St Mary the Virgin

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Hull boasts two splendid churches in the centre. There is the massive
“Holy Trinity Church “: and just down Lowgate is the smaller but equally attractive St Mary’s Church. The splendid square tower with massive crocketed pinnacles arches over the pavement. There are more tall slender pinnacles along the side aisles with mock gargolyes at the base.

The church dates from around 1400 and was originally a chapel of ease for nearby Ferriby. It didn’t become an independent parish until after the reformation. The tower collapsed in the early 16thC, demolishing the west end of the church which had to be rebuilt. There was a major restoration by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the mid 19thC. He endeavoured to retain as much of the medieval work as possible but the church seen today is basically his work.

The brick tower was encased in stone and Gothic style windows added. The outside of the rest of the church was covered with ashlar and another aisle added on the south side. Inside, the old singing gallery at the west end was removed. Pews, altar and font were replaced and a new rood screen was added. Since 2000, the pinnacles of the tower and the clerestory glass have been replaced.

Entry is through the west door under the arch of the tower. It is a large church with tall slender pillars with carved capitals and pointed arches separating nave from the single north aisle and double south aisle. Between the pillars are carved heads and winged angels.

The eye is immediately drawn to the rood screen round three sides of the chancel. Early 20thC, it replaces a similar screen lost at the Reformation. It is a typical medieval design with panels along the bottom and open multi cusped arches above. Above these is a frieze of angels with the instruments of the passion. The four figures of the ‘Doctors of the church’, St Ambrose, St Gregory, St Jerome and St Augustine of Hippo support the Rood Cross. On either side are the figures of the Virgin Mary and St John. It is a lovely bit of carving.

The altar and reredos are Victorian. The altar is a simple table with a splendid stone reredos behind it decorated with gilded flower motifs. The east window above contains some pieces of 15thC glass, including the three gold crows of the City of Hull.

There are a number of splendid memorials on the north wall, including that of William Dobson dated 1666 with a bust of wearing his his mayoral chain. He is flanked by small cherubs and scrolls, skulls and fruits.

This is a nice church but is only open on Thursdays and Fridays from 11-2. I managed to get in a few minutes before it closed and want to come back for a longer visit, not only to enjoy the church but to look at the second hand books which take up quite a large area of the south aisle.


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