St Andrew’s church in Kildwick is known to be one of the few churches in Craven mentioned in Domesday Book: Kildwick, Arnketill (held it from King Edward), there are 2 carucates (ploughlands) which are taxable, and 1 church.  There is a small amount of Norman stonework, which survives from a later rebuilding, and some Anglo-Scandinavian sculptured stones are displayed in the church, although whether they were originally part of the church is not known.

The significance of the mention of the church in Domesday Book is, I suggest, not so much to mark out Kildwick as being unusual in having a church, but to mark out Kildwick as being unusual in the survival of its church.

The northern nobility had never easily recognised the kingship of William of Normandy, and in 1069 there was a major rising against his rule. In response, in the early months of 1070, King William launched the infamous ‘harrying of the north’, with the west of the county bearing the brunt of his ferocity. Even otherwise favourable writers commented on the exceptional barbarism involved, which included the destruction of buildings, crops, herds, tools and the killing of many people, either directly or through starvation. The bleak record of the Domesday Book shows the consequences over a dozen years later. 77 carucates in Craven had belonged to King Edward, all were described as waste. Of 35 settlements, only one, Kildwick, is recorded as having a church.

This is unlikely to be because there were no churches in settlements like Skipton or Bolton, later famous for its priory, all of which were larger than Kildwick. Also, a quick look at other parts of the county towards the south, show that many places had a church – for example Leeds and its surrounding settlements, and the extensive eccelesiastical complex at Kippax, Ledston and Barwick-in-Elmet. This reflects the long-established Christian church in the area, and a powerful, extensive archdiocese, independent of Canterbury.

The evidence suggests that Kildwick’s church, against the odds, survived. How, and why, we don’t know. It may have been missed, it may have been durably built, and able to survive a sudden, but not lasting incursion.

For the Church Renovation and Repair project the survival of the church against these adverse circumstances gives us hope that it will again be able to weather the current adverse condition of the roof which threatens the whole of the fabric. As we await the outcome of our Heritage Lottery Fund application we hope that, once again, St Andrew’s church will show its capacity for survival and continue to be a place of worship in the heart of the community.

Marie Stinson

Article from ‘The Bridge’ September 2017