Monday 11 July 2016

Old St. Stephens Church - Robin Hoods Bay

On the descent to Robin Hoods Bay I spied a mysterious and intriguing church. Nestled in between the rolling hills and numerous trees was a petite Georgian church. Desperate to take a closer look we stopped off on the return journey, tempted by its understated simplicity and strange allure we parked up the Morris to take a closer look and see just what Old St. Stephen's Church has to offer.

I was immediately surprised by the residents of the church. A small flock of sheep, whose job I imagine it was to trim the verges and keep the graveyard shipshape, but judging by the length of the grass they had more particular tastes than just any old grass. The overgrown churchyard was charming and full to the brim with many beautiful old gravestones and caskets. The stories behind the stones echo the tragedy of their time, with infant mortality, shipwrecks and those lost never to return.

The history of the church is very rich. With a church having stood on the site for over a thousand years, generations of local families lay buried within its boundaries. The current building was erected in 1822 and has remained unchanged ever since, with the box pews inside having their last paint job 100 years ago. The interior of the current church is very modest, which reflects the working class people the church served and the sensibilities of many churches of the time, that excessive aesthetics detracted from God.

The quaint little church was unlike any I have ever visited before. It's tiny box pews and tiered wooden interior made me feel usually large (and that is unusual for me) and clumsy (that's not quite so unusual). The church was a unique snapshot into the everyday Georgian church serving its community. The church has seen so much tragedy and sorrow, largely mariner related, and there, from the graveyard, the beautiful view of the sea and the headland must have served as a chilling reminder to parishioners of the grave dangers of the sea.