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, York. 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.
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 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.
The font at the back of the church is C12th and has a carved rim.
The church is unlocked and although in one of the busiest parts of York, doesn’t seem to get many visitors.
There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/north_yorkshire/york/york_1/st_helen/index.html