After we picked up our narrowboat we set off westward along the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. Our first stop was at Kildwick in the area known as Craven in Yorkshire. During the 1970s I sang in the choir of the parish church here with my grandparents and I had not been back since they left when I was 11 years old. It was exactly as I remembered it and I felt a very strong sense of nostalgia.
The original Saxon church at Kildwick dated back to the 10th century. It had a heavy oak-timbered roof thatched with straw overlaid with turf and a very broad low tower. Some of the stone from the Saxon churchyard cross was found embedded in the wall of the current church chancel in the early 20th century. The rest of this early church has vanished, replaced by a medieval building that is very beautiful. In the same period the earliest bridge over the River Aire was built at Kildwick, costing £21.12.09. The box pews or ‘close pues’ or ‘privey closets’ as they were called in the 17th century with doors that closed to hide you inside, were apparently introduced by the Puritans so that no one would see them disobeying the rules of the Anglican service. The picture here isn't of box pews at Kildwick, which were removed, but this is what they looked like.
Several other things that I noticed about the church which had escaped me as a child were the very fine clock on the tower, dated 1828, with the rather poignant inscription "redeem the time" and the little bridge taking a path over the canal and directly into the graveyard. This was apparently the original private entrance to the church for the village squire from Kildwick Hall. I imagine that it might be rather spooky seeing a funeral party taking a coffin over that bridge but on the sunny day that we were there nothing could have seemed less sinister. We met a charming American tourist taking photographs in the churchyard and agreed what a very beautiful place it was.
We moored for the night near Kildwick Hall and I got a good look at the house the following day when we went for a walk on the moors above Kildwick. Built in 1642, it is old-fashioned in design, harking back to the Elizabethan style with its gables and mullion windows. During the period in which the Brontë sisters were writing the Currer family lived here and when Charlotte Brontë sought a masculine nom de plume she chose the pseudonym of Currer Bell. In another literary parallel, the arms of the squires of Haworth are impaled by those of Currer over the front door at Kildwick. Just as at Heathcliff’s house in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, one step then takes you into the great hall. Miss Frances Currer (1785-1861) who was known as a scholar and collector of books lived at Kildwick Hall at that time and may have been known to the Bronte family. In 1920 the hall was also used as the setting for Thrushcross Grange in the silent movie version of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.