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Second Church Explorers Workshop & Selby Abbey’s 950th Anniversary

This content was originally sent to Church Explorers network partners as our Church Explorers September 2019 Newsletter. To get updates and news on the Church Explorers network delivered to your inbox sign up to be part of the network.

Church Explorers: Archives and Architecture Workshop

Our second Church Explorers workshop of 2019 took place at the Borthwick Institute for Archives on Wednesday 19th June. Keith Halliday, Church Buildings Adviser for the Diocese of York, presented his ‘virtual tour’ of some of the diocese’s most significant buildings. A key theme in Keith’s presentation was that of churches as repositories of ‘spiritual resources’ within communities. Many of those who attended asked for a full list of the churches included in Keith’s tour: this is included below.

Also on hand was Gary Brannan, Keeper of Archives and Special Collections, to introduce the Borthwick and its unique holdings to participants. The Borthwick, established in 1953, holds the registers of the archbishops of York, covering a period between 1225 and 1650 (digitised and made available at these documents provide many valuable insights into the history of local churches in terms of their physical structure, the management of their clergy, parish rights, and parish morality. Faculty records (covering alteration to the fabric of buildings owned by the Church) and pew records (with a fascinating early example of a pew plan for Holmfirth) were also highlighted, and Gary made a selection of materials available for participants to inspect for themselves.

Selby Abbey 950th Anniversary Celebrations


Selby Abbey has been marking its 950th anniversary this summer with a host of events, including a Living History Day on 31st July, staged as part of the Church Explorers programme. The Living History Day has been a successful fixture in the abbey calendar for a number of years now, having begun as one of the earliest Church Explorers events. JORVIK Group staff were amongst the costumed re-enactors who attended, demonstrating aspects of medieval domestic life, including churning butter and hand-milling grain using a set of quern stones. A parade outside the abbey dramatised episodes in the legend of the abbey’s foundation by Benedict of Auxerre in 1069, including Benedict’s theft of a relic of St Germain (his finger) to accompany him on his mission, and the appearance of three swans to mark the spot where his church should be built. The abbey’s celebrations will continue until the end of the year. More details can be found here.

Lendrum Priory Library Fellowship

Chris Tuckley, Head of Interpretation and Engagement for York Archaeological Trust and JORVIK Group, has been awarded a Lendrum Priory Library Fellowship by the Durham Residential Research Library. These fellowships support work on the surviving contents of Durham Cathedral’s medieval priory library, whose collection is currently the focus of a large-scale digitisation project, Durham Priory Library Recreated (

The focus for Chris’s research will be the priory’s surviving copies of a single text, the Tractatus de veneno by the 14th-century Franciscan Malachy of Ireland. This text was the medieval equivalent of a bestseller, in both the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe. It contains advice for preachers on how to ‘penetrate more effectively the hearts’ of their audiences, with reference to venomous creatures as allegories of the Seven Deadly Sins. Chris will be building on postdoctoral research already undertaken on this text, and presented to Church Explorers for the first time at St Helen’s, Bilton in Ainsty, in 2013 (an updated presentation also featured at Selby Abbey’s Living History Day this year).

The Church Explorers team hopes to incorporate themes relating to preaching / reading medieval texts aloud in and around church buildings in future events, with the possibility of undertaking some experimental performance research. How can we characterise the material, spatial and experiential aspects of medieval reading and listening in church buildings?

Church Graffiti with Crystal Hollis

There are still some tickets available for our Church Explorers talk on Church Graffiti by visiting researcher Crystal Hollis on the evening of Thursday 12th September at DIG, St Saviourgate, York. This promises to be a fascinating event and a chance to ask any questions that you might have around graffiti spotted in your own church!

Details of the event can be found here.

Church Explorers ‘Thank You’ and Feedback Evening

We hope that old friends and new will join us for a mince pie, a mulled wine and some live music from harpist Sarah Dean at Barley Hall from 7pm on Friday 6th December, the Feast of St Nicholas. This will be a chance to let us know how your Church Explorers events went in 2019, chat with other members of the Church Explorers network and hear from organisers about plans for this initiative for 2020, including a special theme and a range of exciting skills-sharing and training events.

You will also have the chance to tour Barley Hall’s Magic & Mystery exhibition, which explores popular beliefs about magic in late medieval England.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP by Tuesday 26th November to, letting us know which church you represent and how many from your church will be attending.

A Chapter of Woe. The Anglo-Scots Battle of Myton, 1319

Those of you who are following the work of ‘The Northern Way’, an AHRC-funded research project investigating the political role of the Archbishops of York from 1304–1405, may already be aware that members of the project team have been investigating this infamous episode in York’s history to mark its 700th anniversary year. The Battle of Myton has also been called the ‘White Battle’ or ‘Chapter of Myton’, in reference to the number of churchmen mustered against an invading Scottish army. This talk by Paul Drybergh of the National Archives looks at how the northern Church and northern society coped with the Scots’ military supremacy in a decade during which England suffered some of its greatest humiliations in arms.

The talk is free to attend and will take place at King’s Manor (K/133) in York, at 5.30pm on Thursday 24th October 2019. Tickets are available from Eventbrite here.

Keith Halliday’s notes on his ‘virtual tour’


·    Middleton stands out, as does the crypt at Lastingham; carved crosses, hogback stones and reliefs at Lythe, Brompton, Kirklevington, Middleton and elsewhere.

·    Of 11th- and 12th- century Norman work: Weaverthorpe, Garton on the Wold, Kirkburn, Newbald are outstanding among many, Birkin in the south (an almost complete, apsidal 12th-century church), the lovely tower of Leake in the north, massively important nave of Selby Abbey.

·    Norman arches to doorways, towers, chancels; Alne, Etton, Aughton, Bishop Wilton.

·    Norman fonts Cowlam, Kirkburn, North Grimston and two dozen more.

·    Large square-headed windows of many lights with a little flowing tracery. You will see them in very many places (Driffield for example), but the climax is at Skipwith.

·    15th and 16th centuries; so much fine work to discover in the city churches of York, at St Mary Beverley, at proud Thirsk and Northallerton, especially the towers. The unexpected octagonal towers at Sancton and Coxwold. Octagonal lanterns at All Saints North Street, St Mary Castlegate, St Michael le Belfrey and St Helen and All Saints Pavement and wonderful towers at Beverley Minster, Hull Holy Trinity, dizzying Howden and poor unremarked lovely Hedon, perhaps one of the least valued great churches of England.

Spread the Word and Grow the Network

The Church Explorers Network connects people working in churches to help them promote their building through a programme of networking events, training and skill-sharing. Together we explore the history and archaeology of our church buildings and discover how to make the most of them as a heritage asset for tourism and education.

We need your help to spread the word and encourage others to join the Church Explorers Network. The more people we can get involved in the Network, the more skills, experience and new ideas we can all share and benefit from!

Please share this newsletter with someone who is involved with a local church and encourage them to sign up to the Network on the website: