Some Historical Notes About St. John’s Church, Sharow

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In 1873 a new Chancel, Gothic in style, was built at a cost of £1,585 and an altar cloth provided at a cost of £40. It was not until the following year, 1874, that “Oak Stalls” were completed at a cost of £65 largely due to the endeavours of Mr Snowden. About this time the gallery at the west end was removed. Ten years later in 1884 a “new and commodious vestry” was built at a cost of £70.19s.

The oak reredos over the altar, installed in 1881, was also donated by Revd. Powell. Whilst being a fine piece in itself it does partially obstruct the view of fine stained glass in the eastern wall.

1901 saw the installation of “modern lighting” with a corona, standard and hanging lamps, all this at a cost of £21.13.11. In 1910 “six lamps were hung in the church to replace candles”.

Following 18 months of local fund raising restoration of the church and belfry was undertaken in 1962 at a cost of about £3,500.

In the early days Sharow was part of the Parish of Ripon when Revd. J Newsome was Vicar. Then it became a separate parish in 1868 when Revd. E Gray was vicar. A second church building was erected in the parish in 1876. Holy Innocents is located in Copt Hewick and well worth a visit. Since 2001 services at Copt Hewick have been limited but on the fifth Sunday of the month (4 times a year), and on other special occasions, the congregation of St. John’s gathers with friends in Copt Hewick for a united service.

Since March 1976 the Dean of Ripon has been the incumbent (vicar) of the parish. In 1996 Revd. Penny Driver took on pastoral responsibility for this parish and the adjoining parish of Marton le Moor along with major diocesan responsibilities. Technically, half her time is allocated to the two parishes.

Penny, who was one of the first women to be ordained in the Church of England, was appointed a Canon at Ripon Cathedral in 2002 and in addition to duties in the Parish is responsible for selection and training of ordinands in the Diocese. Penny also has a special role attending to the interests of other women priests in the diocese which number about 50. She also serves on the Crown Appointments Commission.

In 1982 a number of pews were removed, the heating system upgraded, and carpets and curtains were added. The following year the font, previously situated beneath the tower to the west, was moved to its present location on the left as one enters the church.

A very fine oak and glass screen between the church and the tower was created by The Beaver Man, Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe, North Yorkshire. His signatorial beaver is carved on many items in St. John’s. This screen bears a plaque inscribed, “This screen was erected in loving memory of Susan Marian Deeming 1949 – 1993 who loved and served this community and especially its children”.

In the early 1980s a number of local ladies got together to form an embroidery group. Between them these ladies produced, over a number of years, a very fine collection of vestments, altar cloths and kneelers for which today’s worshippers are very grateful.

It was not until 2001 that kitchen and toilet facilities were added. At the same time heating and lighting were improved to form the Tower Room which is now used regularly for meetings including Edward Bear Club, Luncheon Club, PCC meetings, choir practices, and much more. In 2002 more pews at the rear of the church were removed, the floor levelled, carpet laid and chairs installed. All this represents a massive improvement in the utility of the church.

The tower, from which the pinnacles were removed at the time of the First World War, now houses a peal of eight bells. The original six were cast in 1824 by John Mears and have been in place since the church was built. Two smaller bells, cast by Warners in 1871 were added later. In 1961 a steel frame was inserted by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough replacing the original wooden frame which was rotting. The bells are considered to be very fine and are regularly rung by teams of visiting bell ringers.

There are various other memorials around the church including a tablet on the south wall commemorating the Civil Engineer responsible for the building of this church. As an engineer George Knowles had built bridges in Ireland. A traditional symbol on monuments is a broken urn so a broken bridge is a fitting variation.

In recent years we have been remarkably fortunate with music at St. John’s. The appointment of a talented and committed Music Director, John Croyle, in 1999 was quickly followed by the establishment of a small church choir. The origins of the organ go back to 1862 (see separate page) which today is supplemented by a Clavinola which replaced an old piano in 2000 and which has proved to be a very versatile and valuable addition to the church’s musical resources.

The furnishings in the Side Chapel were donated anonymously in 1961. They were created by the skilled Ripon craftsman Mr J R Thorpe and follow a Jacobean motif.

It will be appreciated by readers that these notes include informed opinion as well as established facts but they are to the best of our knowledge correct. Research continues including work by the Sharow History Project. As more material becomes available the document will be updated.

The contents have been gleaned from a multitude of sources . Research in county libraries and archives has yielded some data whilst a search on the internet was also fruitful. A document like this would not be complete without consulting Pevsner. But special thanks are due to Mrs Doreen Nicholson, one time Church Warden and for many years the Verger at St. John’s, and Mr Colin Menzies.