The very ancient parish of Sneaton lies about two miles almost due south of Whitby. It’s just south of Ruswarp too, lying to the east of the B1416 road to Whitby. Although Sneaton is a small village, it certainly isn’t without interest and history.
Turn off the B1416 Sneaton lane at Sneaton Hall, seen to your left on the corner, and park in the vicinity by the roadside as convenient.
Walk slowly eastwards along Beacon Lane, observing a variety of properties and interesting hedge topiary to the right. Seek a post box to the left, and immediately beyond is a sign: ‘To the Old Vicarage’. Passing the old chapel, reach a wrought-iron gate between stone walling to access the walkway to the church. (Observe the step-stile to the right).
A fine, paved and fenced footpath, beyond a line of mature trees, leads directly to the church across the graveyard. There have been three known churches at Sneaton. In 1132 Sneaton Church was still dependent on the abbey. This present building, the third, is dedicated to St Hilda. It was erected by James Wilson in 1825. He took down the old church and rebuilt this one on the same site, but considerably enlarged.
Look over the porch to find a shield of the arms of Wilson, a crest, apparently a camel’s head.
The lovely spire contains three bells. They were removed and recast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and rehung in 1983.
Entering this homely, well-cared for church, see to your left the font. Here is a real treasure. It dates from 1108 and consists of a great block of stone hewn by the Normans. You’ll see a pillar at each corner, and carved on the sides are zig-zag patterns on two sides, while the other two sides have four rows composed of circles enclosing crosses. The whorls are believed to be symbolic of ammonites, the Arms of Whitby. This treasure was very nearly lost. At the re-building it was cast aside. Fortunately, the late Thomas Chapman retrieved it from a garden and had it placed in the new church in memory of bygone days.
Admire the handsome lectern, which is a pillared canopy of St Hilda with a book and a crook.
The small pulpit is beautifully carved. Don’t miss the mighty chest below, again with meticulous carving.
This church is inspirational. As the sun burst through thunder clouds, it illuminated the millennium window depicting ‘The Song of Caedmon’. He was a farm worker at the abbey in Whitby, and received a heavenly message, delivered as a song or poem.
The five symbols at the apex of the window are: At the top – the sun and moon relate to the creation of the universe. The main lancets show 1) a bird symbolising air and sky; 2) an opening flower representing the earth itself; 3) a fish, symbol of the oceans and seas.
All the glass is mouth-blown antique glass by Alan Davies BA Hons, stained glass artist, Lythe.
Please support this church by purchasing a home-made product from the back, to show you care.
Leaving the church, walk to the rear to admire the superb view, and regular lawn-mowers – the sheep. Observe the church tower, crowned by a lantern and a stumpy spire. A scene to remember.
Continue by the village hall off right, and cottages and bungalows maybe selling farm produce, to reach Beacon Cottage, Beacon House and Beacon Farm. Now here’s a must for traditional dairy ice cream. There’s no admission charge, and ice creams are made here in a variety of natural flavours. In the Ice Cream Parlour and Tea Rooms treat yourselves to ice cream specials. If it’s a cold, autumnal day have a cream tea, full English breakfast, home-made soup or panini.
Children will love it here, as there’s free use of an outdoor play area, and an indoor bouncy castle to bounce off surplus energy!
Walking along Beacon Way, you can’t miss the imposing Wilson Arms. It’s a welcoming country inn with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, wooden beams, and a roaring log fire in winter. This historic Grade II listed building dates back to the 18th century and I understand produces excellent food. Do call and dine there.
Only a short stretch beyond along the rough lane, and a gentle rise brings you to The Beacon itself near a large barn.
Unless you wish to wander beyond, I suggest you return along Beacon Way to Beacon Cottage. A sign to your left indicates a bridleway to Whitby. To complete your day, walk off your meal turning right between farm buildings. Enter a gate and follow a flagged Monk’s Trod as it descends through trees to a footbridge over Shaun Riggs Beck. Cross this, and a second one ahead. The beck is to your left as you ascend away from the beck and enter a green lane. This leads to the brow of the hill. Keep straight on and descend to a road – a quiet country lane. Turn right to Golden Grove. Explore, before returning to Sneaton after a full day’s outing.
Refreshment: Beacon Farm. Open until December 23, 9am-4pm daily; The Wilson Arms, Restaurant and Bar.
l If including the walk, do go prepared for mud in areas!
Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL27, North York Moors Eastern area.