St Mary's Church


Extracted and compiled from Refs 2 & 7

“A welcome to all who visit this lovely North Yorkshire village lying in a hollow below the White Horse of the Hambleton Hills. For over eight centuries our forefathers have gathered in its noble little Church, seeking after God and rendering thanks to Him for His goodness and mercy. Faithful and diligent craftsmen, each in his own time and generation, have given of their best to beautify this house of God. As you read the following pages, so ably penned by our former Vicar, Mr. Peltor, you will surely learn something of our ancient story, something that will awaken your interest and call forth your gratitude, Pray that we, in this our own day, may prove ourselves worthy of these old and legendary traditions, that we may hold aloft the burning torch of faith and zeal, ready to deliver it to those who follow after that they in turn may hand it on to generations yet unborn.”

John H.B. Douglas, Vicar (1960 - 1989)

This lovely old stone-built Church is considered a "Norman" building. Whatever building may have existed earlier, the present church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Kilburn appears to have been built 1120-30 and enlarged 1170-80.

To the original Norman structure the Church Tower was added in 1667. There are three bells in the tower (1925), and one of the two original founded by S. Smith at York in 1684 lies silent on the floor of the north aisle. The Church was "restored" in 1818, when the Chancel was shortened, and in 1868 when no doubt some old narrow Norman windows were swept away. The East Window (1880) is in memory of the first Vicar, as are the three Bells in the Tower.

Norman ornamentation is seen in the arch of the South Doorway, and the Chancel Arch, both of which have two rows of chevron and a billet hood. The Lion on the south of the arch may be a reference to the Lion on the arms of de Mowbray ; the angel's head on the north of the arch may be a "restoration."

The Porch has had a Crucifix (now defaced) and a Sundial date 17. ...with the words "Certa ratio" which may be freely translated "The right time". 

At the base of the tower there is a fine Iron Chest, made in Kilburn in 1854; it contains the Registers dating from 1575 (the universal keeping of parish registers was ordered in 1538), Church-wardens Accounts (1759-1900), the Inclosure Award (1829), the Tithe Award (1847), and many other interesting parish records.

The North Aisle dates from 1170-80, the line of the earlier North wall being marked by the fine Pillars (6 ft. (1.85m) in circumference). The Chapel of St. Thomas was doubtless in honour of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered in his cathedral in 1170, and became a most popular saint. A Brass in the floor commemorates a curate who died 1721/2. Nearby are two fine grave slabs attributed to the late 13th century. The one with a pastoral staff was probably made for an abbot of Byland or a prior of Newburgh; the other, a very rare type, shows the shield with round boss and the long-shafted "Martel" or fighting hammer of a "Champion". An ecclesiastic was not supposed to shed blood, so he employed a Champion to take his place in "trial by combat," a Norman method of settling a case in dispute. It is suggested that our Champion fought for the abbot or prior above mentioned. (The Brass of Bishop Wyvil in Salisbury Cathedral, 1375, shows his Champion, clothed in white leather and holding a similar shield and hammer.)

The Church contains many other items of interest including the following : A mediaeval screen and mediaeval window from St. Thomas' Chapel at the side of the Priest's Door in the south wall of the Chancel. There are also two ancient lancet windows in the wall of St. Thomas' Chapel. This Chapel was probably dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, It was refurnished in 1958 in oak in memory of Robert Thompson, who specialised in ecclesiastical oak woodwork, and signed his work with a church mouse. There is a good deal of Robert Thompson's work in the Church, including a faldstool in the Chancel. The pews in the nave are from his workshop, given in 1970 and 1971 by various local families, and three by public subscription. One of these is inscribed "Visitors to Kilburn"; and visitors to the Church have contributed towards its cost. Another recalls a great christian of this twentieth century, John Leonard Wilson, sometime Bishop of Singapore and tortured by the Japanese in World War Two. He also visited the Church and found peace within its walls.

The pews in the north aisle, with their candle holders, are Elizabethan or 17th century.

A photograph of the Doomsday Book record of Kilburn, together with a translation, is on the west wall. The village has not changed much in size since that time—a mile long and half a mile wide. The Parish, of course, is much larger : it includes Oldstead, the "old stead" of the monks before they built Byland Abbey.

A Breeches Bible of 1601 is in a showcase made in Robert Thompson's workshop.

The Font Cover came from the demolished St. Edmund's Church, Gateshead, where the Rev. John Douglas was Vicar 1955-60. It was made by Martin Dutton, who signed his work with a lizard, and who was formerly apprenticed to Robert Thompson.

The church possesses a silver Chalice Cup made by W. Busfield of York in 1695.

The Church, though ancient, is therefore seen not as a thing of the past, a relic of long-distant ages, but as part of a long tradition of local craftsmanship and piety continuing to the present day, a House in daily use for nine-hundred years.

For more details on clergy and history see sections in Folklore, Facts & Figures.


Please note that the church is open every day for private prayer.  

Ali Miles, 

Churchwarden & Safeguarding Officer

St Mary's Church, Kilburn

Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust

Helping Churches Most in Need

Yorkshire is famed for its heritage, and is home to over 2500 places of worship. From tiny chapels and village churches, to commanding Minsters, these magnificent and much loved buildings define our landscape, bring together communities and demonstrate beautiful craftsmanship.

They offer congregations a welcoming, warm and friendly place to worship, host a wide range of social groups and offer facilities for local communities across the region.

However many are really struggling to meet their ongoing maintenance and repair costs.

The Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust was set up in 1988, with the aim to help repair, preserve and maintain these magnificent buildings.  

The Trust relies on the generosity of Friends, donors, other supporters to help with this never-ending task.

As the cost of materials and labour continues to increase, we need your help more than ever to ensure we can continue to help care and maintain places of worship like yours so that they can remain a centre of local life and a reminder of our great Christian heritage.

By becoming a Friend, or making a donation, you can help us to fund urgent repairs to churches just like yours, and to ensure they can continue to offer a welcoming place to worship. You will also be joining a group of people who share your love of Yorkshire’s churches.

Membership is just £35 per year for an individual and £50 for places of worship and Friends enjoy a wide range of benefits, including invites to a variety of church tours, online lectures, social events, and copies of our newsletters. 

Friends of the Trust, Paul and Anne McLean, explain: “We have been Friends of the YHCT since 2019 and have enjoyed many tours, most recently taking in the 13th century chapel at Hazelwood Castle, St Mary's at Tadcaster and the 'Cathedral of Ainsty' - All Saints at Bolton Percy. We have also tuned in to the fascinating online lectures that the Trust have put on, from a study of post reformation monastic remains found in Yorkshire Parish churches to a study of the medieval wall paintings of Pickering Church. We are pleased to be able to do our bit to help support Yorkshire's churches, ensuring they stay at the heart of local communities for years to come.”

For details of how to join or donate, visit our website at or contact Vanessa White on Tel: 07786 656883 , email .

Vanessa White

YHCT Administrator

07786 656883

Link to the Diocese of York Fortnightly Newsletter - this includes lots of information on the Diocese activities and inspirational study/prayer materials


If you would like to make a donation to support the Maintenance and Mission of our historic church and churchyard please just scan the following QR code and follow the instructions.

We are extremely grateful for all donations and gifts and will ensure that they are used to offset operating expenses.

Keith Lewis


St Mary's Church, Kilburn

Online ServiceS

If you are looking for a local inspiring on-line service check-out the St. Oswalds, Sowerby zoom services at 10.30pm on most Sundays.  Here is the link.

Church Calendar

Saints Alive Online (5-Parish Magazine)

May Edition

50. May 2024 Saints-Alive.pdf

All On-line Editions


Church Warden & *Safeguarding Officer:  Ali Miles Tel: 01347 868278

Treasurer: Keith Lewis Tel: 07852 127274

**If you have any Parish safeguarding concerns please contact Ali on 07402 564642.  Confidentiality assured.

St Mary's Church, Kilburn - Norman Arch

St Mary's Church, Kilburn