Skelton cum Newby
A Church Built With Unpaid Ransom Money
With its colourful and vibrant interior, this Victorian church seems the very celebration of life, yet it stands as a testament to tragedy.
It is a memorial to Frederick Vyner who, age 23, was captured and murdered by brigands in Greece in 1870. His mother, Lady Mary Vyner of Newby Hall, used the money collected for his ransom to commission British architect William Burges –- celebrated for decorating Westminster Palace and rebuilding Cardiff Castle -– to design this church built 1871-76 in the grounds of her home at Newby Hall.
Standing inside the gates of the park, and surrounded by huge beech trees, the outside is impressive, with its lofty spire, pinnacles and fine rose window. The design is based on Medieval French church architecture, but with Burges’'s unique interpretation.
A little dog keeps the gargoyles company -– a sweetly domestic touch in this magnificent monument to a lost son. Every detail here repays attention. Burges employed the best craftsmen of the day to work here, and everywhere you look there are examples of their skill.
The interior is wonderfully rich and colourful - pattern and colour are everywhere, with stained glass, fine marble and gilded mosaics filling the interior. Exquisite carvings on the corbels and on the organ case bring stone and wood to life, while in the rose window, Christ the Consoler presides.
Everything is on a magnificent scale; the effect is almost overwhelming. And yet, for all its splendour, you cannot forget the tragic circumstances out of which this church was built.
The best time to visit is on your way in to Newby Hall.