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English Church Architecture -

North Yorkshire.


WESTOW, St. Mary (SE 759 661)     (May 2018)

(Bedrock:  Middle Jurassic, Ravenscar Group) 


This church (shown above from the south) has little claim to architectural significance but it is attractively situated, on its own in pleasant countryside just outside the Howardian Hills AONB.  It consists of a chancel with a lean-to N. vestry, a nave, S. porch, and W. tower, and there was formerly a N. aisle, the erstwhile arcade to which can still be seen inside.


The four parts of the church represent four phases of construction, only one of which is mediaeval.  The tower is Perpendicular and probably fourteenth century in date: it rises in two stages to battlements, supported by diagonal buttresses, and has an untraceried three-light W. window, two-centred bell-openings with ungainly central mullions rising from the sill to the apex, and, internally, a tall tower arch to the nave, formed of two flat-chamfered orders that die into the jambs.  The chancel was ascribed by Pevsner to Ewan Christian (1815-95), widely acknowledged by his contemporaries as one of the nicest of men if only considered today as one of the most indifferent of Victorian church architects:  two bays in length and fully half as long as the nave, it is a very clear reflection of the priorities of the Ecclesiologists.  The nave and former aisle were the work of the Mallinson and Healey partnership of Halifax and Bradford. They were probably designed by Thomas Healey in 1862, just a few months before his untimely death (in November).  The blocked arcade, visible inside the church, consisted of double-flat-chamfered arches springing from circular piers with prominent capitals.  The N. aisle windows were re-set in the blocked arches forming the present nave N. wall, and like the S. windows opposite, are composed of two uncusped lancet lights with, alternately, an encircled trefoil or quatrefoil in the head.  The nave roof has purlins ⅓ and ⅔ of the way up the pitch, and collars at the level of the lower purlins, supported by arched braces below and supporting scissor bracing above.  The horrid S. porch, windowless, over-wide and entered through double doors, was added in 1973, when something better could surely have been provided for the money.


Finally, it remains to mention two pieces of Norman work: (i) the font, shaped like a giant thimble with cable moulding around the top;  and (ii), a carved stone panel set in a recess in the northwest corner of the nave and featuring a crude image of Christ on the Cross, with SS. Mary and John, heads bowed on either side.