GOODMANHAM, alias Godmundin Gaham, is a parish in the wapentake of Harthill, partly in the liberty. of St Peter's; one mile and a half NNE. of Market Weighton, situated on the lowest acclivity of the Wolds. Pop. 240.
This is a place of great antiquity, and was probably the Delgovitia of the Romans: upon that point Antiquarians are not agreed, some of them assigning this station to Market Weighton, others to Londesborough, and others again to Millington; it is, however, agreed on all hands, that Goodmanham was the place on which the primary temple of Pagan worship stood. This temple was the great Cathedral of Northumbria, laid out in various courts, and inclosed with several walls, containing within it many altars and idols, and attended by the first personages of the priesthood.* The site of this Temple of mystic rites and worship is plainly marked out to this day, by an extensive cluster of artificial hills, now called the Howe Hills. The venerable Bede in his Ecclesiastical History, . chap. xiii. lib. 2. says that the place of the idols was shown in his time. The demolition of these gods took place when Edwin, king of Deira, was converted to Christianity;** and there is reason to suppose, both from the usual practice of the first converts to Christianity, and from the present appearance of some parts of the edifice, that the present Church, dedicated to All Saints, was built from the ruins of that temple, though not on the same site, as Drake erroneously imagined. Dr. Stukely, in the Archae, Vol. I. 44. says, that the Apostle Paulinus built the parish church of Godmundham, where is the original font, in which he baptized the heathen high priest Coifi." The font here alluded to is now in the possession of the Rev. J. Stillingfleet, rector of Hotham, who, it is hoped, will restore it to the proper and legitimate situation from which it has doubtless been sacrilegiously abstracted by some Gothic churchwarden. - The church of Goodmanham, of which the Rev. William Blow is the patron and rector, furnishes several fine specimens of Saxon architecture. The exterior arch of the West end of the tower, now intersected by a buttress, the arch of the South entrance, and the interior one, entering into the chancel are Saxon; but the upper part of the tower, and the windows on the South side of the body of the church, which has probably been renewed, have the character of modern times.
The process of the introduction of Christianity into this part of the kingdom is curious, and is thus related by the old Chroniclers:- Edwin, the Northumbrian king, under the influence of Ethelburga his queen, and the preaching of Paulinus, convoked a council of his priests and nobles to deliberate on the expediency of embracing the Christian faith. On the question being propounded by the King, whether he should receive the new faith, and be baptized, Coifi, the chief Pagan bishop, well understanding the bias of Edwin's mind, rose first and said, "The religion we have hitherto followed is nothing worth," "for," added he, addressing himself to the King. " there are none of thy people that hath more reverently worshipped our Gods than I have done, and yet there be many that hath received far greater benefits at thy hands; and therefore, if our gods were of any power they would rather help me to high honour and dignity than others. Therefore, if it may be found, that this new religion is better and more available than our old, let us with speed embrace the same." A grandee high in power, next addressed the assembly, and assigned a much more dignified and disinterested reason than had been given by the high priest, for giving a favourable reception to Christianity: "The religion we possess," he said, "gives us no instruction on the nature of the soul; when it is separated from the body we know not what becomes of it; but the religion of the Christians, professes at least, to open to our view a future state, and is deserving of our unprejudiced consideration." The conclusion was, that Christianity should be embraced; and Coifi, with the zeal of a convert, mounted upon a war horse, repaired to Godmundin Gaham, the place of the idols, and cast his javelin at the principal idol, commanded those around him to burn down the temple and the altars. The new religion was then received by the people, and Edwin himself was baptized by Paulinus at York, in the church of St Peter's, on Easter Sunday, *** in the year 627. Pop. 240.
- * See Bede and Camden,
- ** See Vol., 1, page V.
- *** See vol. II. page 35.
The following is the entire data from Langdale's Topographical Yorkshire Dictionary:
Goodmanham, a Saxon village, anciently written Godmondingaham, was once the famous place of idol worship, which "was destroyed by Coifi, the high priest of the Pagan religion at York, when Edwin, King of Northumberland was converted to Christianity. The present church, built by Paulinus, which exhibits such exquisite specimens of the architecture prevalent in the Anglo Saxon ages. "in all probability," says Drake. "stands on the very site of the ancient pagan temple; the ground will well allow for it, being a fine sloping dry hill." Particular account of this ancient place is to be met with in Drake, Camden, and the Antiquarian Itinerary, vol. 1. in the latter no less than five views, interior and exterior are given.
Dr. Stukeley informs us, "that Paulinus built Goodmanham church, (of which he says, he took a drawing,) where the original font is, in which he baptized the heathen high priest, Coifi." --Archaeologia. A particular account of this font is given in the Antiquarian Itinerary, but too long for our insertion; we shall therefore content ourselves with observing that this account is at variance with Dr Stukeley's, and we think upon reasonable grounds.
[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. ©2010]