St Hilda


pictures pending!





The church of St Hilda, Danby, is in one of the  finest settings imaginable; in the centre of Danby Dale, and surrounded by heather-clad moors.  Why it was built in this position is very much a mystery, the present village of Danby being two miles away.   

Whilst there is some Saxon evidence for a church here, most of it is local "Perpendicular" style, the tower being built in the 15th century.   There were many restorations, that in 1777 being described in the church guide as "sheer vandalism". The ancient nave pillars were removed and, seemingly, used by local farmers as a source of stone.  The roof was lowered and the spire removed from the tower.  

A gallery was placed along the north side in 1798, and the present west gallery was constructed in 1808.  In 1829 the ancient oak pews were removed and deal box-pews were put in their place.  One of these pews can be seen in the stable adjoining the churchyard.

In 1903, in memory of Canon Atkinson and at a cost of 1995,  the Church was again restored, an attempt being made to return it to its original Early English appearance.  The pillars were replaced, using old pieces as guides, oak pews, using an ancient pew's end as a guide, replaced the box-pews.

The west gallery is entered from an external stair on the north wall of the church, which leads to a doorway in the north-west corner of the church.

No account of Danby Church would be complete without mention of the Dog Whipper (locally called Dog 'Norper') whose duty it was to expel any dog which was a nuisance.  The following is an extract from Forty Years in a Moorland Parish by  Canon J C Atkinson, 2nd Ed.  Macmillan, 1891.  Canon Atkinson was the first priest who could officially be called 'Vicar'.  He filled that position for 53 years, from 1847 to 1900.

Poor old Willy, the first dog-whipper of my acquaintance, was a little man of about five foot four, with legs that were hardly a pair, and which it would have been slander to call straight or well-shapen; and, as was natural perhaps, he shambled in his gait . . .   

On Sundays, and days when a 'burying' was to be - for Willy was Sexton also, and kept the depth of his graves religiously to under three feet - the short handle of the whip he bore reposed in the right-hand pocket, but the lainder and lash hung outside; the latter, inasmuch as the bearer's stature was not great, trailing on the ground.

Willy was valorous in the execution of his duty, although he may sometimes have seen occasion for the exercise of a wise discretion.  I knew of two such instances.  In one, the intrusive dog was made slowly to recede before the duly-armed official, who was fairly well able to command the whole inter-space between the pews which runs the whole length of the Church; but when it came to turning round the corner and backing towards the door, the dog did not see the expediency of the desired course quite so clearly as Willy did; and so, having more room in the crossing in which to attain the necessary impetus, he made a bolt for it, aiming at the archway presented by the dog-whipper's bow-legs.  But the archway proved to be less than the dog had assumed it to be;  and, in consequence, after riding backwards for a pace or two, poor old Willy came backwards to the pavement, and to grief besides.

The dog on the other occasion was more resolute, or less accommodating, for he met all Willy's advances with a steady refusal to budge an inch in a backward direction.   Willy persevered; the dog growled; and the teeth having a more persuasive about them than the whip, the man gave way and the dog did not. 




Three bells, treble and second dated 1698; all three with Latin inscriptions, the tenor likely to have been cast by the same founder and at the same date as the other two.



Map reference : SP317455

The church stands at the north western edge of the village, and appears to be open to visitors at all reasonable times (March 2002)



Photographs: © Edwin Macadam



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