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Hubberholme Church and its rare monastic Rood Loft

In the Middle ages some important churches in England had what is now known as a Rood Loft.

These structures were usually situated above a Rood Screen which would have separated the nave from the chancel and high altar area.

The name Rood Loft roughly translates as “raised platform” to hold a crucifix and these are recognised as particularly rare. The word Rood is an Old English word for Crucifix. The crucifix would normally have been hung from an arch near the altar but they had started in the 1200’s to be incorporated into the Rood Screens and sometimes lofts in the 1200’s.

Rood Loft’s and Rood screens were more commonplace under the catholic church. They were designed to stop the congregation in the nave from seeing exactly what was going on in the chancel. Many churches had the Rood screens but the Rood lofts were less common.

The Rood loft was a platform or narrow walkway where musicians or singers could have stood or sat to perform during services.

During the reformation Rood Screens and Rood lofts were seen as barriers to the congregation participating in services and under the instruction of Queen Elizabeth I, most were destroyed.

In Yorkshire there are only two churches with surviving Rood Lofts.

One of which is The Church of St.Oswald in Flamborough on the East Coast of Yorkshire. But the other is in a beautiful little church in the Yorkshire Dales. The Church of St, Michael & All Angels in Hubberholme.

The church dates mainly to the 1100’s and replaced a former forest chapel in the hunting forest of Langstroth Chase. The church is famous for a number of things including the wonderful oak pews made by the “Mouseman” of Kilburn – Robert Thomson with their small carved mice and the fact that the author and playwright J.B. Priestly retired to Hubberholme where his ashes were scattered in the churchyard. He described Hubberholme as "one of the smallest and most pleasant places in the world ".

And more recently the church was used for the inside filming of the wedding of James Herriot and Helen in the latest Channel 5/PBS-Masterpiece remake of All Creatures Great and Small. In fact James and Helen took their vows in front of the Rood Loft.

Researching a bit more about the Rood Loft in Hubberholme it turns out that it was not originally located at St.Michael & All Angels Church at all. The structure actually came from 16 miles away Coverham Abbey. The Abbey was one of the first to be closed down by Henry VIII in 1536 during the dissolution of the monasteries.

There is not a lot left of the Abbey apart from some earthworks that can be seen from the redundant Holy Trinity Church grounds in Coverham.

The Clifford Family of Skipton Castle had taken over the lands of Langstroth Chase when Henry Clifford the 1st Earl of Cumberland married Margaret Percy. His son Henry the 2nd Earl of Cumberland is believed to have purchased the Rood Loft and brought it to the little forest church in Hubberholme in 1558. The loft has been cut into the smaller space in its new location and is understood to have been slightly wider.

The planks which would have been laid across the struts to form a platform are no longer there, so it’s no longer able to support musicians, but this does not take away from its impact.

It is a lovely feature and beautifully hand painted, looking better from the back where the the original paintwork is brighter. An interesting little piece of history which I am sure looks as grand now as it did in its original location at Coverham Abbey.


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