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Anna Madeley, Callum Woodhouse, Nicholas Ralph, Rachel Shenton and Samuel West in All Creatures Great and Small © Channel 5

Proposed changes to All Creatures Great and Small church has locals 'up in arms'

The historic 15th century church featured in the popular TV series 

Millie Jackson
Freelance Writer
June 1, 2024
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Locals in the village of Askrigg in the Yorkshire Dales have reacted angrily to proposed renovation plans for the tower of St Oswald's Church, which has experienced damaging damp problems in recent years. 

The Grade I listed building was featured in the 1970s BBC series All Creatures Great and Small, the predecessor to the much-loved series of the same name on Channel 5. It played a key part in the fictional village of Darrowby. 

All Creatures Great And Small: Christopher Timothy,  Robert Hardy,  Peter Davison© Moviestore/Shutterstock
All Creatures Great And Small originally features Christopher Timothy Robert Hardy and Peter Davison

What's happening to the church? 

To combat the damp, developers, the Anglican Diocese of Leeds and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority have proposed protecting the tower with a white limewash, which would make the tower white in colour. According to The Yorkshire Lime Company, limewash "offers a permeable barrier that allows water vapour to escape. Limewash prevents rot in structural timbers and erosion to the masonry, which might occur due to trapped moisture or severe weathering". 

Why is this a problem? 

The local campaigners against the project asked local artist Steven Harrington to render what the church would look like, which was obtained by the Northern Echo, with the proposed changes, and this image shows the church tower standing out in stark opposition to the rest of the building. 

The picturesque church sits on a hill© Getty
The picturesque church sits on a hill

What is the local response? 

Local resident Val Halton told the Northern Echo: “Our church tower is damp and needs substantial work to make it watertight. There have been several remedies proposed and a lot of discussions between the church and experts, the public have been excluded,” he claimed. 

“A public meeting was held about three weeks ago to tell the local community what was going to happen – it was a done deal. There was no public consultation – our church tower was going to be rendered white. The experts admitted the rendering was a ‘first’ and no one could say if it would work. Builders had proposed other options, but these were ignored. 

The original actors on set in 1989© Tim Roney
The original actors on set in 1989

Val also expressed concern about the impact the proposed changes might have on tourism: “Many people will have visited the area for holidays and we are sure they will be as horrified as we are. It will look like an eyesore. The scaffolding has already gone up. The village is distraught.” 

A petition, currently signed by over 430 people, was started by local resident Emma Brooke, whose husband Peter Brooke previously told The Church Times the local community was "appalled at what is viewed as an act of desecration that will blight not only the church, but the whole village”, and suggested that it would be like the church was a lighthouse in the middle of the dale. 

Askrigg is a picturesque and rual village© Epics
Askrigg is a picturesque and rual village

What has the church said? 

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Leeds has addressed the public opposition: “Changes which affect the appearance of a Grade I listed church are not permitted easily, so the case for the need to protect the building from water ingress and damage resulting from its exposed position was very carefully weighed before permission was given.  

“Information regarding the historic development of this specific church was also taken into account, specifically the physical and documentary evidence suggesting that the tower would have been rendered before the 19th century.” 

A public consultation also took place in 2019. It is not known whether the local response will be enough to reverse the decision. 

WATCH: Have you seen the dramatic Christmas special?

Will All Creatures Great and Small be coming back? 

The popular show has been renewed for two further seasons, leaving us all excited to find out what comes next for the residents of Skeldale Hall. 

Channel 5 has said that the upcoming series will "continue to bring the stories of James Herriot to life as we return to Darrowby to rejoin our unconventional much loved Skeldale Family and the colourful ensemble of farmers, animals and townsfolk living in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1940s." 

Following the Christmas special which saw Helen Herriot, played by Rachel Shenton, give birth to a beautiful baby son, named after his father James, we expect to see more of Helen navigating life as a new mum. A behind-the-scenes photo showed Rachel pushing a pram through Darrowby, notably alone as we expect husband James to be at the RAF training base at Brize Norton, miles away from his family. 

Rachel Shenton pushing baby pram©
Rachel Shenton reprises her role as Helen Alderson during 'All Creatures Great and Small' season 5 filming

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