The “Domesday Book” survey of 1086 shows our parish to be a place of some importance, having a large manor and being one of ten places in Cleveland with a church. The first known incumbent of “The Parish of Rudebi in the Wapentake of Langbaurgh” was Hugh, in 1150, who was also Rural Dean of Cleveland.
The present church of All Saints was built around 1300 of grey sandstone in the then popular Decorated style of English Gothic architecture. In the early 14th century the chancel replaced the Norman church and added to it were the nave, with a plain north wall and three arches separating it from the new south aisle, which was probably enclosed by wooden screens and served as a chantry chapel.
The tower was added about 1400 in the Perpendicular style and was placed over the south porch. (To read about the bells please click here.) It is similar to those at Mount Grace Priory and Whorlton Old Church and all three were probably built by the same masons. The south aisle was then extended westwards. A rood screen was erected in the chancel arch, surmounted by a figure of Christ on the cross (the rood) with Saints Mary and John. (Unfortunately this was lost at the Reformation in the 16th century, together with coloured frescoes on the walls). In the fifteenth century the aisle was extended and the chancel arch of the fourteenth century was replaced. The south wall shows the outline of a former priest’s doorway and a sacring window (through which workers in the fields could hear the sanctus bell).
One of the church’s greatest treasures is the Elizabethan pulpit, given in 1594 by Thomas Milner. His genealogical epitaph is carved on the stone memorial on the north wall opposite the pulpit, with the family coat of arms above. The pulpit stood beneath this memorial until it was moved in 1960.
Around 1860, when coats of lime wash were taken off the walls of the church, the pulpit was also stripped of five layers of paint to reveal beautiful inlaid marquetry.
For Alice Barrigan’s story of Thomas Milner and the pulpit, click here.
After the turmoil of the 16th century, the 17th century was quite quiet architecturally, but by the 18th century, in common with other churches, the roof would have been covered in lead. However it is recorded that in 1785 “a lead roof was taken off the church, which was very steep over the main aisle and flat over the south, and a blue Westmoreland slate one put on for £25.”
By the middle of the nineteenth century the sash windows that had been installed were removed and replaced. Other restoration work to the vestry and the north side of the chancel was also carried out. The lectern, a large wooden eagle carved by Alexander Park (who lived nearby) was then installed.
Revd Arthur Eddowes, who came as Vicar in 1916, commissioned a full-scale restoration of the church in 1923-4 under the direction of the architect, Walter Brierley of York. The old roof was first removed as it was unsafe and looked odd with one gable over both nave and south aisle. A new oak nave roof has the gable centred over the east and west windows and the south aisle roof became flat as it had been before 1785.
The font was moved from opposite the north door and the excellent stained glass was inserted into the east window. This window is on the theme of “All Saints” and was given by Sir Robert Ropner in memory of his wife at the 1923 restoration. The artist was Bewsey of London and his trademark Latin scroll with a strawberry plant in the middle, can be seen in the bottom right-hand corner. The Lady Chapel (built over 700 years ago) was only arranged in the south aisle in the 1923 restoration. (The altar frontal of applique work, mostly in felt, was given in 1972 by the children and teachers of the Church’s Saturday School). The church was re-dedicated on 1st April 1924 by Archbishop Lang and looks very much as it does today. The lychgate at the church was erected in 1932 in memory of Allan Bowes-Wilson, who died that year and whose family were great benefactors of the church.
In 1974 the old Victorian organ was removed and replace in 1975 by one specially built for All Saints by Peter Collins of Hertfordshire. It was dedicated by Bishop John Yates of Whitby and the inaugural recital was given by Dr. Francis Jackson, who was then Organist of York Minster.
All Saints may be old but it is very much alive today.
To find out more please visit Alice Barrigan’s excellent websites – for the People Behind the Plaques, please click here.
The church also features in Alice Barrigan’s book Remarkable, but still True, which begins here.
The recent video below provides a tour of the church both inside and out. We are very grateful to the Local History Society for its contribution to this page and permission to include this video.