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A Lune valley church rebuilt after Robert the Bruce's raid of 1322

The remains of an Anglo-Saxon cross suggest that there has been achurch at Mellingsince the C10. Furthermore, in his book of 1823, the "History of Richmondshire", Dr Whittaker, describes "a rich Norman arch at the northern entrance" of the church. Immediately behind the east end of the church, in the garden of the former vicarage,is a motte and bailey earthwork. So clearly the site is of some antiquity. However, the church has suffered at the hands of both the ill-disposed (the raiding Scots),and the well-intentioned (zealous clerics). The long, low, typical North Country church thatwe see today, dates from the C13 to C19.

The nave has north and south aisles with no chancel arch. The arcades show evidence of re-use, presumably after the turmoil that must have followed the destruction of 1322, and date from theC13 and C14. They have octagonal columns and very basic capitals. The west window of the south aisle isfrom about 1300. It is a single light with trefoil. The arch over the south door may date from this time also. In the mid-C18 a clerestory and slate roof was added. Before that time the roof was apparently thatched. The old roof line can be seen on the tower at the west end of the nave. The present paired clerestory windows date from the C19.

The Morley Chapel, also called the Chapel of St Catherine, was createdas a chantry from an existing chapel,by John Morley. He had fought as a knight at Agincourt in 1415. A squint in the chapel was built to allow the chantry priest to see the main altar and synchronise his offices with those of the church's priest. Chantry chapels and priestswere endowed by the benefactor to intercede on behalf of their souls, and were widespread until theirsuppression in 1547. The Morley Chapel was heavily re-modelled in 1841 when the altar was removed, windows replaced, and an external parapet added. It was restored as a chapel in 1994-1995.

Much of the remodelling of the church, including the removal of ancient windows, gallery and screen, was carried out by William Grenside, vicar of Melling for 57 years. His term of office is commemorated in the church.

Overlooking the main road is the west tower - 55 feet tall, embattled with three-light pointed bell openings. The mouldings of the tower west window and door, and the stepped angle buttresses, all point to the Perpendicular style. In the belfry are six bells which, in1754, were recast from the original three C15 bells by Abel Rudhall of Gloucester.

The church has some good stained glass including a fragment of medieval glass in the west window of the south aisle. The east window is by Holiday. It does not, in the writer's view, compare with the Powell glass which hasfine figures and subtle colouring.

Unusually, the church has not always been called St Wilfrid's. In the C16 it is recorded with this dedication, but in the C18 it was called St Peter's. Canon Grenside was responsible for the re-dedication to the original saint in 1895.

An unusual memorial at the west end of the south aisle is to Clementine Rumph. Described as the "German Florence Nightingale" of the Franco- Prussian War of 1870-1871, she became a resident of Melling in 1887, and wrote for the Lancaster Guardian until her death in 1898.

The C15 west tower

With Scottish raids continuing into the C16, this tower may have been a local refuge.

A view from the south east

The south aisle and its eastward extension, the Morley Chapel, can be seen.

David and Isaiah

Fine Powell glass of 1905 commemorating Canon Grenside's 50 years as vicar of Melling.

Photographs and text Tony Boughen