By Philip Sedgwick

A chance encounter at the North Yorkshire achieves has led to several historic documents now being on public display in a Dales church.

Retired teacher and keen historian Trevor Peacock who is also churchwarden at St Alkelda’s Church Middleham paid a visit to the Northallerton archive office to check his research card was still valid. Glancing at several large documents on display, he saw they related to the town of Middleham and its church.

He said: “In the entrance display there were some old documents; on closer examination I saw they were the charter for the church and other important pieces of local history. I had never even seen any them before and didn’t even know they existed.

“I spoke to the staff and jokingly said they were ours and they kindly allowed me to make copies.”

The main document at over metre wide is an ‘Act of Errection’, dated 1478, in which ownership of the church is passed to Richard, then Duke of Gloucester. St Alkelda’s became a ‘Royal Peculiar’ both owned and controlled by the Crown. The second document in three parts, is the Church Charter drawn up by and bearing the signature of King Richard III. In this it outlines the rules and regulations on how the church should be run.

Two further and slightly older documents relate to King Edward IV, Richard’s elder brother, who orders the establishment of a chantry. The second allows for the building of a college in Middleham; although no record of its whereabouts have been found.

At the time during the MIddle Ages Middleham church was used by the most powerful men in the country. 'Kingmaker', the Earl of Warwick and King Richard III were regular worshipers, along with many other royal visitors.

Mr Peacock commented:” They are amazing documents written in Medieval English or French. "We have already had a group of 30 Richard III enthusiasts visit and hope to see many more.”

Full-size copies of the documents are all now on display at Middleham church along with other Richard III items and a copy of the famed Middleham Jewel.