Rylstone’s main claim to fame is the fact that it was the inspiration of William Wordworth’s 1808 poem ‘The White Doe of Rylstone’, but it has gained its fair share of publicity in recent years.
The poem is set during the Rising of the North between 1569 and 1570, which saw northern catholic earls attempt to end the rule of Elizabeth I and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots. Wordsworth believed it to be one of his finest works, yet it remains largely in the shadow of poems such as Daffodils.
The village’s recent fame comes from the fact that a number of its female residents along with some from nearby Cracoe were the inspiration for the Helen Mirren movie Calendar Girls.
During the late 1990s members of the local Woman’s Institute decided to raise money for leukaemia research by producing a tasteful nude calendar. To the surprise of those involved, the calendar sold more than 200,000 copies and soon the national press were covering the story.
They have made a calendar almost every year since and a dedication to their hard work has been placed outside the new lymphoma and leukaemia laboratories at the University of Leeds.
One of the Rylstone’s most iconic buildings is St Peter’s Church. Designated as Grade II listed by English Heritage, it was constructed between 1852 and 1853 and has a gritstone exterior in a style known as ‘churchwarden gothic’.
As well as inside the church, religious symbolism can be seen on the fell overlooking the parish as there stands a large stone cross. Originally the hill was home to a stone figure known as the ‘Rylstone Man’, but it was changed to a wooden crucifix to commemorate the ‘Peace of Paris’ in 1814. Weather conditions took their toll on the Rylstone Cross in the decades that followed and it had to be replaced several times until the wooden structure was changed to a stone one in 1997.
A popular local walk passes the church in Rylstone Centre before turning up a track that leads through a narrow pasture to Rylstone Cross before heading east to the Cracoe Memorial, a stone obelisk built to remember those that lost their lives in the First World War. The walk loops back down the fell to Rylstone and covers six miles in total.