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English Church Architecture -

North Yorkshire.

 

LITTLE OUSEBURN, Holy Trinity (SE 453 612)     (November 2014)

(Bedrock:  Triassic Sherwood Sandstone Group)

 

 

This is an attractively situated building (shown above, from the southeast), standing by a bend in the lane, beside a picturesque bridge over the Ouse Gill Beck.  The oldest work probably dates from the late eleventh century with the basic structures of the chancel and W. tower being both of this period.  Original surviving features include the tower bell-openings, formed in each wall of a pair of round arches separated by a thick shaft, and two small Norman windows in the N. wall of the chancel, set internally in wide splays.  The chancel S. windows appear to represent a thirteenth century remodelling, for here, inside each of two particularly wide round-arched splays, there is now a pair of mediaeval lancets.  Further round-headed windows, low down in the south and west walls of the tower, are only of restoration date externally, but may be old within, where the latter looks as if it once might have formed a door.  What is certainly clear is that the tower E. wall was enclosed within the wider nave W. wall when this was constructed in the fourteenth century, for on either side of what is now a round-headed Victorian tower arch, the line of quoins forming the southeast and northeast tower angles, projects noticeably in the masonry.  (See the photograph below.)  Some two-thirds of the way up, there seems also to be the remains of a weathering line for a former, steeply pitched nave roof, suggesting the early church was particularly low and dark.

 

The present aisled nave is fourteenth century work albeit difficult to date any more precisely.  The two-bay aisle arcades, the S. aisle walls and windows, and the arch to the chancel, are all part of this construction phase, which was not especially distinguished by the quality of its workmanship.  The arcades, composed of double-flat-chamfered arches supported on central octagonal piers and, at the ends, semi-octagonal responds, appear particularly incompetent, for the chamfers fail to descend sufficiently to meet the capitals in proper fashion but rather, end awkwardly, some eighteen inches (45 cms.) above.  (See the N. arcade, below left.)  The quality of the local stone was probably unhelpful (notice, for example, the mishmash of material comprising the tower walls) but can hardly provide the whole explanation.  The N. aisle walls and windows, the N. vestry and organ chamber, and the S. porch, date from the church's restoration in 1875 according to the church guide, but the architect is not named there.

The E. window to the chancel (above right) deserves a little paragraph of its own for, formed principally of five cinquefoiled lights with intersecting tracery, this would be characteristic of the Early English/ Decorated transition were it not for a small section of supermullioned tracery in the head, which  seems to place it in Perpendicular times unless it has been remodelled.  The tower battlements are probably later still (fifteenth century) but the only major work that manifestly derives from a period between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries is to be found in the churchyard. 

 

This is a spectacular feature, however, in the form of a rotunda (shown below) erected to hold the mortal remains of certain eighteenth century members of the Thompson family of Kirby Hall.  It is surrounded by thirteen Tuscan columns supporting a frieze, and capped by a leaded dome, and is altogether a fine example of the Palladian style at its most austere, which helps to distinguish this rural little backwater of the Vale of York in striking fashion.