The porch on the south side is the main entrance to the church.
It is of late 15th Century origin, with stone benches on each side. In the ceiling there are five transverse stone ribs supporting a stone slabbed roof.
Public notices still posted in church porches remind us that it was the usual place for much of the business of the parish from earliest times; for deliberations and discussions on communal legal and economic matters, especially those connected with agriculture and matters of tenure. Here the marriage service might be held and parts of the rites of baptism celebrated.
Through the glass double doors, is the entrance to the church itself. Straight ahead is the main centre aisle. Looking to the left are the choir stalls and the organ.
The organ, with 1400 pipes, occupies the upper part of the tower arch on a specially constructed loft supported by pillars and enclosed in a latticed oak case reaching to the nave roof. It was dedicated on Palm Sunday 1931.
The tour now goes straight ahead towards the windows.
This is the North Aisle and at the east end is the area which was previously the North Chapel. It was also known as the Manston Chapel, Saint Catherine’s Chapel and the Waud Chapel. Two grave slabs, possible part of altar tombs, were uncovered in this area in 1930. They have been retained in subsequent restorations but not in their original positions. They are dated 1513 and 1517 and bear the Arms of Dyneley and Manston prominent local families.
pics of grave slabs; pic of Rood staircase
Close by these grave slabs is a stone newel staircase in the north wall, which led to the Rood screen or beam. The dating of this is uncertain, but there is evidence that there was a Rood at Whitkirk in 1591. This staircase was discovered when plaster was removed from the wall in 1950.
In mediaeval times the Church would have had a rood screen and gallery separating the Chancel from the Nave, surmounted by a large Crucifix and statues of St Mary and St John, with the gallery housing the musicians and the staircase giving access to it.
A Rood beam was put in place in 1935, and was taken down in 1980, when the church was re-ordered.
pics of Rood beam and figures pre-1980
Turning away from the North aisle, the next part to look at is the main area of the Chancel.
The Chancel occupies the area as it would have been in the 15th century, but with the 19th Century extension to the East end. The present appearance is the result of the 1979-80 restoration and re-ordering. The High Altar previously was against the wall under the East Window, in the area now separated from the Chancel by wooden screening. This screening was previously used to separate the South Chapel from the rest of the church.
The Altar was re designed and moved to its present position enabling the priest to face the congregation whilst celebrating the sacraments. A portion removed was used to create the attractive Altar in the South Chapel.
The decorated roof and supporting head corbels are comparatively recent. They were erected in 1855-56 by the Masters and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, the then patrons of the living.
On the North wall of the Chancel, is a large marble slab surmounted by a model of a lighthouse, in memory of John Smeaton F.R.S and his wife Ann. John Smeaton lived and died at Austhorpe Lodge (now demolished) half a mile east of the church and played an active part in church affairs. He was regarded as a great engineer in many fields, but his most famous achievement was the building of the third Eddystone lighthouse(1), completed in 1759. He and members of his family are buried in the Chancel.
Moving away from the Chancel area, the Font is placed next to the south wall of the church. This is a single piece of magnesium limestone, identified as being from the Tadcaster quarry providing stone for the construction of York Minster and said to date from the 12th Century.
The font was discovered buried in the churchyard and, after lying unused in the Tower for some years, was placed in its present position in the 1979-80 re-ordering. It replaced a font of imitation 15th Century design at the west end of the church.
The South Chapel and South Aisle
The South Chapel has several items of interest.
The chapel is associated with the Scargill Chantry, founded by William Scargill in 1448, for-two priests at the altar of the Holy Trinity in the Church of St Mary, Whitkirk. The purpose was the saying of Masses for the benefit of the founder, his family and their successors. The fine altar tomb in an arch between the Chancel and the Chapel is of alabaster, commemorating Sir Robert Scargill, Knight, (died 1531) and Lady Jane, his wife (died 1546).
The Chapel is also the burial place of the Ingrams (and later Irwins on the granting of a peerage) and has been known as the Ingram and Irwin Chapel. An inscribed slab commemorates Sir Arthur Ingram, the builder of Temple Newsam house, who died in 1655. More impressive is the memorial to Edward, second Viscount Irwin (died 1688), his wife and daughter on the south wall. This marble monument is a particularly fine example of the period.
The set of tapestry kneelers depicting coats of arms of families associated with the church, local organisations, the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds and the City of Leeds, were made by members of the congregation to mark the 800th anniversary of the first recorded priest at Whitkirk – Paulinus The Priest mentioned in 1185.
The windows in the South Chapel show the Arms of the Knights Templar, the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, the Royal Arms of France and England (those of Henry VIII whilst Lord of the Manor of Temple Newsam – Lord Darcy’s estate being forfeited to the Crown) Valence (Countess of Pembroke), Lennox. Darcy, Meynell Ingram and Wood; these were also reproduced in tapestry form on the kneelers in the chapel.
Pics and captions of coats of arms?
On the south aisle wall is a memorial to those from the parish who were killed in the First World War. It includes the name of one woman, Ethel Jackson, who was killed in an explosion at the munitions factory at Barnbow in 1916. You can read more about the accident at Barnbow in this article from our Magazine.
The tour of the church building ends here but outside there are some interesting graves and memorials. Especially notable is
The Lychgate is a memorial to men and women of the Parish who gave their lives in the two great World Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. It includes stones (suitably marked) from the bombed buildings of the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, Coventry Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in York, the Leeds Town Hall and the Leeds Museum. The bulk of the masonry is from the walls of Gotts Park, the family home of the late General Gott under whose command many Leeds men served. The timber of the roof, trusses, gates and posts is teak planking from Royal Navy ships. It did include Tampions from two of the guns of HMS Rodney, but these were stolen shortly after installation.