St Mary’s Church

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Things to do


Date of travel

January, 2016

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This is probably the oldest church within the city wall but is ignored by the guide books. It is tucked away in a non-touristy part of York and I found it completely by accident when I saw it signed off Micklegate. The promise of an Anglo-Saxon tower was too good to miss.

The church was built over what used to be the civil quarter of the Roman garrison of Eboricum and pieces of Roman tile work can be seen in the tower. The tower is late Anglo-Saxon with bands of typical Anglo-Saxon herringbone masonry. The double windows in the belfry are typical of Saxon/Norman work.

The nave and north aisle are C12th. The chancel is C13th and the north chapel and south aisle date from the C14th, when the church was extended. It was substantially restored in the late C19th. The beautiful reredos by Temple Moore was added then.

Inside it is a very attractive and well loved building. Walls are plastered and whitewashed, contrasting with the stone pillars and arches. The unusual ceramic Stations of the Cross are minimalist modern designs. An arcade of sturdy round Norman pillars with round arches separates the nave and north aisle. The south arcade with its pointed arches is later.

The lovely round arch leading into the base of the tower is Roman and may have been one of the archways into the Roman city.

In front of the arch is the medieval font with a Georgian cover which fits round the font rather than resting on the top. By the font are two of the old bells and nearby is the base of a carved Saxon cross.

At the end of the south aisle is a small chapel dedicated to St Mary.

The chancel is very attractive reflecting the work of Temple Moore. The painted pulpit by the chancel arch is also his work.

Above the high altar is a beautiful reredos with red and pale green ogee arches picked out in gilt. In the centre is the figure of Christ Crucified with the Virgin Mary and St John on either side. Below this is the host box, covered with a green and gold cloth. A red sanctuary lamp burns above.

The glass in the windows was put in during the 1960s, replacing the Victorian glass. Four small panels of late C15th century glass survive in the window in the south wall of the chancel. These show the Archangel Michael, the Virgin Mary and two Archbishops.

This is a delightful church, a real hidden gem. The church is open Wednesday to Saturday 1-3. Otherwise phone York 612172 to ask for entry. It was a Sunday when I visited and I was lucky as the curate and churchwarden were working in the church and the door was open. It is well worth finding. The post code is YO1 6EN and the grid reference is SE 600515.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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