St. Botolph’s Church, Carlton-in-Cleveland

I am not religious. In fact, the older I get, the more cynical I become. But I do respect churches.  Like any other old buildings, they have a direct connection with the past, many having stood for centuries. A connection to the average folk of the community, not the upper echelons.

St. Botolph’s Church in the village of Carlton-in-Cleveland on the edge of the North York Moors is not that old, built 1896/7 by Temple Moore, one of the leading architects of Gothic Revival churches of his day1Pevsner, Nikolaus. “The Buildings of England: Yorkshire The North Riding”. Penguin Books ISBN 0 14 071009 9. 1985. Page 103..

But it has a fascinating and somewhat ignominious history. It was actually the third church on the site in as many decades.

The story opens in the 1870s. John Walker Ord, the Cleveland historian, is reported later as viewing the old church with:

… the greatest contempt. It was, he said, “a singular and extraordinary structure, the steeple like a Norman tower, the nave and chancel little better than a shepherd’s hut.” The church ultimately got into such a dilapidated state as to render temporary repair impossible. Indeed for some years the little edifice showed signs of tumbling about the heads of an assembled congregation, and at comparatively recent date the vicar and congregation had to bail the water out of the church instead of morning service, the water being nearly ankle deep in the aisle. The roof, in fact, was little better than a sieve; and, as the floor of the church was two feet lower than the external ground, there was no alternative but to allow the water which so copiously found its way into the building to soak through the flooring. It was at length found that to repair the tottering fabric was useless—in fact, no builder could be found who would venture his life upon the rickety old roof2“THE BURNING OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” York Herald, 21 Oct. 1881, p. 6. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211223137/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=796d6eac. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021..

The old church had to be almost entirely demolished and in 1879, newly-restored it was re-opened. The vicar, Rev. George Sanger, was instrumental in the rebuild: designing, fundraising and actually involved with the manual work himself3Mead Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 1174“RE-OPENING OF CARLTON CHURCH, CLEVELAND.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 14 Mar. 1879, p. 3. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211393840/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=968acd06. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021..

Sanger had been the vicar at Carlton since 1865. Before that he was a curate at Stokesley and in his early days was a Wesleyan Methodist. So he was on the face of it much respected in the neighbourhood5“THE BURNING OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” York Herald, 21 Oct. 1881, p. 6. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211223137/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=796d6eac. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021..

Just three years later, on the 20th October 1881, it was reported that the church had been entirely destroyed by fire including the parish registers. Furthermore, the vicar had been sent threatening letters and the fire was believed to be the work of an incendiary device6“A CHURCH DESTROYED BY FIRE.” Sheffield Independent, 20 Oct. 1881, p. ft. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3214177724/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=e081fbde. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021..

The first letter was treated as a joke and the Rev. Sanger, after showing it to “Miss Kingston and Miss Brush, two young ladies staying with him,” burnt it. A week later, his greenhouse was broken into and all his plants destroyed. He still did not take the situation seriously until he was woken up with the news that the church was on fire. By the time the fire engine had arrived from Stokesley, the whole building had been gutted, the roof had fell in with the steel bells and the iron safe containing the parish registers had become red hot that all the contents had been destroyed7“THE BURNING OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” York Herald, 21 Oct. 1881, p. 6. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211223137/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=796d6eac. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.. The next day the vicar received another letter:

“To the Rev. George Sanger. This is to give you notice, you beggar parson, that if you are not out of this place soon we will beggar you. We will make you rue the day you came to Carlton and entered on your wretched new improvements. We will worry and tease you to death, and if that won’t do we won’t stop at putting a bullet into you.”8“THE BURNING OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” York Herald, 21 Oct. 1881, p. 6. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211223137/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=796d6eac. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

All must not have been what it seems because in December, the Rev. George Sanger was charged to appear before the Stokesley magistrates with setting fire to his church and remanded until 5th January9“Charge against a Clergyman.” Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 29 Dec. 1881, p. 5. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/ID3230398938/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=28cc9111. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.. The main evidence was the word of a 13-year old boy who said he had seen the vicar leaving the church with a basket containing a bottle of paraffin oil, a principle form of lighting in those times. Other witnesses claimed Sangar had spoken “jocularly” at the seen of the fire10Mead Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 118..

In February, at the Guisborough County Court, Sanger (then living in London) was sued by a Mr. McPhail, a clerk in holy orders, for the sum of £6 6s for clerical duties performed during the period when Sanger was in London and in custody. The matter was settled out of court11“THE BURNING OF CARLTON CHURCH.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 17 Feb. 1882. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3208242607/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=081e7b3f. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.. The plot thickens.

By April 1882, the charges against the Sanger had been dropped but he had been charged with offences against the Ecclesiastical law and brought before the Archbishop of York for judgment. In accordance with the Church Discipline Act, he consented that his sentence should be passed without further proceedings being taken, and was suspended as a vicar ab officio er beneficio for a term of five years12“Sentence On A Clergyman.-The Rev. George.” Times, 15 Apr. 1882, p. 8. The Times Digital Archive, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/CS135053967/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=b8aa230f. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021..  A trumped up charge surely.

Sangar wrote to his parishioners:

May 22nd, 1882.— To my Parishioners of Carlton -in-Cleveland. — In leaving you, because of the unprecedented and, as I deem, malicious sentence of five years’ suspension and deprivation (deprivation, also, of all means of obtaining a livelihood), for a presumable offence against the Laws Ecclesiastical, in justice to myself I must observe that during a period of sixteen years I can safely challenge anyone to bring forward any act or word of mine which could, by any possibility, be construed into unkindness, whilst my work has been without parallel in the Church of England for the last three centuries. My labour of sixteen years appears to have been in vain, but I hope others who come after me will gather in the harvest. May I hope, also, that you will not allow the church to remain in ruins (a standing disgrace to the village), but that you will rebuild it during the five years. Money is not wanting in the parish when one parishioner can boast of being able to command £70,000; the united income of the wealthy landowners being not much less than one million a year. Fourteen landowners did not subscribe at all to the building I erected, and the amount subscribed by yourselves was only £28. This time you will not require any external assistance, for if you rebuild the church yourselves no doubt it will then be valued sufficiently to ensure its safety. By the appointment of my successor from an adjoining parish it is evident that the Archbishop is afraid to appoint a licensed curate-in-charge, the only legal mode of supplying my place. I sincerely hope the parish may acquire a better name than Vandal Carlton. I earnestly recommend to your serious consideration the warning of the Apostle St. Paul— “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” — George Sangar, Vicar13“THE VICAR OF CARLTON AND HIS PARISHIONERS.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 24 May 1882, p. 4. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3208571508/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=b8a0b03e. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021..

Fast forward five years and, with his exile served, the Rev. George Sangar made a triumphant return to the village. Well, not quite triumphant. He found the “parochial school closed against him” but indefatigably he recommenced his services in the ruins of his church promising his parishioners he would  restore it14“RETURN OF THE VICAR OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND.” York Herald, 4 June 1887, p. 4. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211297780/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=0e16a999. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021..

Sadly, George Sangar did not live to see his church rebuilt. That fell to his successor, Canon John Latimer Kyle who became the vicar in 1894 at a time when parish morale was at an all time low. The church was still in ruins but Kyle inspired the village to rebuild it.  Canon Kyle was also a farmer, a huntsman, and took over the village pub15Mead Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 117. 16“CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 16 Aug. 1895. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3208258728/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=2e713631. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021..

In a parish magazine, Kyle hinted at the feeling in the village at the time of the fire: ‘Great dissatisfaction was often expressed that when the church was rebuilt in 1880 the parishioners were not consulted’17Mead Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 119..

A week before his death in 1894, the Rev. George Sangar had the final word:

‘Let us all look upon the past to gather wisdom for future steps, regarding our neighbour’s feeling as our own. “Put yourself in his place” is not a bad motto when tempted to say an unkind word to someone. You may lose, perhaps, a little momentary gratification of revenge, but the sunshine afterwards in your own heart will be – well, try it, it can’t be described.’18“A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 119.

He is buried in St. Botolph’s churchyard in an unmarked grave19Mead, Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 119..

This story has left me so frustrated. There must be much more to discover but the evening draws in. Intriguingly, between Sangar’s arrest and his court appearance he and Miss Kingston (remember her) became engaged20Mead, Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 118.. Make of that what you will.

  • 1
    Pevsner, Nikolaus. “The Buildings of England: Yorkshire The North Riding”. Penguin Books ISBN 0 14 071009 9. 1985. Page 103.
  • 2
    “THE BURNING OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” York Herald, 21 Oct. 1881, p. 6. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211223137/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=796d6eac. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 3
    Mead Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 117
  • 4
    “RE-OPENING OF CARLTON CHURCH, CLEVELAND.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 14 Mar. 1879, p. 3. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211393840/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=968acd06. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 5
    “THE BURNING OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” York Herald, 21 Oct. 1881, p. 6. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211223137/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=796d6eac. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 6
    “A CHURCH DESTROYED BY FIRE.” Sheffield Independent, 20 Oct. 1881, p. ft. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3214177724/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=e081fbde. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 7
    “THE BURNING OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” York Herald, 21 Oct. 1881, p. 6. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211223137/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=796d6eac. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 8
    “THE BURNING OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” York Herald, 21 Oct. 1881, p. 6. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211223137/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=796d6eac. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 9
    “Charge against a Clergyman.” Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 29 Dec. 1881, p. 5. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/ID3230398938/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=28cc9111. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 10
    Mead Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 118.
  • 11
    “THE BURNING OF CARLTON CHURCH.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 17 Feb. 1882. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3208242607/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=081e7b3f. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 12
    “Sentence On A Clergyman.-The Rev. George.” Times, 15 Apr. 1882, p. 8. The Times Digital Archive, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/CS135053967/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=b8aa230f. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 13
    “THE VICAR OF CARLTON AND HIS PARISHIONERS.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 24 May 1882, p. 4. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3208571508/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=b8a0b03e. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 14
    “RETURN OF THE VICAR OF CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND.” York Herald, 4 June 1887, p. 4. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211297780/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=0e16a999. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 15
    Mead Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 117.
  • 16
    “CARLTON-IN-CLEVELAND CHURCH.” Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, 16 Aug. 1895. British Library Newspapers, link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3208258728/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=2e713631. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.
  • 17
    Mead Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 119.
  • 18
    “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 119.
  • 19
    Mead, Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 119.
  • 20
    Mead, Harry. “A Prospect of the North York Moors”. Hutton Press. 2000. ISBN 1 902709 10 1. page 118.

6 Replies to “St. Botolph’s Church, Carlton-in-Cleveland”

  1. What a fascinating story! It raises so many questions … did the Revd. commit arson against his own church? Was the 13-year-old boy primed to testify against him? Did George Sangar and Miss Kingston marry – and do they have any descendants? And community unrest against an unwelcome development imposed on them without consultation … now then, whoever heard of such a thing!!

  2. Good story Mick
    Ref the pub owning vicar, my mum holidayed in Carlton as a child and recalled the vicar opening the pub when the service was over

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