St Laurence’s church, Church Stretton

P8082077

On the Tuesday of our holiday the weather forecast was for rain during late morning. As we’d already done a couple of decent walks on the previous two days we decided to take it a little easy and have a mooch around Church Stretton.

There are a lot of old buildings in the town, and St Laurence’s church, a Grade I Listed Building, is the oldest with a nave built in the 12th century. The chancel and the upper stage of the tower were built in the 15th century while the south vestry and west aisles were added during the 19th century. This is the church that put the “Church” in Church Stretton!

IMG_2245

The oldest part of the church, the nave is Romanesque (Norman). This unused door in the north wall is very typical of the style with its simple rounded arch.

P8082072

Above the door, to the left, is a sheila-na-gig.

P8082073

This website provides a good explanation of these pre-Christian symbols found on churches, castles, and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Great Britain

Sheela Na Gigs are quasi-erotic stone carvings of a female figure usually found on Norman or to be more precise Romanesque churches. They consist of an old woman squatting and pulling apart her vulva, a fairly strange thing to find on a church. The carvings are old and often do not seem to be part of the church but have been taken from a previous older, usually Romanesque, building.

The rest of the church is Gothic –  Early English, although the top stage of the tower, which is Perpendicular.

A Gothic door with a pointed arch in the South wall

P8082079

We had a look inside

IMG_2246

The timber roofs in the nave

IMG_2247

and the south transept

IMG_2249

go back to the 13th Century and are in remarkably good condition.

I liked this metal sculpture in the roof in the tower crossing – dating from about 1970 it depicts St Laurence and his attribute, a gridiron.

IMG_2255

There was some attractive stained glass

IMG_2251

IMG_2252

IMG_2253

All Saints Church, Little Stretton

As we turned on to the main road at Little Stretton this is the first thing we saw

DSC02428

Well, I’ve never seen a church with a thatched roof before, so we stopped to take a closer look

DSC02431

The lady who was tidying up the garden provided some history for us. The church isn’t as old as it appears and its appearance is deceptive. It was only erected in 1903 and was a pre-fab, “the 1903 equivalent of a flat pack furniture” as the lady put it. It’s constructed of timber and was painted black and white to blend in with the adjacent old timber framed manor house. It originally had a  corrugated iron roof, but because it was noisy when it rained and the congregation couldn’t hear the pastor, it was replaced with the thatch.

We took a look inside

IMG_2142

An interesting building! Kind of Arts and Crafts style.

Whitby Abbey

IMG_1809 (2)

Perched high on the top of the East Cliff, standing next to the old Parish Church, dominates the view as you approach Whitby. There’s been an Abbey here since Anglo Saxon times, indeed the presence of the religious community is the reason why the town exists.

P7251847

The first monastery was founded in 657 AD by the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria, Oswy who had converted to Christianity. The original name of the settlement was Streoneshalh, becoming known as Whitby only after the area was occupied by the Danes in the 12th Century – Whitby being derived from “white settlement” in Old Norse.

Ruled by an abbess, Hilde, the Anglo-Saxon monastery was one of a few known examples from the Anglian period of a ‘double house’ for both men and women and was an important religious centre in the Kingdom of Northumbria. In 664 it was the location of the Synod of Whitby, which established the dominance of the Roman Church over the Celtic tradition. Nothing remains of that building today as it was destroyed following the Viking raids in the 9th Century. The site was deserted for a couple of hundred years until after the Norman invasion when a new Benedictine Abbey was founded in 1078. This was a Romanesque (Norman) building; it was replaced by the current Gothic structure constructed over a protracted period between the 13th and 15th Centuries.

The Abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and it gradually fell into ruin.  Today it is preserved under the stewardship of English Heritage.

P7251851

We decided to climb the 199 steps from the bottom of the East Cliff on the Sunday, the first full day of our holiday. However on reaching the top we were greeted by this

IMG_1661

The Abbey was shrouded in mist which had blown in from the sea and was soon covering much of the town. It looked very eerie and it was easy to understand why it featured in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

We felt there was little point looking around when our view was obscured by the mist, so we decided to leave the visit until later in the week.

DSC02346

Entry is cheap, £8.40 with a Gift Aid donation, £7.60 without, but although there are decent views from outside the walls, we stumped up to get a closer look.

IMG_1742

The majority of the structure is in the Early English style of Gothic architecture with distinctive, tall, narrow, pointed lancet windows

P7251875

P7251883

P7251869

richly moulded arches and distinctive ‘clustered’ columns

P7251867 (2)

P7251865

P7251866

The west end was built during the latter part of the prolonged period of construction and so reflects the Decorated Gothic style,

P7251870

as illustrated by these large windows with the remains of elaborate tracery.

P7251884

P7251873

IMG_1901

There’s a visitor centre which has a display of archaeological material excavated at the site. I found it a little disappointing. But that’s a minor quibble as getting close up to the ruins made the visit more than worthwhile.

Whitby houses

Until the 19th Century, Whitby it was a small fishing port with few houses. But as shipbuilding and other industries as well as tourism took hold the town began to develop. Not surprisingly, then, many of the buildings in the older parts of town are from the Georgian period. These are a few examples of Georgian style houses we spotted around the town.

IMG_1622

IMG_1667

IMG_1649

IMG_1671

Some of them rather grand

IMG_1669

IMG_1765

including Whitehall, next door to our holiday home

P7231820

The grandest buildings, such as the Bay Royal Hotel and Royal Crescent, are up on the top of the West Cliff. It’s the only historic area we didn’t really explore during our visit so no photos!

There were some examples of earlier buildings scattered around the town

IMG_1670

IMG_1665

IMG_1707

The Tudor ‘Manor House’ of Bagdale Hall on the west side of the river is one of the oldest buildings in the town. It’s been restored and converted to a hotel and restaurant.

IMG_1793

We spotted this interesting house on Church Street on the East side of the river. A little piece of Amsterdam in East Yorkshire!

IMG_1626

We speculated as to whether the original owner was from the Netherlands or had spent some time there.

Howden

DSC02230

After I’d had a look around the Minster in Howden, I decided to have a mooch around the town starting in the town square, which is immediately in front of the east end of the Minster.

DSC02206

It was a thriving town in medieval times with a connection to the Bishops of Durham. They would stay in the town when travelling down to London and had a palace built here. The remains, the Bishop’s Manor, is just off the market square and around the corner from the Minster .

DSC02239

DSC02186

Originally there was a complex range of buildings, inside an irregular walled courtyard. But the majority of these buildings were demolished in the late 16th century. Nevertheless the remaining structure is quite impressive for a small town.

The Minister towers over the buildings in the town centre

DSC02233

The old streets are narrow and twisty, probably reflecting their medieval origin.

DSC02207

DSC02213

but many of the buildings are Georgian town houses built for professional men and tradesmen

DSC02220

DSC02231

DSC02236

With a few grand houses

DSC02219

This is the town’s war memorial. An ornate Gothic monument.

DSC02210

During the First World War an airship station was built just to the north of the town, near Spaldington. The airships based here provided protection for ports and shipping along the east coast. After the war the station was closed but the hangers were converted into a manufacturing facility for airships including the R100, designed by Sir Barnes Wallis (who later designed the Vickers Wellington bomber invented the “bouncing bomb” used by the Dambusters).  The author Nevil Shute Norway (better known as Nevil Shute) was part of the team that created the R100 and lived in the town.

DSC02185

Another day, another Minster

DSC02179

Starting to feel like a prisoner in my hotel room, I drove over to Howden, a small town a five mile drive from my hotel. It’s not more than a village, really, but it’s dominated by a large Gothic church – Howden Minster.

The Yourhowden website tells us

The Minster was owned by monks from Peterborough Abbey in Saxon times, but in 1080 it was gifted to William of Calais, the Bishop of Durham. The Norman church was rebuilt in the early English style in the 13th century and rebuilding work was completed in the ‘decorated’ style around 1340. A small octagonal Chapter House was built after 1388, the last of its kind to be built in England.

and that

The church survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries as it was not a monastery, but fell victim to the Dissolution of Collegiate Churches and Chantries in 1548.

It was one of the first Decorated Gothic churches in the north of England

IMG_1570

Over the years the church was neglected and started to fall into ruin lack of funds for maintenance. Today, only the nave survives intact, with the quire and chapter house in ruins, but preserved under the guardianship of English Heritage. The remaining, intact, parts of the building are still in use as a parish church.

I had a look around the outside of the building.  This is the octagonal Chapter House.

IMG_1572

A view of the tower from the graveyard to the south of the building.

IMG_1574

The south entrance. It’s clearly undergone some restoration.

DSC02192

A view of the tower from the north west

DSC02200

The view from the south. It’s considerably plainer than the Minster at Beverley

DSC02199

Although it was early evening the entrance wasn’t locked, so I decided to have a look inside.

Looking down the nave with it’s high ceiling supported by characteristic pointed arches.

IMG_1568

DSC02196

The altar.

DSC02194

The ornate Quire screen.

DSC02197

A modern series of abstract sculpture by John Maine R.A. was installed outside the minster 2002 –2008, inspired by the four elements.

The churchyard itself represents “Earth”.

This star like pattern made of granite and inlaid into the pavement in front of the west entrance is “Water”. The granite is from the Himalayas.

DSC02226

Air” is represented by series of truncated columns of various heights, with patterns inspired by the carved columns in Durham Cathedral,

DSC02225

DSC02221

DSC02222

This is “Fire”, which stands in the north east corner of the churchyard, in front of the ruined Quire.

DSC02205

Beverley Minster

IMG_1558

The minster very much dominates the centre of Beverley. It’s a massive building, comparable in size to many cathedrals yet it only has the status of a parish church. The designation of “Minster” may suggest to some that it is a cathedral, especially as the Minster in York has that status, but it isn’t the case. A minster is a designation given to church that was established during Anglo-Saxon times as a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery. So it’s the origin of the church that explains its designation – the first church on the site was attached monastery founded in Beverley in the 7th century.

DSC02102

The original building was destroyed by the Danes, but was rebuilt and then refashioned by the Normans. After this burnt down in 1188, the current Gothic building was constructed between 1220 and 1420. This prolonged period resulted in all three styles of Gothic church architecture can be seen in the Minster.  The Quire, which is the oldest part of the church, was built in the Early English style while the nave is the Decorated style with the west end of the church in the Perpendicular style.

DSC02161

The Minster is mainly built of limestone, mostly from Tadcaster near York so it is a bright creamy colour. However limestone as a soft stone of calcium carbonate is susceptible to damage from acidic rain and the elements, so there are signs of weathering and it has clearly been subject to repair and restoration. Black Purbeck ‘marble’ (actually not marble but a hard limestone from Dorset) has also been used for some of the shafts and columns inside the building.

These extremely ornate twin towers at the west end of the church are an outstanding example of Perpendicular Gothic

DSC02089

A close up of the west entrance.

DSC02090

The north west entrance (the main entrance into the church) – more Perpendicular Gothic

DSC02117

The south east of the building. Much less ornate Early English style

DSC02159

English Decorated style on the north side of the nave

DSC02171

The north entrance

DSC02172

The church is open to visitors until 5 p.m. so I was able to take a look inside. However, there was a Baptism service taking place which meant I had to be careful not to disturb the worshipers and restricted where I could wander.

I did, however, manage to get a quick look down the nave before the service started.

IMG_1508

Typical of Gothic buildings it has a high ceiling supported by clusters of relatively slim columns with pointed arches.

The elaborate carved elements are typical of the English Decorated style

DSC02116

I rather liked the carving of musicians along the north aisle of the nave

DSC02110

DSC02111

The ceiling in the nave has relatively simple decoration but there’s a more elaborate section over the alter in the quire

DSC02099

DSC02098

As we’d expect with a major Gothic church, there’s some attractive stained glass.

The Great East Window contains the oldest glass in the Minster, dating from around 1220-30 to the early 1400s.

Nearby, this attractive modern design in the Pilgrim’s window at the right hand side of the Retro Quire

DSC02094

Also in the Retro Quire, this modern statue of two pilgrims, heading towards the Pilgrim window

DSC02096

There’s also several tombs and plaques representing members of the Warton family who were benefactors to the Minster, including this rather elaborate monument.

DSC02103

More attractive stained glass windows in the chapel at the north east of the building

I rather liked these  lancet windows in the “Retro Quire” at the east end

DSC02100

The very elaborate Percy Canopy which stands over the tomb of one of the Percy family who were one of the richest and most powerful families in the north of England in the 14th century.

DSC02107

It’s not certain who is buried here although it is thought that it is likely to be Lady Eleanor Percy who died in 1328.

DSC02093

These two large wooden doors below the west window were carved in the early 18th century by a York wood carver named William Thornton. On the doors are figures of the four gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Beneath the figures are their symbols – an angel, a lion, a bull and an eagle. Between the symbols and the figures are four carvings representing the different seasons of the year.

DSC02115

Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to take a photograph from directly in front.

There was more to see, but by now the service was in full flow so I felt it was appropriate to depart quietly.

The Minster’s website tells us

One reason the Minster is judged to be one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Europe is that the different styles have been carefully harmonised.

I have to say I agree. It’s a beautiful building and I was pleased I’d taken time out to drive over to Beverley to take a look.

DSC02176