Friday, 8 February 2013

St Cuthbert's church, Middleton-on-Leven

On 22 & 23 June 2002, a Flower Festival was held in St Cuthbert’s church at Middleton-on-Leven.

Refreshments & light lunches were on offer, and the weekend finished with a Thanksgiving Service at 5 o’clock followed by a barbecue.

The flower displays and information boards on show around the building reflected aspects of the church’s history and current life in the community; proceeds were to the church fabric and the new carpet.

The explanatory leaflet included a brief history of the village and church.  I feel sure it was written by the vicar, Canon David Lickess (now retired), and hope he will not mind me reproducing it here, as there is so little information on Middleton available online.

Church Flower Festival
Middleton-on-Leven is an ancient parish & a perpetual curacy, that has always been linked to the Parish of Rudby-in-Cleveland.

In Domesday Book (1086) it had ‘8 carucates of land [900 acres], 3 villeins & 3 ploughs’.  Its Registers date from 1614 and record dues paid to the then Vicar – ‘4d for each house, 6d for an orchard & 1d for every swarm of bees.’

The will of Simond Askwith ‘prest curate of Myddletone and Hilton’ refers to his angelwand (fishing rod).  In 1803 a resident, Christopher Rowntree, had a trial at York Assizes to prove he was a Gentleman & so could claim the prize for a race he had won in Stokesley!

The small church of St Cuthbert was built in 1799 by Lord Leconfield (then owner of the estate) in the late Georgian Gothic style.  It stands on the site of its Medieval predecessor & was restored in 1908.  It seats 60 people and has an unusual chancel wall with 3 openings rather than an arch.  There is a grassed area around it, but no burial ground.

North Yorkshire Directories of the 19th century give the following information about Middleton & its Church:

1823 – Population 111, with 7 farmers, a bleacher & cornmiller.  The church’s patron is Lady Amherst & the vicar of Rudby is curate 
1840 – This is a small township of scattered houses in a picturesque dale of the river Leven.  Pop. 89 inc. 7 farmers & a cornmiller, with 850 acres of land, mostly the property of Colonel Wyndham (Lord of the Manor) and Lord Falkland of Skutterskelfe (impropriator of the tithes) 
1859 – Pop. 95 with 1129 acres, rateable value £1,047.  The farmhouses are scattered & include Middleton House, the Grange, Goslingmire & the Lodge.  There is an ancient stone water-mill, rebuilt in 1812.  The small stone church was rebuilt from materials in the old one. 
1872 – A township in the west division of Langbaurgh liberty, in Stokesley county court district & rural deanery.  The soil is good loam with clay subsoil; wheat, barley & oats are the chief crops.  Pop. 112 inc. 8 farmers & a miller, with 1,129 acres, rateable value £1,251.  Letters via Yarm arrive at 11am, dispatched at 2pm
The church, rebuilt c1800, has a bell turret and plain interior.  The living is annexed to the vicarage of Rudby, yearly value £50, in the gift of Lord Falkland, Lord of the Manor & principal landowner.  The vicar for the past 40 years has been the Rev Robert Barlow 
1891 – Pop. 87, with a number of farms, 2 rows of cottages & the church.  
1932 – Pop. 52.  Vicar Rev Arthur Leeper proposed closing Middleton Church, due to maintenance costs & as only 4 people regularly attended.  He said,
The building is of little historic interest & people could go to Hutton Rudby or Hilton, where Middleton children attend school.
The Darlington & Stockton Times had an article, quoting a local farmer:  “I never go, but it’s our church” and
typical sons of the soil Mr Wood & his son John, who said, "It’s a nice little church & won’t close if we have anything to do with it”
Then in a sermon a friend of the vicar criticised paying the organist & the state of the church interior.  The vicar moved on & the church survived! 
1951 – The Archbishops of York became patrons of the living 
1989 – 2 of our Church’s most faithful long-time members retired: Mabel Abbot as church cleaner & Jack Wood as churchwarden & treasurer 
1999 – First visit to Middleton by an Archbishop of York, for our church’s Bicentenary celebrations.  Also a social evening for church funds with the famous Dales woman Hannah Hauxwell.
Middleton Village & Church today (2002)

Pop. 100 = 63 adults & 37 children.  Most of the residents are professional people or managers, who have come here from various parts of the country and commute to work.  Some are local families who still work the farms & there are a large proportion of children.  In the past 30 years the number of houses in the small village has more than doubled, with some large properties being built & some former cottages extensively refurbished.  There is one short village road with shop or public house!  Middleton civil parish is now part of Rudby Parish Council.

St Cuthbert’s Church is the only public building & a centre of village life.  There are fortnightly services, morning Holy Communion alternating with Evensong, with special acts of worship at Christian Festivals & still a real country Harvest Thanksgiving.  Services are fairly traditional in language & style, but more informal on occasions.  Lay people read the Scriptures & run Church life in the village, both residents & some former ones now living in Hutton Rudby.

Though a separate ecclesiastical parish in Stokesley Deanery, with its own churchwardens & council, Middleton is served by the Vicars of Rudby.  It is the smallest parish in the Deanery but pays its share of ministry costs.  There are 27 people on the Church Membership Roll & church attendance averages 16.  In contrast to the national trend, congregations have grown in recent years & usually include a number of children & young people.

The flower arrangers were:

Nancy Smith (illustrating Farming, at outside door);  Pam Ridgway (Christian Baptism, font corner);  Janet Twizzell (Harvest Festivals, 1st window, right side);  Joan Johnston (Queen’s Golden Jubilee, left side wall box);  Louvaine Irving (Rural Church in Rural Community, arch);  Jean Noble (Christian Marriage, 2nd window, right side);  Anne Baillie (Proclaiming God’s Word, pulpit);  Betsy Horner (Music, by organ & left side choirstalls);  Joy Sanderson & children (All things bright & beautiful, choir stalls & 3rd window);  Bernice Bainbridge (York Diocese, left of altar);  Nancy Sidgwick (Holy Communion, altar);  Hazel Blackburn (St Cuthbert & Durham, altar right);  Margaret Gotts & children (flower kneelers, in front of choir stalls)

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