The Church of St Mary Magdalene

The Church of St Mary Magdalene

The Church of St Mary Magdalene opened on the 25th May 1857.  It was built as a Chapel of Ease to the Parish Church in Harewood nearly three miles away.  The distance from the nearest church had been addressed at least twice before.  A Parliamentary survey of Parishes in 1649 recommended that East Keswick become part of Bardsey Parish on the grounds that it was closer but this change was not to come about for over 300 years. In 1739 the philanthropist Lady Elizabeth Hastings bequeathed a tithe of £50 per annum on condition a church was erected in East Keswick. It is not known why this came to nothing.

In 1676 there were reported to be 95 communicants from East Keswick in Harewood Parish. At the same time records show there were a few Quaker families in the village and they had their own burial ground from 1689 – 1794.  Methodists met first in private houses until a chapel was built in 1792.

In the 1850’s subscriptions were raised for a church in Moor Lane.The land was donated by the 3rd Earl of Harewood and plans drawn up by Mallinson and Healey, a firm of ecclesiastical architects from Bradford. Work started in 1856, using stone from Vicar's Whin, a nearby quarry.  It was not until 1861 that the church  and churchyard were consecrated  allowing burials to take place.  By 1873 a resident curate was installed in what is now ‘The Old Parsonage’  and finally in 1899 a licence was granted for marriages to take place at St Mary Magdalene.   

The original church interior with its timber beamed chancel roof and plaster walls is still recognisable. Early photographs show some ornamentation round the windows which began as plain glass.  In 1890 the east window was replaced with colourful depictions from the life of St Mary Magdalene.Other stained glass was added later.  On the north side of the nave a window portrays St Michael defeating the devil in the form of a dragon on the left side, and St George slaying the dragon on the right.  Opposite on the south side of the nave, the window shows the Sower and the Reaper and there are two smaller stained glass windows in the chancel. 

The two bells hung in 1859 needed replacing in the 1930’s. There were plans to replace them with six bells, but only three were actually installed in October 1933.  Music was provided at first by a harmonium, but an organ fund was started in 1894 and the organ installed two years later.

The lych-gate was erected as a war memorial in 1921 and another roll is displayed in the chancel giving names of all those from the village who served.

In 1934 a new vestry was built and it was found necessary to extend the Churchyard in 1946. In the 1950’s a major refurbishment began with the purchase of altar rails from Thompson's of Kilburn and over the next 20 years pews and other furniture were replaced from the same workshop, most bearing the trademark  ‘mouse’ carving.

In the late 1980s, the church was again refurbished.  A new modern lighting system was installed, the hanging lights being replaced by spotlights and the organ was completely overhauled,

When the Parish Church in Harewood closed  for worship in 1978, St Mary Magdalene formally became part of Bardsey Parish, having been under the care of  the Vicar there for four years. The 150th anniversary of the church in East Keswick was celebrated with a festival weekend in May 2007.

Further information on the history of the church and its records is available from the Local History Group:localhistorygroup@eastkeswick.org.uk