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Steven Oliver

Gothic East Yorkshire

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Edited by Steven Oliver, Thursday, 23 Mar 2023, 20:52

In late February I took impetus from studying AWN Pugin's great Gothic Revival buildings in the metropolis and set off on a local pilgrimage of Victorian church architecture and design. I picked up the 'Southern Route' of the Sykes Churches Trail across the Yorkshire Wolds.

All the churches on the trail were built, rebuilt or restored by either the 4th or 5th baronet of Sledmere, both identically named, Sir Tatton Sykes. Of the two, Sir Tatton II (1816-1913) made the far greater contribution, launching a building and renovation programme of rural churches (17 in total between 1866 and 1913) that was essentially unique in the Victorian/Edwardian period.

Both baronets commissioned nationally recognised architects who specialised in the Gothic Revival style to restore or design the building and interiors of the churches. The architect JL Pearson subsequently went on to design Truro cathedral, GE Street is probably best known for the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Temple Moore also had a practice specialising in the Gothic style.

My trip took me to the following churches: St Mary, Sledmere; St Mary, Cowlam; St Michael, Garton-on-the -Wolds; Wansford Parish Church; St Elgin, Frodingham; St Mary, Kirkburn; St Nicholas, Wetwang; St Mary, Fimber; St Mary, Fridaythorpe; St Mary, Thixendale and ended at St Edith, Bishop Wilton.

The outstanding highlights were definitely the amazing painted interior at Garton-on-the-Wolds (such a surprise after the austere Norman exterior), the Norman fonts at Cowlam and Kirburn, and for all round unity of vision and design, St Edith's at Bishop Wilton. 

I've included some glimpses of the really beautiful decorative arts on show.


(St Luke painting Mary and Jesus was at Wansford; the windows showing scenes from the 'Creation' are at Thixendale and by the same company, Clayton and Bell, and to the same design as the wall paintings at Garton; Clayton and Bell are also responsible for the scenes of Jesus on Lake Galilee and feeding the five thousand at Fimber and window details of castle and flowers at Wansford)


(The knotted pattern is at Thixendale, the other tiling is from Bishop Wilton) 



(Going clockwise these ceilings are at: Thixendale; Thixendale; Bishop Wilton; Garton-on-the-Wolds)


(All these paintings are at Garton-on-the-Wolds, the architect GE Street was responsible for the design, Clayton and Bell created the paintings)

I have included an image of the bust of Sir Tatton Sykes II that can be found in each of the churches, they are quite an achievement.

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