ELHAS News - March 2017

Meeting Report March 2017

Our March talk was presented by Emeritus Professor Joyce Hill on the subject "Anglo Saxon Churches in Yorkshire". Joyce is one of our regular speakers and we always enjoy her lectures. This one was no exception.

She began by saying we were fortunate to have so many churches of Anglo Saxon origin in Yorkshire, but she was going to concentrate on seven of them. The first she described to us was the crypt of Ripon Cathedral which is the only remaining part of the original Anglo Saxon church, the current church having been built over it. The crypt dates to the 670's and Joyce explained we are able to date it accurately because we know it was founded by St Wilfrid. Moving on to other churches she told us about three which more or less retained the Anglo Saxon church, but had been extended in medieval times to create larger buildings. This was a practise she much applauded remarking that whilst nowadays we would expect conservation of an earlier building to be considered in any remodelling or restoration, it was remarkable that it was also the case in medieval times.

We were treated to many illustrations of the churches Joyce was discussing, and she pointed out the building techniques used by the Anglo Saxons. Double belfry windows were a common feature many of them having arches above them which were carved out of a large stone. This was because the Anglo Saxons had not mastered the art of constructing arches. What they had mastered very successfully was how to construct solidly built towers, many of which are standing today. This is because a technique of laying large corner stones in opposite directions was employed. She also showed us examples of Anglo Saxon doors, much smaller that the doors of today. St John the Baptist church at Kirk Hammerton has some fine examples of these.

Another church with a unique feature is St Gregory's Minster at Kirkdale. This is the sundial above the south door, now hidden within the porch. On stone panels either side of the sundial it bears the inscription: "Orm, the son of Gamal, bought St Gregory's church when it was broken and fallen, and had it made anew from the ground in honour of Christ and St Gregory, in the days of Edward the King and Tosti the Earl". The inscriptions are in Old English. The sundial allows Kirkdale to be dated precisely to between 1055-1065 because these are the dates between which Tostig was Earl of Northumberland. Showing us an image of All Hallows church at Bardsey, Joyce described it as a medieval tent built over an Anglo Saxon church. And indeed that is what it looks like. The original church is one of the earliest examples, having been built between 800 and 950, but it was enlarged between 1200 and 1400 to form the building we see today. Although this is an early example, All Saints church at Ledsham claims to be the earliest standing Anglo Saxon building in West Yorkshire and it has enough Anglo Saxon features to substantiate this claim.

The seven Yorkshire churches Joyce spoke about are at Bardsey, Kirk Hammerton, Ledsham, Kirkdale, Appleton-le-Street, Hovingham and Ripon Cathedral. Most are generally open during the day for anyone wishing to visit.

Joyce's easy style of delivery and the large amount of interesting facts and images she showed us ensured an enjoyable evening for us all.

The photos are all by Bob Lawrence and are of Ledsham Church.

The next meeting on Monday 24th April 2017 will be an illustrated talk by Mike Turpin entitled "Roman Aldborough and the Antiquarians"