St Agatha’s Church

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This is a lovely old church set in the Otter Hills Beck valley just south of Richmond. With only Easby Hall and the ruins of Easby Abbey next to it, it has a timeless feel, miles from anywhere. Even though it has a large car park, it receives few visitors. This is a shame as the chancel has one of the most complete set of wall paintings in England.

There has been a site of worship here since the C8th. The nave and chancel date from the early C13th and the south aisle is C15th. It is a long, low building with a simple bell cote at the west end.

Entry is through the south porch which has a priest’s room above it. An arcade of octagonal pillars with pointed arches separates nave and south aisle. These are painted with dark red chevrons.

At the back of the nave is the C12th font. Round the base of the wall is the original stone bench used by the sick or infirm before churches had pews.

At the end of the south aisle is a small chapel with a wooden parclose screen round it. At the back is the remains of a painted inscription.

In the nave is a replica of the Easby Cross. The original C8th carved cross is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a very poor plaster copy. Even the paint is the wrong colour and is beginning to chip off. Quite frankly it looks naff.

Ignore this and quickly pass on to the chancel. The wooden reredos beneath the east window has a painting of the Annunciation in the centre. The chancel walls are covered with C13th wall paintings. These were covered with whitewash at the Reformation and were rediscovered and carefully restored by the Victorians.

On the north wall, the frieze depicts the Creation of Eve from the rib of Adam to the tempting by the serpent and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. On the window reveals are agricultural scenes with a sower sowing seeds with a raven waiting beside him, a man on horseback out hawking and finally spinning and digging.

On the south wall are scenes from the New Testament beginning with the Annunciation, Nativity with a very laid back Mary and Joseph fast asleep. Above Mary is the swaddled baby Jesus with an ox and a sheep watching. The angels are telling the shepherds and the three wise men are bringing their gifts.

Below are scenes of the Crucifixion with Christ’s body being taken down from the cross, burial and discovery of the empty tomb.

The back walls of the sedilia are painted with images of bishops.

The paintings are most attractive with simple lines and are in predominant shades of red, cream and blue black.

This is a very attractive church and definitely worth finding. It is open daily from 9-6. Easby Abbey open similar times, is also worth a visit.

Wheelchair users are advised to use the main gate by the abbey gatehouse as there is a small step at the gate from the car park. The inside of the church is accessible apart from a small step into the sanctuary.

There are a lot more pictures “here.”:

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