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In the centre of the village is the ancient Church which is dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, though it is thought that at one time it had a dual dedication – St. Mary the Virgin and St. Andrew. This could have been because the north of England suffered much from the invading Scots and to have a church dedicated to the patron Saint of Scotland would have saved it from attack. Also, the Patrons of the Living were at one time the Prioress and Nuns from Stainfield Nunnery in Lincolnshire. This Nunnery was dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin and St. Andrew.

The Patronage of the Church in these early days is difficult to find, but records exist of a joint Patronage during the early 13th century between the Archbishop of York and the Prioress of Stainfield Nunnery in Lincolnshire.

The Early York's Charters give the Priest of Gisburne as ’Renulf’, between 1140-1146 . One could assume that the foundations of the present church could have been about 1135. It is possible that there was a church on this site before this, but we have no knowledge, except that the district was inhabited earlier. We know from a document that ’the Rector of Gisburne Church was present at the laying of the foundation stone at Salley (Sawley) Abbey in 1147’. This was probably Walter, the priest at Gisburne who followed Renulf.

This appears at first a strange connection until we realise that Stainfield Nunnery was founded by the Percy family and the Prioress had a manor house at 'Rayhead' in Gisburn Forest. There appears to have been bitter controversy after the building of Sawley Abbey, as the Abbot claimed the right of Patronage. This was settled in 1226 by the Archbishop of York and given to the Prioress of Stainfield. This decision might have been influenced by the Percy family who founded the Nunnery and were very generous to Gisburn church . Obviously, the bitterness continued between the Abbey and the Nunnery which were both very poor. In 1285, the Abbot of Sawley prosecuted the vicar of Gisburn 'for entering the Abbot's warren and carrying off game'.

The visitor will be impressed by the large cylindrical pillars at the front of the church. These are of 12th century origin. The date of the other pillars is later and could be as late as 16th century . Part of the archways originated from the Sawley Abbey after the dissolution.

The Church has been restored on more than one occasion. It is thought that one was carried out in the late 16th century. A restoration did take place in 1872 costing £3,000. At that time, the Church was re-roofed, new pews and pulpit installed. Other modifications were carried out and the work was paid for by a grant from Queen Anne’s Bounty, the repayment of which took till until 1925 to pay off.

Methodism in Gisburn

 In 1759 Gisburn established the first place of Methodist worship in the district. On the 18th April 1784 John Wesley, (aged 81) preached to a large congregation. In his diary he noted: "The church was so full that a few were obliged to stand without the doors. The word was quick and powerful". The original Methodist Chapel later became part of the village smithy. A new Chapel was built in 1871 and closed in 1948 due to falling attendance. The building was then used as a garage and is now the site of three houses known as "The Old Chapel".

For information on registers and other genealogy resources see the Genealogy page.

Text From

"A History of The Village and Church of Gisburn"

4th Edition 1978