Just an hour’s drive from Leeds, Coxwold is one of the prettiest villages in North Yorkshire. It has a lovely tearoom, The Coxwold Tearooms :
an attractive and popular pub, The Fauconberg Arms
and an impressive church, Saint Michael’s.
It was also home to one of the most intriguing authors of the eighteenth century – Laurence Sterne. Born of an anglo-Irish family in Clonmel in County Tipperary in 1713 Sterne was educated in Yorkshire and at Cambridge and was ordained as a Church of England clergyman in 1738. He held two Yorkshire livings before being appointed to Coxwold by Lord Fauconberg. Apart from travels in Europe and visits to London Sterne spent the rest of his life here. He died in London in 1768.
Sterne was the author of two famous books. At least they were very well known and popular during his lifetime and after but generally he is much less well known today. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and A Sentimental Journey. Shandy Hall, his former home in Coxwold, is run by the Laurence Sterne Trust and is open to groups by appointment throughout the year and to the general public on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons during the summer. The gardens – which include one acre of woodland – are open every day except Saturday during the same summer season.
As eccentric as Sterne himself the house is a delight to visit. There’s an introduction by the resident curator – a true Sterne enthusiast who, by the way, will be promoting Sterne at the forthcoming Ilkley Literature Festival
and is also organising a visit to Shandy Hall from Ilkley.
The 2005 film A Cock and Bull Story starring Rob Brydon, Jeremy Northam and Steve Coogan demonstrates just how unfilmable the novel is :
Shandy Hall and garden.