Low Row Chapel

Low Row Congregational Chapel (now United Reformed Church) has an unpromising name, and, like most rural chapels and churches, it faces an uncertain future. When friends and I called last week, we were pleased to find open its doors and there was some fairly good literature available for visitors and worshippers to take away. Although nineteenth-century chapels are two-a-penny, Low Row is early (1809) though subjected to the usual renovations (1870s). Its history, however, goes back much further. Prior to 1809, the ‘Protestant Dissenters’ in this corner of Richmondshire met at a smaller chapel at Smarber, a short walk west. There, in around 1690, Philip, the fourth Lord Wharton, donated land occupied by one of his hunting lodges for plain, Bible-based Christian worship.

Lord Wharton had been a puritan and Parliamentarian officer in the civil wars and a loyal ally of the great Oliver. This affection he maintained many years after the monarchy’s restoration, when lesser men downplayed and minimised their association with the Commonwealth and Protectorate. To this day, a charity he established to provide young people with Bibles operates out of Malton, and applications are still encouraged.

The church for which he provided so well may no longer be as strong as it was, but its doors remain open, a continued witness to an increasingly dark world. Lord Wharton has been with his Saviour these past 328 years, and kneels with Oliver around the throne before which they cast their crowns in worship and praise. Yet even today, the man’s work and legacy live on.

Many Christians make little impact on their own times, never mind the decades and centuries to come. May good Lord Wharton serve as example, and may churches of the future exist, survive and thrive because of our current service in these dreary days in which we live.