BENTHAM PARISH CHURCH, ST JOHN'S
Our Mission Statement
'We seek to be a witness to the love of God, through Jesus Christ, in both word and action, sharing his good news in the Parish of Bentham and beyond'
St John the Baptist church, Low Bentham is the Anglican Parish Church for both High and Low Bentham in the Diocese and West Yorkshire and the Dales.
Between 1872 and 2011 the two settlements of High and Lower Bentham were individual parishes. The church of St Margaret’s, High Bentham can still be seen standing on a hill just off Station Road overlooking the southern part of the town. St Margaret’s closed in 2011 and now St John’s has reverted to its original roll as the parish church for both High and Low Bentham. Until the early nineteenth century it was the parish church for High Bentham, Burton in Lonsdale, Ingleton and Chapel le Dale.
There are good parking facilities opposite the church.
The church has lots to interest the visitor. Guide books and information boards are available at the back of the church. They provide a lot of factual detail about both the interior and exterior of St John's. There are also special boards for children.
The origin of St John’s is lost in time but it is quite feasible that the earliest church was built by the Romans. The Roman road from Ribchester to Casterton crossed the River Wenning 50 metres west of the church. It was common practice for the Romans to build churches close to river crossings. Pillaging by the Scots shortly after the Battle of Bannockburn destroyed an earlier church but the tower and chancel arch built about 1340 remain to this day. The church was rebuilt in 1822 and the again in 1876 and this last rebuild, in the perpendicular style, is the church we use today. The architect was Richard Norman Shaw R.A. (He was the architect for Cragside, New Scotland Yard and many other prestigious buildings throughout the country.)
The church houses many interesting relics but of particular note is a fragment of a Saxon crucifix, also an ancient coffin slab, found in the chancel and dating from 1340. Both were unearthed in the 1877 restoration.The church interior is compact and welcoming and is constructed of local sandstone. It has a seating capacity of approximately 200. The pews are made of pitch pine. W.R. Lethaby designed the font and the organ case. The two-sided lectern was designed by Norman Shaw and was given by Henry Hall of Alton, a relation of Revd Frederick Walker Joy, (the rector shortly after the time of the church restoration). The old pipe organ, no longer playable, is a Hill organ enlarged by Isaac Abbott.
The reredos is in Caen stone with marble panels and an alabaster cross in the centre. The church houses many interesting plaques and on display in an illuminated case is the medieval glass of the Featherstone window. The bells were last re-hung in 1926 and are the heaviest peal of 6 bells in North Yorkshire. We have an active bell ringing team who meet most Wednesday evenings and ring monthly before church and for weddings and special events.
A large churchyard surrounds the building. The oldest memorials date back to the 18th century and are located beneath the east window. The rest of the churchyard extends about 150m west of the church and contains many fascinating headstones. Visitors are often intrigued by the memorial to Robert Poole, the grave digger, located close to the west door. Information about the location and the inscriptions on the memorials in the churchyard is available in a book kept on the table near the entrance door.
Church members are active within the community. We also have a prayer group, a bible study group and a good choir and a music group that leads some of our special services. We hold quarterly parish lunches and we play a leading part in Bentham Churches Together and local holiday clubs.
A mid-week Anglican Communion in High Bentham is held every Thursday at 10.00 a.m.by kind permission of St. Boniface Roman Catholic church, Robin Lane