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English Church Architecture -

North Yorkshire.


WEST LUTTON, St. Mary (SE 931 693)     (August 2012)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Welton Chalk Formation) 













This is one of the smaller churches constructed for Sir Tatton Sykes II by George Edmund Street (1824-81), although at £13,125, the cost was more than twice that of the much larger St. Stephen’s, Robin Hood’s Bay, completed only three years earlier in 1868-70 and replete with a tall northeast tower, a comparison which shows just how much Sir Tatton was prepared to spend on the present building’s ornamentation and furnishings. Indeed, John Hutchinson, writing in his little monograph George Edmund Street in East Yorkshire (University of Hull, 1981) described the money lavished on this church as

"altogether too much for the architect’s good.  The design is very full of incident, like an elaborate demonstration model.  Relentless variety in buttressing gives up only at the west end.  Relentless variety of window pattern, indeed of window type matches this, circles, a spherical triangle, tall Decorated, squat Decorated, grouped lancets.  It is a measure of Street’s skill that this almost Woodyerian profusion of disparate motifs is welded into some sort of unity."


St. Mary’s consists of a short aisled nave with a W. belfry, and a two-bay chancel with a cross-gabled N. vestry.  (See the photographs of the church from the southeast, above left, and from the west, above right.)  The nave and aisles are covered by a continuous catslide roof, save for the west bay of the S. aisle, which is cross-gabled to form a shallow porch.  The belfry has a tile-hung base beneath a timber balustrade composed of eight compartments on each side, and a shingled splay-footed spire. Elsewhere the construction material is a pale grey Jurassic sandstone capped by roofs of red tile.


















Windows - as in most of these Street churches - consist chiefly of trefoil-cusped lancets variously arranged in groups of two or three, sometimes enclosed and sometimes not enclosed within encompassing arches.  Exceptions include the easternmost S. window in the chancel, formed of three trefoils set in a rounded triangle, the wheel window in the chancel E. wall, formed of a sexfoil surrounded by six trefoiled lobes, and the nave W. window, formed of four lights subarcuated in pairs, with a sexfoil above and between.  Another feature of many of these churches which may also be seen here, is the way in which the string course beneath the windows steps up in stages as it runs towards the sanctuary, to reach its highest level beneath the chancel E. window, so that even in this modest little building, the sill is scarcely less than 15’ (4.6 m.) from the ground.  The porch has a circular W. window and a canopied niche above the outer doorway, containing a statue of the Virgin and Child (of 1875, by James F. Redfern – Pevsner) set between buttresses (illustrated above left).  Inside the porch, a quadripartite vault springs from circular shafts in the corners, and the cinquefoil-cusped inner doorway has delicately carved cusps and a hollow decorated by floral motifs at intervals around it, supported by further shafts.  A smaller doorway in the E. wall leads directly into the aisle.


The nave arcades consist of two bays on the S. side (eastward beyond the porch) and three (running the full length of the nave) to the north (as shown above right).  More strictly, the latter is actually formed of two plus one, for the western pier is made up of two responds back to back, separated by a very short wall piece – a curious arrangement considering that the western arch is narrower than the others, not wider, and thus the discrepancy is not to be explained by a need to keep pace with the porch.  The arcade piers are circular and the arches carry two wide sunk quadrants separated by a deep hollow.  The chancel and sanctuary are each covered by a bay of quadripartite vaulting and approached up three steps across an increasingly elaborately tiled floor.  There is a two-bay stepped sedilia recessed in the S. wall and a double piscina in similar style beyond, while to the east there is an attractive painted reredos set between blank arcading on either side.


Other features to mention should include the king-post nave roof (above), nicely decorated with flowers on a red and pale green background.  The collars, collar purlin, common rafters and arched braces are all picked out in patterned lines on a black background.   The wrought iron rood screen has a triangular-pointed section over the gate and four-light side panels with brass columns between the dado and headings to the lights.


The font at the west end of the N. aisle is formed of a single cambered octagon, decorated on each side with a two-light blank window, transomed low down above a pair of pointed quatrefoils and containing trefoils in the heads of the lights.  The base is circular but there is just room for a row of ballflower between the two.  (See the photograph below right.)