SWINE: The History of Skirlaugh Chapel


The Chapel of
Saint Augustine

South Skirlaugh.* being only a township of the parish of Swyne, little need be said of its local history, and for that little we shall acknowledge our obligation to Poulson's "History and Antiquities of the Seignory of Holderness." South Skirlaugh is returned as a soke to Aldbro' of four carucates. It is on record that it was early in the possession of the abbot of Thornton, in Lincolnshire, and that he was summoned, 21 Edward I. by a writ of quo warranto, to prove by what right he claimed to exercise certain privileges in his several lordships in Holderness, amongst which Skirlaugh is named ; upon which he pleaded his grant from King Henry II. In 20. Edward III, the Prioress of Swyne, and the Abbot of Thornton held two carucates and three bovates in South Skirlaugh, in pure alms. April 16.3, Henry IV. Sir Robert Hilton, Knight, and John Redness, quit claim to Walter Skirlaugh, bishop of Durham, all right in lands and tenements in South Skirlaugh. 38. Henry VIII. William Coleman held lands here and in North Skirlaugh of the King, as of his manor of Woodhouse, parcel of the monastery of Thornton. 22. Elizabeth, Henry Constable Knight, by livery held in Skirlaugh in Capite.

* South Skirlaugh is pleasantly situated on the south bank of a little stream called Skirlaugh Beck, which separates it from North Skirlaugh. Both North and South Skirlaugh are in the parish of Swyne, in the Deanery of Holderness, the Archdeaconry of the East Riding, and the Diocese of York, and about nine miles north-east of the town of Hull.

The manor is partly copyhold.

The lands secured to Bishop Skirlaugh, or parts of them, are doubtless the chapel estate still under the management of the chapel warden, and the rents of which are applied in the repairs of the edifice, and in the expenses of divine service per-formed in it. The whole proceeds of the estate amounted in 1823 to £36. 3s. 10d., and of this £26. 5s. was applied to the maintenance of the minister of the chapel, who had no other emolument. Thus at the spoliation of the monastery of Swyne, which was once charged with the maintenance of a priest in Skirlaugh, and at the suppression of the chantry for two priests by bishop Skirlaugh, not only were the funds appropriated by the munificent founder to the repair of the chapel diverted by dire necessity from their use, and applied to the maintenance of a minister, but the pittance thus secured was but the miserable sum of twenty-five guineas. Divine offices must languish, and sacred edifices must perish, that some court sycophant or agent of a robber prince may he rewarded for his catering to the royal fancies, or still more criminal instrumentality in his unrighteous purposes.

Let us here however pause a moment, to trace the evil in this and the like cases to its real source. We do not excuse, we cannot even palliate the monstrous robberies of Henry VIII. and his crew. But it must be remembered that appropriations preceded impropriations, and in a great majority of instances led to them. It was the greediness of monasteries that first im-poverished vicarages, and the spoliation of the monasteries only perpetuated the evil. Nor indeed was the prioress of Swyne more liberal in this matter than the heads of other conventual houses, for the first notice which we have of the existence of a chapel in Skirlaw is in a judgment of Abp. Merton, (A.D. 1337), in a suit in his court Christian, at York, between the prioress of Swine appellant, and the inhabitants of South and North Skirlaugh, Arnall and Rowton defendants, in which he enjoins the prioress of Swyne and convent there to find and maintain a chantrie in the chapel of South Skirlaugh, which chantrie had been withdrawn by the prioress, and that withdrawing was the cause of the suit. It is enjoined moreover that the inhabitants of those towns shall find, and perpetually, at their own costs, maintain one fit priest, to celebrate and serve every day in the chapel of South Skirlaugh, who after he has been presented by the prioress and convent of Swyne, and admitted thereunto, shall, without prejudice to the mother church of Swyne, as sti-pendiary curate, exercise cure of souls, and shall answer and satisfy the said prioress and convent, out of the fruits, obventions, and profits, belonging to the said chapel. Also that the inhabitants shall find books, chalice, vestments, lights, bread and wine, and other necessaries for the said chantrie, and shall repair and rebuild the said chapel, and bear all other burdens incumbent thereon, And to the sustentation of the said chantry the said prioress and nuns shall pay 36s. 4d. sterling to the stipendiary priest in the chapel for the time being, and more-over the said chaplain shall have two oxgangs of land in the territory of South Skirlaugh ; and the master and convent of Swyne shall also give him one penny out of every oxgang of land which they hold in Skirlaugh, and henceforth shall not require that 5s. per annum, which the said inhabitants were wont to pay them in times past. And, that the mother church of Swyne might not be defrauded, he furthermore ordained that the inhabitants of those towns shall repair to the parish church of Swyne on the feasts of Easter, and the assumption of our Lord, as they were wont to do in times past.*

* Torres' MSS quoted from Poulson.

A portion of the chapel estate consists of two cottages, one of which is used as a part of the school house. This school was endowed by Marmaduke Langdale, by will, dated August 1, 7. James I., (1609), and the words of the will give a curious instance of the connection between the offices of parish priest and village schoolmaster, which is contemplated as frequently necessary in the seventy-eighth canon* on account of the poverty to which ecclesiastical persons were reduced, and which Marmaduke Langdale seems to have presumed would take place as a matter of course in the instance of south Skirlaugh: indeed he felt, and justly too, that he was conferring a boon equally upon the children of the chapelry, and upon the poor and painful minister of the chapel, when he endowed a school with £20 a year, on the presumption that the minister would be schoolmaster ; how far however such a gift might con-fer the privileges of enjoining rules of living, and reading a homily from his grave may be questioned, the testator himself however has no doubt, for he says " I give £20 per annum to the maintenance of God's service, preaching and pro-nouncing God's holie word, and teachinge of poore children at the chapel of South Skerley, so longe as the chapel may be suffered, and God's service there to be sunge or saide, soe that the minister and priest there be a painful preacher of the word of God, to edifie the congregation there and thereabouts ; and every week once, to make a sermon, at the least, and to be such a teacher, as is an honest, virtuous godly man, to leade a single life, neither to be a married man, nor to take or marry a wife for his own use or company, neither to be a whoremonger, for-nicator, or drunkard, nor a great company keeper, but a civil, honest man in livinge, to all mens judgements; and to behave himself according to God's holie laves, statutes and injunctions, and not to run a fleshinge and eating flesh of forbidden dayes, contrary to the injunctions and orders of the holy church, and the king's majesties wholesome and godlie laws, for I do thinke that a dutiful minister, a painful preacher, and a diligent teacher of children in that place at Skerley chapel, shall have little occasion to have the use or company of any woman, but rather drawe him to folly, covetousness, to hatred, and malice, and other ungodlie exercises by reason of such charge as would growe upon, being in such a bare and barren place as Skerley chapel stands in."

* " In what Parish Church or Chapel soever there is a Curate, which Is a Master of Arts, or a Bachelor of Arts, or is otherwise well able to teach youths, and will willingly do so,, for the better increase of his living, and training up of children in principles of true religion ; we will and ordain that a license to teach youths of the parish where he serveth be granted to none by the ordinary of that place, but only to the said Curate, &c."

Notwithstanding the rule of celibacy which Marmaduke Langdale imposed on his clerical pensioner, he seems to have been no enemy to matrimony in general, for he gave £100 for this among other charities, towards the marriages of poor servants and poor labourers that should be married at South Skirlaw, Rowton, North Skirlaw, and Arnold.

If there be little interest in these records relating to Skirlaugh, the memorials of one great man which this retired village produced abundantly compensates for the barrenness of details. The name of Walter Skirlaugh, bishop of Durham, has already occurred more than once, and it is a name which ought to be dear to the churchman, and doubly dear to the Ecclesiologist. With the exception of the Saxon Wilfrid, who founded the monastery of Hexham, who erected the minter of Ripon, and restored that at York,* and his own contemporary William of Wickham, there is no single person to whom eccle-siastical architecture owes more than to Walter Skirlaw.† A slight sketch of his life will serve to relieve, not unprofitably, the sameness of parochial records, and architectural details.

* Might we propose to the Yorkshire Architectural Society for a seal or book plate, St. Wilfrid sitting on his Episcopal chair, holding a Church in his left hand, and a crosier in his right, and surrounded by the legend Sanctus Wilfridus Ecclesiam Ripponensem Edificavit, I Eboracensem Restauravit.

† "In token whereof his armes are sett upp in most Churches and manor-houses of any other Bishop." MSS. Hunter.

Walter Skirlaugh was born in the parish of Swyne, and in the township of Skirlaugh, before the middle of the fourteenth century, but the exact date of his birth nowhere appears. His armorial bearings, six ozier wands interlaced in cross,* is supposed to bear allusion to the occupation of his father, who is said to have been a sieve maker ; but it is far more probable that such a bearing would refer to a more remote ancestry ; and more probable still that the parentage is invented from the coat, which is by no means of uncommon character, and not the coat assumed with reference to the parentage.

Public records first acquaint us with Skirlaugh during his education, which was concluded at Durham House, Oxford, where he proceeded D. D. His first preferment was to the Archdeaconry of the East Riding. In 1370 he was made prebendary of Fenton, and in four years afterwards he appears as an official in the Archbishop's court. He was consecrated Bishop of Lichfield in 1385, but he had sat in the chair of St. Chad but one year, when he was translated to Bath and Wells ; and from thence again in 1389 he was translated to Durham. In the following year his episcopal jurisdiction was extended by Pope Boniface IX over the subjects of the English King within the diocese of St. Andrews, the Bishop of which was then an adherent of the Antipope Clement, in the great schism which divided the nations of Christendom.† In these scenes of trial and difficulty to all Christian hearts, we gladly deduce from the few traces of his interference, that bishop Skirlaugh laboured most of all to live in charity and good works.

* Appended to a summons of the array of his Ecclesiastics, the Bishop's seal bears his arms twice repeated, and in one coat the ozier wands are interlaced in saltire, in the other in cross.

† It may be interesting to see in what terms Boniface speaks of the Antipope and his adherents. "Pastoralis officii coca, nobis immerito ex Alto commissa, cor nostrum continua pulsat instancia, ut gregem noble creditum a noxiis et adversis preservare solita diligencia studeamus, et oyes noble commissar, ne luporum paciantur incursus et eorum morsibus lanienter, satagamus nostrae proteccionis munimine confovere. Cum itaque, sleet accepimus, quidam iniquitatis iilius in ecclesiam sancti Andrew in Scotia, per dampnacionis filiam Robertum olim Basilicae xiiapostolorum p..‡ cardinalem, none Antipapam, qui se Clementem alma sacrilege nominat, se presumptions dampnabili procuraverit et fecerit intrudi, et cam detinet indebite occupatam."

‡ The margin is occasionally pared away by the knife of a modern binder.

Nor does his name occur among either the favourers or harsh opponents of the Wiclifites, then increasing in number and violence. The good bishop was intent on works of munifi-cence, and was employed in providing for the spiritual wants of his native. village, at the very time when the principles of the parson of Lutterworth were most violently agitated, and were rapidly working to the desecration of churches and the spoliation of ecclesiastical endowments. We have seen that there was a chapel already in South Skirlaugh, and a chaplain provided by the prioress of Swyne : the chapel was probably poor or decayed, and the first notice of the liability of the monastery of Swyne to provide a chaplain shews also how unwillingly the burden was borne. The bishop therefore meditated the erection of a beautiful chapel, and the maintenance of two chantry priests, who should have cure of souls in the chapelry, and perform also other offices which used to fall on the hired chaplain of the prioress of Swyne.

" This Chapel he built in the latter end of King Richard II. his reign, or beginning of Henry IV.; for, in the first part of his reign, he procured Henry Fourth's license to Walter, to give to the abbot of Thornton, in Lincolnshire, 17 mess., 2 tofts, 302 acres of land, 56 acres of meadow, and 6s. 8d. rent, with their appurts. in Barow, Ulsebie, and Grimesbie, valued at 18 marks per ann. ; and 5th Jan., 5. H. IV., he procured license of Richd. Scroop, Abp. of York, to the same purpose. And being thus prepared, 2nd May, 6. H. IV., by his writing under his seal, he foundeth one chantry of two chaplains, in the chapel of Skirlaw, and Robert Brynston and Wm. Skirlaw, priests, are the first chaplains by the founder institutions ; and thereby he ordains good laws for the establishment and ordering of their pensions and celebrations, and of themselves, as also for their habitation and future presentation ; and afterwards pro-cures the consent of the chapter of York and of the prioress and convent, to his ordination."*

* Mid. Bail. Miscel., quoted from Poulson.

While the bishop was thus engaged in laying the foundation of his chapel at Skirlaugh, he was summoned to perform a part which we should now think foreign from a bishop's office. In 1400, the Usurper Henry IV., dreading a descent from France in behalf of the deposed Richard, son-in-law of Charles VI., directed his writ to Walter, bishop of Durham, ordering an array of all the clergy in his diocese, with the quota of forces which they were bound to render in such cases : and the episco-pal mandate issued accordingly, and the array assembled on St. Giles' morn, March 24, 1400. But on the murder of Richard, the threatened invasion passed off, and the forces assembled departed in peace to their homes, and nothing thenceforward disturbed the repose of his episcopate, of which the following short summary, translated from the latin history of William de Chambre, shows how ample a portion was ex-pended in deeds of munificence, and in the exercise of his skill as an architect to public and ecclesiastical purposes.

Walter Scirlawe was translated from Bath to Durham on the 3rd day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand three hundred and eighty-nine, was consecrated* bishop of Durham in the same year, and sat eighteen years. He built the bridge of Shincliffe, and the bridge of Yarm ; for which latter he purchased certain lands, which he afterwards gave for the repairs of the said bridge : he built also the bridge at Auckland, and he raised the great stone gateway at Auck-land from the foundation to the topstone at his proper charges. He built also the great bell tower of Howden, (campanile de Houldon,)† in the county of York, which he caused to be made of a great size, (summæ magnitudinis,) that it might afford a place of refuge to the people of Howden, if there should chance a great inundation of their town. He laid out also vast sums in the repair of the said church; and he erected an exquisitely beautiful chapter house (domum capitularem perpulchram) adjoining the same church. He built also the manor house of Howden, and laid out besides considerable sums in the buildings on the said manor. He also constructed a great part of the bell tower or lan-tern as it is commonly‡ called, of the Minster Church of York, and placed his arms in the centre of the work. (Magnam partem campanilis, vulgo lantern, Ministerii Eboracensis contruxit, in medio cujus operis arma sua posuit.) There also did he found a chantry, on the south angle of the cross of the said church, where he endowed a chantry priest for the perpetual celebration of the mass for his soul. He expended six hundred pounds in the erection of the cloisters in the monastery of Durham. He gave moreover three hundred and thirty marks towards the erec-tion of the dormitory, and to the construction of the cloisters, his executors gave three hundred pounds, he himself having already given two hundred.¶ And on all these buildings he placed his arms, viz., six oziers interlaced after the manner of a sieve. (6 virgas vicissim flexatas, in forma crebri.) He lived ever in the highest estimation with his prince, and died in the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and six, and lies buried on the north side of the choir of the church of Durham, between two piers, before the altar of B. Blaise, (which was afterwards called Skirlaugh's altar,) beneath a marble stone, curi-ously wrought, and adorned with many splendid images in brass, with his own effigy elaborately wrought in brass, in the midst of the tomb. Upon his breast is this inscription: "CREDO QUOD REDEMPTOR MEUS VIVIT, ET IN DIE NOVISSIMO DE TERRA SURRECTURUS SUM ET IN CARNE MEA VIDEBO DEUM SALVATOREM MEUM." And all around the tomb is erected a high iron lattice (clatrum) of curious workmanship, within which daily mass was said for his soul ; and right opposite the tomb, on the north side, there was constructed a stone bench of the length of the space between the two piers sedile lapideum longitudine columnarum distans, all along which his arms are placed repeated in a row.§

* Consecratus fuit, but as he was already a Bishop he required no consecration. It should rather be, he was confirmed, or enthroned.

† Those who are acquainted with this once splendid church, will be glad to see that the Lantern is about to be restored with the assistance, and under the direction of the Yorkshire Architectural Society. When will the restoration, or at least the defending from further decay of the singularly beautiful chapter house follow ? There is scarcely a more exquisite little gem than this among all our ecclesiastical remains; but it is crumbling away, and all its minute foliations are fast losing their sharpness, from exposure to the weather. A roof, and glazed windows, though but temporary, would be well bestowed here.

‡ And much more properly, as well as more commonly, for the bells never, as they do at Howden, hung in the Central tower of York Minster.

¶ This was not probably in addition to the £600 mentioned before.

§ Hist. Dunelm. Wil. de Chambre, cap. v. De Walter Skirlawe Episc. Dunelm. p. 144. Surtees, ed.

This honourable place of sepulture bishop Skirlaugh had secured to himself before his death, as appears from the following license granted by the prior and brethren of Durham to bishop Skirlaugh, to be buried within the church.

" To the most reverend Father in Christ and Lord 'Walter by the grace of God Bishop of Durham, his most devoted son, John the prior, and the convent of the church of Durham, obedience, reverence, and honor, with the most perfect mind to do his pleasure ! 0 most reverend Father and Lord, we are bound by the institutes and precept of our order earnestly to supplicate the Lord in behalf of our benefactors, that they may receive, for the benefit which they have conferred on us upon earth, eternal rewards in heaven : and contemplating with the internal eyes of our minds, the many and great signs of your paternal affection which your most evident love towards us has displayed ; in that you have often relieved our want out of the means which God has given to you ; in that you have rescued our college at Oxford from decay and destruction; in that you have largely added precious vestments and ornaments to our church; and above all in that you have most liberally expended of your wealth in the construction of a dormitory,* especially appropriated to our comfort, we should ourselves be obliged to remember you of all persons in our prayers.

* The indenture between the prior and convent of Durham, and John de Mydylton mason, concerning the building of the dormitory, is so valuable as an architectural document, that we shall be excused for transcribing it at length. It is given in the Surtees edition of the Scriptores his. appendix No. clx. "Haec Indenture, facta inter Johannem Priorem ecclesie Dunelmensis et ejusdem loci Conventum ex parte una, et Johannem de Middelton cementarium ex parte alters, testator, quod prædictus Johannes cementarius promisit, et manucepit, ac se obligavit, ad edificandum et de novo construendum muros Dormitorii infra Abbatiam Dunelmensem situati, modo et forma inferius expressatis. In primis, idem cementarius nuts sumptibus et expensis fieri faciet de novo unum murum, ex parte occidentali ejusdem Dormitorii, qui quidem murus se extendit in longitudine a Monasterio Dunelmensi usque ad finem australem ejusdem Dormitorii, et In altitudine sexaginta pedum ; una cum bretissementis, si necesse fuerit, secundum voluntatem ipsorum Prioris et Conventus; et erit exterius de puro lapide, vocato achiler, plane inscisso, interim vero de fracto lapide, vocato roghwall, et de bono calce bene et suficienter mixto cemate composites. Erit eciam planns mums et in fundamento spissitudinis live latitudinis duarum ulnarum, cum quatuor bonis et securis scarcementis, vel pluribus si oporteat fieri, secundum formam cujusdam exemplaris presentibus identuris annexi. Erunt etiam in eodem mum quatuor ostia, eel plura si necesse fuerit, bona et conveniencia, et de bono et competenti opere, pro introitibus et exitibus oportunis; cum uno bono botras et substantiali inter finem dicti muri et le sowthgavill. Erunt eciam sub volta ejusdem domus in muro predicto novem fenestræ lapidcæ; de quibus quinque erunt sculpture et similitudinis medim fenestræ in domo Comunarii situatae, vel melioris; quatuor vero alit° fenestrae erunt competentcs, et de bono opere, pro voluotate dictorum Prioris et Conventus eligeudæ. Quilibet vero bini lecti monachorum, supra dictam voltam, habebunt unam bonam fenestram pro sums studiis competentem ; quae quidem fenestræ erunt ejusdem forme cujus est fenestra studii vicinioris ecclesie ejusdem partis; et supra quodlibet studium erit unum modicum et securum archewote, supra quod, spacio competenti interposito, erit una historia octo fenestrarum, ejusdem forme cujus est fenestra superior et propinquior parieti Monasterii praedicti in Dormitorio prædicto; et desuper istam historiam fenestrarum erunt bonesta alours et bretesmonti batellata et lamellate; qua quidem alours et bretismentl emit de pure achiler et plane inciso, tam exterius quam interius. Mures vero orientalis ejusdem Dormitorii, inter Monasterium prædictum et Refectorium dictae Abbathiae, a superficie Claustri erit pianos, cum securis scarcementl necessariis de mundissimo lapide achiler, plane melon exterius, et roghwall enteritis; cum studiis et fenestris tam inferioribus quam superioribus, ejusdem sector cujus erit moms alias antedictus. Et erit le beddyng cujuslibet achiler ponendi in isto opere Iongitudinis union podia de assisa, vel longioris. Erit eciam le sowtgavill ejusdem Dormitorii, a parte inferiori usque ad altitudinem campetentem, de puro achiler exterius, et inferius de roghwall; cum latitudine, spissitudine, bretismentl, et alours, muris antedictis correspondens et conveniens : in quo quidem gavill erit una magna fenestra, ad voluntatem et arbitrium dicti Prioris facieada. Erit eciam in aliquo loco competenti per discrecionem dicti cementarii eligendo, assensorium vocatum vys, pro ascendendo supra dictum Dormitorium ; et opus istud erit in parietibus adeo decentis formae et fortitudinis, vel melioris, cujus est quaedam turris in castro de Branspeth, vocata le Constabiltour; qum quidem turris Brit exemplar hujus opcris. Et exit dictum opus finaliter completum infra tree annos festum Natalia Domini proxime futurum immediate sequentes. Et prædictus cementarius waranti abit et sustentabit woltam infra praedictum Dormitorium nunc existentem, adeo bono statu sicut est In die confections praesentium, absque aligns deterioracione ejnsdem. Et idem cementarius inveniet omnimoda cariagia, dicto opera quomodolibet oportuna; franget quareram; ardebit calcem; ac instru-ments ferrea, et lignea, alia quoque vase quaecunque, cum scaffaldes, seyntres, et flekes, et aliis omnimodis necessaries oportunis, sumptibus propri]s et expensis; exceptis quarera tam pro lapidibus quam pro calve, meremio, ac virgin pro dictis scaffaldes, centres, et flekes, quae dictus Prior assignari faciet eidem cementario infra spacium trium miliarium a Dunelmo distancium Idem quoque Prior et Conventus, cum consilio et deliberacione dicti cemented!, muros antiquos in eodem Dormitorio nunc existentes prosterni facient ; et eorum fundamenta pure mundari, pro novo opere imponendo; quae fundamina erunt incepts et posits per consilium et deliberacionem dicti Prioris et Conventus. Et habebit idem cementarlus omnes lapides et cementum de muris antiquis ejusdem Dormitoril prosternendi, et novos lapides pro eodem Dormitorio de novo exscisos et ordinatos, ad suplecionem operis supradicti. Ita tamen quod faciot omnes fenestras antiques et lapides de novo renovari, pro decore et conformitate dicti operis. Praenominati eciam Prior et Conventvs dabunt praedicto comentario, quolibet anno, durantibus tribus minis supradictis, quondo praefatum Priorem contigerit liberacionem panni facere generalem, unum garmamentum de sects armigerorum Prioris. Dabunt etiam eidcm cementario, durantibus tribus aunts supradictis, victum in esculents et poculentis pro ipso et garcione suo, quandocunque pro opere praedicto Dunelmi moram traxerit, et ibidem circa opus praedictum fuerit occupatus. Dabunt itaque dictus Prior et Conventus cementario supradicto pro qualibet coda operis praedictl quae continebit sex ulnas et dues partes unius ulnae squar, tam sub terra quam supra terram, decam marcas argenti: unde ad inceptionem opens supradicti idem cementarius percipiet pre manibus quadraginta Libras argenti; et postea, cum perfecerit ad valorem sex rodarum operis supradicti, alias quadraginta libras; et sic tociens quadraginta libras quociens perfecerit sex rodas, modo supradicto; donee praedictum opus fuerit plenarie consummatum. Proviso tamen quod, ultra praemissa speciflcata, nichil quomodolibet sibi valeat vendicare. Et erit praedictus cementarius, et quatuor aliae sufficientes personae, obligati dictis Priori et Conventui in una obligacione, per concilium dictorum Prioris et Conventus facienda, in quadraginta libris singula vice qua quadraginta libras in forma praedicta idem cementarius receperit; solvendis eidem Priori, aut ejus successoribus, in casu quo idem cementarius defecerit perficere pro singulis decem marcis summae praedictae unam rodam operis antedicti sub forma et condicione superius memoratls. In cujus rei testimonium praesentibus indentures partes praedicta sigilla sua alternatim apposuerunt. Data die sabbati, in festo Sancti Mathei Apostoli et Evangelistiae, anno Domini millesimo ccomo nonagesimo octavo."

"Wherefore, although all your honorable predecessors have been buried, according to ancient custom, in our chapter house, (four only accepted, whose bodies are buried in the church, in token of our special affection,) that ever hereafter when we shall stand to pray in the choir we may the more retentively hold the recollection of you and of your benefits, we will and concede, that after you have gone to your rest, your soul being called away to the Lord, your body may be buried on the north side of our choir, in the spot which you have already chosen, in full sight of our eyes : that while we see your monument we may be incited to pray that you may receive abundantly of the favour of God, saying devoutly, " Ejus in pace cum Domino anima requiescat, qui pro nostra requie corporali divitias suas habundantes effundere consuevit." In witness whereof our com-mon seal is affixed to these presents. Given in our chapter house this sixth day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and four.*

* Quoted from the original document in Surtees Society's Hist. Dunem. Script. tree. appendix No. clxxii.

One other monument of those times, connected with the burial of bishop Skirlaugh we must translate, and we are sure it will be with the good will of the curious reader.

" Instrument concerning the hearse [vereda*] and horses, with the whole of the furniture left [liberati] to the sacristan of Durham, for the mortuary of Walter, Bishop of Durham.

* In a former instrument of the like kind touching bishop Hatfield's funeral, it is called " una vereda, anglice j charyot."

" In the name of God amen. Know all men by these presents, that in the year from the incarnation of our Lord, according to the reckoning of the Church of England, one thousand four hundred and six, on the seventh of May, the Reverend Masters Thomas Wiston, archdeacon of Durham, Richard Holme, John Hildyard, clerks, and Peter de la Hay, executors, as was declared of the Lord Walter Skirlawe, of happy memory, late bishop of Durham, deceased, with his late household, brought and caused to be brought the body of the said Lord Walter deceased, to the cathedral church of Durham, to be committed to christian burial in the same, in one " chare," (hearse) with five great horses drawing it to the said cathedral church ; and that when the body had been thus brought, and placed in the said cathedral church, in the said "chare," they took his body from the said "chare" and carried and bore it into the said cathedral church. Which being done, Brother Thomas Rome, a religious, a monk, and a professed of the foresaid cathedral church, and appointed to the office of Sacristan of the said cathedral church, claimed the said "chare" and the said five horses drawing it, with all the furniture to them pertaining, as of accustomed right due and belonging to the said cathedral church, and to him in the name of the same, as the mortuary of the said Lord Walter ; and so took the said "chare," with the said five horses, and ordered that the said "chare" should be left in the said cathedral church by his servants, and that the said five horses should be led to the Abbey of Durham : and of the said " chare" and of the said five horses be ordered and disposed at his pleasure, the said executors knowing that all and singular the premises were so done by brother Thomas, and suffering it, and not gainsaying, as was at that time evi-dently seen of me the undersigned notary, and there were present also men of credit, Richard Rypon, and Thomas Roose, clerks of the diocese of Durham, and many others, in great numbers, who were especially called to witness of the premises, and I, Thomas de Ryhall, clerk of the diocese of Lincoln,* &c."

* Translated from the original instrument in the Surtees Collection, appendix No. clxx.

One would have thought that the tomb so humbly desired by the bishop, and so lovingly granted by the prior and con-vent of Durham ; so richly adorned with appropriate devices, and so fondly described by the historian : above all consecrated by the so many virtues of him who lay beneath it, might have been spared by the spoiler's hand : but alas ! vain were the reputation of men, though the noblest of their race, were it only committed

" Saxis cinerum custodibus, ad quoe
" Discutienda valent sterilis mala robora ficus ;
" Quandoquidem data sunt ipsis quoque fata sepulchris."*

* Juvenal, Sat., x.

The barren fig tree of Juvenal is too sad a type in more ways than one of our desecrators of churches, and subverters of sacred monuments. The imagery and fine carved work of Durham cathedral fell under the charge of dean Whittingham, a zealous iconoclast, who married Calvin's sister, and Skirlaugh's effigies and brasses are gone with the rest. The place which the tomb once occupied is covered with pews, and only the stone bench described by William de Chambre remains. It is as he describes it, in the north wall, and is of the same length as the space between the two piers, between which the bishop was buried. It is more than twenty feet in length and is richly panelled with the arms of Skirlaugh twelve times repeated. The shields are in a quatrefoil of good character, and between each pair is a niche of equally good workmanship.*

* For information on the present state of the tomb of Bishop Skirlaugh, I am obliged to Rev. James Raine, Secretary of the Durham Architectural Society.

It would seem that the chapel at Skirlaugh was not finished at the time of the bishop's death, for he makes provision for the progress of the work in his will, from which we extract the following items. " Imprimis, he gave his soul to Almighty God his Creator, and his body to be buried in the church of Durham, between the two pillars on the north side of the quire or pres-bytery of the said church, where he had newly ordained his monument. He gave £200 to be distributed among the poor, and more especially his tenants. He gave £200 for purchasing priestly ornaments to celebrate mass in for the space of one year next after his death : to the church of Durham one golden chalice, with St. Cuthbert's image upon it, a better cloth for the high altar, &c.: to the prior of Durham 40 shillings, to the superior 20 shillings, to each of the monks present at his obsequies 13s. 4d., and for the celebration of masses for his soul. He gave £40 to Durham college, Oxford : to the fabric of the church of Durham 100 marks, and to that of Beverley £40: towards the work of the new dormitory in the priory of Durham 100 marks : to the fabric of the steeple of Howden Church £40. Item to the finishing of the chapel at Skirlawe, if it were not completed at his death, 200 marks, and as much more as should be necessary for the completion of the work.

The Chapel.

The chapel is dedicated to St. Augustine, and consists of a nave and chancel distinguished internally only, formerly by a screen and now by the chancel being left without pews, a north chapel, a south porch, and a tower. The structure though graceful is so simple and uniform that it requires very little description. It is of course, from the date of its erection, of early and pure perpendicular, of which style it affords an admirable study.


Church Parapet The tower at the west end is of three stages, supported by buttresses rising above the parapet in crocketted pinnacles. The basement is panelled in quatrefoils. The great west window is of three lights; a battlemented tablet runs round and above it, in the second story, in which is a crocketted niche where once stood, in all probability, a figure of the patron Saint. The third story is pierced with four windows, each of two lights, with tre-foiled openings above the transom head, and surmounted by a dripstone terminating in heads. The parapet is of great elegance, as will appear on refer-ence to the wood cut in the margin.

Dripstones On referring to the ground plan, an opening will be observed on the south side, corresponding to that in which the stair case ascends. This must have been a mere closet, for it is arched over with rubble, a little above the door. The opening again appears in the belfry, but the floor is below that of the belfry, and it terminates, as the staircase does, a little above the door, where the exterior projection dies in the tower.

The structure of the north and south sides is uniform, except where it is broken by the porch and priest's door on the south, and the vestry on the north east. There are six windows on either side, each of three lights, and gracefully filled with tracery in the head. The dripstones termi-nate in a shield, bearing the arms of the founder. Buttresses of three stages intervene between each pair of windows, and rise in crocketted pinnacles above the battlement, those at the angles rising above the rest. The north door is under the second window, and has a niche on the right hand, wherein once was the benatura, or holy water stoop.

Church Exterior Church Plan

The east end is distinguished by its larger window of five lights. The parapet is horizontal, and though the roof is of very low pitch it can never have been higher.

The porch is battlemented. The arch of the doorway is four centred, and the doorway entering the chapel is richly moulded.*

* See plate of Details.

The vestry is a low projection beneath the sixth window, lighted only by one little square window to the north.


The interior presents few objects which call for especial notice. The altar is a wooden board supported on iron brackets. The font is plain and octagonal, and stands in front of the altar rails, having been removed, contrary to the express law of the Church,* from the arch of the south door to the front of the altar rails. At either side of the altar is a bracket and in the usual place a piscina. The time at which the chapel was erected was the era of rich wood work, and doubtless much of the interior beauty of this chapel depended on its screen and stalls; but these, alas ! have departed, to make way for closed pues and a gallery at the west end. They were sold about twenty years ago : whether for one tenth part of the price which any one would now give for them who has to fit up a Church, or for one hundredth part of the cost of furnishing them new, we have no means of knowing. The last generation was abundantly lavish of church furniture ; and though we do not impute bad intentions it may be doubted whether it is not in some degree criminal to take the part of a salesman, without authority and without knowledge, and so to defraud the true possessors of the property, the Church of Christ, and the poor of His flock.

* Canon 81. There shall be a font of stone in every church and chapel where Baptism is to be administered ; the same to be set in the ancient usual place; in which only font the minister shall baptize publicly.

Church Interior A portion of the rood screen has been found, and a section of it appears in the plate of details.

We cannot, of course, enter upon a detailed description of such things as pues and galleries; but we may mention one or two happy devices to overcome the inherent inconveniences of " high places" in the House of God, where all are at least supposed to be lowly. The western gallery (which is entered by a staircase built into the tower) projects into the nave. Under it is a pue higher than the rest with drab curtains, and a table in the centre. The noise of feet above is ingeniously interrupted by a false ceiling over the pue, with saw dust in the space above it.

The windows were once filled with painted glass, Painted glass. but the parliamentary visitors, or some such sacrilegious barba-rians, did their work effectually, and left only a few coats of arms.

The church is warmed by a stove set on a huge warming. mass of stone, and one of the pipes finds exit at a north window.

We presume that to the head " warming" is to he referred the blocking up of the north door, and the introduction of two little devices (one at the south door, and the other, at the door which leads under what was the open tower arch,) not mentioned so far as we can discover in any of the canons ecclesiastical, or in the " Instrumenta Ecclesiastics," or in the laborious catalogue of church furniture and decorations furnished by the "Hierurgia Anglicana" : these are cards having the inscription, embellished with much flourishing, "Please shut the door."

The beauty of Skirlaugh Chapel, with its value as an architectural study, has caused it to be often engraved. There is a good view of it in Poulson's Holderness. Britton has done it full justice in his Antiquities ; and Pugin has made use of it in his " Contrasts," representing it on the same plate with St. Pancras, London, to which it does afford a glaring contrast indeed. We cannot mention Pugiu's work, however, without observing, that if it be most just as a contrast of the architecture of this, and the fourteenth century, it is most unfair as a polemical work, which it is clearly meant to be, on the side of the Romish sect, against the catholic Church of England. Degraded as our ecclesiastical architecture has become, it never was more so in the Church, than it has been in the hands of Romanists here, and of those who have not deserted the papal obedience abroad : nor is there more irreverence, more indecency of architectural arrangements and of whatever else comes within the scope of Pugin's satyric pencil in our churches, than in many a popish meeting house ; and many a foreign church. And we need hardly remind the reader that for the revival of catholic art in the present day (if we may yet speak of it as revived,) we are not beholden, in the first instance to the party which Mr. Pugin so cleverly associates with whatever is beautiful and grand.

The following are the dimensions of Skirlaugh Chapel :—

Total length, exterior, 79 feet.
Breadth, interior, 22 feet.
--exterior, including buttresses, 36 feet.
Height of the nave to the top of the battlements, 33 feet.
Height of the Tower to the top of the pinnacles 64 feet.

This description of Skirlaugh Chapel was communicated to the Yorkshire Architectural Society, by Rev. Geo. Ayliffe Poole, Hon. Mem.

Church Detials

Data transcribed by
Colin Hinson © 2019
The Churches of Yorkshire
by W H Hatton, 1880