Whenever Wensleydale comes up in conversation, I trot out the old fact that it is the only one of ‘The Dales’ to be named after its town, rather than its river. (The river is the Ure, by the way.)
Until recently I had neither visited Wensley, nor its Dale. However, with the Churches Conservation Trust app to hand. I made a detour to do just that.
Holy Trinity is a lovely church, built on eighth century foundations, but today with a much more fourteenth century look. I think it looks friendly, but in my lack-of-research, I was not prepared for the inside!
Turns out Holy Trinity Wensley, has astounding wall paintings (of which the above is a fragment). What is really interesting is that some of the paintings are different layers of different scenes from different periods. Other are more extant, such as this scene of St Eloi:
St Eloi was a seventh century French bishop, who was renowned for hi metal-working skills as well as his holiness. In one of his best known miracles a recalcitrant horse was brought to be shod but it would not stay still. So St Eloi chopped off its leg, put the horseshoe on and then re-attached the leg to the horse. In the painting on the south wall you can see St Eloi at the bottom holding his smithing hammer, while the horse is led nervously in by someone carrying a bow and arrows.
The most modern-feeling of the wall paintings is to me is that of ‘The Three Living & the Three Dead’.
Detailed and unflinching, this painting is of a popular tale. Les Trois Mortes et les Trois Viss tells how three young princes went out hunting and met three corpses in the woods. The corpses told them for being obsessed with pleasure and having a good time and left them with a reminder: “as you are, so were we; as we are, so you shall be”. This caught people’s imaginations and its popularity grew. At Wensley we see the wormy legs of the corpses, with the writing next to them.
… and there a great British Library blog featuring the gif image, here.
However, Wensley is not just wall paintings. There’s a lovely example of early medieval vine scroll:
This beautiful memorial brass and plaque, tells two stories. The full-length figure is Simon of Wensley, rector 1361-94, wearing mass vestments and holding a chalice.
The details on his vestments are remarkable. The plaque above is later and commemorates Oswald Dykes, another rector of the parish who died in 1607. Presumably, he is buried alongside Simon.
Of a slightly later date is this 1662 font, with its original cover, which was amazingly found underneath some rubble in the tower.
There’s so much more to look at, it’s really worth a visit. The choir stalls date to 1527. There’s a reliquary, a three-seater sedilia and some amazing hassocks:
Outside the church – you should ALWAYS PERAMBULATE – as my MA tutor taught me. There’s more to discover.
Another piece of advice from my tutor was that “no church looks the same twice” – so I’m looking forward to my Wensley return!