English Churches - East Riding of Yorkshire

St Mary's Church, Beverley


Worth visiting for the misericord and the glorious painted ceiling of the Kings of England


Beverley boasts two splendid churches; the Minster and St Mary’s at the opposite end of the main street.

The church was founded in the C12th, originally as a chapel of ease for the Minster. The church was extended and the nave and aisles were rebuilt in the C13th, when a crypt was added. The west front is late C14th and the clerestory was added then. The central tower fell down in 1520 killing several of the congregation and damaging the church. The church was rebuilt and most of the building is perpendicular in style.  It was a wealthy church and patronised by the craft guilds. It had a Victorian makeover by Pugin and Scott. .

St Mary's Church, Beverley

It is a splendid building, best seen from the west end with its tall perpendicular window with two small turrets at the corners. The nave has a clerestory with battlements and crocketed pinnacles. On either side are buttressed side aisles. The tall central tower has round windows with perpendicular windows above and is topped with sixteen crocketed pinnacles.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

The south porch has more crocketed pinnacles and a beautifully carved ogee arch with faces and leaves lining the arch.

Steps lead down into the large nave which is flooded by light from the plain glass clerestory windows. Above is a glorious painted ceiling with blue panels with gold stars, divided by ribs painted in brown, gold and green. Pillars with pointed arches separate nave and side aisles. Small heads are carved at the base of the arches. Those in the north arcade are of benefactors who helped finance the rebuilding of the church after the tower collapsed.

St Mary's Church, Beverley  St Mary's Church, Beverley

St Mary's Church, Beverley

At the back of the north aisle is the War Memorial Door commemorating the dead of the parish in the Second World War. It was carved by Robert Thompson of Kilburn and his signature mouse can be seen on the bottom row of names.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

Also in the north aisle is the massive carved Derbyshire marble font dating from 1530. The pulpit in front of the rood screen is also carved marble but dates from the C19th restoration of the church.

St Mary's Church, Beverley St Mary's Church, Beverley

On the pillar by the pulpit is a painted carving of five minstrels, although their instruments have been damaged or lost. In Medieval times, Beverley was famous for secular music and had a powerful guild of musicians which controlled all the minstrels of the north of England. The musician's guild contributed to the rebuilding of the church and their donation is commemorated by this carving.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

The crypt is off the north aisle and is lit by a small window. mason's marks can be seen on the ribs of the vaulting.

St Mary's Church,   Beverley

Above the crypt is the vestry which was originally the Chapel of the Holy Trinity and has fragments of Medieval stained glass in the window opposite the stairs. The ceiling panels are pained with depictions of the constellations as well as the sun and moon.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

Tucked away on the side of the sacristy doorway in the north aisle is a carved stone rabbit, dating from about 1330. This is supposed to have been the inspiration of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland and John Tenniel's illustrations.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

St Michael's Chapel is at the end of the north aisle with its vaulted ceiling and gilded bosses.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

The very tall and narrow chancel arch has a wooden rood screen across the base. There is a simple altar with green altar cloth. On the reredos is a painting of the last supper. Above is the huge perpendicular stained glass window. On the floor are old grave slabs.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

The chancel ceiling dates from 1445 and is one of the glories of the church. Each of the panels has a painted representations of the Kings of England from Eggbert in 827 to Henry VI, along with four legendary kings, Ludbracus, Eboracus, Lochrine and Brutus. Each is set in a gold panel surrounded by scarlet ribs and gilded bosses. The style, dress and facial features are remarkably similar on all of them. A table mirror is provided to see these in their full glory.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

The ceiling was restored in 1939, and George VI was added to replace Lochrine. 

St Mary's Church, Beverley

The carved choir stalls date from 1445 have carved angels on the arm rests and beautifully caved misericords.  Most are original although seven are C19th replacements. Each is different. There are wild men of the wood, green men, stag hunting scenes, bear baiting and even an elephant.

St Mary's Church Beverley

St Mary's Church, Beverley

St Mary's Church, Beverley

Even the backs of the choir stalls facing the side aisles are beautifully carved.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

At the end of the south aisle is St Katherine's Chapel with a modern cast iron altar.

St Mary's Church, Beverley

In the south transept is a delightful model showing model showing the medieval masons at work.

St Mary's Church. Beverley

The priest's Room is accessed through a doorway and up a spiral staircase and was probably used to store valuables as well as being used as a Sunday School in the C19th. Now it contains artefacts linked to the history of Beverley including a scold's bridle, stocks, and the parish bier. It is only open on heritage days or by special arrangement.

This is a delightful church. It lacks the visual impact of the Minster, but is well worth a visit if in Beverley. The church is open Monday to Friday 10-4 (4.30 in the summer), but it shuts for lunch between 12-1.  There is no parking immediately by the church. There is some short term parking in the Market Place, failing that there are several larger signed car parks around the town centre. The nearest post code is HU17 8DJ and the grid reference is TA 032398.

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