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St. Michael and St. Lawrence's Church


On a Sunday afternoon in April '99 I visited Fewston Parish Church, I had one sole reason for my visit - to see the famous gravestone there. I had trouble in finding it. An elderly gentleman was sitting on a bench reading the 'News Of The World' and enjoying some sandwiches, I asked him if he knew where it was, I'd hardly finished speaking before he pointed out the stone. This gentleman, Jack Taylor - a Burma Star man, has been visiting the church and its churchyard for over 70 years. He and his wife Mary used to walk all the way from their home in Leeds, later they used to cycled there on a tandem, nowadays they travel in a little car. Mary was in the church reading the visitors book, she was rather sad when I spoke to her - some thieves had recently stolen a wooden table from the back of the church.


Besides the famous gravestone I had come to visit there were other things of interest, including a box tomb with a very thick top, dated 1613, which is very early for its type. I am told by Mike Brearey, of 'Rainy Leicester' fame, 'The box tomb at Fewston is of my direct ancestor - John Brearey (spelt John Breary on the tomb) and the date should be 1608. He's also related to the Fairfax family who are apparently also buried in the church.'

Many deaths were caused years ago due to fever epidemics that swept through the region, this caused the verse on the headstone of Enos Darnborough to read:

'Death rides on every passing breeze; He lurks in every flower, each season has its own disease, its peril every hour'

The church dates back to the C14th. From an architectural point of view it is of outstanding national importance. In 1696 a fire destroyed the old mediaeval church, except for the tower. In 1697 it was rebuilt and is one of the very few C17th churches in Yorkshire. Fewston is a lovely place, set in idyllic surroundings overlooking Fewston reservoir. Nearby places include Norwood, Timble Great and Timble Small and Blubberhouses.

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A famous gravestone

And now to that little gem of a gravestone. Joseph Ridsdale died on the 29th of February 1823, this was not a leap year. But even more curiously is the inscription for his son, William, he died on the 30th of February 1802. To this day no-one knows the reason for this state of affairs.

Amid these groves I walk oft for my health,
And to the fishes, birds, and beasts give heed,
How they are fed in forest, spring and lake,
And their contentment for ensample take.

Enticed on with hope of future gain
I suffer’d long what did my soul displease;
But when my youth was spent, my hope was vain;
I felt my native strength at last decrease;
I ‘gan my loss of lusty years complain,
And wish’d I had enjoy’d the country’s peace;
I bade the court farewell, and with content
My later age here have I quiet spent.

Edward Fairfax, The Fewston Poet