St Peter’s church, Croft (Yorkshire North Riding) sits beside an ancient bridge over the Tees. It contains an array of unusual items including a sedilia with rustic carvings of figures (one of which may have been influential in the design of Charles Dodgson’s Cheshire Cat), a large 18th century font which would look more at home on the formal lawns of a grand house, and two enormous tomb chests (two of the largest I have ever seen in a parish church). Perhaps the most unusual and striking feature is the family pew in the north aisle.
The pew belonged to the Milbanke family, formerly of Halnaby Hall. Nikolaus Pevsner in the Buildings of England says it dates from before 1680, although I get the feeling it is somewhat later; perhaps early 18th century (the Victoria County History also suggests an 18th century date). It sits on five large wooden Tuscan columns and is equipped with a set of fetching red curtains. One ascends to the pew via a three-stage staircase with fancy twisted balusters.
Behind and underneath the enormous pew is an equally enormous tomb chest surrounded by an iron railing. It has no inscription but sports a funeral helm, sitting rather ill-at-ease on the top, and a series of heraldic shields of the Milbanke family. It is most probably the tomb of Sir Mark Milbanke 1st Baronet (d.1680) or, less likely, to his son Sir Mark (d.1698) who built a large family vault in the church.
The first Sir Mark was created a Baronet on the 7th of August 1661, presumably helped by the fact that his father, Mark Milbanke, had been High Sheriff of Northumberland and had also been instrumental in the restoration of Charles II to the Throne in 1660.
If you visit the church, try tapping on the front columns. You’ll find only the inner two are for structural support; the outer two are hollow and for show only.
Sitting just inside Rutland on its northern border with Leicestershire, the village of Teigh possesses one of the most interesting churches in the county, Holy Trinity. The church tower dates from the 13th and 14th centuries but the rest of the original building was swept away in 1782 by the fourth Earl of Harborough (1719-1799). The body of the church consists of a three bay nave with no separate chancel. The pointed windows are original but the tracery in them dates from 1893.
The interior, with its pale pink walls and gently curving duck egg blue plaster ceiling, is dominated by three tiers of pews on each side. These are arranged college-wise, that is, facing each other across the body of the church with a central aisle running east to west. At the west end is a pulpit situated high up and flanked lower down by two reading desks. Framing the pulpit is a mock window painted to look like glazing bars with trees behind them.
The interior is devoid of monuments apart from two slate ledger stones on the west wall. The original 18th century font, an elegant vase of mahogany, was originally fixed to the altar rails (the fixing points are still visible). It was later moved to the interior of a pew on the north side. On my most recent visit it had disappeared; theft or conservation? Left behind is an ugly stone font of 1845 made by the incumbent of that time.
The church was probably designed by George Richardson (?-c.1813). He was originally a draughtsman in the offices of Robert and James Adam and, from 1760 to 1763, went of a Grand Tour with the latter gaining first-hand knowledge of the styles used by Adam. In his later years he published various works but was responsible for few complete buildings. The fourth Earl employed him as the designer for Stapleford church (Leicestershire) in 1783 and he exhibited the design in the same year at the Royal Academy under the title Elevation of a church building at Stapleford, in Leicestershire, for the Earl of Harborough. There is little doubt the Earl also employed him at his two other churches at Teigh and at Saxby (Leicestershire).