In fiction and reality there are many secret last resting places for the lost Ark of the Covenant: Grindleton, in the former West Riding of Yorkshire, would probably be the last place anyone would look for it. But in the seventeenth century the tiny but influential religious movement known as the Grindletonians were said to believe “that the Arke of the Covenant is shut up or pinned within the wals of Grindleton Chappell”.
I should point out there are several problems before you reach for your fedora and whip: the Grindletonians were accused of believing many things but much of what they did believe and teach has been lost under the welter of bizarre accusations. Being accused of being a Grindletonian was in itself not unusual for the many who held to heterdox beliefs in the early part of the seventeenth century. And the last known Grindletonian died in the 1680s.
So what did Grindletonians believe? Their leader, Roger Brearley, was an antinomian, who taught that believers were set free from sin by the Holy Spirit. There was then no need, for example, for confession and absolution. This was the sort of preaching that attracted not just a sizeable congregation from points as far away as Giggleswick but also the attention of the ecclesiastical authorities. Earlier I said that they were influential: many of their beliefs were shared by the early Quakers and it is possible that they influenced George Fox, who had his famous vision on Pendle Hill, overlooking Grindleton.
If the good people of Grindleton were to turn up the Lost Ark it would put them one up on their neighbours in Gisburn who recently discovered a 400 year old Bible stored in a cupboard at the back of St Mary’s Church.