Church Fenton, North Yorkshire – St Mary’s

February 1 2023 and I have an afternoon at Hannah’s in Yorkshire. I went for an explore and decided that first stop was Church Fenton. St Mary’s church is at SE515367. It is part of the Tadcaster benefice – I parked outside and was pleased to see snowdrops just inside the gate – I have a few in my garden, but these are lovely.

The first record of the parish is in a grant of hides (an old measure for land) made by King Edgar in 963 AD to Aeslac of Sherburn-in-Elmet. There is no mention of a church in Domesday, but it may well have been a Chapel of Ease of Sherburn. In the C13 Archbishop Walter de Gray divided up the old prebend of Sherburn and created the new parish of Fenton. The change was confirmed by Pope Honorious III in 1218 – I wonder what he thought of having to busy himself with a Yorkshire Parish (it’s now in North Yorkshire). The building itself dates from 1225-1250. I was glad to find the door unlocked, and stepped into a dark but welcoming church.

A nice plain font was the gift of G.T. Jones from York after he had overseen the restoration of 1844. At the crossing I realized it is one of those churches where the bells are rung inside – does this stop the ringers exiting as the service starts? There are three bells, cast in 1710, 1780 and 1793. The tower is C15.

In the Chancel there is a medieval stone coffin for a child, opposite a rather lovely stone effigy. Local legend names her as Amy Ryder, but apparently there is no historical basis for this – it dates to c 1330. I think she needs a name! A dragon and a lion are entwined at her feet – are they in the midst of battle? The battle between good and evil. The effigy is in excellent condition, because until 1844 she was upside down and used as a paving stone.

There is a list of those fighting in WW1, while the eagle looks down the church and remembers them. In the south transept they have a made a meeting area, ideal for worship in small numbers.

The tracery of the east window dates from 1330, but most of the glass is Victorian. The patchwork of glass at the top is much older. Peter, John and James were installed in 1858.

One window with more fragments of old glass, then three modern windows. Not many people these days give forty years of their life to work with the Sunday School. The tulip window, tulip heads coloured to represent tongues of fire, is in memory of Samuel Anson Chevin, a former head gardener. The window with the star is in memory of John Savill-Metcalf who served gallantly in the Second World War and his sister Mary Metcalf who gave sixty years service to the community as a nurse. The latter window is now in the smallest room – a loo added in 2010, and unlocked for the visitor. For this relief, much thanks.

Outside I liked the sundial on top of the old cross (or some sort of monument). I loved the snowdrops too.

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