A village with tiny population has at least two claims to fame – one of them regarding a little-known saint called Radegund.

It is time to scrutinise Scruton. It is a homely-looking village of about 500 souls between Northallerton and Bedale with at least two unusual claims to fame. Although Scruton is perfectly normal in having lost its railway connection, it is one of only 52 ‘thankful villages’ in the country and has one of only five churches in England dedicated to St Radegund.

RADEGUND was born in troubled times in Germany in 520AD, the daughter of the king of Thuringia. When she was 11, King Clotaire I of neighbouring Merovingian Gaul invaded Thuringia, killed her father and carried off Radegund and her young brother.

When Radegund turned 20, Clotaire turned her into his sixth wife. Their differing characters – she was kind and gentle, he was brutish and brutal – made them an odd couple, but she accepted her fate for ten years until Clotaire assassinated her brother.

Radegund was so unhappy about this turn of events that she locked herself away in a monastery in Poitiers in central France, for 35 years, giving up all her worldly goods and concentrating on contemplation.

Clotaire was not enamoured with this behaviour and plotted to snatch his wife from the monastery.

But the Bishop of Paris intervened, telling Clotaire that Radegund now belonged not to him but to God. Clotaire, seeing the error of his ways, fell to his knees and begged for forgiveness.

Radegund died in Poitiers on August 13, 587, and became a saint.

One day, a few centuries later, King Henry II, who ruled England from 1154 to 1189 (he is most famous for saying of Thomas Becket: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”) was making a little war down Poitiers way.

Among his soldiers were some men from a North Yorkshire settlement named after a Viking called Scurfa. They were so impressed by Radegund’s story that they carried it home with them to Scurfa’s tun – or Scruton – and dedicated their church to her memory.

Nearly 1,000 years later, those soldiers wouldn’t recognise St Radegund’s Church.

It grew over the centuries until, in 1865, the squire of Scruton, Henry Coore, spent £3,000 completely rebuilding it in memory of his wife’s uncles, who had died the year before.

His wife was Augusta. Her father was a Milbank, from Thorpe Perrow – now the famous arboretum, in North Yorkshire – and her mother was a Vane, of Raby Castle, near Staindrop. Her uncles were the 2nd and 3rd Dukes of Cleveland, who both died childless in 1864.

Henry and Augusta lived in Scruton Hall, beside the church. It was built in 1705 by Henry’s ancestor Roger Gale, the MP for Northallerton, on moorland on which the Scots had fought a battle with the English in the 14th Century.

In his parkland, Roger planted distinctive Lebanon cedar trees and in the church tower, he placed a square clock, looking down on his hall. The clock remained in the tower until after the First World War, when Scruton wished to celebrate the safe return of all of its men from the Front. Because every one of them had made it back, Scruton was a “thankful” or “blessed” village – a condition it commemorated by raising enough money to place a chiming, round-faced clock in St Radegund’s tower.

The chimes now float over the empty neighbouring field where the hall of Henry and Augusta Coore and Roger Gale once stood.

It was demolished in 1956, although its Lebanon cedars still stand – a large red “Bull in field” sign deterring Echo Memories from inspecting them too closely.

􀁧 For a superb collection of old Scruton pictures, go to scrutonhistory.com

The unexpected grandeur of Leeming Bar Station

ECHO Memories has recently been tracing the course of the first section of the Wensleydale Railway.

It opened from Northallerton to Leeming Bar on March 6, 1848, with stations and level crossing keepers’ cottages designed by architect George Townsend Andrews.

“Andrews’ other stations at Scarborough, Malton, Beverley, part of Hull Paragon, Sleights, Grosmont and Ruswarp are all still in use,”

writes historian Mark Whyman.

“He also designed the original station at York, which is now offices, and his station at Castle Howard is now a private house.”

Perhaps Andrews’ best station is at Richmond. It has found a new life recently as an art space, cinema, restaurant and food hall.

Mark ventures further into North Yorkshire to report: “He also designed the church of St Lawrence, at Flaxton on the Moor, All Saints, at Newton upon Ouse, Holy Evangelists Shipton by Beningborough and St Columba, at Topcliffe, and part of Richmond Lower School. The list goes on and on…”

Andrews was born in Exeter in 1804 but went to York as an apprentice architect in 1825 to work on the county jail that was being built in the castle.

He became involved in local municipal affairs and started his own practice. In 1830, he won a contract to remodel a house in Monkgate owned by George “the Railway King” Hudson. The infamous Hudson took him under his wing.

“Some sources claim that the main reason he became Hudson’s architect was that Andrews was already on York City Council and Hudson perceived Andrews’ main role as getting him elected to the council,” says Mark.

With Andrews’ help, Hudson was thrice Lord Mayor of the city. When Hudson’s bubble burst in 1849, Andrews’ affairs were also severely deflated.

With his talent, the architect could have survived, but he tried to recoup his losses by speculating in shares.

By 1852, he was unwell and practically bankrupt, selling off his art collection, and he died in 1855.

So his work on the first section of the Wensleydale Railway was among his last.

As we have seen in earlier Memories, his station in Ainderby was a curious split-level affair, while his little one at Scruton is currently being rescued from its derelict condition.

The third station on the original line was Leeming Bar, which is now the starting point for today’s heritage Wensleydale Railway.

Back then, Leeming Bar was on an important crossroads, where the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh went over the Northallerton to Hawes turnpike.

Andrews liked his stations to have impressive Italianate columns and the architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, says Leeming’s pillared portico gives it “an element of unexpected grandeur”.

As well as three stations between Northallerton and Leeming, there were six level crossings and Parliament insisted that each was overseen by a keeper.

Most of the keepers’ cottages that Andrews designed were ordinary but one, at Ham Hall, was remarkably grand. It still stands near an equestrian shop, and must have a good story attached to it, if only we knew it.