Saturday, 5 August 2017

St Mary and st Abanoub coptic orthodox church , Arthington

On the way to Harewood House church I drove through Arthington, so on the way back I called in to have a look at this church too.

Arthington is a small village in Wharfedale, in the City of Leeds metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. It is a civil parish which, according to the 2011 census, had a population of 532,  district with Otley as its post town. It is in the Otley ward of the City of Leeds.

The village mainly extends from the Wharfdale pub at the western end to the former parish church of St Peter on the eastern end. This dates from 1864 and is a Grade II Listed building like many others in the village. It became redundant because of the small congregation, and in 2007 it was renamed St Mary and St Abanoub as Coptic Christian church. It serves a congregation living in West, North and East Yorkshire.

I have been looking to find information on this church, there were no photos of the inside, through reading about Arthington, I came across the church was called St Peters. I looked some more and found this snippet of information.

Church of St Peter built in 1864 at the expense of William Sheepshanks of Arthington Hall It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and the first vicar was Thomas Sheepshanks.
Threatened with redundancy in 2005 it was taken over in 2008 and reorganised by the St. Mary and St. Abanoub Coptic Church 

Arthington Priory was an English monastery which was home to a community of nuns in Arthington, West Yorkshire, founded in the mid-12th century. The priory land is occupied by a residence called "Arthington Hall", which was built around 1585, and little, if anything, remains of the priory. The site of the priory church is possibly now occupied by a farmhouse called The Nunnery.The community was the only one of nuns of the Cluniac congregation in Yorkshire and one of two in England. It was established through a grant by Peter de Arthington (link)


Coptics are descended from the ancient Egyptians - the word Copt is derived from gypt' which stems from the Greek word Aigyptos meaning Egyptian' - they have had a long tradition of Christianity stretching back almost 2,000 years

Coptic church believes that prophecy was fulfilled when St Mark, who wrote one of the four gospels, established the orthodox church in Egypt in the first century AD.

                                        Found another Ordinance Survey Benchmarks

Due to the church running into decline over the years, and the new members being a small group, the outer areas of the church have been taken over by the vegetation. There is evidence of children playing in the church grounds.  

The family name of Sheepshank hadn't caught my eye at the time and I have no photos of any graves with this name. 

This grave did look interesting, as it mentions the person Matthew Taylor being a Sculptor.

Matthew Taylor
Born 2 February 1837
Died 9 July 1889
Active: 1861 - 1889
Country of birth and death: England
Sculptor, monumental sculptor, stone carver
Born and died in Leeds, Yorkshire. He was the son of William Taylor (c.1793-1874, born in Grewelthorpe, Yorkshire) a moderately successful joiner and carpenter. Judging by Matthew's estate he ran a very successful business, possibly as a monumental or architectural sculptor as well as a maker of busts. One of Taylor's executors was a neighbor in the village of Arthington, William Henry Beever, architect. Matthew left five children, his oldest surviving son, Francis B Taylor (born c.1869 in Leeds) is listed as an artist in the Census Returns of 1891.

This record includes information supplied by Kurt Etchingham.
Wealth at death: £2,437 14s. 5d. 
Probate date: 1 August 1889



While looking at the family name Sheepshank, I came across
 Mary Sheepshank, (see belowe


Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951

Arthington/ Wikipedia

Mary Sheepshanks was born in 1931 and brought up at Eton College where her father was a housemaster, but childhood holidays spent at her grandparents’ house in Snowdonia gave her a love of the countryside and wild places, which has been an influence on her writing.  Her recently published memoirs, Wild Writing Granny feature wartime Eton College, lessons in Windsor Castle and her early married years as headmaster’s wife in Sunningdale School, followed by her time in Yorkshire running the Sheepshanks family home.

Mary wrote stories and verses from an early age and her first published poem appeared in The Sunday Times when she was seventeen. Her first novel was accepted by Century and published in 1995 when she was sixty-four. Since then five more novels have been published in the UK and USA to critical acclaim and translated into seven languages. Her fifth and sixth novels appear under her maiden name of Mary Nickson and she is currently working on a seventh novel.

Mary has also written a commissioned book on bereavement for Michael Joseph, which became a Penguin paperback. She has had five collections of poetry published by Fighting Cock Press and her poems have appeared in various anthologies and poetry magazines, and in journals as diverse as The Spectator, The Countryman, The Times, Yorkshire Journal and Farmers Weekly.  Mary moved from the Yorkshire Dales to Scotland in 2006. She has three children and eight grandchildren – one of whom used to refer to her as his ‘wild writing granny’ hence the title of her memoirs.(LINK)


  1. That is an impressive church - good to see another OS benchmark :) Churchyard looks good with all that ivy rambling over gravestones although perhaps it is a little on the wild side! Fascinating to read about the sculptor and yes now I can see about Mary Sheepshanks :) Would love to know if you buy one of her books and what you think about it. Interesting to see her age when first novel published :)

    1. Thanks RR, I have to admit when I left the church grounds I was not planning on posting about it, and when I couldn't find much about it too. Then by chance I discovered it had changed it's name and more information came to light. I have enjoyed reading some of the stories about the people I have found like Mary Sheepshanks. I still have not managed to find photos of the inside of the church and would suspect it has changed with the new owners.
      Amanda xx

  2. I was looking at the memorial to Matthew Taylor and wondering if the son, George who died in 1896 in South Africa, was a casualty of the Boer War. George is not listed on the Imperial War Museum's register of War Memorials. However 2 plaques inside the church to members of the Sheepshanks family are recorded:
    The first to Charles John Harcourt Sheepshanks, Captain in the Devon Regiment. Died at Becardel, Becourt, France, 17/03/1916, Aged 29 years.
    The second, rather more unusual, to Ernest Richard Sheepshanks Killed In Spain acting as Reuters Correspondent 31/12/1937 Aged 27 years.
    According to the IWM "there are at least 44 memorials to the Spanish Civil War in the UK"

    The Sheepshanks Family lived in the Big House for 170 years until they apparently sold up in 2013.

    You have taken another lovely set of photos.
    Thanks John

    1. Thank you so much John for the interesting information, I had read quite a few bits on the Sheepshank family and found the piece on Arthington Hall previously Arthington Priory very interesting to read.
      The more churches I visit in the area, names are starting to connect with each other especially from the 1800's , it's a great subject to have a interest in....
      Amanda xx

    2. George Taylor was not a Boer War casualty and was not in the military. He died from pneumonia as recorded on the official Cape Colony death registration form. We don't know why he had gone to South Africa, but it was definitely in a civilian capacity.
      Kurt Etchingham

  3. Ordnance Survey Benchmarks
    Amanda, I assume you know that if you look at a 6" to the mile OS map you can find the benchmarks marked with the surveyed height. As always happens you need 2 maps to cover any where you look at, but the church falls on this sheet:
    You will find Arthington St Peter's Church in the top left hand corner and there is the height for the benchmark - BM 187.1 feet above sea level. Usually there is the bench mark symbol on the map with the point of the arrow showing where it is. So if you look along the road towards Otley just past Arthington Grange you will see another BM 168.3. With this one there is the broad arrow printed on the road with the arrow pointing at the roadside wall to the north of the road. It may be that the 3 marks on the map to the west of the church are the mark indicating where on the church the benchmark is carved but that the black ink from the church has led the mapmaker to truncate the mark on the map. This map is from 1906 so it's good to see the mark is still there.

    1. Thanks again John, for the information... I have now seen three OS marks, Otley church and one one the road side outside Kirkstall Abbey .
      Amanda xx