29 August 2022

Saint Mary Bishophill Junior and
Saint Mary Bishophill Senior,
two mediaeval churches in York

Saint Mary Bishophill Junior is possibly the oldest surviving church within the city walls of York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

My visit to York earlier this month was my first, but was short and brisk. In just a few hours it was impossible to arrange a proper visit to York Minster, although I managed to catch glimpses of it as I walked along part of the city walls and through the city’s narrow streets.

The Domesday Book listed eight churches and a minster – not the current building – in York in 1086. About two centuries later, York had around 45 parish churches in 1300. The number had fallen to 39 by 1428. Now, 20 survive, in whole or in part – a number surpassed in England only by Norwich. Today, 19 mediaeval churches are in use and 12 are used for worship.

This time, I managed to visit nine of those mediaeval churches or their sites as four of us walked around York.

The first to visit were Saint Mary Junior Bishophill in the centre of York, just behind Micklegate, and the site of Saint Mary Bishophill Senior, close to the now-closed Quaker Burial Ground at Bishophill I was describing last week.

Saint Mary Bishophill Junior is possibly the oldest surviving church within the city walls of York, but it is usually missed by most tourists and ignored by most travel guides.

The church is close to the city wall on Bishophill Junior, between Smales Street and Prospect Terrace. It stands within what was the colonia or civil quarter of the Roman garrison of Eboracum and pieces of Roman tilework can be seen in the tower.

The double-arched belfry windows in the west tower dates (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The west tower dates from the late Anglo-Saxon period. It was built in the 10th century using masonry of very mixed materials, including blocks of brown sandstone and limestone blocks, some laid in herringbone fashion, and re-used Roman stone. The quoins are mainly of brown sandstone laid in a ‘side-alternate’ fashion and with no buttresses, factors that often mark Anglo-Saxon architecture.

Another typical feature is found in the double-arched belfry windows with a single round column dividing them, in this case outlined in strip-work, with the imposts on the columns projecting out from the wall.

The rather plain lower section tapers slightly from base to top, with the decoration of the belfry section on each of the four sides.

Inside the church, the arch has been described as ‘the finest pre-Conquest tower arch.’ There are fragments too of pre-Conquest stonework inside this church.

Saint Mary Junior has a small congregation in the Anglo-Catholic tradition (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The nave and the north aisle have their origins in the 12th century, the chancel in the 13th and north chapel and south aisle in the 14th century. Other points of interest include pre- conquest carved stones near the tower arch and the mediaeval font.

There are four small panels of late 15th century glass in a window on the south side of the chancel. These depict Saint Michael, the Blessed Virgin Mary, an archbishop holding a pastoral cross, and an archbishop with a pallium.

The reredos behind the high altar dates to 1889 and was designed by Temple Moore, a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott. Moore also designed the pulpit and its sounding board.

Saint Mary’s also has a modern dramatic set of Stations of the Cross by the local artist, Fiona Kahn FitzGerald.

Saint Mary Junior has a small congregation in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. The Eucharist is celebrated at 9.30 am each Sunday, with some exceptions. There is midweek service or compline at 7.30 pm on Wednesday evenings.

Saint Mary Junior also host the Greek Orthodox Parish of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen.

Saint Mary Bishophill Senior was demolished in 1963 … an image on a noticeboard on the churchyard railings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Nearby, the Church of Saint Mary Bishophill Senior once stood on a site where there has been human activity since at least 350 AD.

Saint Mary Bishophill Senior stood on the base of a Romano-British wall that could possibly also have been a church. There is some speculation that this was once also the site of a Saxon cathedral. However, this has not been confirmed by archaeological excavations, although the remains of some Roman buildings were revealed.

The mediaeval church included reused Roman and Northumbrian stones and had early Anglo-Saxon features, including its monolithic construction.

The church was enlarged ca 1180, and again early in the 13th century, doubling the size of the pre-conquest church. A severe thunderstorm on 6 April 1378 destroyed the wooden porch and part of the belfry.

The church was restored in 1866 by JB and W Atkinson. But Saint Mary Bishophill Senior ceased to be parish church in 1878, and it had fallen into a derelict state by the 1930s.

Although the church was listed at Grade A, it was demolished in 1963. Much of the stonework was rescued by the church architect George Pace and parts of the fabric were incorporated into his new Church of the Holy Redeemer on Boroughbridge Road, while some of the monuments and furnishings found a new home in Saint Clement’s Church, Scarcroft Road.

Shortly after, York Civic Trust described these as ‘all the interesting parts of the structure.’

The churchyard remains, including a number of memorials, and the 19th century wall and gates that incorporate part of a 10th century building.

The local residents in Bishophill have now taken responsibility for maintaining the churchyard as a community garden.

More tomorrow

Local residents maintain the churchyard of Saint Mary Bishophill Senior as a community garden (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Monday 29 August 2022

Shipston-on-Stour … a print by Philip Martin. The town gave its name to the tune harmonised by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Patrick Comerford

Today the Church Calendar remembers the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, commemorated with a Lesser Festival in Common Worship in the Church of England.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

The beheading of Saint John the Baptist … a fresco in Analipsi Church or the Church of the Ascension in Georgioupoli, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 14: 1-12 (NRSVA):

1 At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; 2 and he said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ 3 For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 because John had been telling him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ 5 Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod 7 so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ 9 The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; 10he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. 12 His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.

Today’s reflection: ‘Firmly I believe and truly’

For my reflections and devotions each day these few weeks, I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

This morning [29 August 2022], I invite you to join me in listening to the hymn ‘Firmly I believe and truly’ set by Vaughan Williams to the tune of a Warwickshire ballad which he harmonised and gave the name Shipston.

Shipston, with the meter 87 87, was published in the English Hymnal to a text in The Death of Geontius by Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890).

It is set to Shipston in the New English Hymnal (No 360) but the Irish Church Hymnal (No 320) uses the tune Halton Holgate by William Boyce.

This tune is also used for Bishop George Bell’s hymn, ‘God, whose farm is all creation’ (Irish Church Hymnal, No 41).

Shipston was first included in an English folk anthology by Lucy Broadwood (1858-1929), Honorary Secretary of the Folk-Song Society, who collected folk songs throughout these islands at the end of the 19th century. She inherited her interest in folk music from her uncle, the Revd John Broadwood, an important early Victorian collector and the editor of Old English Songs (1847). Her father had also collected a number of old songs in the 1830s and 1840s.

She heard and noted this tune in a ballad being sung at Halford, near Shipston-on-Stour, about 16 km south of Stratford-upon-Avon. It was then in Worcestershire, but is now in in Warwickshire.

The Church of England parish church in Shipston, Saint Edmund, was rebuilt in 1855 by the Gothic Revival architect, George Edmund Street, who also designed the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand, London, and rebuilt and restored Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in the 1870s.

The words in the original ballad, ‘Down by the side of Bedlam City,’ or ‘Don’t you see my Billy coming,’ tell the story of a young woman who laments the man she loves, Billy. He has been killed in battle, but she continues to see visions of his ghost.

Vaughan Williams wrote a tribute, ‘Lucy Broadwood, 1858-1929,’ in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (5.3, 1948, pp 136-138), which has since been reprinted in D Manning (ed), Vaughan Williams on Music (Oxford: OUP, 2008), pp 257-260.

Shipston was first arranged by Vaughan Williams for two hymns in the English Hymnal, ‘Jesu, tender Shepherd, hear me,’ and this morning’s hymn, ‘Firmly I believe and truly.’

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as he has died.

Simply to his grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love supremely, solely,
Him the holy, him the strong.

And I hold in veneration,
For the love of him alone,
Holy Church as His creation,
And her teachings are his own.

Adoration now be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Saint John the Baptist with his severed head, depicted on a pillar in the Church of the Four Martyrs in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer, Monday 29 August 2022 (The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist):

The Collect:

Almighty God,
who called your servant John the Baptist
to be the forerunner of your Son in birth and death:
strengthen us by your grace
that, as he suffered for the truth,
so we may boldly resist corruption and vice
and receive with him the unfading crown of glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Merciful Lord,
whose prophet John the Baptist
proclaimed your Son as the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world:
grant that we who in this sacrament have known
your forgiveness and your life-giving love
may ever tell of your mercy and your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG prayer diary all this week is ‘A New Province,’ inspired by the work of the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola (IAMA), made up of dioceses in Mozambique and Angola, the second and third largest Portuguese-speaking countries in the world.

The Right Revd Vicente Msosa, Bishop of the Diocese of Niassa in the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola, shares his prayer requests in the USPG Prayer Diary throughout this week.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

We pray for the Province of IAMA as it establishes itself. Let us pray for the Lord to provide resources for its ministry.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Execution of Saint John the Baptist, an early 18th century icon from the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, Anopolis, in the Museum of Christian Art in the Church of Saint Catherine of Sinai in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org