St John the Baptist, Levisham, is a nineteenth century Church, built as an alternative to the ancient Valley Church of St Mary the Virgin.
It became the Parish Church of Levisham in the 1950s when St Mary’s ceased to be used, and amongst its features incorporates the celebrated ‘Dragon Stone’, broken portions of a carved gravestone depicting a dragon in Scandinavian style, thought to be from a pre-Conquest graveyard.
Despite its recent foundation as a Parish Church, the building contains reminders of the whole period of Christian presence in the village. The font, with its rough surface and crude carvings of a cross and Bishop’s crozier, for instance, is from Norman times or earlier. It originally belonged to St Mary’s, but was then turned out and replaced by something more modern in the nineteenth century. It was then used as a cattle trough until it was rescued and restored to its proper use when the chapel of ease was built on this site. Two bells from St Mary’s are also housed under the altar, and an inscription in the wooden candlesticks records that they were made from ‘oak and bell metal of York Minster, burnt 1840’.
Several members of the Baldwin family, who lived at the Hall during the 1920s to 1940s, are commemorated in the wooden furnishings of the Church, which were carved by Robert Thompson of Kilburn and bear his famous mouse trademark. More recent additions include the plaque depicting St John the Baptist, which was bequeathed by a former rector, Robert Toogood, and the churchwardens’ staves, which were commissioned from a local craftsman. New kneelers were made by members of the community to commemorate the Millennium.
Today the Church attracts many visitors, who, on their way through the village to the steam train or on walks, are able to pop in and enjoy this historic and peaceful place. Open every day, it offers a place of prayer and refreshment to all who pass by.
St John the Baptist is the home of a lively congregation drawn from varied traditions. For more details of services at St John the Baptist’s Church, click here.