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English Church Architecture.


EAST HESLERTON, St. Andrew  (SE 927 767),


(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Speeton Clay Formation.)


One of six churches designed by George Edmund Street (1824-81)

for the eccentric Sit Tatton Sykes II (1826-1913).




Famous, above all today, for the Law Courts in The Strand, George Edmund Street was rivalled in his lifetime only by William Butterfield as the architect of choice by the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England, and, indeed, in his personal attachment to High Church ritual, he surpassed his rival and was for many years churchwarden at Butterfield's 'model' church of All Saints', Margaret Street (Westminster), after Butterfield had left, opposed to the use of incense and lights, and to the Elevation of the Host.  Yet for all his ardent religionism, it would be entirely misleading to present Street as a humourless killjoy, for entirely to the contrary, his two major publications, Brick & Marble in the Middle Ages: Notes on a Tour of the North of Italy (London, John Murray, 1855) and Some Account of Gothic Architecture in Spain (in two volumes) (London, John Murray, 1865) are peppered with anecdotes about bad hotels and the sheer awfulness of other English tourists encountered on the way, much to the aggravation of The Ecclesiologist in its long review of the former in October 1855 (vol. XVI, issue CX, p. 299):  'We cannot but think that the ordinary reader of books of travel will be as much disturbed by Mr. Street's purely professional descriptions and speculations as the architectural student will be annoyed by the details of uncomfortable beds and ill-cooked dinners'.


Street's earnestness was sufficient for most men, however, and his patrons, almost to a man and woman, were wealthy and generous ones.  Street was also an inveterate traveller, and a close reading of Arthur Edmund Street's biography of his father (Memoir of George Edmund Street, 1824-1881, London, John Murray, 1888) reveals that between 1850 and 1874, he made no less than twenty-two separate visits to the Continent, including two such trips in 1872 and 1874 and only missing out on his working vocations in 1855. 1864, 1865 and 1870, during the last of which, however, he made a tour round Scotland.  It is hardly surprising, in consequence, that Street's architecture is the most eclectic among all his more important confrères, and this is particularly striking in some of his village churches, which in the most extreme cases, stand out from their settings as if they had landed from the moon.




This was the last of the six churches commissioned from Street by Sir Tatton Sykes II, and it is also the largest.  Sir Tatton had first engaged Street  at Wansford, near Driffield, in 1866, having been impressed by the architect’s churches of St. John, Whitwell-on-the-Hill (1858-60) and St. John, Howsham (1859-60).  The present building, erected in 1873-7, is dominated by its heavy W. vestibule and tall N. tower (as shown in the photographs of the church from the west, left, and from the northeast, below right), the first a revisiting of a feature Street had previously introduced at Howsham, and the second, with the adjoining independently-gabled vestry to the east, a variation upon the S. tower and vestry Street designed for St. Stephen’s new church, Robin Hood’s Bay in 1868-70.  St. Andrew’s consists of a nave with a W. narthex, S. baptistery and northeast tower, and a taller chancel and apse with the aforementioned N. vestry.  The construction materials throughout are a beige sandstone for the walls and red tiles for the roofs.  There is rarely much evidence of constructional polychromy externally in Street’s churches, who always tended to confine it to the internal furnishings (most notably, in the reredos, pulpit and font), but sometimes stone bands of a slightly contrasting colour or finish were employed as, for example, at Whitwell-on-the-Hill.  Not here, however.


Windows to the church consist chiefly of lancets, with engaged keeled side-shafts with capitals carved with little leaves in 'U's around the nave, and circular shafts with more conventional stiff leaf capitals around the chancel and apse.  More telling, however, is the way the string course beneath them, already some 7' (2 m.) above the ground around the nave, steps up to about 12' (3.6 m.) around the chancel and apse, in what is one of Street’s most characteristic fingerprints.  A second string course runs round the building at the springing level of the windows. The tall but shallow, cross-gabled baptistery projecting from the west end of the nave S. wall, is lit by a sexfoil in a circle, and there are groups of five lancets in the vestry E. wall and nave W. wall above the narthex.  The tower rises in one very tall square stage, followed by an octagonal bell-stage and a short octagonal spire.  The first stage is  supported by heavy, slightly set back buttresses and lit by a N. window formed of three lancet lights set within an encompassing arch, the bell-stage has lancet openings in the cardinal sides and carved statues supported on brackets above the broaches in the ordinal directions, and the spire has small gabled lucarnes in the ordinal directions only.  The narthex is entered up two steps, between two massive, Italian Gothic polished granite shafts with elaborately carved square capitals, which support the lean-to tiled roof.  The inner wall has a blank arch on either side of the W. doorway, which is surrounded by dog-tooth ornament and a complex series of narrow mouldings.


Inside the building, the rere-arches to the windows have shafts with stiff-leaf capitals supporting keeled mouldings round the arch heads.  The tower arch bears two sunk quadrant mouldings supported on triple-shafts and the tower itself has a quadripartite vault rising from corbel shafts in the angles, with the sual central holw to permit the passage of the bell-ropes.  (See the photograph, below left.)  The door leading east into the vestry has a finely-carved tympanum depicting the Annunciation.  The chancel arch carries two keeled mouldings above groups of four shafts, while beyond, both the chancel and apse are vaulted, with an irregular sexpartite bay over the latter, as at Robin Hood’s Bay, and a quadripartite bay over the former, with the odd and wholly unnecessary addition of an extra rib to the north, which separates the N. windows (as illustrated below right, looking towards the apse).


















Notable furnishings in the church include the font (below left), composed of a bowl with eight convex lobes separated by dogtooth and decorated alternately with leaf carvings in trefoiled arches and quatrefoils, supported on eight little marble columns.  The attractive wrought-iron rood screen with four trefoil-cusped sections rising from a stone dado on either side of the gated central opening, is by Potter & Son  (as mentioned by Nikolaus Pevsner and David Nairn in the 'York and the East Riding' volume of The Buildings of England, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2005, p. 457, in one of those very many irritating instances where the series's unwillingness to tear itself away from the pre-1974 county boundaries, even half a century later, make it nigh on impossible to know which volume to consult).    There is a two-bay trefoil-cusped sedilia recessed in the chancel S. wall, also decorated with dogtooth and supported on polished marble columns (below right), and the reredos consists of a painted septych depicting, in the centre, Christ in Majesty.  Stained glass throughout the church is by Clayton & Bell.  (See the three N. windows to the nave at the foot of the page, depicting - from west to east - SS. Gabriel, Michael and Raphael.)  The nave roof is of barrel vault construction but the eastern bay alongside the tower has an octopartite wooden vault.















St. Andrew’s today is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  The building is very well maintained and at the time of this visit, a key could be obtained nearby.

[Other churches by Street featured on this web-site are Fimber in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Toddington in Gloucestershire,  Helperthorpe, Howsham, Robin Hood's Bay, Thixendale, Wansford, West Lutton and Whitwell-on-the-Hill in North Yorkshire, Torquay in Torbay, Brightwalton and Eastbury in West Berkshire, and St. Mary Magdalene's Rowington Close and St. James's Thorndike Street in the City of Westminster.]