St Martin’s Church

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October, 2014

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Lowthorpe is a scattered settlement of a few farmhouses just south of the busy A641, the Bridlington road. The church stands isolated among the trees to the north of the settlement. There was a church here mentioned in the Domesday book and the Saxon cross head found in the church may date from this church.

The present church dates from the early C14th when it became a collegiate church with six chaplains and three clerks. It underwent a major rebuild to reflect its new status. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the religious buildings were dismantled and the church became the parish church. The parish was unable to support a church of this size and by the C18th the church was in a very poor state of repair. A small brick chancel was added to the east end of the restored nave and the chancel was left as a roofless shell. The brick top of the tower probably dates from then. There was further restoration work in the C19th when the windows were replaced, south porch added and the nave roof was replaced by a high pitched roof.

The church is set in a graveyard with yew trees. The tower with its pyramid shaped pinnacles is rather dwarfed by the nave. The now roofless chancel was a similar size to the nave. Windows are bricked up and the priest’s door leads into the derelict chancel with mouldering tombs. Even on a bright sunny day it feels dank.

The Victorian porch has three trefoils above the doorway and carvings at the base of the doorway arch. Inside it is a light and airy building with light streaming through the large plain glass windows. Walls are whitewashed and the wood and pews are a warm deep brown and glow in the sunlight. Furnishings are C19th, with simple wooden pulpit, reading desk and a carved stone font.

A pointed chancel arch with a band of painted leaves and flower heads leads into the tiny chancel. There is just room for a small altar. There is no east window. On the left of the chancel arch are boards with the Ten Commandments and the Royal Coat of Arms is at the top. On the right are two memorial stones.

At the back of the church, moved here from the old chancel, is a most unusual C14th table tomb thought to be that of Sir John de Heslerton, his wife Alice and their children. Sir John and Alice lie side by side and are covered by what can best be described as a blanket. On top of this is a tree with branches; seven on Sir John’s side and six on Alice’s. The branches end in children’s heads, thought to represent their children.

On the wall above is the remains of a C10th carved Saxon cross head found in the churchyard in 1934. Next to the cross are more memorial tablets.

In the graveyard at the east end of the ruined chapel is a medieval cross which was moved here from nearby Kilham. It seems to have been moved during an outbreak of the plague in an attempt to stop people congregating by the cross and spreading the disease.

The church is to the south of the A614 midway between Driffield and Bridlington. It is always open and is signed off the minor road at the start of a coniferous plantation to the north of the settlement. An unsurfaced track leads to the church where there is a parking area.

There are more pictures “here.”:

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