Helmsley: Temple Moore, Vicar Gray and Lord Feversham

Temple Moore, Vicar Gray and Lord Feversham

Temple Moore’s connection to Helmsley arose from the fact that George Gilbert Scott Jr, to whom Moore was pupil and assistant, had been at Eton with the Revd Charles Norris Gray (1841-1913) — who arrived in the town in 1870 as its new vicar, shortly after the rebuilding of the parish church of All Saints under the supervision of Sir Charles Barry.

An early scheme to rebuild Rievaulx Abbey to George Gilbert Scott Sr’s designs, which would have cost £30,000, came to nought, but Lord Feversham paid the bills for an extensive series of smaller projects. The first commission for Scott Jr and Moore was to turn the chapel of ease at Pockley (described as ‘barn-like’) into the fine small church of St John the Baptist in 1876-8, at a cost of £1,543. 

Next, in 1879, they supervised the moving of a small 17th Century chapel from West Newton Grange (a settlement whose population had dwindled) to become St Chad’s Sproxton, opposite the ‘Nelson Gate’ of Lord Feversham’s seat, Duncombe Park. Moore was by now taking over from Scott, who was descending into mental illness, and designed many of the furnishings for the rebuilt church. These were largely made by local craftsmen, though (as in All Saints Helmsley) Gray also brought in carvings from Oberammergau in Germany.   

In the remote hamlet of East Moors, a design for the tiny church of St Mary Magdalene by Scott was completed by Moore in 1881-2 — his own half-timbered design having been set aside. Moore later added the font, reredos and panelling between the nave and the south aisle — where the curate would sleep the night in a hammock when despatched by Gray from the town to take services — and was responsible for the nearby school and its master’s house in 1888-9.

Sir John Betjeman would later write of East Moors church:

 For there's something in the painted roof
And the mouldings round the door,
The braw bench and the plain font
That tells o' Temple Moore.

To which the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner added, ‘the young architect obviously enjoyed this job thoroughly, and his pleasure is still infectious.’

Scott Jr having been declared insane (he subsequently recovered, but moved to France and died of drink) Moore was commissioned in his own right in 1885-6 to build St Aidan’s church at Carlton, noted for its simple Early English detailing.

There were more hamlet churches to come. In 1894-96, Gray and Feversham commissioned St John’s Bilsdale Midcable (‘midcable’ being a contraction of ‘middle chapel’, the chapel sitting in the middle of this wild and remote dale), where Moore proposed his own brother-in-law Revd Bernard Wilton as the first incumbent , and went on to design a vicarage for him (1898-9).

In Rievaulx, the old Gate or Slipper Chapel of the ruined abbey, dating from the 13th century, was handsomely restored as St Mary’s church in 1907, with the addition of a chancel and a small steeple. And in 1907-9, a little further away but still on Feversham land, Moore restored both St Mary’s Farndale East Side and the very ancient St Gregory’s Minster at Kirkdale

Meanwhile the architect undertook numerous projects for both Gray and Feversham in Helmsley itself, including the refurnishing of the chancel in All Saints and the deisgn of a new font. Most importantly, Gray entrusted him with the remodelling of Canon’s Garth, the medieval clergy house behind All Saints which had fallen into delapidation.

In 1889, Feversham gave this property to Gray as trustee on behalf of the parish, and Moore was set to work overseeing a complete refurbishment with the addition of a lean-to kitchen extension on the east side; also installed were a stone fireplace salvaged from Helmsley Castle, and floor tiles in the chapel from the ruins of Rievaulx. The house was ceremonially reopened by the Archbishop of York, and came to be run as a sanatorium by nuns from the nursing order of the Holy Rood. 

Feversham did not give Moore the whole commission to restore the fire-damaged mansion of Duncombe Park in the early 1890s, but he did ask him to restore and refurnish the small chapel in its north wing — and to design the very handsome Court House and Market Hall (now the Town Hall) that dominates the Market Place and houses the public library. Completed for £3,465, it was opened by the Duke of York, later King George V, in 1902. 

Moore even had a hand in Gray’s historic pageant in the Castle for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, which attracted 3,000 spectators; the parish magazine records that ‘the dresses were copied from drawings of the period, kindly obtained by Mr Temple Moore from the South Kensington Museum.’

And in 1899-1900, for £2,754, he build a substantial new vicarage for Gray; the house — in a restrained style which refers back to the early 1700s — is now the headquarters of the North York Moors National Park on Bondgate.

Also of note in the locality is Moore’s conversion and extension (in a ‘rather mannered style’ with a ‘quirky pediment’, according to Moore’s biographer) of Ravenswyke, a Georgian house near Kirkbymoorside, for his friend Harrison Holt.    

And in the last two years of his life, 1918-20, Moore returned to the district to design a number of war memorial crosses: in Coxwold, Kirkbymoorside, Malton, Brandsby as well as Helmsley.

Martin Vander Weyer 2012