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Trip Report The Sykes Churches of the Yorkshire Wolds

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By the C19th many of our parish churches were in poor condition and would have fallen down if they hadn’t been restored by the Victorians. The Sykes family of Sledmere house were responsible for restoring or rebuilding eighteen churches in the Yorkshire Wolds. Their achievement is unparalleled elsewhere in Britain.

The work was begun by Sir Tatton Sykes and continued by his son, Sir Tatton Sykes II, who has been described as “England’s greatest C19th church builder”. The family money had come from shipping and finance as well as through marriage. Between them, they spent the equivalent of £15 million pounds in modern money.

They employed the best architects and craftsmen of the time, including LJ Pearson, GE Street and Temple Moore. Stained glass came from the workshops of Clayton and Bell, Burlison and Grylls and Kempe. This was an inspired choice as the architects all believed in maintaining as much of the original fabric as possible The only exception is the tiny St Mary’s Church in Cowlam which was restored by Mary Sykes, the daughter of Sir Tatton. Much of the original church fabric has been destroyed although the marvellous carved Norman font survives. This alone makes the church worth visiting.
http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/sykes_churches/cowlam/index.html


Over the last few months we have visied churches that are unlocked. All are very different and all are worth visiting. Descriptions and pictures are here:
http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/sykes_churches/index.html

The churches are all small parish churches set in the open rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds. All are very different and all are worth visiting.

They vary from the delightful small Norman church at Kirkburn which must be one of the best Norman churches in Yorkshire. This also has a carved Norman font.
http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/sykes_churches/kirkburn/index.html

Weaverthorpe Church, set high above the village with open views across the Wolds, has a very tall slender tower which feels Saxon rather than Norman.
http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/sykes_churches/weaverthorpe/index.html

The almost stark exterior of the Norman church at Garton-on-the-Wold gives no indication of the glories inside. Every surface is covered with exquisite Pre-Raphaelite style wall paintings. These were restored in 1985 and glow on a bright sunny day.
http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/sykes_churches/garton_on_the_wolds/index.html

Unlike many other Sykes churches, Kirby Grindalythe has an unpainted roof, said to have been the result of a fit of economy. No money was spared on the mosaic covering the whole of the west wall showing the risen Christ surrounded by angels with the Virgin Mary and the eleven apostles.
http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/sykes_churches/kirby_grindalythe/index.html

The tiny church at Fimber was built to replace a medieval chapel of ease. It is a lovely example of a small Gothic Revival church.
http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/sykes_churches/fimber/index.html

Sledmere Church again was built on the site of an earlier church. It cost £60,000 and is one of the best examples of Victorian Gothic architecture with a richly carved interior and orate woodwork.
http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/sykes_churches/sledmere/index.html

The churches are marketed by the local tourist board and there are two trails covering the churches. Details here:

Sykes Churches Trail (Northern Route)
www.eychurches.org.uk/index.php/our-leaflets-2/96-sykes-churches-trail-northern-route

Sykes Churches trail (Southern Route)
www.eychurches.org.uk/index.php/our-leaflets-2/80-sykes-churches-trail-southern-route

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