in the building of houses and barns in the village.

In 1842 a broken tombstone was discovered about six foot below the surface in the graveyard. It has an inscription on it which seems to show two names MADUG and HEIU (there is one letter missing from Hie (u). Similar tombstones were found in Hartlepool in 1833 in a cemetery again well under ground at about 4 feet below the surface. The similarities seem to confirm that Healaugh was the latest settlement of St Hieu. The Venerable Bede quotes that a nun, Hieu, founded a convent near Hartlepool, then somewhere near Calcaria (the old name for Tadcaster). ‘She established a residence for herself about 650 AD’ The West window in the Tower has a small pane of glass inscribed with the name Hieu. Sadly the broken tombstone has been lost in the eons of time.

It is thought that Abbess Hieu opened a monastery or hermitage on the site of The Old Priory down the coach road about a mile or so from the village.

At the Conquest the surrounding land was chiefly held by a Scandinavian named Tochis, from whom it passed to the Percys and then Healaugh later came to the Haget family who, as patrons for the building of a stone church here possibly in 1150, are believed to be the couple shown centrally carved above the stone arch of the south door. A Geoffrey Haget founded the priory at Manor West in 1218. By the early 15th century the church was appropriated to the Priory by Sir Richard Whalleys who was married to Alice Haget. The village of Catterton was added to the Manor in the 17th Century. The church patronage passed from the Whalleys to the Depedens and then in 1531 the Estate of Healaugh was acquired by Thomas 1st Lord Wharton. 1535 saw the dissolution of Healaugh Priory during the reign of Henry VIII. The site and lands of the dissolved priory were acquired by 1st Lord Wharton in 1540. The Estate and Church remained under the patronage of the Whartons until it was sold to Mr Stamp Brooksbank, a governor of the Bank of England and an MP in 1715. The Estate continued in the Brooksbank family until 1961 when it was bought by Major Jim Gillam. 1991 saw the Estate pass to the Smith family of Sam Smith’s Brewery. The owner taking over the Lay Rectorship of the church.

The main south door has very interesting and striking carving. A similar set of carvings surround Wighill Church Door. They are one of several known as ‘The Yorkshire School’ created about 1130s – 1150s. At the time passing through a doorway into the church was symbolic of passing through this world’s troubles into a heavenly life. The beakheads represent demons and tempters of this world, threatening those passing in and out of the church. In the lower part of the 3rd order on each side are carved heads of men interspersed with masks of beasts. Man threatened by things evil.

The wooden door is 15th Century. There is an alleged hole said to have been made by a Cromwellian trooper firing off his musket on his way to Marston Moor (1644).

We have established that building of the church began in 1150 and parts of the Norman Church are still clearly visible both inside and outside. The chancel and the south door are the earliest parts still existing followed by the north aisle and the priests door which date from the last quarter of the 12th century. The church is constructed of Tadcaster stone and has been extensively restored through the ages. There are some reports that Lord Wharton ordered the rebuilding of the nave and tower in the mid 16th century but other reports suggest the tower was rebuilt at the end of the 18th century. It may of course have been rebuilt twice in the two hundred year period as Philippa Brooksbank writes in her diary that the church was in a very poor state in the late 18th century and major renovation took place. Looking at the tower you can clearly see different stonework part way up. The font is from round about 1860

Moving to the chancel - The piscina for washing the communion cup on the south wall is 12th century and the sedilia in the chancel dates from the 15th century and is where the Celebrant, Deacon and Sub Deacon would have sat. The chancel arch is 12th century. The large arch over the North Chancel was built to accommodate the Brooksbank pews probably at the same time as the Major renovations. These have now been removed to make more space in the Chancel.


First right from the Priest’s door shows St John the Baptist and St John the Evangalist, whose face is said to be that of Stamp Brooksbank who was killed in action in 1915. The makers were Powell Brothers of Leeds. Second right from the Priest’s door shows on the left Laura Slingsby, Edward & Lucy Brooksbank’s daughter who married F W Slingsby again made by Powell Bros. The East window is dedicated to Lucy wife of Edwards Brooksbank and daughter in law of the Revd Edward H Brooksbank. During the current estate ownership the lay rector oversaw the replacement of several of the mullions in the east window. The entire glass windows were very carefully removed and then replaced without any mishaps!

The window in the nave shows the shield of the Stapletons. The windows in the tower as mentioned earlier relate to Hieu Abbess of Hartlepoool, Madug a celtic priest. The wording on the faculty reads ‘Here Madug, priest of the Celtic Mission was buried together with a tracing of the Healaugh Stone which was the pillar toe of Madug.

The clock was made by Jas Weston Lewes Fecit somewhere between 1759 and 1779. It was reconstructed by GTF Newey of York in 1911 and is currently awaiting repairs having stopped on Christmas Day just over two years ago.

The Organ cost £210 in 1890 from W Denman of Skeldergate, York.

The brass lectern was made by Mr R H Cooke – vicar 1875 – 1900.

The Bells of which there are three all date from 1786 made by George Dalton. They weigh 2.75 cwt, 3.75 cwt and 4.5 cwt. They are often used but cannot be peeled right over as there is a crack in the tower which might worsen if there was too much vibration.

Moving back to the Chancel the main feature there is the Wharton Tomb. It is made from alabaster and is of national importance. Thomas Wharton was knighted by Henry VIII for his services as a Warden of the West Marches. He acquired Healaugh Park and had his home built out of the ruins of the dissolved Priory. He also had a home near Kirkby Stephen. He lies here with his two wives. His first wife was Eleanor Stapleton daughter of Sir Brian of Wighill Park. (Wighill Church carries a great deal of history of the Stapleton family). His second wife was Lady Anne Bray daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. The tomb would have originally have been brightly painted and evidence of this is shown if you look closely at the folds of the clothing at the far end. Significant damage has occurred thought to have happened centuries ago. More recently the base of the tomb began to crumble and thanks to a generous Heritage Lottery Grant the base was restored. A free standing hoist was brought into the chancel and the whole tomb lifted off its plinth. It was quite spectacular! The plinth was rebuilt and the tomb put back in place. It is thought that the original tomb may have been further into the church and could have been moved at some time to the current position.

Lord Philip Wharton the 4th Lord Wharton, grandson of the 3rd Lord Wharton founded his Bible Charity shortly before he died in 1696. He left land near York, which subsequently became known as the Bible Lands, in order to maintain the Trust. This land was sold in 1871, but by then the Trust had built up sufficient financial reserves to maintain its activities right up to the present day. His intention was to present bibles to children to be their personal possession (ie not just for use in school or church). Initially bibles were available in those parts of England where Philip Lord Wharton had lived or owned property, ie Yorkshire, Cumberland, Westmorland and Buckinghamshire, but by the twentieth century this became expanded to include all parts of the UK. Today the Trust is still alive and active and presents bibles to under 18 year olds. In keeping with modern educational practice the conditions now require bible study rather than too much learning by rote, and modern translations of the bible are also available. So such bibles are not rare. Many thousands have been presented through more than 300 years but it does show that the original recipients worked hard to earn their bibles and will probably have treasured them for a lifetime.

On to Brooksbanks – As mentioned earlier Stamp Booksbank took over the estate in 1814 and was followed by Edward Hawke Brooksbank MA. Edward was vicar of Tickhill near Doncaster from 1819 to1856 but he inherited the Healaugh Estate and was patron of the living in 1856 and until Rev Charles Voysey came in 1863, was also the Vicar of Healaugh. The history of the family is a saga in itself – there is a wonderful diary written in the 1780s by Phillipa Brooksbank wife of Benjamin which describes in great detail their life in this area. One line I remember particularly is ‘ felt unwell, had third child’ just like that! Rather than dwell on the family I can just say that the family have a fenced burial area at the back of the church and have a number of memorials within the church. The village hall was built originally in memory of Hugh and Stamp Brooksbank. Stamp was killed in action in France and Hugh died in London having suffered severe wounds at Ypres. The estate passed to Major James Gillam in 1961 and then more recently to the Smith family of Sam Smith Brewery.

Furniture within the church – the Altar is oak and was given in memory of Evelina Agnes Cooke who died in 1904. The Reredos – the figures were given in memory of Hugh Godfrey Brooksbank. They depict St Oswald King of Northumbria carved in 1916 and St Aiden first one carved in 1916 and then a replacement in 1972 (following theft of the original figure). The pulpit and vicar’s stall were made by Rev Herbert Cooke who was vicar from 1875 to 1899 and were constructed from 17th century chair back carvings. Probably the most historic relic that the church owns is the 1662 Chalice. Unfortunately I cannot show this to you as it is now housed at York Minster due to its historic and financial importance. This church is open through daylight hours every day and it was felt the chalice was of national importance and therefore better placed in the Minster but it does still belong to this church and can be obtained for services under very special circumstances.