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Wuthering Heights church in Yorkshire Dales to be restored as part of cultural heritage

03 March 2023

Ian Taylor

Lunds Church, in High Abbotside, North Yorkshire

Lunds Church, in High Abbotside, North Yorkshire

A CRUMBLING redundant church, which appeared in a film version of Wuthering Heights, is to be restored as part of the cultural heritage of the Yorkshire Dales.

Lunds Church, in High Abbotside, was built in the 18th century to serve the farming community in the remotest corner of Upper Wensleydale, but the rural population declined, congregations shrank, and the building was deconsecrated in 1981.

Harsh weather, especially penetrating rain, has left it in a parlous condition. Now, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is considering proposals for restoration to secure its future.

The Grade II listed building has little to distinguish it as a church. It could at first glance be mistaken for a historic school; only the graveyard, with its few remaining headstones, gives away its former function. It was the smallest church in Ripon diocese, seating just 60 people, and featured in the 2011 film version of Wuthering Heights, by the Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold.

The cost of the work is likely to run into five figures, but is expected to be covered by grants: its exterior will be protected from the elements; its single door and windows will be replaced with period replicas; an inscription, “God is Love”, will be reinstated above the east window; and the tiled altar floor and wooden rail will be reinstated. The bell, currently in the Dales Countryside Museum, in Hawes, near by, will be rehung, and electricity reconnected for heaters to combat damp.

Wilf Fenten, of the conservation group Friends of the Dales, said: “This small building is an important part of the cultural heritage of the Dales. The history of its status and its structure over the centuries is an essential aspect of this area at the head of Wensleydale.

“Coming upon this isolated building, in the middle of a field, with just a few old gravestones near by, conveys a sense of place which is difficult to define. It is discovered with surprise by people walking the nearby footpaths.”

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