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Saints and Holy Places of Yorkshire: A pilgrim’s guide to God’s own county, by Gavin Wakefield

17 July 2020

David Wilbourne looks at 27 who hallowed the ground of Yorkshire

GAVIN WAKEFIELD’s Yorkshire excursion spookily coincides with my own haunts, detailing 27 luminaries en route. The butcher’s wife Margaret Clitheroe prays by night beneath five priests’ gallows on the Knavesmire in York, before being pressed to death, like ox tongue, on Good Friday 1586.

David Watson, of St Michael-le-Belfrey, deems the Reformation the Church’s greatest tragedy. The Knaresborough hermit Robert Flower plays Emily Maitlis before King John: “Is your power such, you can make this ear of corn from nothing?” The wife of the Vicar of Huddersfield, Henry Venn, empties her husband’s pockets before visiting, lest he give away all he has.© Geraldine CasswellA sketch map of “God’s own county” and its places of pilgrimage by Geraldine Casswell from the book under review

Over-zealous Abbot Benedict castrates two monks for filching Selby Abbey’s silver; lockdown Selby later spurns the Pilgrimage of Grace captained by Robert Aske, my boyhood hero. Richard Rolle gets over-familiar with the women of Hampole, who are warm and sweet-smelling like his God: “What business is it of yours whether my bosom is big or little?”

A Sheffield industrial missioner, Ted Wickham, concludes that the C of E didn’t lose the working classes: it never had them to start with. Richard Oastler, of Bradford, bankrupts himself championing the Ten Hours Act; and Polly Wigglesworth preaches, “fear looks, faith jumps.”

“Ee, lad, since we’re surrounded by so great a clout o’ witnesses, let’s spend t’ week cir-cuum-nav-ig-at-in’ their ’abitats!”


The Rt Revd David Wilbourne is an hon. assistant bishop in York diocese.


Saints and Holy Places of Yorkshire: A pilgrim’s guide to God’s own county
Gavin Wakefield
Sacristy Press £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

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