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English Church Architecture -

North Yorkshire.


EAST HESLERTON, St. Andrew (SE 927 767)   (August  2012)

(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Speeton Clay Formation)


This was the last of six churches commissioned by Sir Tatton Sykes II (1826–1913) from George Edmund Street (1824-81), and it is also the largest.  Sir Tatton had engaged Street originally  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 reflection - both metaphorically and literally - of 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 in Street’s churches unless it may be found in the internal furnishings (most notably, 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.  (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; 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); 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, portraying - 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 a key to visit it, can be obtained nearby.