Israel In the Dells
From the geographical point of view it is true to say that many Christian Israelites look to the South-west of England, and to Glastonbury and its traditions, when considering the evidence for their beliefs.
The purpose of this article is to draw the reader’s attention much further north, to the Yorkshire Dales, and in particular to the pretty little village of Giggleswick, near Settle. It is so old that its origins are lost in the mists of time, but it is thought that “Gigel” was the name of a Scandinavian chieftain, and “Wic” certainly means village.
The village church is dedicated to St. Alkelda, and while The village church is dedicated to St. Alkelda, and while legend describes her as a Saxon Christian, strangled for her faith by the Danes, the name in old English would have been “Haeligkeld,” a reference to the local well, which ebbs and flows.
There is much to interest the visitor, including two drums and a base fiddle, which were used in the days before the church had an organ. However, attention will be focused first on the pulpit and the reading desk alongside it. The latter was once the base of the pulpit, making it three storeys high, the top section being a canopy or sounding board to amplify the preacher’s voice.
Looking at the panels of the pulpit itself one will see there the carved emblems of the twelve tribes of Israel, while on the front of the desk are inscribed words which, when translated into modern English, read: “Here are the standards of the Israelites when they came out against the Canaanites.”
The pulpit is Jacobean, dating from 1680, and on the back panel are the initials (G.W.) of George Winship, who was the vicar at the time, and surely an early Christian Israelite.
There is something even more significant to be seen on the north wall of the church, almost opposite the entrance doors. Here the visitor will find a large painted wooden panel in the form of a square of about six foot wide, surmounted by a slightly smaller triangle. On this panel is the Royal Coat of Arms, dating back to 1716, and incorporating the White Horse of Hanover, thus showing the loyalty to George I after the Jacobite rebellions of 1715. And, behold, round three sides of the triangle above are displayed again the twelve emblems of the tribes of Israel, thus linking them with the Royal House of Britain!
In incorporating these on the same panel the artist was surely demonstrating the awareness, in those days, of the origins of our people. It must indeed be rare to find in a small Parish Church, two such powerful connections with our Identity. Who knows what else may lie, as yet undiscovered, in other churches across this green and pleasant land of ours.
-- John F. Battersby
Hope of Israel
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.