30 August 2022

A short, quick visit to
some of the mediaeval
churches in York

All Saints’ Church on North Street is described as ‘York’s finest mediaeval church’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

My recent visit to York was short and brisk and it was impossible to include a proper visit to York Minster. However, I managed to visit some of the many mediaeval churches or their sites in York, and yesterday I described Saint Mary Junior Bishophill and the site nearby of Saint Mary Bishophill Senior.

All Saints’ Church on North Street is described as ‘York’s finest mediaeval church.’ It is attractively located near the River Ouse and next to a row of 15th century timber-framed houses.

All Saints’ Church was founded in the 11th century on land reputedly donated by Ralph de Paganel, whose name is commemorated in the Yorkshire village of Hooton Pagnell.

Externally, the main feature is the impressive tower with a tall octagonal spire. The earliest part of the church is the nave dating from the 12th century. The arcades date from the 13th century and the east end was rebuilt in the 14th century, when the chancel chapels were added. Most of the present building dates from the 14th and 15th century.

Inside, the church has 15th-century hammerbeam roofs and a collection of mediaeval stained glass, including the Corporal Works of Mercy (see Matthew 25: 31ff) and the ‘Pricke of Conscience’ windows, depicting the 15 signs of the End of the World. The pulpit dates from 1675.

The church was restored between 1866 and 1867 by JB and W Atkinson of York. This work included rebuilding the south aisle wall, adding a porch and a vestry, replacing half the roof, providing new seating throughout, scraping the pillars and walls, and installing a new organ.

The masonry work was carried out by Mr Brumby of Skeldergate, the carpentry by Mr Dennison, the plumbing and glazing by Messrs Hodgson and the painting by Mr Lee of Gillygate. The chancel ceiling and reredos were decorated by Mr Knowles. The chancel was laid with Minton tiles. The total cost of the restoration was £1,500. The chancel screen was installed in 1906, and designed by E Ridsdale Tate.

An anchorite building was erected at the west end of the church in the 15th century and a squint made through the wall so that Emma Raughton could observe the Mass being celebrated. The anchorites house was rebuilt in 1910 by E Ridsdale Tate.

All Saints’ Church is a Grade I listed building and was restored again in 1991 by the architect Peter Marshall.

The church has an Anglo-Catholic heritage, and worship is centred on the Eucharist. Mass is celebrated three times a week and the main service is Sung or High Mass at 5.30 pm every Sunday.

Saint Helen’s Church, Stonegate, facing onto Saint Helen’s Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Saint Helen’s Church, Stonegate, faces Saint Helen’s Square. The earliest evidence of the church is provided by the font, dating from the mid to late 12th century.

But, like other mediaeval churches in York, Saint Helen’s is probably a pre-conquest foundation, although most of the church dates from the 14th century and the church is essentially medieval. The west window incorporates significant amounts of 14th-and 15th-century glass.

The church was declared redundant in 1551 and partially demolished, but it was rebuilt in the 1550s.

Tombstones from Saint Helen’s Church in Davygate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

There was a large churchyard in front of the church until 1733, when it was bought by the Corporation of York and paved over to create Saint Helen’s Square. The bones and tombstones were moved to their present position in Davygate.

Saint Helen’s was rebuilt once again in 1857-1858 by WH Dykes and reopened on 16 September 1858. The north, south and east walls were taken down and rebuilt, the roof was replaced, pews were replaced with open seating, the chancel was rebuilt and extended by 10 ft, and gas lighting was installed. The tower was rebuilt by W Atkinson of York in 1875-1876.

The church is in a joint parish with neighbouring Saint Martin le Grand on the south side of Coney Street.

Saint Martin le Grand is the official civic church of York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

We stopped for coffee in a cafĂ© overlooking the River Ouse, in a courtyard behind Saint Martin’s. The church is dedicated Saint Martin of Tours, the patron saint of soldiers, and while the church is generally known as Saint Martin le Grand, this title was coined in the 1830s and is not the official name of the church.

The church is the official civic church of York and was described in Victorian times as ‘one of the most beautiful churches in the city.’

The earliest masonry is from ca 1080, although the church is thought to be older. The tower was built in the 15th century.

The church was restored in 1853-1854 by JB and W Atkinson of York. The south side and east ends of the aisles were rebuilt, and the pierced battlement was added, to replace one removed 40 years earlier. The porch was added at the east end into Coney Street, and a south porch also added near the tower. New stained glass windows by William Wailes were added.

The church is known for the prominent clock on the east front overhanging the street. The clock was added in 1856 by Mr Cooke, with a carved figure of the ‘Little Admiral’ dating from 1778 – although the admiral seemed to be on shore leave when I went looking for him last week.

The church was largely destroyed in a bombing raid on 29 April 1942, but the 15th-century tower and south aisle remain, with a new vestry and parish room at the west end of the site. The Saint Martin window (ca 1437) was removed before the raid for safety. It now occupies a new transept opposite the south door, and it is the largest mediaeval window in York outside the Minster.

The church restoration by the architect George Gaze Pace in 1961-1968 is considered one of the most successful post-war church restorations in England, successfully blending the surviving 15th-century remains with contemporary elements. The reredos screen was designed by Frank Roper.

The tower of Saint Martin-cum-Gregory, now a Stained Glass Centre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Another church dedicated to Saint Martin in York is the Church of Saint Martin-cum-Gregory in the Parish of Holy Trinity, Micklegate, now a Stained Glass Centre. The church was originally only dedicated to Saint Martin, but acquired its present name when it merged with Saint Gregory’s Church in 1585.

The church dates from the 11th century. Part of the nave and the north and south arcades date from the 13th century, the north aisle dates form the mid-14th century, and the chancel, chapels and arcades were rebuilt around 1430.

The north porch was added in 1655, and the west tower was refaced with brick in 1677. The clock was added in 1680. The upper stages of the tower were rebuilt again in 1844-1845 by JB and W Atkinson of York.

The church was restored in 1875 when the interior was cleared of the old square pews, the west gallery and the organ. The floor was levelled and laid with red and black tiles. The columns, arcades and walls were scraped and repaired. The roof of the nave was restored and painted. The organ was enlarged by Mr Denman of Skeldergate. New seating was fitted in the nave and Gurney stoves were introduced for heating.

A further restoration was carried out in 1894 when the chancel was re-roofed. The parish was united with Holy Trinity Church, Micklegate, in 1953.

After being made redundant, the church served as a public hall. Since 2008, it has been developed as a stained-glass centre and it is an occasional arts venue.

Saint John’s Church, Micklegate, has been an architectural centre, an arts centre and a bar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Saint John’s Church, Micklegate, is simple rectangular building, with the earliest parts including the tower base dating from the 12th century.

The chancel is 14th century. The north aisle and arcade were rebuilt, and the west end extended in the 15th century. The tower collapsed in 1551 and part of the north aisle was rebuilt.

The church was restored and altered by George Fowler Jones in 1850 to enable the widening of North Street. The south porch was added, the east end was rebuilt and there was extensive restoration. The windows were reglazed, a new floor laid and new pews were added.

JB and W Atkinson of York re-roofed the nave in 1866.

The church closed in 1934. It is a Grade II* listed church and later became the Institute of Architecture of the York Academic Trust, which merged into the new University of York.

The university later used the church as York Arts Centre in the 1960s. It was later sold and more recently has been used as a bar. The bell ropes hang around the bar float, and there is occasional ringing – though not very often.

Saint Sampson’s Church is the only church in England dedicated to Saint Sampson of York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Saint Sampson’s Church on Church Street, near Saint Sampson’s Square, lies across the line of the wall of Roman Eboracum, and is dedicated to Saint Sampson of York, the only church in England with this dedication.

The first church on the site was probably built before the Norman Conquest. A fragment of an early 11th-century cross has been found in the wall of a house on Newgate, within the former churchyard. The foundations of a Norman wall have also been found underneath the church.

The church was first referred to in 1154, and from 1394 the advowson belonged to the Vicars Choral of York Minster. The church was gradually rebuilt in the 15th century, the south aisle was rebuilt in the 1400s, and the north aisle dates from the 1440s, while the west tower was rebuilt in the 1480s.

There was a plan to merge the parish with that of Saint Helen’s Church, Stonegate, in 1549. Although this did not happen, Saint Sampson’s gained two bells from Saint Helen’s.

The tower was damaged during the English Civil War in 1644, and the Parliamentarian troops later destroyed most of the monuments in the church. The pre-Victorian features of the church include the east window of the north aisle, some roof bosses, the bell-frame and bells, the north and south doors, the piscina, and various monuments.

Most of the church was rebuilt by Frederick Bell in 1845-1848, and a vestry was added. The tower survived, but was reduced in height, although it was heightened again in 1910.

Saint Sampson’s Church was listed as Grade II in June 1954. But the church closed in 1969, and many of its fittings were removed. However, it was restored by George Pace, and in 1974 it reopened as a ‘drop-in centre’ for people who are over 60. Pace inserted a mezzanine floor over the north aisle to give space for offices, and placed a kitchen in the south aisle. The sanctuary was converted into a chapel, with a reredos from All Saints’ Church, Falsgrove.

Apart from Saint Sampson, York has its other saints too. Saint William of York, or William FitzHerbert, was twice Archbishop of York. He was restored after the death of his rival, Henry Murdac, in 1153, but died shortly after his return, allegedly from poison in the chalice he used to celebrate Mass on 8 June 1154. He was canonised in 1226.

Saint Margaret Clitherow (1556-1586) is known as ‘the Pearl of York.’ She was martyred by being pressed to death for refusing to enter a plea to the charge of harbouring Catholic priests. She was canonised in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. But more about her later this week.

The ‘Little Admiral’ appears to be on ‘shore leave’ from Cooke’s clock at Saint Martin le Grand (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Tuesday 30 August 2022

Magda’s Irish home … Dundarave House in Bushmills, Co Antrim, was the home of Magdalene (Fisher), Lady Macnaghten, for whom Vaughan Williams wrote the tune ‘Magda’

Patrick Comerford

Today the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers John Bunyan, Spiritual Writer (1688), with a Lesser Festival 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.’

Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church can be seen through an arch on High Street … John Bunyan (1628-1688) was part of the Cromwellian garrison in Newport Pagnell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

John Bunyan was born at Elstow in Bedfordshire in 1628. He was largely self-educated and used the Bible as his grammar. He read very few other books, and they were all piously Protestant in nature, yet he produced Pilgrim’s Progress, probably the most original text of spiritual genius that century, telling the story of the man Christian on his journey through life to God.

Pilgrim’s Progress was not written while John Bunyan was a prisoner in Bedford gaol, as often stated, but during a confinement some years later. History tells us little of the man but what is clear from his writings is that the salvation of the soul was what mattered most to him. He died on this day in 1688.

We sang his only hymn, ‘He who would valiant be,’ to the well-known tune by Vaughan Williams as the processional hymn at the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford on Sunday [28 August 2022].

Luke 21: 21, 34-36 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 21 ‘Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it …

34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

Today’s reflection: ‘Saviour, again to thy dear name we raise’

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 [30 August 2022], I invite you to join me in listening to the hymn ‘Saviour, again to thy dear name we raise’ by Canon John Ellerton (1826-1893).

Vaughan Williams wrote the tune Magda with this hymn in mind, but also gave it some interesting Irish connections.

The tune was first published in 1925 in Songs of Praise, where it is chosen as the setting for this hymn.

Vaughan Williams named the tune Magda because he wrote it in preparation for the wedding of Magdalene Fisher (1903-2002), his niece by marriage, who was about to marry the future Sir Anthony Macnaghten (1899-1972) on 27 February 1926.

After World War II, the couple moved to his family home, Dundarave House in Bushmills, Co Antrim. In 1955, Sir Antony Macnaghten succeeded to the family title as tenth baronet and as Chief of the Macnachtan Clan. The first Macnaghten moved from Scotland to Ireland in the 16th century and served as secretary to the MacDonnells, Earls of Antrim. The lands they acquired included a large portion of the village of Bushmills, which the clan rebuilt in the late 1800s. The family motto is: ‘Be not wiser nor the Highest, I hope in God.’

When her husband died in 1972, Magda continued to live in Northern Ireland until her death in February 2002 at the age of 98.

One of the hymns sung at her funeral on 1 March 2002 in Dunluce, Parish Church was ‘For all the saints, who from the their labours rest.’ Her uncle Vaughan Williams had composed the tune Sine Nomine for that hymn by Bishop Walsham How (1823-1897).

The tune Magda is used for the hymn ‘Go forth for God; go forth for the world in peace’ by John Raphael Peacey (1869-1971) in both the New English Hymnal (No 321) and the Irish Church Hymnal (No 455), while Ellerton’s hymn ‘Saviour, again to thy dear name we raise’ is often set to the tune ‘Ellers’ by FJ Hopkins (1818-1901), re-harmonised by Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), with Vaughan Wlliams’s Magda as an alternative tune (see New English Hymnal, No 250) .

Like Vaughan Williams and Sir Anthony Macnaghten, Canon John Ellerton was a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge. He was an authority on hymns, wrote or translated over 80 hymns, and contributed to Hymns Ancient and Modern. His best-known hymn is, perhaps, ‘The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended.’ He is said to have written that hymn in 1870 as he made his nightly walk to teach at a Mechanics’ Institute. It was published that year in 1870 for A Liturgy for Missionary Meetings.

He was born in Clerkenwell into an evangelical family, and was educated at King William’s College on the Isle of Man, and Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1849; MA 1854), where he came under the influence of Frederick D Maurice.

He was ordained deacon in 1850 and priest in 1851 by the Bishop of Chichester, and at first was curate of Eastbourne, Sussex, and then Curate of Brighton Lecturer of Saint Peter’s, Brighton.

In 1860, he became chaplain to Lord Crewe and Vicar of Crewe Green in Cheshire. There he chaired the education committee at the Mechanics’ Institute for the local Railway Company. Reorganising the Institute, he made it one of the most successful in England. He taught classes in English and Bible History, and organised one of the first Choral Associations in the Midlands.

While he was Vicar of Crewe Green, he wrote this hymn in 1866 for the Malpas, Middlewich and Nantwich Choral Association in Cheshire.

He was co-editor with Bishop William Walsham How (1823-1897) and others of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) Church Hymns (1871).

In 1872, he became Rector of Saint Oswald’s, Hinstock, Shropshire, in the Diocese of Lichfield. In 1876, he moved to Barnes, then in Surrey, a west London suburb. There he became very involved in the work of SPCK. However, the work among a large population broke him down and he had to go abroad for a year, serving as Chaplain at Pegli in Italy (1884-1885). He returned to England and the small Essex parish in White Roding was his last.

During his final illness, he was made an honorary canon of St Alban’s Cathedral in 1892, but was never installed. It is said that as he lay dying hymns flowed from his lips in unceasing praise to God. He died in Torquay in Devon on 15 June 1893, aged 66.

Ellerton refused to register a copyright on any of his hymns, claiming that if they ‘counted worthy to contribute to Christ’s praise in the congregation, one ought to feel very thankful and humble.’ To hear them offered in worship was reward enough for him.

Saviour, again to thy dear name we raise
With one accord our parting hymn of praise.
Guard thou the lips from sin, the hearts from shame,
That in this house have called upon thy name.

Grant us thy peace, Lord, through the coming night;
Turn thou for us its darkness into light;
From harm and danger keep thy children free,
For dark and light are both alike to thee.

Grant us thy peace throughout our earthly life;
Peace to thy Church from error and from strife;
Peace to our land, the fruit of truth and love;
Peace in each heart, thy Spirit from above.

Thy peace in life, the balm of every pain;
Thy peace in death, the hope to rise again;
Then, when thy voice shall bid our conflict cease,
Call us, O Lord, to thine eternal peace.

Dunluce Castle near Bushmills, Co Antrim … Vaughan Williams wrote the tune ‘Magda’ for the wedding of his niece by marriage Magdalene Fisher and the future Sir Anthony Macnaghten (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer, Tuesday 30 August 2022 (John Bunyan):

The Collect:

God of peace,
who called your servant John Bunyan to be valiant for truth:
grant that as strangers and pilgrims
we may at the last
rejoice with all Christian people in your heavenly city;
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:

God of truth,
whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with your servant John Bunyan
to the eternal feast of heaven;
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:

Let us pray for terrorism to cease as many innocent souls continue to be killed every day in Cabo Delgado.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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