DURING the Reformation years it was the north of England, and Yorkshire in particular, which held out longest against the changes brought about by Henry VIII's break from Rome, and the influx of Protestantism into this country.
Those travelling through Yorkshire on holiday would do well not only to visit the many sites of the major monastic communities suppressed by Cromwell in the area, but to taKe in the lesser known buildings which testify to Yorkshire's proud Catholic tradition.
One such place is the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Grace, five miles north of Northallerton North Yorkshire, in the village of Osmotherley, off the Al 9 to Middlesbrough. A place of pilgrimage since before the 14th century, the Shrine was returned to Catholic hands in the 1960s and is attracting an increasing number of pilgrims. Recently a Blessed Sacrament Chapel run by Franciscans has been built on the site of the original hermit's house and facilities have been greatly improved.
A little known martyr who drew strength and inspiration from the Shrine was Dom George Lazenby, a monk of nearby Jervaulx who, when languishing in prison for his outspokeness against Henry VIII, said he had a vision of Our Lady in the Chapel of Mount Grace, who comforted him as he awaited trial.
Another lesser known church similarly worth a visit is the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St John of Berverley, in Scarthingwell, North Yorkshire, a beautiful park made up of stretches of water and woodland glades. .Scarthingwell lies to the north of Sherburn-in-Elmet and south of York and forms part of the ancient parish of Saxton which dates back to the Domesday Book. After the Reformation the park came into the hands of a Catholic family, the Hammonds, during whose time there Blessed Nicholas Posgate spent 14 years as Chaplain to Lady Hungate of Saxton.
In 1854 the Maxwell-Stuarts, the new inhabitants of Scarthingwell Park, built a church in the Byzantine style dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and St John of Beverley. The Church, its barrelvaulted ceiling adorned with cherubs and angels, was consecrated by Cardinal Wiseman that same year, and was the first church in England to be given the name of the Immaculate Conception following the establishment of that doctrine in 1854. Fr Paul Moxon, the current parish priest, is at present trying to find £20,000 to do vital repair work to the church. English Heritage have already agreed to help with some of the repairs, but make the condition that this beautiful church should be open to the public thereafter.
While in Yorkshire it would be folly not to take advantage of a range of events surrounding the celebration of Yorkshire Abbeys, the result of a unique collaboration between English Heritage, the National Trust and the Yorkshire Museum.
An exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum marks the 900th anniversary of the founding of St Mary's Abbey, York runs until October. Artifacts from Yorkshire's monastic past trace the origins of the region's Abbeys up until the time of their despoliation by Henry VIII.
Celebrations surrounding the event include a performance by a company of storytellers and a craft extravaganza and flower show at Whitby Abbey from 20-21 August. Further details may be obtained from Ticket World, 6 Patrick Pool, Church St, York YO1 2BB. Tel 0904 644194.