Burley in Wharfedale Church

I was out visiting this month, and called at Burley in Wharfedale which is one of those smart, upmarket settlements close by Ilkley. Thankfully, the parish church had been left unlocked (an unusual kindness in this part of Yorkshire) and I made entry. A raincoat and black fedora hung on some pegs, so I half expected a debonair gentleman with clipped whiskers and confident gait to appear and demand to know my business. Alternatively, they belonged to popular 1980s’ cartoon character Inspector Gadget, who might have been investigating M.A.D.’s latest schemes. If either were present, they never made themselves known, sadly.

Although I am not a particular lover of nineteenth century Anglican buildings (they are usually lamb dressed as mutton), this one had a certain charm about it. A small number of plaques and relics from its previous incarnation (called Fairfax Chapel, after the two civil war Parliamentary generals who arranged for its construction) were found. Otherwise, it was a pleasant enough Victorian church with a seemingly reasonable congregation. I particularly liked the font with its patterns and symbols made by different shades of marble, in a type of marquetry.

In the vestibule, however, was an enigmatic verse hanging on a wall:

Let from these emblems, pious musings rise

And life's poor triflers, as they view grow wise.

I expected it to be John Donne or some other honoured poet, but I can find little trace of it. Perhaps it came from the original Fairfax Chapel and was some local squire’s foray into poetry which the lower orders were obliged to admire. Whatever these emblems, be they bread & wine, fonts, pulpits, steeples and lecterns, may we consider divine truths rather than earthly objects. May we, who spend so long among the mundane trivia of everyday life, grow wiser in our dealings, loftier in our expectations and holier in our thoughts, coming to Christ Himself, to whom all good things point.

If the good parishioners of Burley (whether or not they be poor, or triflers, or both) obey the strange verse’s admonition, they will be wise indeed.