Churches across the region are helping families recall the past lives of Yorkshire folk as they bring memorials to life in a series of free events, open days and exhibitions for Church Explorers this summer. Church Explorers is an annual summer-long festival celebrating the architectural and archaeological importance of Yorkshire’s magnificent church buildings.
In honour of the centenary year of the end of the First World War in 1918, the theme for this year’s Church Explorers is memorials with the focus on churches as places of memory and how they serve as records and reminders of historic events for their local communities. Although all the participating churches have different stories to share, the memorials – be they grand monuments to princes and parliamentarians or a heart-felt tribute to a much-loved wife and mother – remind visitors of the real-life stories of previous generations and reflect on how people commemorated those lost.
Some of the most poignant stories being told this summer are those that lie behind the names carved in stone on church war memorials and that are written in books of remembrance. Leeds Minster, Hull Minster and St Helen’s, in the village of Bilton-in-Ainsty, are all taking the opportunity to remember those members of their congregations who gave their lives in the First World War, such as the nine men who joined-up together in the Leeds Pals Regiment and were killed on the same day, 1 July 1916, on the morning of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Church Explorers starts on Saturday 30 June with events at Sheriff Hutton parish church and at St Helens at Bilton-in-Ainsty. Sheriff Hutton has chosen to showcase its alabaster tomb effigy thought by some to represent Edward, earl of Salisbury, later Prince of Wales, only son of King Richard III and Queen Anne. Richard III visited the original chapel in 1485 and authorised the payment of £5 to William Sympson, “chauntry prest to our Lady Chapel”. St Helen’s has installed life-sized representations of soldier figures to highlight people who were once part of their community and is also showing the part played by artists during the war both at home and on the western front.
“Churches bring history, people and memory together. Having stood for hundreds of years at the heart of communities they are uniquely equipped to help people learn about the characters and events that shaped Yorkshire’s heritage. Their records and architecture provide a living link to the past,” says Dr Chris Tuckley, head of interpretation at York Archaeological Trust, the owners and operators of York’s JORVIK Group of Attractions, which organises the annual Church Explorers, now in its 6th year, in partnership with churches in the dioceses of York and Leeds, and Churches Conservation Trust.
Church Explorer events for 2018 include:
Church Explorers events take place in churches right across the region, from Leeds to Selby and Hull, from 30 June to 9 September 2018. They are free-of-charge but pre-booking may be required and donations towards the upkeep of the churches is always welcomed.
For more information about Church Explorers including a full listing of the memorials and events, and normal church opening times, please visit www.churchexplorers.co.uk.
There is still time for churches to get involved with Church Explorers 2018 and have their memorials listed on the festival website. Interested churches should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For further media information or photographs please contact:
Jay Commins, or Samantha Orange
Pyper York Limited
Tel: 01904 500698