Medieval churches of York

Medieval churches of York

York had around forty-five parish churches in 1300. Twenty survive, in whole or in part, a number surpassed in England only by Norwich, although few are currently used for worship. This article consists of, first, a list of medieval churches which still exist in whole or in part, and, second, a list of medieval churches which are known to have existed in the past but have been completely demolished.

Surviving medieval churches and those of which fragments remain "in situ"

All Saints, North Street

[] This church was founded in the eleventh century, but most of the present building is fourteenth and fifteenth century. It is attractively situated near the river Ouse and next to a row of fifteenth-century timber-framed houses. Externally, the main feature is the impressive tower with a tall octagonal spire. Attached to the west end is an anchorhold or hermitage built of concrete in the 1920s on the site of a house occupied by a hermit on the early 15th century. Internally there are fifteenth-century hammerbeam roofs and much medieval stained glass, including the Corporal Works of Mercy (derived from Matt 25:31ff) and the "Pricke of Conscience" windows. The latter depicts the fifteen signs of the End of the World. The church has an Anglo-Catholic heritage and there are many images of devotion.

All Saints, Pavement

There has been a church on this site since before the Norman Conquest, but the present building is almost entirely fourteenth- and fifteenth-century. As with St. Denys (below), part of the building was demolished in the late eighteenth century: the east end (chancel and aisles) was removed so that the market-place in Pavement could be expanded. The present east end (originally the crossing) was rebuilt to a design by George Edmund Street in 1887, but the remains of the medieval chancel-arch can still be seen above the east window inside the church. The most noticeable feature of the church's exterior is the octagonal open-work lantern-tower of about 1400, which for many years housed a light for the guidance of travellers. Inside, there is a hexagonal pulpit of 1634, and a number of fittings from St Saviour and St Crux, whose parishes, among others, have been united with All Saints'. Most notable are the west window of fine 15th century York glass showing scenes from the life of Christ, in which the iconography may reflect the Miracle Plays; the east windows by Kempe; and the 12th century 'doom' knocker on the north door.

[From plaque just inside of the church] Holy Trinity, Goodramgate -Founded in the first half of the 12th century, its architecture is that of the 13th and 14th centuries, with woodwork and pews of the 17th and 18th centuries. The church is a good example of how a church was arranged after the Reformation. The stained glass over the alter is a gift of John Walker, Rector and its late Perpendicular, in date 1470-1480 a rare date in York glass. []

The Bedern Chapel

Bedern Hall was built for the “College of Vicars Choral”. Between the Hall and Goodramgate you can still see the College’s private chapel, built in the 1340s. It is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin, and St Katherine.
*Hall, Richard (2004) "Bedern Hall and the Vicars Choral of York Minster". York: York Archaeological Trust.

Holy Trinity Priory, Micklegate

t Andrew, St Andrewgate

This medieval church was closed by order of York City Council in about 1548 and sold for secular use. By 1576 the parson of St. Saviour's was criticised for keeping his 'swyne' in St. Andrew's churchyard. Later, St. Andrews was used as stable, brothel and school, presumably not simultaneously. St Peter’s School used it from 1730 to 1823. By 1924 it was the ‘Gospel Hall’ of the ‘open’ Plymouth Brethren. Today it is still used for Christian worship.

* Brian Seymour (1992) "York's Other Churches and Chapels"

t Crux, Pavement

This was the largest medieval parish church in York after its rebuilding in 1424, and a brick tower was added in 1697. It was closed around 1880 after becoming unsafe, and attempts to raise sufficient funds to rebuild it were unsuccessful. It was demolished in 1887, although some of the church's stonework was used to build the St Crux Parish Hall at the bottom of the Shambles. The Hall contains a number of monuments from the old church, and other fittings are now in All Saints, Pavement, to which the parish of St Crux was joined in 1885. Part of the stone wall of the fifteenth-century north aisle is still to be seen, and forms part of the southern exterior wall of no. 23 the Shambles and of the south wall of the Snickelway which leads to Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Gate. The Hall is currently used as a café.

t Cuthbert, Peaseholme Green

t Denys, Walmgate

St Denys Church stands in a churchyard raised above the level of the surrounding roads. It is dedicated to St Denys, the patron saint of France and of Paris. There is evidence that the site was formerly occupied by buildings of the Roman and Viking or Anglo-Saxon periods. The present church is the chancel of the original medieval building, and occupies about one-third of its space - the west end was demolished in 1797, and the central tower (whose spire had been damaged in the Siege of York and was later struck by lightning in 1700) was replaced by the present tower in 1847.

t Helen Stonegate

[] Facing St Helen's Square, which incorporates the historic churchyard.The earliest evidence of date is the mid to late 12th century font, but like other medieval churches in the city it is probably a pre-Conquest foundation. Though rebuilt twice, in the 1550s and 1857-8, the church is essentially medieval. The main exceptions are the tower (c1814) and chancel (1858). The west window incorporates significant amounts of 14th and 15th century glass.

t John, Micklegate

St John's became the York city Arts Centre in the 1960s, but is now a bar called 'The Parish'. A particular item of interest is the bells, whose ropes hang around the bar float! There is occasional ringing, however not very often.

t Laurence, Lawrence Street

The present church is Victorian, but in its churchyard is the small tower of its predecessor (in which Sir John Vanbrugh was married in 1719). This dates back to the twelfth century, although its top storey was added in the early sixteenth century. The tower, which is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, has an impressive Norman doorway, formerly one of the entrances to the nave.

t Margaret, Walmgate

St Margaret is one of the two medieval churches that survive from the original six in the Walmgate area (the other survivor is St Denys, above). It dates back to at least the 12th century, though most of the present structure is 14th century. The major exceptions are the red brick tower, built in 1684 after the collapse of a previous tower, and the Romanesque tunnel-vaulted south porch which is enriched with carvings of the signs of the zodiac and the labours of the Months. The porch originally belonged to the church of St Nicholas's Hospital, which was situated outside Walmgate Bar and was ruined during the Civil War. It was moved to St Margarets at about the same time as the rebuilding of the tower.

St Margaret was restored and enlarged in 1850-1, but its congregation gradually declined and it was declared redundant in 1974. It was subsequently used as a store for the York Theatre Royal until its adaptation for use as a performance space and conference facility by the National Centre for Early Music, which opened in 2000.

t Martin Coney Street

Often known as St Martin le Grand, though this title was coined in the 1830s and is not the official name of the church. The earliest masonry is from c1080, though the church is thought to be older. The church was largely destroyed in a bombing raid on 29 April 1942, but the 15th century tower and south aisle remain, with a new vestry and parish room at the west end of the site. The St Martin window of c1437 was removed before the raid for safety; now occupying a new transept opposite the south door it is the largest medieval window in York outside the Minster. The church is most notable now for the restoration under the architect George Gaze Pace, completed in 1968, which is generally considered one of the most successful post-war church restorations in the country, successfully blending the surviving 15th century remains with contemporary elements.The church is also known for the prominent clock overhanging the street, topped by the figure of a naval officer dating from 1778.

t Martin-cum-Gregory

t Mary Bishophill Junior

[] It is generally agreed that this is the oldest church within the city walls. The site of the church was the colonia or civil quarter of the Roman garrison of Eboracum and elements of Roman stonework can be found in the Tower. There are also fragments of pre-Conquest stonework inside this church.

t Mary, Castlegate

t Michael, Spurriergate

t Michael-le-Belfrey, High Petergate

St Michael-le-Belfrey is included here for completeness, as, strictly speaking, this is not a medieval church. The original church was completely demolished and rebuilt between 1525 and 1536, and the only part of the building surviving from the old church is the fourteenth-century stained glass in the east window.

t Olave's, Marygate

St Olave's (pronounced Olive) is situated within the walls of St Mary's Abbey, which was ruined at the Dissolution. It is dedicated to Olaf, patron saint of Norway. Thought to have been founded by Earl Siward of Northumbria before the Conquest, the medieval church was very severely restored in the 18th century. A new chancel was added in 1887-9 designed by G Fowler Jones, a York architect. This contains the five-light 15th-century east window.

t Sampson, Church Street

t Saviour, St Saviourgate

Demolished medieval churches

*All Saints, Fishergate - located south of Paragon Street, this church was built in the eleventh century, when it was given to Whitby Abbey, or earlier. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it seems to have quickly fallen into disuse, and by 1549 had disappeared.
*All Saints, Peasholme Green
*Holy Trinity (also known as Christ Church), King's Court - largely rebuilt in the nineteenth century, closed in 1886 and demolished in 1937. Some of the gravestones from its churchyard can be seen in King's Square near the top of the Shambles, and at the Petergate end of the Square is a large inscribed paving stone commemorating the church.
*St Andrew, Fishergate
*St Benet, Patrick Pool
*St Clement, Clementhorpe
*St. Edward, Lawrence Street
*St George, Fishergate - suppressed in the sixteenth century and ruinous by 1644. Its churchard (with the gravestone of Dick Turpin) survives, and across the road (now George Street) is the Roman Catholic church of St George, built to serve the Irish community that settled in the Walmgate area after the Potato Famine.
*St Giles, Gillygate
*St Gregory, Barker Lane - demolished in the sixteenth century.
*St Helen, Fishergate
*St Helen on the Walls, Aldwark
*St. John-del-Pyke
*St John, Hungate - suppressed in 1586.
*St Mary ad Valvas
*St Mary, Bishophill Senior - demolished 1963. Some monuments and fittings were moved to St Clements, Scarcroft Road, and parts of the fabric were re-used in the Church of The Holy Redeemer, Boroughbridge Road
*St. Mary, Layerthorpe
*St. Mary, Walmgate
*St Maurice, Monkgate - demolished in 1876 and replaced by a new church, which itself was demolished in 1966. Some of its graveyard is still to be seen on the corner of Lord Mayor's Walk.
*St. Michael-without-Walmgate
*St Nicholas, Lawrence Street - part of the twelfth-century St Nicholas's Hospital. Survived until the 1644 Siege of York, when it was severely damaged by the Parliamentary forces' cannon fire. Lord Fairfax arranged for its Norman doorway to be re-erected at St Margaret, Walmgate, and the rest of the church's fabric was subsequently re-used or stolen. St Nicholas Fields is an old brickworks and landfill site which now has the St Nicholas Fields Environment Centre situated on it. The nature reserve has a modern stone circle which has used some of the stones from the church.
*St Peter-le-Willows, Walmgate
*St Peter-the-Little, Peter Lane. In 1548 it was proposed that the parish should be united with that of All Saints, Pavement, and in the following year the church and churchyard were sold to Miles Newton of York, who in his will dated 10 June 1550, bequeathed to his son "the church ground, churchyarde and walls of the late dissolved church called Peterlayne lyttil in York". Meanwhile, neither the parishioners of St Peter's nor those of All Saints would accept the union of the parishes until in 1583 they finally agreed to a decision to that effect of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the church was officially suppressed in 1586.
*St. Stephen, Fishergate
*St Wilfrid, Blake Street - suppressed in 1585. The name was revived in 1760 for a Roman Catholic chapel on a different site, and in 1802 this was rebuilt on the site in Duncombe Place where the present Catholic church of St Wilfrid eventually replaced it in 1862-4.

External links

* [ Victoria County History article]
* [ Campanology site with pictures and information about St Nicholas, St Crux, Holy Trinity King's Square, St Mary Bishophill Senior, St Maurice and St Margaret]
* [ Official All Saints North Street site with images and guide to the stained glass]
* [ St Helen Stonegate official site. Includes sections on the history, architecture, glass and organ]
* [ St. Mary Bishophill Junior, Parish Church Website]
* [ St. Clement Parish Church Website]


*cite book | last = Pevsner | first = Nikolaus | authorlink = Nikolaus Pevsner | coauthors = and Neave, David | title = Yorkshire: York and the East Riding | origyear = 1972 | edition = 2nd edition | year = 1995 | publisher = Penguin Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-14-071061-2
*cite book | last = Evans | first = Antonia (ed)| title =The York Book | publisher =Blue Bridge | location =York|year = 2002 | id =ISBN 0-9542749-0-3
*cite book | last = Wilson | first = Barbara | coauthors = and Mee, Frances | title = The Medieval Parish Churches of York: the pictorial evidence | year = 1998 | publisher = York Archaeological Trust | location = York | id = ISBN 1-874454-19-1
*cite book | last = Royal Commission on Historic Monuments | title = An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York: Vol V The Central Area | origyear = 1981 | publisher = RCHM | location = England | id = ISBN 0-11-700892-3

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