Horses at Holy Trinity

The curate of Holy Trinity in Skipton recently pointed out to me the evidence of horses stabling within that church. Spaces for bolts which had been hammered into the pillars that tethers might be attached are clearly seen, having been filled in with cement. I knew such happened at Gisburn Church on 15th August 1648 when Oliver Cromwell was marching on Preston; it was he who presumably arranged for similar provision on the 14th when he stayed at Skipton with General Lambert.

Some years ago I considered why this great puritan army would have housed their steeds in churches. I concluded it was their low estimation of ecclesiastical buildings’ sanctity, the shortage of stabling and their dependence upon, and sincere appreciation for, their horses. I would have left those attachments in situ as an historical reminder of that unusual period in our history. Yet for the locals who witnessed such a spectacle, it was a shameful episode, a converting of God’s house into a common agricultural outbuilding, akin to an inn’s outhouse. Indeed, there are potential uses of our own chapel at which I would blanch. Yet it is our bodies which are God’s dwelling on the earth, not buildings and edifices of stone. The carnal uses to which our bodies are subjected, the foul language our ears must hear, the unpleasant sights our eyes behold - these are far greater desecrations of God’s temple than anything Cromwell’s band of soldiery oversaw at Skipton and Gisburn.

He who has a deceitful heart finds no good, And he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil. Proverbs 17:20