Immersed in history... baptisms are performed in saint’s river

BAPTISMS have been conducted in a river in Yorkshire to mirror a service which was staged back in the seventh century.

The historic open air service was carried out yesterday in the River Swale in North Yorkshire close to where the first bishop of York, St Paulinus, is said to have baptised large numbers of converts.

The Bishop of Knaresborough, James Bell, presided over yesterday’s service near the village of Brompton-on-Swale in a repeat of the baptisms from the bygone era.

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The Venerable Bede outlined in his landmark book, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, how St Paulinus had baptised converts in the Swale, which is reputedly the fastest flowing river in England, somewhere between Easby and Catterick Bridge.

St Paulinus is said to have conducted at least two mass baptisms in the area, the first near Brompton-on-Swale and the second at Brafferton.

The baptisms went down in folklore and led to the Swale becoming known as the Holy River of St Paulinus.

The service which was held yesterday was the culmination of the Heritage Open Weekends, which saw events staged across the region to celebrate Yorkshire’s historic monuments and sites.

There was free admission for visitors to the National Trust’s properties including Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Nunnington Hall and Nostell Priory on Saturday.

And visitors to Sheffield Cathedral were given the chance to tour the building works which are being carried out in the building’s nave to see the newly rediscovered entrance to the 500-year-old Shrewsbury vault.