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 English Church Architecture.

 

MIDDLETON TYAS, St. Michael  (NZ 235 056),

NORTH YORKSHIRE. 

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Dinantian Subsystem, Alston Group.)

 

A delightful rural church with a Norman arcade,

just two miles from all the traffic at Scotch Corner.

 

 

This is a beautifully situated church, isolated among trees up a long lane from the village, yet less than two miles from the frenzy of Scotch Corner.  The building consists of a three-bay chancel with a two-storeyed N. vestry, a four-bay aisled nave with a S. porch, and an unbuttressed W. tower rising in four short stages to a slightly projecting parapet supported on a corbel table.  Its external features are all either thirteenth century in date or, more often, a Victorian imitation of such, but the basic fabric of the building seems largely mediaeval except in the vestry and easternmost bay of the chancel (the present sanctuary), which are wholly nineteenth century additions.  The genuine thirteenth century windows comprise: (i) two lancets in the chancel S. wall, with a blocked section beneath the western lancet in the manner of a lowside window;  (ii) the E. window and easternmost N. window in the N. aisle, composed respectively of two trefoil-cusped lights and an encircled quatrefoil set inside an encompassing arch, and of two individual lancets set internally in a square-headed splay;  and (iii) the curious E. window in the S. aisle, formed of a large quarter-circle divided vertically into three.  A date around 1300 would actually fit here - a date with which the double-flat-chamfered S. doorway with an order of shafts and the four-bay S. arcade might comfortably accord.  The S. arcade is formed of double-flat-chamfered arches supported on tall octagonal piers, with a carved leaf capital to the easternmost pier (see the photograph, below right) and capitals formed of the usual astragals and hollows in the case of the other two.  This might be thought to suggest the eastern pier was erected first and that construction of the church proceeded from east to west.   However, the tower arch surely derives from the very beginning of the century for it is a much cruder piece of work altogether, comprising a pointed, unmoulded arch, cut through a wall of Romanesque thickness.  The wall itself could be early twelfth century in date and is presumably contemporary with the glory of the building, namely the remarkable N. arcade made up of six very tall but narrow round-headed arches of two unmoulded orders springing from circular piers with scalloped capitals and square abaci (as illustrated below left) save only in the case of the octagonal central pier, which is also slightly narrower, leaving open the possibility that this too may once have been circular, before later remodelling.  The chancel arch goes with the S. arcade and is double-flat-chamfered with the outer chamfer continuing down the jambs and the inner chamfer rising from semicircular shafts.

 

Finally, notable furnishings and fittings in the church are few and largely limited to the tomb canopy recessed in the E. end of the S. aisle S. wall, formed of a very large trefoil-cusped arch set beneath a gable, and an extensive but not individually special collection of wall monuments on the N. and S. walls of the chancel.  The chancel and sanctuary floors are attractively paved in slabs of coloured marble - the result, one assumes, of nineteenth century restoration.