History

St Peter & St Paul Stokesley

 

When did Christianity first take root in Stokesley? We cannot say. Perhaps some of the Christians of Roman Britain came this way. Some of the 7th and 8th century figures made famous by the Venerable Bede very probably passed by at some time. But at present we know nothing certain from before the Norman Conquest .

 

The story begins with the Domesday Book of 1086. Stokesley had a priest, a church and a mill, though, like much of the area, it had declined considerably since the days of King Edward the Confessor. We can therefore be reasonably confident that a church will have stood on the small rise above the river Leven in Anglo-Saxon & Danish times: probably first in wood, and then possibly in stone.

 

Nothing seems to remain of a pre-Conquest building. The oldest part of the present church (the Chancel, at the east end) dates from before the Black Death in the 14th Century; the Tower was added at the west end a century later. But the larger part of the building in which we now worship dates from the 1770s: the medieval church was then in considerable disrepair, and it was decided to pull much of it down and build a new wide nave in 18th century style. For 100 years, that nave had galleries on three sides, but they were removed in a substantial repair and refurbishment in 1875.

 

Each generation since then, the church has been reordered in some way – acquiring in the process: pews made of local oak; woodwork by Robert Thompson of Kilburn; a colour scheme and various fittings designed by Ronald Sims; a good ring of 8 bells; and a 1987 organ built on “extension” principles. The present building, though lacking much ancillary room space, is also blessed with excellent performing space and acoustics for music.

 

There is a much fuller story to be told, of course; not least of the people who have worshipped here over the centuries, and the people who continue to find in the building a focus for their faith today. The story of Christian faith in Stokesley would also tell of the other churches that have formed in the town over the last 300 years, particularly our Churches Together partners, St Joseph's Catholic Church and Stokesley Methodist Church. Perhaps you too might be part of that story?