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English Church Architecture -

North Yorkshire.


BOLTON PERCY, All Saints (SE 532 190)          (November 2004)

(Bedrock:  Triassic Sherwood Sandstone Group, Keuper Marl)


Bolton Percy is a still rather isolated village, about four miles upriver from the confluence of the River Wharfe with the Ouse.  All Saints' church (shown left, from the southeast), built of cream-coloured magnesian limestone which outcrops less than three miles to the west, is notable for having been constructed in a single phase, with just the porch excepted, for which the date of consecration is known to be 1424.  It thus provides an interesting illustration of the Perpendicular style in Yorkshire around the time of the accession of the infant Henry VI (reigned 1422-61 and 1470-71).  Consisting (besides the porch) of a W. tower, an aisled nave and a chancel, the architectural emphasis is placed firmly on the last.  This is embattled and taller than the nave, which also has a plain parapet, by way of further contrast.  The three-light N. and S. windows have supermullioned tracery and hood-moulds that terminate in large worn label stops. The E. window (illustrated right) has five lights, of which the outer four are subarcuated in pairs and the central light has three tiers of reticulation units and a quatrefoil in the eyelet.  The more modest aisle windows are three-light but untraceried.  The tower rises to battlements and tall crocketed pinnacles at the angles, undivided by string courses except for one immediately below the bell-stage.  The bell-openings are three-light and square-headed while the W. window copies the aisle windows.


The interior of the church is probably more striking than the exterior.  The nave arcades are constructed in four bays, of double-flat-chamfered arches supported on octagonal piers, with the chamfers dying into broaches above the capitals.  However the E. responds break this design and go instead with the chancel arch, which carries two, more widely spaced chamfers, springing from two orders of semicircular shafts separated by hollows.  The sedilia recessed in the chancel S. wall (shown left) is formed of three equal bays with double-cusped arches beneath crocketed ogee gables, each enclosing a little lierne vault.  The tower arch copies the style of the nave arcades.


The church contains some excellent carpentry, including two pulpits, one on each side of the nave, of which that to the north now serves as a reader's desk.  This is probably Jacobean whereas its larger replacement to the south, with huge tester above, appears to have been constructed about a century later.  Yet more important than either of these is the exceptionally complete set of seventeenth century box pews that entirely fill the nave and aisles, from east to west and north to south: simply but attractively designed, they are distinguished principally by knobs on the ends, giving a very individualistic impression.  The contemporary font cover (right) is also a fine piece.  Raised by a pulley attached to the nave roof, it has openwork tracery and is octagonal in shape, even though it sits on a round bowl below.


Finally it remains to mention a couple of wall monuments, including one by John Bacon the Younger (1777-1859) and, unusually, missed by Gunnis.  Situated on the N. side of the chancel, it commemorates the wife of William Mordaunt Miller (d. 1805) and depicts her, carved prettily in shallow relief with her children, in a roundel beneath an urn.  Below, a long inscription laments her loss yet curiously fails to give her name.  Opposite, on the chancel S. wall, an older monument to Marion Fairfax (d. 1649) is surrounded by the usual sixteenth century symbols of mortality.  Doubtless this was no less lovingly meant but the tastes of this period are conspicuously further from us.