Stand­ing the rav­ages of time and war

The Scarborough News - - WELCOME TO YOUR NEWS - By Sue Wilkin­son sue.wilkin­[email protected]­me­ @thescar­boronews

Stand­ing sen­tinel, side by side, are Scar­bor­ough Cas­tle and St Mary’s – Church and State, set in stone, fac­ing and over­look­ing the har­bour and South Bay.

Both are rich in so­cial his­tory, con­tro­versy and com­plex con­struc­tions. The one thing most peo­ple know about St Mary’s is that Anne Bronte is buried in its church­yard.

She was the youngest of the Bronte sis­ters and loved the York­shire Coast. She died in Scar­bor­ough in May 1849, aged 29.

But there is so much more to know.

“We are asked about Anne Bronte more than any­thing else,” said St Mary’s verger of 15 years Terry Kin­sella, who knows about ev­ery carv­ing, stained glass win­dow, chapel and al­tar in St Mary’s.

It is not known ex­actly when the first church was built on the site but by 1150, in the reign of King Stephen, a sin­gle-aisle church, with nave and chan­cel, stood there.

The first ma­jor build­ing project be­gan in 1180 when the nave was widened, the chan­cel ex­tended and build­ing of three tow­ers started.

It un­der­went ad­di­tions and al­ter­ations dur­ing the 1300s and the fi­nal build­ing phase was started in 1400. By 1450, St Mary’s was one of the most mag­nif­i­cent churches on the York­shire Coast. The house of wor­ship had three tow­ers and as­sumed a cru­ci­form shape.

For 200 years it weath­ered storms and bat­ter­ing winds – it took the can­nons of man to de­stroy rocks of ages.

In 1645, dur­ing the English Civil War, Cromwell’s troops brought two can­non to St Mary’s and raged a three-day bom­bard­ment of Roy­al­ists holed up at Scar­bor­ough Cas­tle.

The King’s men un­der the or­ders of Sir Hugh Cholm­ley “did great mis­chief to St Mary’s”. Its tow­ers and Quire were laid to ruin – the re­mains of which can be seen – and the church is now half the size it once was.

“An ap­peal for money to re- store it was sent out across the coun­try. It raised £2 17s 6d, not any­where near enough money,” said Mr Kin­sella.

It was some years be­fore the church was made hab­it­able and by 1669, the north aisle was re­built, leav­ing the church very much as it is to­day.

The in­side of St Mary’s has also un­der­gone change and Mr Kin­sella pointed out the dif­fer­ence in styles of pil­lars in the south aisle. The end three are dif­fer­ent. This is ex­plained by a fall­ing out of crown and church in the 1200s.

King John wanted de Gray to be Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury and Pope In­no­cent III wanted Car­di­nal Stephen Lang­ton. The dis­pute lasted five years – dur­ing which time the church was closed and its staff, in­clud­ing stone­ma­sons, dis­missed.

When it was re-opened, dif­fer­ent clergy and crafts­men were hired – hence the dif­fer­ence in style.

The church houses Chantry Chapels: St Mary’s, St Stephen’s, St Ni­cholas’ and St James’. Not sur­pris­ingly the far north aisle is known as the fish­er­men’s aisle. The church over­looks the har­bour and fish­er­men’s cot­tages built in the shel­ter of St Mary’s.

Hang­ing on the walls are plaques re­moved from the grave­yard when it was closed. Large ones re­mem­ber the great and the good, like the Tin­dall and Hun­triss fam­i­lies who were in­flu­en­tial in the mak­ing of Scar­bor­ough.

It is the stained glass win­dows which are among the church’s most strik­ing fea­tures, with ev­ery one telling a story.

The Benedicite Win­dow – or great East win­dow – was in­stalled in 1958 to re­place an ear­lier Vic­to­rian win­dow de­stroyed by a Ger­man para­chute mine in 1940. It tells the story of the Cre­ation. Look care­fully at its right-hand side and you will see a mod­ern man with his dog. The dog is sup­pos­edly mod­elled on one owned by the vicar of the time, Dou­glas Oxby Parker.

The Great West Win­dow was in­stalled in 1850 and tells the life of Je­sus, from an­gel Gabriel telling Mary she was to be­come the mother of the Mes­siah to Je­sus in the tomb.

There are also six Saints’ win­dows in­clud­ing one ded­i­cated to St Hilda of Whitby.

Sur­rounded by the mag­nif­i­cence and sym­bols of Man’s de­vo­tion and be­lief in God, it is dif­fi­cult not to feel hum­bled.

“This is a fan­tas­tic place to work,” said Mr Kin­sella. “It is a real priv­i­lege.”

Verger Terry Kin­sella in­side the church with an Easter cross in the back­ground. 180940h

Verger Terry Kin­sella out­side the church. 180940g

The care­fully pre­served stained glass pan­els. 180940c

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