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Robinson's Guide to Richmond (1833)

Part 4
The Parish Church of St. Mary

The Parish Church of St. Mary

PASSING along French-gate, we come to the PARISH CHURCH, A plain and substantial structure, dedicated to St. Mary. The date of its erection is unknown, but the shape of the three windows nearest to the porch in the south aisle, warrants a conjecture, that it was built some time about the year 1300, or a little earlier. The great east window in the chancel, the west window in the steeple, and that at the east end of the south aisle, are fine specimens of the style termed "perpendicular English," which prevailed at the latter end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth century, when the church was, most probably, enlarged and beautified, so as to accord with the altered fashion of the times.

The most remarkable objects, are the beautifully carved stalls, ranged along each side of the choir, which, with the elegant screen, &c., forming the Rector's pew, were brought from Easby Abbey, at the reformation. They appear to have been constructed only a short time previously to their removal, as a scutcheon, over the mayor's stall, bears an enigmatic device, intended to represent the name of "Abbot Bampton," who presided over the abbey at the time of its dissolution, in the year 1539. Among the graceful tracery which runs along the top of the pew and stalls, are the disjointed fragments of an inscription in the old black letter, it merely enumerates the ten abuses of monasteries, &c.

In the large east window, are several heraldic paintings,

     "Scutcheous of honor or pretence,     "Quarter'd in old armorial sort,
"Remains of rude magnificence."

At the top, on the right, are the three golden horse shoes, the arms of Fountains Abbey, on the left are the arms of John II. earl of Richmond,* who died in 1333. Beneath, in the central compartment, are the ancient royal arms of England; to the left of which, are the arms of Christopher Urswicke, L.L.D., archdeacon of Richmond in 1493; and to the right, is an uncoloured shield, bearing the outline of a lion rampant and mascled; it is not known to whom the latter arms belong. To the extreme left, is a shield, bearing an antique merchant's mark, with the initials, J. W. in the old black letter. Whilst the privilege of wearing coat-armour was jealously confined to those who were descended from "gentil bloode," the wealthy traders contented themselves with using, as their heraldic badge, the private mark which each of them was in the habit of inscribing on his bales and casks. Local topographers have often been puzzled in attempting to explain their meaning, but the churches at all the old commercial towns, contain numerous merchants' monuments, displaying devices of this kind. The roof of the chancel, also deserves attention: the junctions of the pannels have been adorned with armorial shields; these, however, have all been removed, except that nearest the pulpit, which, though much faded, has originally been blazoned Or, bordered and fretty sable; on a canton sable, a chalice Or. They appear to be the arms of an ecclesiastic, and have, probably, been adopted by some rector of the parish, sprung from an obscure family. In the right wall of the chancel, is a curious monument of the reign of Charles I. to the memory of Sir Timothy Hutton, of Marske, and his family; beneath which, are placed on a stand, an ancient copy of Fox's book of martyrs, and the works of Bishop Jewell.

*This nobleman stood high in the favor of King Edward the Third, but, by his prudent conduct, he escaped the public odium which proved so fatal to Gavaston and Despenser.

The pillars which divide the aisles from the body of the church, are of a very massive character, and rudely executed. In the east side of the south pillar, which divides the chancel from the nave, are two small closets, with strong oaken doors and locks, which were used, in popish times, for safe custody of the consecrated wafer, or host.

On the corbels at the outside of the east window of the southern aisle, are the arms of Fitz-Hugh, three chevronels braced in chief, and a plain chief; and Aske, of Aske hall, three bars. The steeple seems to have been erected, or raised to its present height, by Ralph Neville, earl of Westmoreland, to whom the castle and honor of Richmond were granted by King Henry IV. in the year 1399, as his arms stand carved on its western battlement. Those of Fitz-Hugh also occur again at the top of the north buttress.

The last object that engages our attention, is the ancient octagonal font, carved out of a single block of the grey Tees marble. On each of its faces is a shield, six of which are now plain; on the eastern and western sides there remain the letters chi and i be. The absence of initial, or capital letters, and the disjointed state of the letters, lead us to infer, that these are only the relics of an inscription which (as in numerous other instances) originally ran round the font, and which, as the edifice was dedicated to St. Mary, would probably, address her by her then customary titles, thus, "To Mary, the blessed virgin, the queen of heaven, the mother of Christ," and this in the abbreviated monkish latin, would fill up the eight shields, as follows, | Ma | rie |bgn |the |rne | celi |mri |chi. The early reformers would, of course, on the restoration of the worship of the Almighty, feel it their duty to remove an inscription so directly countenancing the adoration of saints: and they accordingly appear to have chiselled off the whole, except the name of Christ, and the letters on the opposite side.

The patronage of the church formerly belonged to the abbey of St. Mary, at York, to whom it was granted by their liberal benefactors, the earls of Richmond; it is now vested in the crown. Not many years since, one thousand and fifty was the utmost number that could be seated in this building, but by the praiseworthy exertions of the present rector, the Rev. William Barnes, several new pews have been added, and new galleries erected, containing about four hundred and forty sittings, most of which are free to all.

On leaving the church, we proceed to the short Terrace Walk, at the top of the church yard, leading to the Rectory. Here a delightful Vista' opens to the eye. On the left is the Clink Bank, thickly clothed with wood, and resting on the slanting stratum of rock, which, rising abruptly out of the river harmonizes remarkably with the perspective. Just at our feet is the FREE GRAMMAR SCHOOL:

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Data transcribed from:
Robinson's Guide to Richmond (1833)
Scan, OCR and html software by Colin Hinson.