St Mary’s Church

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This is a large and attractive building on the corner of Newgate and Horse Market, near the Butter Market. It has a tall battlemented tower at the west end with battlemented nave and side aisles.

The first church was built at the start of the C12th by Bernard Balliol who built the castle. This has been rebuilt and extended over the years and only the north aisle arcades remain of Balliol’s church. The south arcade is early English from about 1300. The north transept was added around 1380 and is decorated style. Richard, Duke of Gloucester widened and extended the church in 1480 and added the clerestory windows. By the end of the C18th, the church was in a poor state of repair and in need of restoration.

Entry is through the south door under the tower, into a porch which contains a lot of memorials on the walls. The Norman south door is now blocked off and is the disabled toilet…

An arcade of round pillars with round arches separates nave and north aisle. The south arcade is later and has octagonal pillars and pointed arches. Stained glass windows contain C20th glass.

A flight of steps leads up under the pointed chancel arch into the chancel. The carved heads on the arch are thought to be Edward IV and Richard of Gloucester. The Yorkshire rose is carved on the stones round the arch. By the chancel arch is an open carved wood pulpit on a stone base.

The chancel feels quite dark weigh its low dark wood roof and panelling around the bottom of the walls. On the north wall is a bread cupboard which was used to store bread to distribute to the poor.

The font in the north aisle dates from 1485 and is made from local stone. The carvings have defeated attempts at interpretation and may be emblems of medieval guilds.

On the north wall are two recessed arches containing an effigy of Robert Mortham, vicar of the parish and remains of medieval carved grave slabs.

There is nothing special about the church to attract the tourist. It is like so many English churches. Never the less, it is still worth a quick look. It is open daily. There is some parking in the forecourt. Otherwise there is parking in Horse Market.

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