Church History: Reformation

The Reformation made itself felt in several ways. From 1536, Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell set about dissolving the monasteries. During the Middle Ages, 5 monasteries 4 Cistercian and 1 Benedictine, had owned land and had the living of 2 churches (Horton and Giggleswick) in north Ribblesdale. The upkeep of monastic lands and properties depended on local people who were thrown out of work when the monasteries ceased to be. The local people also suffered from landlords who were enclosing common land. In 1536, there was a serious uprising in the area. A notice was nailed to Giggleswick Church’s door calling the men of Craven to arms against the king. A number set off under the leadership of Sir Stephen Hamerton on the long walk to York to join the ill-fated Pilgrimage of Grace. Giggleswick’s churchmanship was conservative, Roman Catholic and untouched by Protestantism, but that was soon to change. For further information, please see my article in the North Craven Heritage Trust Journal

Three chantries were established in the sanctuary of Giggleswick Church by the end of the 15th century. Chantries were chapel areas distinguished by a small altar at which the chantry priest conducted masses for the souls of the benefactors who had paid for the setting up of the chantries. One such chantry priest, (not the vicar), was James Carr who in the early years of the 16th century used the money from the chantries to found a “grammer schole” for local boys. The chantries had accumulated wealth and Henry VIII appropriated this for his own use. It was John Clapham, a thoroughly Protestant vicar (1548-56), who had been a chaplain to the king, and who was able to use his influence at court to retrieve the money taken from the chantries so that the future of what became Giggleswick School could be assured.

Pilgrimages were banned by Henry VIII and his minister, Thomas Cromwell in 1538. See the Guide Book St Alkelda ’s Way, and on the St Alkelda ’s Way website. Church plate, vessels and valuables were also confiscated by Henry VIII’s agents. In 1570, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, decreed that Communion chalices, which were shaped like open soup bowls and administered during Mass by the priest, had to be replaced with Communion cups, which were reckoned to be more Biblical and could be handled by the communicant. A medieval chalice from Giggleswick Church was smuggled out by local Roman Catholics and is now in the Undercroft Museum at York Minster. Giggleswick Church however, has a rare Elizabethan Communion cup dated 1585, which is still in use on special occasions. The Elizabethan age proved a time of relative calm in the ancient parish of Giggleswick, though it must have taken time for such a strongly Roman Catholic group of people to get used to worshipping from the Book of Common Prayer and hearing the Word of God, read and preached in English from the chained Bibles that soon appeared in most parish churches.