Church of St John the Baptist

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The church is situated within the mighty iron age fortification of Stanwick camp, once the stronghold of Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes. It has been a site of worship from Saxon times. The church dates from the C13th but was restored in the C19th.

It is a simple church with a sturdy battlemented tower at the west end and long low nave, side aisles and chancel. Chancel walls are heavily buttressed.

Entry is through the south porch. Spend some time admiring the reused carved stones in the walls. There are old grave slabs, and Norman beachheads.

Inside, octagonal pillars with inter arches separate nave and side aisles. Hatchments hang above the arches. Above the chancel arch is the Royal Coat of Arms.

At the back of the church is a Saxon cross shaft with engraved scrollwork.

The east window has boards with the Lord’s Prayer, Creed and Ten Commandments on either side. Below is a colourful tile reredos.

At the end of the south aisle are the Smithson tombs. Sir Hugh who died in 1670 is propped up on one elbow. His wife lies slightly below him. Their grandson, another Hugh, married Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Northumberland. The earl had no male offspring, so Hugh adopted the name of Percy and later became the 1st Duke of Northumberland. He built the now demolished Stanwick Hall as his country seat. The wife of the 4th Duke lived here after his death and paid for the restoration of the church.

The church is in the middle of nowhere and a map is needed to find it. It is surrounded by rich agricultural land with only a farm for company. The church is no longer used and in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and is open daily. It is fully accessible for wheelchair users. There is plenty of parking on the road.

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