St Mary's Church Thirsk North Yorkshire
The Benefice of Thirsk
Rector: Richard Rowling
The church is normally open from 10 - 4pm every day in Summer and often in the Winter.
St Mary's is over 500 years old, having been built on the site of a previous Norman Church. As the following description from Arthur Mee's Yorkshire North Riding indicates it is worth a visit:
"Thirsk has nothing to compare with its splendid church of St Mary, which has probably no equal for its time in the North Riding. Set on the green bank of one of the willow-bordered streams, it is a magnificent tribute to those who built it in the first half of the 15th century. Nobly yet simply planned, it has a lofty clerestoried nave with aisles, a lower chancel built over a crypt, a west tower, and a two-storeyed porch. A lovely feature of the exterior is the openwork parapet of traceried battlements edging all the walls, as well as the tower and the porch, as with delicate embroidery. There are slender and leafy pinnacles, weird gargoyles, and a glorious array of windows which make the interior a veritable lantern of light.
The tower has unusual buttresses, stepped and sloping, and a niche with a battered sculpture, probably a Madonna. The porch has an oak roof with bosses, but we still see the springers which were meant to support a vault. The richly moulded inner doorway has its worn 15th century door, still magnificent with its studs, tracery, and wicket. It is an introduction to much beautiful old woodwork within. The finest of the 500-year-old roofs is that of the nave, a barrel of open timbering with rich beams and bosses, and spandrels with tracery. In the carving of the one or two bench-ends that remain we see the asses of Askwith and the lion of Mowbray. There are 15th century screens in the aisles, a medieval door in the chancel, an old chest, and an exceptionally fine altar table said to have come from Byland Abbey; it has a border enriched with heads of men and women, and is supported by seated lions. Some old wood is worked into the pinnacled cover of the font.
Beautiful arcades soar to the great clerestory, where, between the windows, are traces of 17th century paintings of saints. The chancel has a trefoiled niche at each side of the east window, and three handsome sedilia. An oil painting of Doubting Thomas is thought to be 16th century, and one of the bells is believed to have been ringing at Fountains Abbey 500 years ago. In the 15th century glass filling the east window of the south aisle with a rich medley of red, blue, and silver light are many little heads and many complete figures, among them Anna, Cleopas, St Leonard, St Giles kneeling, and angels with shields. On two of the shields are three asses and the lion to match those carved in wood. St Catherine and angels are recognisable in glass fragments in the other aisle. The window above Sir Robert Lister Bower's bronze portrait plaque has rich glass in his memory. He had a thrilling adventure in his army days, for as a young man he was in the regiment which went up the Nile to try to relieve Gordon at Khartoum; in his window are nurses, an African native, and a knight riding a horse in splendid trappings, hounds following."