York – St Olave

York University has a post-grad course in Parish Church Studies – https://www.york.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-taught/courses/pg-dip-parish-church-studies/. There is a blog too – https://parishchurchstudies.wordpress.com/. A chap called Rob Andrews is a student on the course – he is on twitter at https://twitter.com/roberrttoa – and he had organised a church crawl of medieval churches.

St Olave’s church is in Maygate – SE 599522, right on the side of the Abbey walls. The church website is https://www.stolave.org.uk/, and you can download an app for all the York city churches. Olave (or Olaf) was Norwegian King between 1016 and 1029 – quite a brutal man from all accounts, so he’s often pictured with a Viking axe. This church was founded before 1055 by Siward, Earl of Northumberland – so it was dedicated to Olave not very long after his death. It is probably a minister church, built on a busy road from the city down to the river, a centre for priests to go out and minister. After the Norman Conquest it was granted to Alan of Brittany. Around 1080 he granted land to Benedictine monks to form an Abbey, and work began on the Abbey church in 1089. Exactly how St Olave’s fitted in has been much debated, but it is physically attached – much of the defensive wall round the Abbey was built in 1266.

The relationship between church and monastery does not seem to have been easy – in 1313 the acting Prior Alan de Ness decreed that the church be put into good order, but without any effect. The Archbishop tried in 1395 – again to no effect. Records show that in 1413-22 St Olave’s was by far the richest parish in the city, valued at nearly twice that of the next. There’s never any tension between clergy when one church is better off than another, so I’m sure that didn’t cause any problems … . In 1466 another Archbishop made the order for it to become a parish church, and a financial arrangement was made between the congregation and the abbey.

When the Abbey was dissolved in 1539, the church’s power grew. King’s Manor became the seat of the President of the Council of the North, and this became his parish church. Damage was done in the Civil War when the roof was used as an emplacement for a Royalist cannon, and it wasn’t until 1720/1 that there was a major restoration – by this time this area of York was rather fashionable. In Victorian times there was re-building for more seats and more liturgical worship, and the Chancel was added. The roof was repaired, and the pews date to 1860 – apparently I missed “a leg rest for a man’s wooden leg in the third pew from the front on the north side”. It still looks to have a good worship tradition – looks like my sort of church!

Under the tower is an 1860 font (with 1963 cover), a memorial to Ronald Dove (bell ringer) – even I have heard of Dove’s guide, a memorial to William Thornton (an architect who did a lot of work on Beverley Minster), and a rather nice holy water stoup. (In the old wordpress I could have put these pictures side by side – but they have changed and everything has to be in blocks. Why can’t people leave things alone?)

As we explored the church, there are other memorials, a War Memorial (57 men from the parish served in WW1, and there is an excellent book listing them all), and when you look up there are all sorts of interesting carvings.

Most of the stained glass is Victorian – but there is C15 glass in the East Window. The reredos is described as “a Victorian period piece”, but wasn’t actually made until 1908. They need to sort the damp problem out.

There is an Annunciation window by Harry Stammers on the south side of the church. There is a blog of his work at Bristol at http://www.sashaward.co.uk/blog/2017/2/20/harry-stammers, one in Burnley – https://sites.google.com/site/stmatthewsburnley/home, and a rather nice general blog here – https://www.yarnstormpress.co.uk/glazed_expressions/harry-stammers/. There is a book about his work – http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/6921351-the-stained-glass-windows-of-harry-stammers – which you can download as a pdf. There is a better photo of this window at https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3950307.

So this was the first church of the day. I’ve sent a wet Sunday afternoon writing it up, and there’s another four churches to go. Enjoy the outside of this one, and the snowdrops.

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2 Responses to York – St Olave

  1. Paul Thornley says:

    I’m always bowled over by your coverage of a site. And the gentle reminders of what a church is for and the contribution each feature makes to the whole.
    Many thanks.

  2. Helen Fields says:

    Our web site is now updated and contains a researched history of over 100 people buried in the churchyard, including William Etty RA, Joseph Halfpenny (renowned engraver), Francis Place (early Topographer), and many other fascinating memorials (internal and external).
    Helen Fields

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