This content was originally sent to Church Explorers network partners as our Church Explorers April 2019 Newsletter. To get updates and news on the Church Explorers network delivered to your inbox sign up to be part of the network.
Our first Church Explorers workshop of 2019 took place at Leeds Minster on Wednesday 12th June. Those not deterred by the rain heard from Ian Panter, Head of Conservation for York Archaeological Trust, who introduced projects undertaken for church clients over the last 15 years, which have ranged from cleaning and stabilising stone coffins and Viking-era ‘hogback’ stones for one North Yorkshire church, to crumpled brass nameplates and other coffin furniture. Ian was careful to draw a distinction between conservation and restoration: the work of YAT is normally concerned with the former, and a principle of reversibility is maintained wherever possible. Lisa McIntyre, Secretary of the Leeds Diocesan Advisory Committee spoke next, to contextualise conservation within the legal framework in place in churches, and to provide advice on the faculty application system.
Next, Richard Butterfield, Director of Operations and Development at Leeds Minster, introduced the 2019 Church Explorers theme of ‘Lost and Found’ with reference to five case studies from Leeds: we then toured the Minster with Richard and archivist Ann Clark to view four of these: the whereabouts of the fifth, the Minster’s Crimean War Memorial, are unknown since its removal in the 1950s (and subsequently buried nearby?), making this a truly ‘lost’ artefact!
After lunch we heard from three speakers who are collaborating on a joint project by the University of Huddersfield and JORVIK Group: focusing on the medieval Barley Hall, erstwhile townhouse of the canons of Nostell Priory, Chris Tuckley, Pat Cullum and Danilo Di Mascio looked at how we interpret an intangible aspect of local church heritage: the story of Yorkshire’s regular canons, who formed communities at sites such as Nostell, Kirkham, Bolton Abbey, Bridlington and elsewhere, with Pat providing an overview of the development, roles and duties of communities of regular canons, and Danilo providing an experimental look at how modern visualisation techniques can conjure up and populate the spaces that the canons used, to benefit the presentation of their stories to non-specialist audiences. The project team hopes to release a resource pack in the course of summer 2019 to share the results of their work thus far and to make some recommendations for interpreting the stories of Yorkshire’s regular canons (and by extension its other medieval religious communities); watch out for more news on this front in a forthcoming newsletter.
Those who attended were able to take away a 3D printout in miniature of two of the Minster’s ‘lost and found’ treasures: the 10th-century Leeds Cross, and a C14th-century effigy of a knight, both broken up and hidden within later structures, then recovered and reinstated inside the Minster. The knight is now available for you to download and print for yourself here.
We are delighted to announce a new addition to the Church Explorers 2019 events programme: researcher and historian Crystal Hollis will be coming to DIG on the evening of 12th September to talk about graffiti in churches. Crystal will introduce some examples recorded in the course of her research, and will describe some of the latest advances in this developing field. DIG, housed in St Saviour’s church in York, has its own collection of graffiti, and we hope to consider some examples of this in the course of the evening. See the Church Explorers website for booking information.
Colleagues in our ArcHeritage office have been busy looking into graffiti in an historic building with probable connections to Monk Bretton Priory, a Cluniac monastery in South Yorkshire. Now a pub called the Mill of the Black Monks, the former mill incorporates a great deal of old stonework reputed to have come from the nearby priory in the centuries following the Dissolution. Marks and scratches in the stonework are found throughout, some deeply incised. Chris Curtis has been working with the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership and a team of volunteers to record the graffiti, and to establish when and what for reasons the marks were made. Using a raking light to pick out inscriptions, the team searched the building for graffiti before photographing and noting the location of each mark. Early signs are that rather than having any direct connection with the priory or its monks, the majority of the marks consist of names and dates from the 18th century onward, possibly left by tourists visiting the mill.
Keep an eye on the Church Explorers events listings for news of activity this summer at a group of participating churches in Holderness. Details are forthcoming, but we hope to announce an open weekend (24th – 26th August) during which around 13 churches will be open for you to explore. The churches of Holderness are less visited than many others due to their relative remoteness. Church Explorers 2019 will provide an ideal opportunity to see several, all with noteworthy features and fascinating histories, in a single visit.