St John the Baptist Church, Garsdale [view on map]

Rev. Andy McMullon

015396 20018

St John the Baptist Church, GarsdaleGarsdale is a narrow dale running east from Sedbergh with Baugh Fell to the north and Rise Hill to the south. The A684 running through the dale leads to Wensleydale at Hawes. The centre of Garsdale, approximately five miles from Sedbergh, is locally referred to as ‘The Street’ and consists of St John’s, a chapel, the old school (now the village hall) and a number of cottages.

Services at St John’s

Visitors are always welcome at all services, the usual pattern of which is as follows:

1st Sunday of month – 10.00 am Holy Communion (by extension)

2nd Sunday of month – 10.00 am Morning Prayer

3rd Sunday of month – 10.00 am Holy Communion

4th Sunday of month – 10.00 am Morning Prayer

The Building

Garsdale interiorSt John’s Church was built in 1861 to the east of the site of an ancient church and consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon on the 23rd November in that year.  In his sermon the Bishop commended the efforts made to replace “the miserable building which he had visited some years ago for one more suitable to the solemn worship of Almighty God.”

There was a chapel here in medieval times, for records show certain lands conveyed to St Agatha’s convent at Easby near Richmond which in return provided a chaplain for Garsdale together with “all things necessary for the due discharge of his office.”  With the dissolution of the monasteries the manor or lordship of Garsdale became crown property.

The chapel was a daughter-church of Dent without parochial privileges until 1562 when it won the right to hold baptisms and burial services.  Until then Garsdale was required to pay a fixed sum to the minister and clerk of Dent church.  In 1687 the ecclesiastical payments ceased but Garsdale rates contributed a  quarter of the civil rates to Dent until well into the nineteenth century.

William Wordsworth visiting the church with his sister Dorothy in 1799 wrote of it as “a lowly house of prayer in a charming little valley.”  Little else is known of the building eventually demolished in 1861.  Only the two bells, the piscina and memorial tablets were saved and incorporated into the present building.

The church graveyard was surveyed in 1984 and the memorials transcribed by the Graveyard Recording Group of the Sedbergh and District History Society.