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Yorkshire York Churches

In the Middle Ages there were dozens of churches in York. Some still survive as churches, others were declared redundant and put to new use. Still more were demolished. This article covers some of the Medieval churches in the centre of York, beginning with the Minster. The rest of the churches are covered in alphabetical order.

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York Minster - the centre of Christianity in the north of England since the C7th

The tall towers of York Minster dominate the historic centre of York. It is one of the largest and perhaps most splendid Gothic buildings in Northern Europe. Built of pale oolitic limestone, it glows in the sunshine.

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There has been a Christian Church here since the C7th, built on the ruins of the Roman basilica. By the time of the Norman conquest there was a splendid Saxon Minster here dedicated to St Peter. The formal title of the Minster is "The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York". The Minster was badly damaged during William the Conqueror’s ‘Harrying of the North’. A new Norman church was constructed to emphasise the power and control of the King.

In the mid C12th the Gothic style of architecture spread across Europe. The Norman church was regarded as old fashioned and work began on building a new Gothic Minster in 1220. Work took nearly 250 years. (a floor plan can be found here.) The north and south transepts were the first to be built and have the tall lancet windows typical of the Early English style of Gothic architecture.

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The central tower followed, but this collapsed in 1407 and had to be rebuilt. The intention was to complete this with a spire but it was realised the foundations would not be strong enough to support the extra weight.

Work began on the nave which was built over the foundations of the Norman church. The chapter house was built in the late C13th and has much larger windows with beautiful tracery.

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This can also be seen in the windows of the tower and the chancel which was built at the end of the C14th.

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The western towers were the last to be built with the massive west window, crocketed pinnacle and empty niches for statues. The carving round the west door tells the story of Genesis.

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There was an arson attack in the quire in the early C19th which destroyed much of the medieval woodwork. The central tower was found to be unsafe and close to collapse in 1967. There was a massive building program to reinforce and strengthen the foundations. This work also uncovered part of the headquarters of the Roman fort and the Norman cathedral. In 1984 a fire thought to be caused by a lightning strike destroyed the south transept roof. Fortunately the rose window survived.

In 2007 another massive restoration project began to replace badly eroded stonework. The east window was completely removed for restoration which was completed in 2018. A new exhibition centre opened in the Undercroft tracing the history of the Minster with the remains of the Roman Forum and foundations of the Norman church.

The Minster was surrounded by a walled precinct entered by four gateways. Only Goodramgate survives. The houses of the Archbishop, Dean, Treasurer and canons were inside the precinct. After the Reformation many of these were pulled down, leaving the large grassy area of Dean’s Park. All that remains of the original Archbishop’s Palace is the chapel, now the library. Richard III’s son was invested here as Prince of Wales in 1483.

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The short section of arcading may have been part of the cloisters. It is now a memorial to the British Army’s Second Infantry Division. The central arch frames the Kohima memorial. In 1944 the Second Division was responsible for stopping the Japanese Army invading India.

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The Treasurer’s House (#15) is now owned by the National Trust.

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St William’s College was the home of the chantry priests and was sold after the Reformation.

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Pre Covid there was free entry to the back of the nave. There is a charge
to visit the rest of the Minster, and at the moment the only entry is by pre booked ticket. There is an additional charge to go up the tower. The ticket is valid for a year.

Website


cont....
 
Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
York Minster cont - the nave

The first impression of the inside of the Minster is the sheer size of the nave with its slender pillars soaring up to the rib vaulted ceiling with its golden bosses. Not only is it the largest Gothic building in Northern Europe, it is one of the best.

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The solid Gothic pillars allowed the masons to build upwards making the Minster look much lighter and airier than its Norman predecessor. Above the pointed arches is a walkway and the stained glass windows of the clerestory.

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The painted shields are coats of arms of local benefactors. The shields with the gold and blue diamonds are of the Percy family who provided much of the timber. The black zig zag on a gold background are the arms of the Vavasour family of Tadcaster. The oolitic limestone used to build the Minster came from quarries on their land.

The purpose of the red and gold dragon head on the north arcade is uncertain. It has a hole through its neck and may have had a chain through it to raise and lower the lid of the font.

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On one of the pillars is the nave pulpit with the Archbishop’s throne beyond.

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The west end is covered with blind ogee arches. These were intended to hold statues, but these would have been removed during the Reformation. At the centre is the Great West Window, dating from 1338-9. This is often called “The Heart of Yorkshire” from the heart shape in the tracery. Along the base of the panels is a list of Deans and Archbishops from 314AD

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Between the two west doors is a carving of St Peter, holding a Bible and the Key to Heaven. Above are three gilded carved wooden statues which were gifted to the Minster in the 1940s. In the centre is the Virgin and Child dated around 1430. In the left is St Ethelreda, made around 1400. On the right is St Helen, dating from around 1600.

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In the arches on either side of the west door are small headless statues made of paper mache and placed here in 2004. They are often referred to as the ‘semaphore saints ‘ as they spell out the message “Christ is here”.

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The Minster has one of the best collections of Medieval glass in England. Only Canterbury Cathedral has more. The windows date from the early C14th and the gothic tracery is less ornate than the Great West Window. They are also flanked by empty statue niches and arcading below.

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cont...
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
York Minster cont - the transepts

The south transept was the first part of the Minster to be built around 1220, during the achbishopric of Walter de Gray. The architecture is completely different to the Gothic nave and the black Purbeck marble columns provide a marked contrast to the white oolitic limestone.

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The wooden roof was destroyed by fire in 1984, Fortunately the stained glass survived. The roof has been completely rebuilt with new bosses, some designed by winners of a Blue Peter competition. The arcading round the base of the walls is less elaborate than that in the side aisles.

I found it almost impossible to get a good photograph of the south transept and each time it jinxed the camera. This was the best I could manage.

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The tall lancet windows are typical of the Early English style of architecture. Above them is the Rose window. The stained glass is C16th and features the white rose of York with the red rose of Lancaster, commemorating the marriage of Henry VII to Elizabeth of York and the start of the Tudor dynasty.

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On the east wall by the crossing is the elaborate tomb of Archbishop William Thomson 1862-90.

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Beyond it are two chapels. The first contains the tomb of Archbishop Walter de Gray who was responsible for the beginning the building of the Minster in the early C13th.

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Beyond is another chapel with the tombs of Tomb of C19th Archbishop Duncombe and in front is the tomb of Sewal de Bovill who followed Walter de Gray as archbishop.

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On the west side is St George’s Chapel, the regimental chapel of the West Yorkshire Regiment, Prince of Wales Own, with a splendid wrought iron screen separating it from the rest of the Minster.

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This has a marble altar with a bright red back cloth. Between the arcading are memorials.

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On the wall next to St George’s Chapel is a crucifix in memory of the choir boys who were killed in the First World War.

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The north transept was built in the early C13th after the south transept and is Early English. The architecture is much simpler than the Gothic nave. The dark Purbeck marble columns make a marked contrast to the paler oolitic limestone. The transept is dominated by the five tall, thin lancet windows, often referred to as the Five Sisters, with five smaller lancet windows above then. They are glazed with grisaille glass. This is the oldest stained glass in the Minster, dating from about 1250 and is the largest expanse of grisaille glass to survive in the world.

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The glass was manufactured in Stonegate and the glass makers didn’t have the technology to make coloured glass. The small pieces of red and blue glass were imported from either France or Germany. The small circular piece of glass at the bottom of the central window is one of the few pieces of stained glass to survive from the earlier Norman Minster. It is a scene of Daniel in the lion’s den.

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On the west side of the north transept is the chapel of St John the Apostle which is used for the midday Holy Communion service.

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On the wall opposite is the four quarter chime clock made in 1750. The two men at arms below sound the quarter hours and date from 1528. Below the clock is the monument to Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Craddock “who gallantly upholding the tradition of the British Navy led his squadron against the overwhelming force of the enemy off Coronel on the coast of Chile. And fell gloriously in action on All Saints’ Day 1914.

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Next to the clock is the Chapel of St Nicholas, the patron saint of children. The simple wooden statue of him above the altar dates from about 1500.

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Set under an elaborate ogee arch on the south wall of the chapel is the tomb of the C14th Archbishop William Greenfield, with a memorial brass on the top of the tomb.

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The astronomical clock was placed in the Minster in 1955 and was given to commemorate the 18,000 Allied Airmen flying from bases in Yorkshire and the north east, who lost their lives in World War 2. The edge of the large convex disc represents the horizon as seen from an aircraft directly over York and flying south. The sun is represented by a gold disc and rises and sets at the correct time for sunrise and sunset each day. Greenwich Mean Time is shown on the bottom right hand dial.

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Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
York Minster cont - the chapter house

The chapter house is reached down a corridor of the north transept, through a double door with a carving of the Virgin and child. The doors are covered with scrolls of decorative wrought iron work.

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The chapter house was built after the transepts and is Decorated Gothic architecture. It is a large octagonal building and is unusual as there is no central pillar to support the vaulted ceiling.

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It is a very light building with massive Gothic windows filling most of the wall area. Like the north transept, these contain a lot of grisaille glass.

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Round the base of the walls is the stone bench where the church dignitaries sat. This is cleverly designed so that sounds carry round the walls so everyone can hear what is being said. Separating the seats are Purbeck Marble pillars supporting highly carved canopies.

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The hanging bosses are covered with leaves and tiny carved heads, each one different.

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The floor is covered with brightly patterned tiles.

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As well as being a meeting place for Minster staff, the chapter house was also used for state meetings. Edward I moved his parliament to York during his wars with Scotland. Richard III held several Council of the North meetings here.

cont...
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
York Minster cont - the quire and sanctury

The quire screen or pulpitum was built around 1461, and is one of the last bits of the Minster to be finished. It is a glrous piuece of architecturre and one of the highlights of the Minster.

It separates the nave from the quire, as well as serving as a buttress between the eastern pillars of the central tower to help stop them collapsing. Above it is the organ.

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In the centre, a stone arch with wrought iron doors leads into the quire.

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On either side are stone carvings of the Kings of England from William I to Henry VI, standing under highly carved canopies picked out in gold.

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Each of the Kings is labelled. This is Richard I, the Lion Heart.

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It is thought there may have been two master masons responsible for the carving as there are two very different styles of face. One has a large rather busy beard, and generally look rather fierce, like William the Conqueror. The other style has a rounder face and is either clean shaven or has a small beard, like William II.

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The statue of Henry VI is smaller than the rest. After his death, people began to worship him a bit like a saint. His statue was probably knocked out from the screen during the Reformation. The present statue was placed here in 1810.

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Beyond is thequire and snactuary.This was the last bit of the Minster to be completed between 1361 - 1472, and is Perpendicular. It was used in the Middle Ages by the Minster clergy for services. It is still used for Choral Evensong.

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The backs of the wooden choir stalls completely surround the quire as a screen. The woodwork in the quire had to be replaced after a disastrous fire caused by arson in 1828. It retains the style of the medieval woodwork with very tall crocketed canopies above the stalls on the back wall. Each of these has a plaque on the back wall with symbols for the saint representing each of the prebendal churches.

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The choir stall still have candles which are lit for Evensong in the winter months. The Archbishops throne is on the north wall and the pulpit on the south wall.

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Steps lead up to the Sanctuary. Behind the high altar is an elaborately carved stone screen.

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Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
York Minster cont - the quire aisles

The aisles on either side of the quire were designed to act as an ambulatory, allowing pilgrims to visit the shrine of St William of York behind the high altar, when there were services in the quire. They are separated from the rest of the church by a stone screen and wrought iron doors.

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Steps from the south quire ailse lead down into down into the crypt. Near them is a C13th cope chest dating from about 1290, covered with decorative strapwork.

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The south wall is lined by a series of memorials to archbishops and other important York families.

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There is a stone and brass memorial to Lt Col Willoughby Moore of the 6th Iniskilling Dragoons and those who perished with him in Europa Transport, when it burnt at sea on 1st June 1854.

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At the east end of the aisle is All Saints’ Chapel, with its restored east window.

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The chapel serves as the memorial vault of the Staffords, entered via a large brass in the floor. On the south wall is a splendid memorial to the Earl of Stafford.

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Opposite is the tomb of C17th Archbishop Toby Matthew.

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The north quire aisle contains the tomb of Prince William, the second son of Edward III and Queen Philippa and is the only Royal tomb in the Minster. Even though the tomb shows the effigy of a young boy, Prince Edward died in infancy in Hatfield. His head is supported by a tiny angel and his feet rest on a lion. The sprigs of broom on the red background are the badge of the Plantagenets.

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On the opposite wall is the tomb of Archbishop Thomas Savage, who was the last archbishop before the Reformation. Above is a chantry chapel, reached from the sanctuary, where masses could be said for his soul.

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As in the south quire aisle, there are many other splendid tombs of archbishops and other important York families along the north wall.

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The St William window is opposite the high altar and tells the story of his life and the miracles linked to him. The small figures at the bottom of the window are images of the Ros family of Helmsley, who sponsored the window. The window has been restored and a lot of the lead joining fragments of glass removed, making it clearer to see.

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The Great East Window is early C15th and is the largest expanse of Medieval glass in the world. When I visited in 2016, work was still ongoing on its restoration and the top part was temporarily filled with plain glass.

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Work took 12 years and was finally completed in 2018. It was one of the biggest restoration projects ever undertaken. When I visited there was a small display at the end of the north quire aisle explaining the work being undertaken. In the past, lead was used to repair any cracks in the glass. This resulted in an increase in the amount of lead making the images more difficult to interpret, as could be seen in one of the panels still waiting to be restored.

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This extra lead is being removed, returning the windows to what they were like when first made. Modern techniques use glue to repair the cracks.

cont...
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
York Minster cont - the crypt

The crypt was rebuilt in the C14th using much of the original stone from the Norman crypt. This gives a false impression of its age as the architecture is pure Norman. It is under the high altar and its massive vaulted ceiling helps support the sanctuary. It is reached down stairs from the side aisles.

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Round Norman pillars with carved capitals support the rib vaulted ceiling. Each one has a different carving.

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At the east end are three modern stone altars.

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On the wall between the altars is a mid C15th statue of St Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read.

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Next to it is a C12th carving of the Virgin and Child which was discovered during the restoration of the quire after the 1829 fire. The damage to the heads is thought to be due to C16th iconoclasts.

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The stone trough or lavatorium was used to wash ceremonial vessels.

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The doomstone is a survival from the first Norman Minster. It is a representation of Hell, with lost souls being pushed into a boiling cauldron by devils and demons.

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The crypt is used for baptism services. The base of the font is C15th. The elaborate cover was designed by Ninian Comper in 1947.

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The crypt extends under the quire and central crossing as the undercroft, which is now an exhibition area. This had to be strengthened with foundations of the tower in the 1970s. The remains of the pillar bases can be seen in the floor as well as part of the carved Norman pillars.

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The centre aisle contains a simple stone altar and shrine to St William of York. The original shrine was destroyed in the Reformation and a fragment of carved stone from it is on display in Barley Hall (#7) On the east wall is a mosaic image of St William.

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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Revealing York Minster in the Undercroft Exhibition - the Roman remains

A 1967 survey of the Minster revealed the central tower to be unsafe and close to collapse. Surveys showed the while some of the foundations had been built over the remains of the Roman fort of Eboricum, the rest lay on Yorkshire clay.

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The tower was slowly collapsing under its weight and twisting due to uneven subsidence. A massive £2 million pounds was raised to fund work to strengthen the foundations. This involved putting reinforced concrete jackets round them.

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During this work, part of the Roman foundations were revealed as well as walls from the earlier Norman cathedral. When work finished, the undercroft was open to visitors to view these foundations.

Following the massive £20 million restoration project in 2016, a new exhibition was opened in the undercroft explaining the 2000 year old history of the site and exhibiting many artefacts found during the excavations.

Parts of the Roman foundations are displayed, along with the bases of Roman columns.

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Part of the basilica wall and a drain can be seen.

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There is the remains of a painted plaster mural which was rescued and reattached to the room where it was found. The painting was originally in three part. The base was painted to resemble marble. In the centre were figures and scenery. Along the top was a frieze.

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As well as walls and the remains of wall plaster, Roman bricks have been found, some signed.

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This roof tile proclaims 6th Legion, who were based in York in 122AD.

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There are examples of Roman coins.

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Pottery includes pieces of Samian ware as well as oil lamps and candlesticks.

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There are fragments of Roman glass.

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Pins and bracelets.

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Broaches as well as two pieces from a horses harness.

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Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Revealing York Minster in the Undercroft Exhibition - Anglo-Saxon and Norman remains

Although nothing was found of the Saxon church, the remains of the base of an Anglo-Saxon cross shaft was found, with a Christian saint blessing two people.

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There are examples of Saxon or Viking grave covers.

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The Norman remains include a sections of walls, and pillar bases.

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In one place the later Gothic foundations can be seen built above the Norman Minster.

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The coarse rubble walls of the Norman Minster were covered with a white plaster, which was painted with red lines to resemble mortar lines.

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The Norman artefacts include wall statues.

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There are also the eroded carvings from the west door which were replaced as part of the recent restoration of the stonework. They represent the story of Genesis.

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There are glazed floor tiles dating from around 1200.

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cont...
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Revealing York Minster in the Undercroft Exhibition - Medieval and Later artefacts

As well as the Roman and Norman artefacts, there are fragments of Medieval stained glass. The lion on the right is 1400-1500s. The beautifully painted stag is 1600-1700s.

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There is a medieval paten and chalice.

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There is an early C14th book for priests containing hymns, readings and notes for sermons.

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The mid C15th painted missal is illustrated with gold paint that glistens when viewed from the side.

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This missal was slashed by Protestants during the Reformation.

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There is a display of Church vestments and archbishop’s rings.

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At the end of the exhibition is the Treasury. The word is a bit misleading as it isn’t a display of church silver but information on topics like baptism, death and resurrection and faith in time of War. There is information about the purpose of the different exhibits rather than their age or where they came from.

There are views from here down the length of the crypt with the modern shrine to St William of York.

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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Evensong in the Minster

There is always something very different and special about evensong.

I’d spent most of the day in the Minster, doing the guided tour, taking pictures and visiting the Undercroft exhibition. It seemed a good idea to finish the day by attending Choral Evensong in the quire.

By 3.45 there was a long queue waiting to enter the quire. It was full by the time we were all seated. I was in one of the canon’s seats along the back wall. I hadn’t realised just how uncomfortable they were for long periods of sitting. I also understood why the monks must have appreciated the misericords when having to stand for a long time.

The service began with the etherial voices of the choir singing in the south quire aisle before they entered the quire. The sound gradually got louder as they proceeded into the quire lead by a member of the clergy holding the processional cross.

It was a wonderful service with candles flickering above the choir stalls. The singing of the choir filled the Minster with sound which gradually echoed away when they finished. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimitus were sung in Latin. Singing was unaccompanied apart from the psalm and hymn.

The choir sang the final prayers as they left the quire with the sound gradually fading and echoing away to nothing. Then the organist burst out with the glorious JS Bach’s glorious Toccata and Fugue in D minor. The music thundered out, echoing around the Minster. It was an uplifting experience and nearly all the congregation sat listening.

It was dusk as I left the Minster. The street lights were on and the shops were all lit up. It was a magical experience.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
All Saints Church, North Street

This is one of York’s undiscovered gems. Tucked away across the river on North Street and well away from the main attractions of York, you wouldn’t know there was a church here if it wasn’t for the top of the spire peeping above the buildings. For a parish church, this has the best collection of stained glass in York, if not the country.

There has been a church here since before the Norman Conquest. The nave is narrow compared with the side aisles, suggesting a Saxon origin. The present building dates from the C12th. The arcades date from the C13th when the side aisles were added with their end chapels. The chancel was rebuilt in the C14th when the urban elite started to build large houses in the parish. The stained glass dates from the C14th or C15th, when larger windows replaced the original narrow lancet windows. The nave was extended to the west and the tower and spire were added. The angel ceilings were installed in the C15th. The church was restored in the C19th and most of the church furniture, apart from the pulpit are early C20th.

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The main reason for visiting the church is for the glass, but it is also a rather nice unspoilt Medieval church.

Inside the door is a bowl font with a very tall carved wood lid.

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On the wall by it is a large Benefactors board.

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Easily missed on one of the pillars by the arch into the tower is an C18th Mayoral board similar to those in All Saints’ Church, Pavement (#14).

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An arcade separates the north and south aisles. The eastern most of the nave pillars are the original Norman round pillars. Those at the west end are from the C14th extension and are octagonal.

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The carved wooden screens around the chancel are early C20th.

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The rood came from the now redundant St Sampson’s Church. This has the figures of the Virgin Mary and St John on either side of the Crucified Christ with carved wooden angels.

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The C15th painted chancel ceiling is a splendid painted hammer beam ceiling with angels playing musical instruments at the ends of the beams.

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In the chancel is the rector’s stall with a misericord dated to 1472.

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The side aisles have unpainted angel hammer beam ceilings.

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The pulpit in the north aisle dates from 1675 and is all that remains of the three decker pulpit which would have sat in the centre of the church. The painted panels have images of the Virtues.

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The floor of the Lady Chapel at the end of the north aisle is covered with brightly coloured medieval style tiles based on early C15th designs.

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cont...
 
Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
All Saints Church, North Street - the stained glass windows

The most impressive part of the church are the stained glass windows. There is information about the windows in the church and a small guide book for sale.

The first window in the north aisle is described as the shields window. The shields date from the C15th. At the top of each of the three lights is what is called the ‘canopy’. These can be seen in many of the windows in the church.

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Next to it is the Thomas window dating from 1410. On the left is the apostle, Doubting Thomas. In the centre is Christ showing Thomas his wounds. There is some doubt as to the figure on the right. It was assumed it was Thomas Becket but as this piece of glass was only placed here in the 1970s and may be that of St William of York.

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Beyond this is the ‘Corporal Acts of Mercy’ window from 1410. Jesus taught that people are judged on their acts of mercy towards the needy. This window illustrates the six corporal acts - feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and bringing relief to prisoners. These are displayed in the middle two rows of the window. In the bottom corners, the kneeling figures are probably those of the donors of the window.

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Next to it is the 1410 ‘Pricke of Conscience ‘ window which illustrates a popular devotional poem of 1340. It depicts the last fifteen days of the world. It is a call to repentance. In the top two lights redeemed souls are being led into Heaven by St Peter, while the dammed are being taken to Hell. Again the kneeling figures at the bottom represent donors.

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The window in the Lady Chapel at the end of the north aisle dates from 1330 and is the earliest window in the church. It was originally the east window above the high altar with its figure of Christ Crucified in the centre. The panels tell the Christian story of salvation.

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The great east window above the high altar dates from 1410 and was given by the Blackburn family who can be seen kneeling at the bottom. On the left is John the Baptist. In the centre is St Anne teaching the young Virgin Mary to read. On the right is St Christopher carrying the Christ Child on his shoulders.

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The window at the end of the south aisle was originally placed here in 1350 but much of it was repaired in the C19th. At the top are the Virgin Mary and St John with the Crucified Christ. At the centre bottom is the figure of Christ with the cup of sorrow in the Garden of Gesthemane. On either side are kneeling figures of the donors.

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The eastern most window in the south aisle is from 1430 and has St Michael and St John. St Michael on the left is defeating Satan, represented as a blue animal with three heads. His face was stolen in 1842 and has been replaced by a piece of clear glass. On the right is St John. He is holding a palm in his hand. Our Lady on her death bed was given it by an angel and told that it be given to St John to carry before her coffin.

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Next to this is the Nine Orders of Angels window. Until 1965 this was very fragmented and no-one knew what it was meant to represent. The sketchbooks of an antiquarian called Henry Johnston were found in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. He had visited York in 1670 and made sketches of many of the stained glass windows including this one. It depicts the nine orders of angels as described by a C5th writer. The window was carefully restored using the sketch. If a piece of glass was missing, it was replaced by a piece of modern glass.

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The last window in the south aisle is the 1410 St James window. On the left is St James as a pilgrim on his way to Santiago de Compostela. In the middle is the Virgin and Child. On the right is the kneeling figure of an archbishop. He is saying Mass. Above him is the image of Christ accompanied by four angels. The incomplete description beneath him is the only surviving indulgence in an English stained glass window.

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The west window contains panels made up from fragments found lying around the church. It was placed here in 1977.

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Check the website for opening times. Try and visit on a sunny day, as it can be quite dark in the church.

The church is on North Street and the post code is YO1 6JD. Don’t confuse it with the other All Saints’ Church on Pavement (#14).
 
Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
All Saints’ Church, Pavement

Standing in the centre of the City at the junction of Pavement, High Ousegate and Coppergate, All Saints' is the Guild and Civic Church of York. More than 30 Lord Mayors are buried in the churchyard and boards in the church list their names. The church is also the Regimental church of the Royal Dragoon Guards. Its lantern tower is a feature of the York skyline.

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There has been a church on this site since before the Norman Conquest. The present building is mainly C14th and C15th. The chancel was in poor condition and little used by the end of the C18th and was pulled down when the grain market on Pavement was extended. This gives the church a very truncated appearance.

The beautiful lantern tower at the west end of the church was built around 1400 and a light was left burning in it overnight to act as a beacon to guide travellers through the wolf infested Forest of Galtres. It was restored after the First World War as the church's war memorial. The light is still lit at night.

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The sanctuary knocker on the north door is a replica of the C13th knocker which is now in the Treasury in York Minster. It depicts the mouth of Hell.

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Inside it is a big church with arcades of octagonal pillars separating the nave and side aisles. The chancel is now in what was the crossing of the C17th church.

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The Royal Coat of Arms from St Crux Church (#19) is above the door into the vestry. Below them are wooden replicas of the helmet, gauntlets and sword of Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland who was executed for treason in The Pavement in 1572. Again these came from St Crux.

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The pews are C19th and have shields with the arms of the City’s guilds. They replaced the old box pews which now line the base of the walls of the side aisles.

On the back pillars are large benefice boards listing all the charitable bequests made by wealthy parishioners to the church and poor of the parish.

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On the walls of the south aisle are the boards listing all the Lord Mayors from the late C17th to the end of the C19th.

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The raised pews beneath the west window were for visiting Lord Mayors. They are now used by the churchwardens. The west window contains C14th stained glass with scenes of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. The glass was brought here from St Saviour’s Church (#30) when it was declared redundant in the mid C20th.

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The lovely blue painted ceiling with gilded bosses is C15th. Above the altar it is painted with gold stars.

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The C19th carved stone font with its painted lid is at the back of the south aisle.

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The lectern is C15th and came from St Crux (#19). The base with carvings of the four evangelists is C19th.

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The C17th carved wood pulpit has painted inscriptions round the top and a splendid sounding board above. It was originally in the centre of the church, surrounded by box pews.

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Steps lead up to the high altar in what was the crossing of the C17th church. The oak panels beneath the east window were made by Robert Thompson of Kilburn, the ‘Mouseman’. The lovely carved reredos has Christ at the centre surrounded by the figures of the four evangelists, St Peter and St Paul. The east window above is the work of CE Kemp.

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At the end of the north aisle is the Regimental Chapel of the Royal Dragoon Guards.

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The window in the north wall was installed in 2002 and features the Regimental Badge of the Royal Dragoon Guards in the centre, surrounded by the six badges of the earlier regiments that formed them. The Prince of Wales is Colonel in Chief and his feathers are at the top of the window.

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There are two All Saints’ Churches in York. This one on Pavement (post code YO1 9NR) and another on North Street (#12 ).

Website
 
Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Bar Convent Blossom Street, the oldest oldest surviving Roman Catholic convent in England

The full title is the Convent of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin and it was established in 1686, just after the death of Charles II. This was a time of paranoia about Catholics and Catholicism. The convent was established and operated in secret.

The Convent was founded as a school for girls as Sir Thomas Gascoigne, a fervent Catholic declared "we must have a school for our daughters" and provided a gift of £450, for the purchase of land and building. It is a remarkable story of remarkable women, starting with Mary Ward.

Mary came from staunch Catholic stock and in 1609 founded an order of religious women modelled on the Society of Jesus. She established communities and schools across Europe. Frances Bedingfield was an early member of Mary Ward’s Institute and signed the lease in a false name, to buy a house just outside Micklegate with the money from Sir Thomas. It was a secret community known as the ‘Ladies at the Bar’ and the sisters wore slate coloured gowns to hide their identity. Discovery meant punishment and even death. The community regularly suffered poverty, persecution and imprisonment.

In 1727, Elizabeth Stansfield joined the convent and paid off the communities debts, demolishing the old house and building a splendid new one with a magnificent chapel carefully hidden from outside view. It contained a priest’s hole and eight ways out in case of a raid by Protestants. It wasn’t until the First Catholic Repeal Act of 1778 that Catholics could openly practice their religion and wear their habits.

During the French Revolution, the community sheltered refugees and priests from France. In the First World War, it provided a home for Belgian nuns and children as well as a hospital ward for wounded soldiers. The community continued to run a school until 1985.

The convent is now run as a trust and is still home to Mary Ward’s religious order, the Congregation of Jesus. There was a major restoration in 2015 and it now has a guest house, conference facilities, cafe, shop and exhibition telling the story of the convent.

The Bar Convent is a very understated dark brick building on Blossom Street, just outside the city wall and close to the railway station.

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The front door leads into an impressive glassed roofed atrium with brightly coloured tile floor. Beyond are the gardens.

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Off on the right of the atrium is the very good cafe. The shop and entrance to the exhibition is on the left.

There is a charge for the exhibition which contains a lot of display panels covering the persecution of Catholics from Henry VIII’s time. There is information about Mary Ward and the founding of the Bar Convent, the Jesuits and a video with members of the community talking about their role and work. Photograpahy is not allowed in here.

As well as the information boards, there are display cases. There is the original key to the convent as well as Mary Ward’s pilgrim shoes, hat, Pater Noster beads and crucifix. Her gravestone from Osbaldwick churchyard is here with the inscription
“to love the poor
persever in the same
live, die, and rise with them
was all the aim
of Mary Ward who,
having lived 60 years and 8 days,
died the 20 January 1645”

There are the C17th silver credence plate and saucer as well as a C17th silver gilt chalice and C18th candlesticks used in the chapel.

There are gifts to the convent including the head of a C15th processional cross and a silver monstrance with its leather case. There is a reliquary of two English Martyrs containing bones from John Lockwood and Edmund Catherwick who were put to death in 1642. This is a rare survivor as most reliquaries were destroyed by the iconoclasts in the C17th.

There is a C19th reliquary of the True Cross made of silver set with precious stones. This contains a small piece of the True Cross encased in a silver gilt pectoral cross.

Practising the catholic religion was dangerous and there is an example of a C16th bed head and altar used to celebrate mass in secret. If danger threatened, the altar could be folded down and hidden by the bed.

There is also a small C16th altar designed to look like a mantle piece ornament. The chalice and box of beads were hidden in a cupboard in the back of the base.

The chapel is upstairs and is a lovely light building with pastel coloured walls and flooded with light from the hemispherical windows.

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At the back is a small wrought iron gallery supported on tall slender columns.

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The beautiful neo-classical dome is supported by white fluted pillars with gilded capitals. Round the base is a gilded frieze of vine leaves, urns and posies. At the top of the dome is a small glass cupola.

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The altar is modern, dating 1969 in celebration of 200 years of the convent. It has scrolled legs with C18th winged cherub heads. In front of it is a gilded pelican from the original altar, pecking her breast to feed her young. The C20th reredos has a sacre coeur on the front of he host box. Above are C18th carved figures of Saints Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory who support a Spanish ivory crucifix.

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The transepts off the chancel are small. The north transept has a small wooden reliquary box, containing the hand of St Margaret of Clitheroe. The south transept has a small chapel and altar.

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Round the walls are beautiful small Stations of the Cross made from mother of pearl. They date from the early 1800s and were made in the Holy Land.

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This is a fascinating visit and a very different one. The cafe provides excellent food at a good price and is open from 7.45 for breakfast. Unless you are very interested in the history of the convent, the exhibition can be missed but the chapel is well worth visiting and is open daily from 10-5.

Website
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate

Holy Trinity is a delightful small church surrounded by its church yard, set between Goodramgate and Low Petergate. Reached down a narrow alleyway, it feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of tourist York.

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The church was founded in the C12th although the building dates from the C13th and C14th, with the tower added in the C15th. Built of local stone, it has a small square tower at the west end, nave, side aisles and an additional chapel on the south wall.

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The inside of the church is equally attractive. An arcade of pointed arches separates the nave and side aisles. Steps lead down from the south aisle into St James’ Chapel.

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The church escaped a Victorian makeover and still has its C17th box pews, now gently subsiding. Bodies used to be buried in the nave and in front of the high altar and the tombstones can be seen on the floor. It is a typical example of what a late C17th church would have looked like.

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The pews at the front are taller with carving and were used by more wealthy families.

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The pulpit is a double decker pulpit dating from 1695 with a lower reading desk. The preacher towered over the congregation preaching hell fire and damnation.

At the back of the nave is a plain C15th octagonal stone font. On the back wall of the church are two Mayoral boards, commemorating Lord Mayors of York with links to the church. They hang on either side of the Mayoral pew under the west window.

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Steps lead up to the chancel with a simple altar. The reredos dates from the late C17th/earlyC18th. It has the Ten Commandments in the centre with the Creed and Lord’s Prayer on either side.

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The stained glass in the east window dates from 1470/1 and was given to the church by the rector, John Walker. His is the tiny kneeling figure in red to the left of God the Father holding the body of the crucified Christ in the central panel. To the left are St George killing the dragon and John the Baptist. On the right are St John the Evangelist and St Christopher carrying the Christ Child.

Below are what are described as ‘family groups’. In the centre is a representation of the Holy Trinity with the figures of God the Father, Jesus Christ the son and the Holy Spirit crowning the Virgin Mary. On the left are St Joachim and St Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary.

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Steps lead down into St James’ Chapel from the south aisle. This has a squint with a view of the high altar. The wooden altar has one of the original stone altars placed above it. This is a rare survival as most were destroyed during the Reformation. On the top are four of the original five Consecration crosses. In the east wall are two aumbry cupboards, now without their doors and a piscina.

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This is a lovely old church and a rare survivor of a C17th church. It is completely different to the other York churches. I remember first visiting here nearly fifty years ago and being enthralled by the church. The magic is still there.

Tucked away down a narrow alleyway, behind Our Lady’s Row, the oldest row of houses in York, this really is a hidden gem. Now no longer used, apart from three services a year, the church is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and is open Tuesday-Saturday 11-3pm, dependent on volunteer availability.

There are plenty of benches in the churchyard and this is a lovely place to sit in the sun and enjoy the peace.

Don’t confuse with Holy Trinity Church on Micklegate (#17) which was a monastic church.

Website
 
Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Holy Trinity Church, Micklegate

Holy Trinity Church on Micklegte is the only monastic church to survive in York. A Benedictine Monastery was founded here in 1089, on the site of a pre-conquest church above the River Ouse and over the Roman civilian settlement. It was one of the two great monastic houses in York. The nearby Church of St Mary Bishophill Junior (#24) may have been part of the community whose patronage spread over most of the west of the walled city.

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Just round the corner on Trinity Lane, and well worth finding, is Jacob’s Well. This was built around 1474 by Alderman Thomas Nelson to house a chantry priest to say masses for himself and his family in the Priory church.

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After the dissolution of the priory, this was bought by Dame Isabella Ward, the last prioress of St Clements Benedictine Monastery in York. Before her death, she left the house to trustees who were to pay 1d to thirteen poor people on All Souls' Day each year.

During the C17th the Rector of Holy Trinity lived in the house while he built a new rectory for himself. It was later lived in by a coach maker. During the C18th, the building became an ale house. Holy Trinity got the building back in 1905, probably because the inn was no longer a viable business, and it has been renovated and restored. The beautifully carved C15th front porch came from another building on Micklegate.

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The building is now used for functions and wedding receptions.

Holy Trinity church was destroyed by a great fire in 1137 and had to be rebuilt. The nave dates from the C12th and the side aisles are C13th. The tower, over the chapel of St Nicholas was added in 1453. The west front was rebuilt in the early C20th and the best views of the outside are from Priory Lane.

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The church was originally a lot larger with a crossing and central tower. This collapsed in 1551, badly damaging the chancel which had to be demolished. The monks worshipped in the main body of the church. The lay members and parishioners probably used the Chapel of St Nicholas at the back of the nave. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the church became the parish church. The rest of the monastic buildings were robbed out for building stone and to repair the Ouse Bridge and city walls.

The church was in bad condition by the end of the C19th and underwent a major restoration when the chancel was rebuilt on the site of the central tower. The stonework looks very different to the rest of the church. The north aisle was in poor condition by the C19th and was demolished. The line of the opening of the old arcade can be seen above the nave windows.

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It is a big church, set back from the road and surrounded by the old churchyard. The stocks were placed here in 2006 and the originals are now in the church. There have probably been stocks on this site sine the C16th and they were used to punish minor crimes and nuisances until the law changed in 1858.

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Entry is through the north porch which has a priest's room above it.

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Inside is the bowl of an old font mounted on a modern base. This was found in the garden of a house on The Mount and may have come from the Chapel of St James on the Mount, which belonged to Holy Trinity.

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cont...
 
Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Holy Trinity Church, Micklegate cont...

The inside feels a large church. An arcade of octagonal pillars and pointed arches separate the nave and south aisle. The south wall is covered with memorial slabs. There are no windows in he south wall, although there are two small dormer windows.

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The North aisle was demolished although the arcade pillars can still be seen embedded in the north wall. Above the west door are three lancet windows with cross hatch carving.

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At the back of the church is the Chapel of St Nicholas and the font, which came from St Saviour’s Church (#30). The wooden font cover is dated 1717.

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The chapel has rough stone walls and a small modern stone altar. Above is a small lancet window of St Nicholas rescuing children who had been drowned in a tub of brine by a wicked innkeeper.

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The memorial to the dead of the Great Wall is at the back of the south aisle.

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On the north wall is a poignant memorial to to Captain Edwyn Walker of the 15 Hussars who died in 1919 aged 81 and his wife Elizabeth. One son was killed in a Point to Point race. The other three sons were killed in the First World War.

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On a pillar near the chancel arch is a modern carving of the Holy Trinity showing God the Father holding the cross with the crucified Christ. The Holy Spirit is represented by a dove from God’s mouth.

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Steps lead up to the chancel with a hammer beam roof.

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The gilded reredos has images of the saints traditionally associated with the north of England; Paulinus, Wilfrid of Hexham, John of Beverley, Cuthbert, Aidan and Hilda. Above it is the Kempe east window with more images of saints and clerics associated with York.

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At the back of the church is an exhibition about monastic life and the priory. There are illustrations from the Priory Book of Beasts which was written here in the early C13th and is now kept in the College of St John the Baptist in Oxford. Bestiaries were found in most monasteries and drew moral lessons from the character and moral habits of different animals. They were used as a basis for sermons.

At the end of the south aisle is an exhibition about the C19th restoration of the church by the Rector, John Solloway and his close friend and architect Walter Harvey Brook. There are copies of their detailed notes and photographs as well as some of the old stonework.

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The church is off the main tourist beat and isn’t mentioned in most of the guide books. It is well worth finding. Check the website for current opening times. Try and visit on a bright day as the church can be quite dark inside.

Don’t confuse with the other Holy Trinity Church which is on Goodramgate (#16).
 
Last edited:

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
St Crux Parish Hall, Pavement

Set near the junction of Pavement and the Shambles, this is all that is left of St Crux Church, once the largest medieval churches in the city.

By the end of the C19th the church building was considered unsafe as the tower began to lean dangerously. Attempts to raise money to repair it were unsuccessful, as wealthy parishioners had moved into the suburbs. The church was demolished and part of the stonework used to build the tiny St Crux Parish Hall. Some of the monuments from the walls of the original church were placed in here. The C15th lectern and Royal Coat of Arms were given to All Saints’ Church, Pavement (#14).

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It is now open during the summer as a fund raising tea room. Different charities can ‘rent’ it for one day a year. Inside is a small serving counter and chairs and tables sharing the space with memorials and hatchments hanging from the walls. Tucked away in a corner by what was the chancel is a rather splendid tomb dated 1610.

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When I visited, there was a good selection of filled rolls as well as home made cakes. I was charge £1 for a large slice of excellent chocolate cake. When expressing surprise to the lady behind the till, she smiled and said “We’re the best kept secret in York!” They are as there is no information on the internet advertising when they are open and Tourist Information doesn't know either.

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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
St Helen's Church, Stonegate

St Helen’s is a small church tucked into the corner of Stonegate and Davygate, opposite Betty’s Tearooms. It is possibly one of the oldest churches in York, being built on the line of the Roman Via Praetoria, although much of the present building is C19th.

In the Middle Ages, this was the church of the glass painters who lived and worked in Stonegate. Several of them are buried in the church.

After the Dissolution of Monasteries, the congregation had fallen so much, the church was sold and partially demolished. There was such a public outcry that a couple of years later, an act was obtained to reinstate the church as it stood in a 'principal place', and its suppression had 'defaced and deformed' the city. The octagonal tower was added early in the C19th, based on that of All Saints’ Church (#14).

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The chancel was rebuilt in the mid C19th and the tower and west wall had to be rebuilt at the end of the C19th as they were suffering from subsidence.

Inside it is a simple, rather understated church with and arcade of pointed arches separating the nave and side aisles. On the walls are modern paintings of the Stations of the Cross.

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The wooden ceiling in the nave is painted deep bottle green and the chancel arch is picked out in gold. At the base of the arches is a small carving and the corbels at the ends of the roof beams are also carved. The side aisles have stark dark wood beams. There is a small altar at the end of the south aisle. The organ at the end of the north aisle is painted dark green, picked out with deep plum.

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There is wood panelling across the east end of the church. The reredos is painted in gold and red. The east window is a C19th but thought to be a copy of an earlier window. The west window contains medieval glass.

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The font at the back of the church is C12th and has a carved rim. It is standing on the capital of a C13th pillar.

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Check current opening times on the website.
 

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