Tadcaster, North Yorkshire – St Mary

Hannah (our daughter) now has a house in South Milford, North Yorkshire. As the bank of mum and dad have helped, I think that owning property in Yorkshire makes me a Yorkshireman! Anyway, we have new churches to investigate. St Mary’s Tadcaster is on the north side of the town, next to the River Wharfe – SE 485435. It looked lovely in the afternoon sunshine on Friday 10 January 2020. The benefice website is http://www.stmarystadcaster.co.uk/ . On 27 January they are still advertising the Christmas services, but at least they have a church guide page at http://www.stmarystadcaster.co.uk/atour-of-st-marys-tadcaster.html. Once again it has the “church is not a museum” line – as I have said before, I wish our churches had as much life as some of the museums I know!

It was worth an explore, and we only gave it a quick visit. Nice flat access – Julie had a very determined look. The first stone church was built by the Percy family, Lords of the Manor, about 1150, but was burned down in a Scottish raid in 1318. More rebuilding, and the church we see today is C15. Flooding has always been a problem, and the foundations were so damaged that in 1875 the entire building (excepting the tower) was taken down, rebuilt on new foundations, and the floor raised by six feet.

There was a major reordering inside, so it has a Victorian feel. Various fragments of older buildings and part of a C10 Saxon cross are gathered together near the main door, but I failed to photo them. On Boxing Day 2015 it was flooded to the depth of a metre.

The font is made of Caen stone and was presented by John Ramsden in 1877, in memory of his father Henry, a Captain in the 7th Lancers. Nowadays they use a wooden one – I can see all the practical reasons, front of the church, middle of the congregation – but there is something special about the old font by the door. Interesting picture, but no mention of the artist.

The Potter memorial is rather fun – lots of words. John and Ann Potter (died in the 1760s), their son John and his wife Ann. Their sons Thomas who moved to Manchester in 1802 and was its first Mayor, and Richard who was MP for Wigan. It also commemorates Thomas’s son John, also Mayor and MP for Manchester, and was erected by his son Thomas. (Julie did some work with Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester last year – be interesting to see if the Potters were every welcomed by the Gaskell family). I wonder what they would make of the elephants.

The War Memorial has 108 names from the First World War – there is a website which is currently being updated. Interesting that another website suggests the main War Memorial in the town has 107. I think there’s a Brother Cadfael novel where the number of the dead doesn’t add up – so perhaps there is a story here. I wonder what the population of the town was in 1914 – the town was a major brewing centre even then. I wonder how many employees of John Smith Brewery died. (For most people, Tadcaster is primarily a brewery town – for me it is Helen of Tadcaster, a character in The Beiderbeck Affair of 1985. (If it is a TV series you don’t remember, you are missing something wonderful).

One of the other local industries was linen weaving, and St Catherine was their patron – this is one of the oldest pieces of glass in the church. There is lots of Victorian glass – and some of it is rather good. I like the one which shows the three ages of womanhood (spinsterhood, motherhood and widowhood – Proverbs 31). It was made in 1879 by Adam and Small of Glasgow to a design by W.H. Constable of Cambridge. Interesting patterns on their dresses. In another we have John the Baptist, Jesus the good shepherd, and Philip preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch. The Good Samaritan, Transfiguration and the raising of Lazarus. Burial and Ascension of Christ, and the women at the tomb.

I missed some interesting woodwork – including a frieze of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (but it’s still an excuse to use the story about the preacher who thundered from the pulpit “I ask you, do you wish to stay awake with the wise virgins, or sleep with the foolish ones”). The East Window was made by William Morris & Co, and given in memory of Anne Elizabeth Harris who died in 1876. It is said that most of the glass was designed by Burne-Jones, though apparently the two panels depicting angels with censers in the top tier are by William Morris himself. Worth looking down at the kneelers too.

On the south side I enjoyed the Emmaus window and the Epiphany window – a bald king with an excellent beard.

I liked the south chapel, fun carving, and Boer War Memorial.

We went outside, enjoyed the afternoon light, and will have another explore of the town and the church.

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