**Just before the bus from York reaches Ripon it takes you past an incongruously large rural church. A little research proves it to be the Church of Christ the Consoler at Skelton-cum-Newby and there is a remarkable story behind it.
The church is a memorial to Frederick Vyner who, age 23, was captured and murdered by brigands in Greece in 1870. His mother raised money for his ransom, but when Frederick was killed she used it to to commission the architect William Burges to build the church.
That unspent ransom money also paid for the church of St Mary the Virgin at Studley Royal.
This magnificent church was a wholly unexpected pleasure at Fountains Abbey. As the guide book says:
Inside and outside, the St Mary's reflects the inspiration Burges found in medieval gothic buildings, from the studded metalwork of the great doors to the patterned encaustic tiles and mosaics of Christian images which cover the floor. The sanctuary is rich in gold and colour. Beneath the starry dome of Heaven, carved and painted angels soar above the lovely colours of the windows depicting Bible scenes/ The bronze door, the Virgin and Child is a gift from Burges to the church. The church is the resting place of a notable Liberal politician: George Robinson, the first Marquess of Ripon.
You can look from this church down to the front of Ripon Cathedral. Legend has it that a farm far away on the horizon above the cathedral was also owned by the Vyners and was painted white so that it could be picked out when they were admiring the view.
Close to St Mary's stand Choristers' Cottage, also designed by Burges and evidence that there was originally a plan to have a permanent choir of men and boys here. Nearby you will find the obelisk which served as a focal point in this man-made landscape before the church was built in 1870.**