Church of England Diocese of Leeds Croft

Church History

St Peter's Church is Grade 1 Listed, and dates back to 1130. Extensively extended by the addition of aisles and a chancel in the 14th century, and the tower was added in 1399 which houses 3 bells dating back to 1699. The Clervaux Chapel dates from 1330 and holds the limestone table tomb of Richard Clervaux who was Lord of the Manor at that time. In the north aisle is the magnificent 17th century marble tomb of Sir Mark Milbank,a wealthy Newcastle merchant, and local MP who died in 1680. A descendant, Arabella Milbank was married to Lord Byron the poet in 1825. The enormous Milbank box family pew is made of oak and dates from the 19th century.In the chancel there is a very fine 14th century stone sedilia with stepped seats for the priest, deacon, and sub-deacon. Lewis Carroll's father was rector from 1843 to 1868 and he spent much of his boyhood in Croft. An effigy on the sedilia is claimed to be Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for the Cheshire cat. The Carroll connection attracts many visitors worldwide who are part of the Lewis Carroll Society. St Peter’s and Croft village staged a 150th anniversary event in 2015 to celebrate the publishing of Alice in Wonderland. St Peter’s features in Simon Jenkins book “England’s Thousand Best Churches, and was filmed recently in Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys TV programme. A late 8th century cross shaft found in the church in 1887 is now exhibited in the Bowes Museum. There is a memorial in the church to the Canadian Air Force airmen who flew Lancaster bombers out of nearby Croft airfield in the Second World War. Visitors can purchase a comprehensive booklet on the history of the church for £5.