Barely half an hour’s drive from home we turned off the A64 Leeds to York road into Tadcaster and there’s a little sign ‘Bolton Percy’, which would be easy to miss, just after crossing the River Wharfe in the centre of town. About 3 or 4 miles down this lane and we arrived at the village of Bolton Percy. On the right as you enter the village there’s a cricket green and pavilion and soon on the left is the car park for D’Oyly’s Tea Room.
We parked up and went to explore the village. Right in the centre are the four other things we came to see –
the No-dig churchyard,
the Crown Inn
by the ancient river crossing
and the piece de resistance the fifteenth century Bolton Percy Gatehouse recently fully restored and now let as holiday accommodation by The Vivat Trust.
I first heard about the village of Bolton Percy when The Vivat Trust added the Gatehouse to its portfolio. Later I read a magazine feature in Intelligent Life about Tom Denny and the installation of the Millennium Window in All Saints Church. Any reference to English country (or other) churches always leads me to my Simon Jenkins’ ‘England’s thousand best churches‘ (All Saints was awarded one star) and a couple of years ago Nun Appleton Hall (about a mile or so from BP) turned up in another book I was reading : Michael Holroyd’s ‘A Book of Secrets: illegitimate daughters, absent fathers‘. (I checked with the waitress at D’Oyly’s) and it’s impossible to see the Hall from the road and no Rights of Way pass through the estate). Internet searches for Bolton Percy bring up D’Oyly’s and further searches for All Saints church bring up references to Roger Brook and his No-Dig Gardening in the churchyard. So, when a walking friend urged me to let her treat me to lunch or tea as a ‘thank you’ for the lifts I’ve given her (I’m always happy to have her company anyway) I suggested we might give Bolton Percy a try.
Jenkins says : “The church sits on the Yorkshire plain next to the remains of a river crossing. The gatehouse of an ancient manor lurks next door among the trees”
“The early 15th century church is big and grey, its white limestone interior darkened by age and stained glass, but saved from impenetrable gloom by some clear windows in the south aisle.”
“The Jacobean box pews are complete, with charming knobs as poppy-heads.” Currently decorated in anticipation of Harvest Festival.
“There are two pulpits, one early 17th century and one early 18th century, the former austere, the latter more flamboyant, its tester supported on an Ionic column.”
Then there are the stained glass windows : an east window with a rare depiction of the Virgin Mary as its centre piece;
the Burne-Jones for Morris and Co. Caritas window;
the Millennium window by Tom Denny inspired by Isaiah 43: “I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” The River Wharfe flows through it and an owl and a curlew are flying.
Outside and just across the road is the continuation of the churchyard. This lovely, natural space is full of wildflowers and a haven for wildlife and a peaceful resting place for Bolton Percy villagers. I’m sure it is hard work keeping it looking naturally ‘unkempt’.
It was a difficult decision as to where to take lunch but we finally chose the tea room and enjoyed a toastie followed by tea and lemon cake. All homemade and beautifully served on classic china. A perfect morning out.