Hovingham

This parish has the parish church of All Saints at Hovingham and the daughter church of St George Scackleton.

All Saints Hovingham

Evensong at All Saints Hovingham on 16 January 2005, can be heard on Radio Ryedale.

The Victorian Restoration

HovinghamAs with so many of the parish churches of England this church was built by the Victorians. In 1860 the nave, chancel and north aisle were pulled down, and the present church built at the expense of Marcus Worsley Esq. The memorial tablet declaring his generosity may be seen in the south aisle (to the right as you enter).

In our case, the “rebuilding” was undertaken by Rhode Hawkins with considerable care: the ancient Saxon tower was left untouched; certain early features of the medieval church were built back into the new structure, which is itself entirely in 13th-century style; the lines of the original walls were exactly followed, with the addition of a south aisle to accommodate the increased population of the time. The present church is thus exactly the same length as its predecessor, though its nave is now balanced by two aisles.

Despite this extensive rebuilding, this small church contains a wealth of interesting early material, for which it is justly famous, It is best to start a tour of the church by going outside to look at the tower first.

The South Doorway

On the way outside, you pass through the S. doorway. This plain semi­circular-headed doorway is 12th-century, and was carefully built back into the church in 1860.

The Saxon Tower

Once outside, turn right and walk along until you can see the S. and W. faces of the tower. You are looking now at a structure which has stood more or less untouched for over 900 years. William the Conqueror’s assessors’ entry for Hovingham in Domesday Book (1086) notes:

“There is a church and a priest here”.

It is the tower of this very church that you are looking at. It was probably built shortly before the Conquest - perhaps during the reign of the pious Saxon King Edward the Confessor (1042 - 1066) who founded Westminster Abbey. Following his example. ruined churches were rebuilt all over the country . Domesday also informs us that prior to the Conquest, the land at Hovingham was owned by Orm. The inscription on the famous Saxon sundial at Kirkdale (6 miles away near Kirkbymoorside) tells us;

“Orm, Gamal’s son bought St. Gregory’s Minster when it was all broken down and fallen, and he let it be made anew from the ground to Christ and St. Gregory, in the days of Edward the King and Tosti the Earl”.

The nearby church of Kirkdale was thus rebuilt sometime between 1055 and 1065 by Orm. It is a fair supposition that the same Saxon landlord also rebuilt Hovingham church.

From your vantage point you can see several features typical of Saxon building technique: i) the tower is built of very rough masonry (probably never intended to be seen, as it would have been plastered and whitewashed); ii) it is in three “stages”. each separated by a projecting “string course; the massive “quoin stones” (corner stones) are built in a local variety of the “long and short” style; iii) the upper belfry openings are divided by twin arches, each supported by a single shaft curiously set in the middle of he 3’ thick walls. (The Saxon tower of the church at Appleton-le-Street, 5 miles down ‘the street’ - the ancient Roman road to Malton - is built in similar style in three stages and with similar belfry openings.)

The tall lancet window in the second stage has very acute internal and external splays, designed to let in the maximum amount of light from the south. Why such a large window here? Probably the middle storey of the tower was a dwelling room where the priest lived. It is still a pleasantly lit room with its original plaster on the interior walls, but now houses the clock works.

There is still more to notice in the S. face of the tower before you move on, A close examination of the SW. quoin stones shows that several of these are re-used stones, The lowest stone on the top stage is obviously an up­turned door-head. ‘There are at least three other doors or window-heads elsewhere in the tower. These stones must come from the ruined remains of whatever church or churches stood here before the tower was built.

The Wheel Cross

From such an earlier church must come the carved cross possibly 10th century which was carefully preserved by the Saxon builders high up over the S. belfry opening. It is a “wheel” cross, showing Danish or Scandinavian influence.

The West Doorway

Now walk round to the W. door under the tower. This would have been the only entrance to the Saxon church. The simple semi-circular headed doorway is beautifully preserved; its plain round moulding is carried on shafts of the same diameter. Note that in typical Saxon fashion there is no central key-stone to the arch.

The Anglian Cross

Be sure to look up over the doorway. There, set into the tower masonry is a stone carved with a cross in high relief. You are looking at one of the oldest surviving Christian relics in Ryedale. This cross could have been carved by the first Christians in this locality. With its four equal-length arms and flaring ends, it is the same kind of design as St. Cuthbert’s pectoral cross (preserved in Durham Cathedral). Cuthbert was bishop of Lindisfarne and died in 687. just a generation earlier, during the reign of Oswald, the Anglian King of Northumbria (633-642), Christian churches first began to be built in Yorkshire . Any church built at Hovingham at that time would have been destroyed by successive raids of Northmen and Danes. The later Saxon builders must have found this early relic lying round amongst the rubble, and have here given it the place of honour above the main entrance to the church they again built on this long sacred site.

Inside the Tower

Now go back into the church and see the inside of the tower. The ground floor was re-ordered in 1997-98 by Sir Marcus and Lady Worsley to mark their Ruby Wedding. It can be used as a meeting room and store room. On your left you will see the Charities Board, reminding us that since earliest times the Christian church has always been involved in the relief and education of the poor. The legacies date between 1680 and 1837. Those of 1716 and 1750 refer to the village school. These charities still exist in an amalgamated trust fund, though they are now worth very little indeed due to. the constant devaluation of money over the centuries. The rate of interest on the final bequest seems to have been thought very high at the time: £200 “invested in the New 31/2% pr Cts”!

Whilst in the tower, note the wooden stairs to the ringing chamber. Later towers were built with spiral stone stair-cases. The lack of these in this Saxon tower emphasises the defensive purpose of early church towers. When attacked by marauders, the villagers could take refuge up in the tower, pull up the wooden ladder and wait till the marauders passed on.

Now walk back through the tower arch, and on into the nave. From this position you can look back at the E. wall of the tower. The irregularity of the masonry is striking, especially the one isolated “herring-bone” course. Very high up on the right is a small doorway now opening out into space. Its original function is obscure: it may have opened out onto a wooden balcony high up over the nave, and accessible from the priest’s room. More probably, it was the entrance to the priest’s dwelling room, reached by a ladder from the body of the church - the Vicarage front door! The roof of the Saxon Church would have been higher than the present roof.

The Lady Chapel

Move on now to the Lady Chapel in the S. Aisle. This chapel was created in 1937 in memory of Sir William Henry Arthington Worsley, who died in the previous year, as the Chapel’s E. Window tells. In the S. wall of the Lady Chapel is the Aumbry for the Reserved Sacrament with its perpetual light, presented by Mrs Bowes in memory of her sister Miss E. Burdus, former Headmistress of Hovingham School.

The Sculptured Saxon Stone

The stone set in the wall behind the Holy Table is unique. Until 1924 this stone was built into the masonry of the south side of the tower about 12’ above ground level. It was presumably placed there by the original builders of the tower, thus preserving this relic from an earlier church, together with the other crosses already noted. Although now much weathered, the exceptionally fine craftsmanship of the sculptor is still evident. The figures are carved in high relief, with great attention to detail. The figure on the extreme left is an angel. Facing him in the next panel is a figure seated on a trestle stool with a cylindrical cushion seat and a footstool. This is obviously an Annunciation scene - the announcement by the Angel Gabriel to Mary of Jesus’ birth (see Luke chapter 1, verses 36-38). The figure on the extreme right is another angel, whose left wing can be clearly discerned. He seems to be raising his right arm (?in blessing or greeting) to the figure in the next panel. But this figure is so defaced that it is unclear what Biblical scene is depicted. The other four figures are weathered beyond recognition.

The overall design of the stone is, however, very clear, and is executed with masterful precision. The eight figures are positioned within round-headed panels. Each of the outer figures is an angel and faces inwards, suggesting that the subject-matter of the carving has been chosen with an eye to symmetry. Above the panels are seven doves. Beneath the figures is a single horizontal panel of entwined vine leaves, upon which are perched some birds. The general style of the panels and the motifs employed indicate strong Romanesque influence. It is intriguing that the sculptor of a stone in a little Yorkshire village should display such artistic style and skill.

The original function of the stone is quite unclear. It may have been a massive lintel over the doorway of an earlier church. It may have been a panel in some significant structure such as a tomb or altar. One thing is certain: it cannot have had its present function as a reredos; Saxon churches usually had a rounded apse behind the altar, which was free-standing, and the celebrating priest faced his people across the altar.

The Chancel

Move now to the chancel arch. Notice that the whole area of the chancel is devoted to the central altar and its associated furniture. There are no choir stalls Even the clergy reading-desk and matching preaching-stalls stand just outside the chancel arch. The entire chancel was re-ordered in this manner in 1981 as a gift from the Worsley family, in memory of the 4th Baronet, Sir William Worsley and his wife Joyce. This re-ordering, designed by the architect Ronald Sims of York, constituted the most significant addition to the church since the rebuilding of 1860. The main effect of the re-ordering has been to create a fine sense of space, suitable for the performance of contemporary Eucharistic worship. Previously, the altar had been situated directly under the E. window in a rather cramped area, and separated from the people by a corridor of long-uninhabited choir stalls. There is convenient space for the celebrant to face the people across the table, and for those communicating to gather around the table (at least on two sides) much as a family gathers around the dining table, ‘Thus the re-ordered chancel is a fitting expression of the present generation’s ideas on liturgical design. Members of the present congregation made the kneelers in front of the President’s seat. Motifs in their design include the white rose of York and the crest of the Worsley family. The Frontal Embroidery was by Mrs G. Stafford.

The 10th-Century Carved Cross

10th Century Carved CrossThe most. striking feature in the Chancel is the free-standing Viking Cross, now mounted high on its wrought-iron frame, and acting as the church’s altar cross. The history of this great cross is as follows: Originally it would have stood high on a round column, possibly marking the open-air spot where Christian worship took place before the ruined church was rebuilt in late Saxon times. It was once brightly painted —fragments of a reddish limewash remain in crevices of the carving. When the church was rebuilt, this stone was built into the masonry of the tower where it remained until 1925, when it was removed, brought inside the church, and mounted as a kind of museum piece on the S. Chapel wall.

The Viking Cross and altar saddles in the remodelled chancel (right).

The re-ordering of the Chancel offered the opportunity to restore the cross to a position of liturgical prominence. From its wrought-iron pedestal (designed by Ronald Sims and executed by Michael Hammond of Kirbymoorside) it now presides over the whole church, powerfully proclaiming its ancient message to us across ten centuries. For the design carved on the cross does indeed contain a message. The front surface is decorated with two panels. The upper panel, consisting of the four arms of the cross, has a design of knotted strap work surrounding a central boss - a pattern typical of 10th-century Viking work. The lower panel, consisting of the shaft, depicts two ribbon beasts intertwined in a three fold knot. Their heads and tails are clearly visible in the corners. This design is repeated on the sides of the stone. Its symbolic message is powerful. Many peoples tell legends of huge dragons or serpents (symbolising the powers of evil) which terrorise the land until slain by some hero. The famous Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf (written in the 8th century) is an example. The design on our cross is thus proclaiming the Christian message that the powers of evil have been tied and bound by God the Holy Trinity, as demonstrated in the Cross of Christ.

The beautiful green and ivory saddles, seen on the altar for most of the year (and visible in the photo above), are a combination of the old and new. The embroideries were very carefully lifted from a damaged early Victorian frontal and given a new lease of life by Mrs Celia Ankers, a member of the Broderer's Guild at York Minster.

The Chancel Windows

On your right you will see two beautiful 13th-century lancet windows, which were preserved here in their original position at the restoration of 1860. Many churches have a low S. window in the chancel, possibly to provide good light for the priest to read here. The exterior of the smaller window is interesting: the window-head is formed by a single stone, similar to the re­used window-heads in the tower masonry. With exquisite taste, the glass placed in these windows (in 1943) is clear glass, thus giving a bright atmosphere to the chancel.

The Monuments

Now turn left along the little passage to the vestry. The north wall facing you holds monuments to various members of the Worsley family. Just outside the vestry door is the oldest remaining monument, dated 1692, and another similar one dated 1716. Both are in elaborately carved Baroque style. Further on past the organ is an impressive memorial to the grandfather of the Thomas Worsley who built Hovingham Hall. He died in 1715. The monument is an extremely expensive one in the shape of a Roman sarcophagus, faced with various contrasting colours of marble, and bearing the Worsley Arms. It reflects the Age of Reason, deeply influenced by classical ideas, and bearing surprisingly little indication that the deceased was a Christian.

The next monument is a simple and austere memorial to the builder of Hovingham Hall and members of his family, who died between 1770 and 1824. The neighbouring memorial is to Arthington Worsley who died in 1861, a year after his marriage. Note the romantic style of the surrounding floral motifs, and the particular verse of scripture chosen by his wife:

“The Lord watch between me and thee,
When we are absent from each other”

A space was deliberately left for her memorial, which was duly filled in 1893. Note the very different tone of the Latin inscription:

“Requiescant in pace (May they rest in peace)”

in keeping with the ‘high church’ atmosphere of this church at the latter period.

The Organ

While in the N. aisle you will have passed the organ by Messrs Wordsworth & Sons. Originally it was hand-blown, and the handle for the bellows is still beside the vestry door. In the 1880’s the “blower” used to be paid £1 a year.

The Worsley Family

The Worsley family has owned land in Hovingham parish since the 16th century. A family mausoleum was built in the church yard (on the north side of the church) about the same time as Hovingham Hall was built (c.1750). It was used for the family burials until the last century, though recent burials have all been in the village cemetery.

In many cases memorials to the deceased were placed in the church. These memorials have taken many forms: monuments, windows and plaques are the most common; but the restored church itself is also a memorial (to Marcus Worsley’s wife (d. 1858 )); so is the organ (to the 2nd Baronet’s first wife), while the Lady Chapel was formed in memory of the 3rd Baronet.

The Stained Glass

The church contains a surprising variety of stained glass, ranging in date over a century (the earliest is 1860, the latest 1962). There are examples of four main styles. The oldest glass is to be found in the vestry and at the opposite end of the N. aisle. The designs consist simply of intertwined foliage and scriptural texts (“God is love”). Dark tones predominate. The next group of windows come from the very end of the 19th century: the great east window and the window near the organ. They are both strongly influenced by the Gothic Revival. Note the canopies over the head of each figure - a typical feature of medieval design.

The third group are to be found in the Lady Chapel and are dated 1913 and 1937. ‘These windows are a good deal brighter than the earlier ones, the effect simply obtained by omitting any canopy or background behind the figures and using clear or light-coloured glass instead. The subjects chosen break new ground also. Yorkshire saints predominate: Ethelburga, Paulinus, Aidan and Hilda.

The fourth group are modern windows by Harry I. Stammers; the choice of subject reflects contemporary concerns. The experience of two world wars and the continuing spectre of global disorder have thrown up new facets of the Christian faith. The window on the left of the tower in the south aisle (1950) depicts Christ enthroned as King, the opening scene of John’s vision (Revelation chapter 1). The large window opposite the south door (1962) also draws its subject-matter from Revelation: the control of the fearful forces of violence (the horsemen of John’s vision) has been committed to the Lamb (the symbolic description of Christ in John’s vision).

These powerful modern windows are contemporary equivalents of the medieval bound snakes on the cross in the Chancel. ‘Though a thousand years apart they both bear witness to the Christian conviction that Jesus is “Lord and that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow”.

Taken from the Guide Book to All Saints' Church, Hovingham, originally composed by the Revd Patrick Vaughan in 1974 (4th revised edition, 1999)