West Riding of Yorkshire

Knaresborough Church, West Riding of Yorkshire

It is believed a church stood in Knaresborough from the Saxon period, probably where the current church now stands, but possibly in the town centre nearer to the Castle.

The first documented evidence for St. John’s is in 1114 when Henry I gave the church to the Augustinians of Nostell Priory, although at this time it was still St. Mary’s. It seems fairly certain that the church was well established by this period.

The core of today’s church dates to the 13th Century with some 12th Century remains, but all was greatly rebuilt in the 14th Century.

In 1318 Scottish raiders arrived in Knaresborough and sacked the town, leaving town, castle and church in ruins. Ten years later King Edward III arrived on his honeymoon with his young bride Philippa of Hainault (he was 16, she was 14 – and they had just been married at York Minster).

The young King and his wife both took a liking to Knaresborough and Philippa made the King promise that he would rebuild the church. It is unclear exactly when work began but Philippa took particular interest in the church and particularly the re-designing of St. Edmund’s Chapel. Philippa brought her eldest son, Edward the Black Prince, to Knaresborough and spent a lot of time at the Castle. Indeed, she stayed here during the Black Death in 1349, even though she lost three of her own children to the disease the previous year. By the time Philippa died in 1369 the church had been rebuilt in more or less its current form and is known in town as “The Queen’s Church”.

The church was rededicated to St. John the Baptist around the time of the Reformation and during the Civil War it was used as a battery to attack the Royalists holed up in Knaresborough Castle which stands further along the dramatic Nidd Valley.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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