Later this month, there will be a dedication of a glass panel at Giggleswick Church by the Archdeacon of Craven. The panel, depicting St Alkelda at the point of martyrdom, was found by parishioners searching for something to sell at a church fair. Mystery still surrounds the 2.5ft high panel, which has now been carefully restored. Kathleen Kinder tells us all about it.

SOME time in 2014, Barbara Thornton and Kate Lockwood, two members of St Alkelda’s Parish Church in Giggleswick, were searching in the village’s Parish Room for items to sell at a church fair.

During their search, they noticed under a heap of dusty, discarded items a glint of stained glass. They investigated and found they were staring at a somewhat dirty, stained glass lancet panel.

At first the ladies thought they were gazing at a bedraggled angel. It was the Rev Hilary Young, then priest in charge, who identified the figure as St Alkelda, at the point of martyrdom, being strangled by a green girdle - a type of priestly sash - in the hands of two gauntleted fists. St Alkelda was standing in what looked like her holy well, which would have been used for baptisms.

St Alkelda is a 9th or early 10th century Yorkshire Dales saint who is closely associated with two ancient and lovely churches with Anglo-Saxon origins, the church of St Mary and St Alkelda, at Middleham in Wensleydale, and St Alkelda in Giggleswick.

She is remembered in just these two localities, some 33 miles apart, as a saintly woman famous for her use of nearby holy wells for the baptism of converts and for her martyrdom at the hands of Danish women.

St Alkelda’s martyrdom is believed to have occurred after 866-7AD when the Danes, after attacking and destroying York, swept across the Vale of York and into the eastern Dales causing death and destruction wherever they went.

Research in recent years has brought us a little more knowledge about who St Alkelda was and the turbulent times in which she lived. Why she is associated with Giggleswick, no-one knows, but consistent tradition and legends over the centuries have linked her with our church and parish. There is now strong evidence that her holy well St Awkeld’s well, now under Holywell Toft, the headmaster’s house at Giggleswick School, gave its name to the church.

During the 1878 restoration of Middleham church, in the south-east part of the nave, a woman’s bones in a stone coffin were uncovered where tradition had said St Alkelda was buried and is now marked with a plaque.

In the Middle Ages, Finchale Priory of Durham, had the living of Giggleswick Church, and in the Priory’s financial records detailing monies owed by Giggleswick Church, there is one intriguing entry: “ 1376-7 - Expenses connected with the churches of Giggleswick and Middleham amounted to £5. 4s. 10d ”. Why, when Middleham Church had nothing to do with Finchale Priory? What connection had two churches, on opposite sides of the Pennines, with 33 miles between them? It can only have been St Alkelda?

It took some time before any action was taken in Giggleswick on the latest discovery. Extensive enquiries were made, but apart from the fact that the piece has been dated by York Minster glaziers as produced between 1920-30 the provenance of the St Alkelda panel remains a mystery. Who created it and why had it been left discarded in the Parish Room for years? Members of the Parochial Church Council and congregation agreed that underneath the dust and dirt was a rather beautiful object and we wanted it set in a window in the church. We collected the money to have it cleaned, restored and fitted in the church by Lightworks Stained Glass, Clitheroe.

One thing led to another. Pilgrimage walks are now very popular both nationally and internationally. Before long we were contacting the Reverends Jeff Payne and Liz Moody, co-rectors of Middleham Church about organising a self-guided 33 miles Pilgrimage Walk of three to four days duration between our two churches.

The Middleham clergy were very supportive of the idea, and so were our retired priest, Canon Ian Greenhalgh, assistant priest, Rev Stephen Dawson our PCC and congregation. We are now well on with the project. We have the full support of the Anglican Diocese of Leeds and of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority as the Pilgrimage walk covers more than 90 per cent of the national park’s area.

Our website has been praised by Dr Guy Hayward, co-director of the British Pilgrimage Trust and although not quite complete, has now its place, with photos, map and some text , amongst the other British pilgrimage routes on its website . A guidebook will follow and there will be celebrations in the church next weekend - June 14, 15 and 16 , including on the Sunday at 10am a dedication of the panel by the Ven Jonathan Gough, Archdeacon of Richmond and Craven.

To find out more, visit the websites: stalkeldaswayinfo, or .