Medieval Church Towers in Yorkshire Cities
By W.E. David Ryan
Church towers are a prominent feature of the English landscape and stand as a testament to the skill and ingenuity of medieval masons. The Northern Province, namely the ecclesiastical province of York, contains a rich and varied array of these remarkable constructions. This vast area of England, comprising of the twelve dioceses of Blackburn, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Southwell & Nottingham and York, contains no less than 500 examples.
In this extract, we look at the five remaining medieval churches inside Yorkshire cities, four of which are in York…
York St Cuthbert (above left)
LOCATION: Peasholme Green, York
POSTCODE: YO1 7PW
DATE: Mid-C15 incorporating late C11 east wall.
2-stage tower with south-west angle buttress: vestry projects to north. West window of 3 cinquefoiled lights with panel tracery in 4-centred head, beneath coved hood-mould; above, small trefoiled light. Belfry openings to each face are square-headed, of 2 louvred lights, beneath hood-moulds on weathered head stops. Moulded strings to belfry and beneath embattled parapet, with defaced gargoyles to both.
Bradford Cathedral Church of St Peter (above right)
LOCATION: Stott Hill, east of city centre, Bradford
POSTCODE: BD1 4EH
DATE: Late C15
West tower with heavy Perpendicular detailing of 1493–1508. 6-light window, twin 2-light bell-openings, battlements, 8 pinnacles.
LOCATION: Micklegate, York
POSTCODE: YO1 6LE
Tower of 5 stages with embattled parapet and offset angle buttresses, north-east one on chamfered plinth. North-east and north-west buttresses are stop chamfered on 2 lowest stages. Ground stage incorporates part of original north aisle wall on chamfered plinth, and chamfered lancet window beneath 2-centred arch on jamb shafts with roll necking and nail-head moulded capitals. Hood-mould on floral stops and double-chamfered sill string. On north, east and west faces, belfry has a chamfered round-headed louvred opening recessed beneath round arch on jamb shafts with roll necking and moulded capitals. Moulded string at belfry level. West end buttressed with pilasters, north one original retaining vestigial twin gabled niches on west face, and one similar niche on north face with trefoiled head and nail-head moulded capitals.
York All Saints, Pavement (above left)
LOCATION: High Ousegate, York
POSTCODE: YO1 8RZ
DATE: c.1400 (lantern rebuilt 1837)
2-stage west tower surmounted by octagonal lantern. West window of 5 cinquefoiled lights beneath panel tracery in 2-centred head, flanked by offset buttresses. North and south faces have small pointed doorways to aisle roofs; clock face above each. Belfry openings on each face are of 3 cinquefoiled louvred lights in flattened 4-centred heads with hood-moulds, above belfry string. Lantern is buttressed with crocketed pinnacles and gargoyles between tiered lights of twin cinquefoiled openings with panel tracery in 2-centred head. Parapet composed of cinquefoiled openings beneath crocketed gablet.
York Holy Trinity (above right)
LOCATION: Goodramgate, York
POSTCODE: YO1 7LF
DATE: Late C15
Buttressed 3-stage tower on moulded plinth has 2-centred west window of 5 cinquefoiled lights with panel-traceried head in casementmoulded surround. Top stage has blocked opening to each face, of twin trefoiled lights with traceried 2-centred heads, the blocking pierced by glazed slits. Stringcourse to top stage, and embattled parapet to rebuilt saddleback roof.
‘English Medieval Church Towers: The Northern Province’ by W.E. David Ryan is published by Boydell Press, £19.99 paperback, ISBN: 9781783273539