St Martin’s Church

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St Martin’s Church is tucked away down a narrow lane to the west of Burton Agnes Hall. It is reached down a dark avenue of tall yew trees which are over 300 years old and make photographing the church almost impossible. In fact, the best views are from the edge of the woodland walk in Burton Agnes Hall.

The church dates from the 12thC when the nave and chancel were built. The tower and side aisles were added later and the church had a Victorian makeover by Archdeacon Wilberforce, son of William. There is a small (unidentified) statue of William Wilberforce on the north wall of the chancel.

From the outside it is a plain church with square perpendicular tower with a small parapet round the top. The nave with clerestory has a parapet and lower side aisles. The simple chancel has a pointed tiled roof with a stone cross at the east end.

Entry is through the porch on the south wall. Immediately inside the doorway is a large round Norman font with arcading carved round the bowl. The font cover was made by Robert Thompson of Kilburn.

It feels a large church with the plain glass clerestory windows providing plenty of light.

Round Norman pillars with pointed arches separate nave and north aisle. Pillars separating nave and south aisle are later. On the walls of the nave are several large Boynton family hatchements. These have the coat of arms of husband on the left and wife on the right. The side with the black background shows who has died.

At the west end is the large wooden organ with a lovely piece of embroidery in front with images of birds, butterfly and animals.

The box pews in the nave date from 1730 and there is a tall wooden family pew with red padded seat set between the arches on the north arcade.

Behind this is the Lady Chapel with the splendid tomb of Sir Walter Griffith, often referred to as the Dark Knight, and his wife dating from about 1481. Both hold their hands in prayer. He is in armour. Resting by his wife are two small figures, presumably of their children. Round the base are carved figures and at the ends, angels holding painted shields.

On the wall is a large memorial to Sir Henry Griffith (died 1654) and his two wives. This is a splendid structure with skulls carved on the base, a reminder of death, and three dark wood coffins resting above. On either side are dark marble pillars and drapes. On the back wall, angels with gilded wings hold an inscription. This is topped by dark obelisks and the family coat of arms.

Next to this, set under a wall arch is a table tomb of Sir Walter Griffith who died in 1487. This has flower motifs carved round the base.

The chancel arch is tall and narrow with carved capitals and a zig zag pattern carved round the arch. In front of it is a carved wood floor standing pulpit and a wooden lectern by Robert Thompson of Klilburn.

In contrast to the plain wooden beam ceiling of the nave, the chancel has a splendid angel hammer beam roof. There are carved angels on the beams and stone angels on the walls. The choir stalls have carved ends and misericords.

Under the east window is a simple table altar with red curtain behind. On either side are panels with the ten commandments.

On the chancel walls are monuments to different members of the Griffin-Boynton family. That of Sir Griffin Boynton who died in 1761 has a cherub at the base and another cherub above holding a painted shield.

The church is open throughout the year and is well worth visiting.

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