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Get to know A Bit About Britain - an idiosyncratic view of places to visit in Britain, British history - and stuff. Warts and all. Where shall we go today?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

St Mary's, Studley Royal

Winged lion of Judah, St Mary the Virgin, Studley Royal, Victorian Gothic

Britain tends to shy away from highly decorated parish churches.  The older ones were stripped out when they were nicked from the Catholics by Henry VIII’s men, and protestant zeal tends toward plainer decoration.  There are, of course, exceptions; and the church of St Mary the Virgin at Studley Royal is a fine example.

Studley Royal Park, St Mar's church, William Burges, Victorian designer

Situated in Studley Royal Park, next to Fountains Abbey, St Mary’s is a relatively new church, consecrated in 1878.  It is one of those Gothic revival Victorian things, designed by William Burges for the Marquess and Marchioness of Ripon, and has been described as ‘flamboyant’.  I suggest a more colloquial term might be ‘slightly over the top’.  It is a riot of carved stone, marble, stained glass and gilt.  Or should that be ‘guilt’?  George Robinson, the Marquess (1827-1909), was a distinguished Liberal politician who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1874, though the Marchioness remained Church of England.  They are buried together in the church, in a vault beneath ornately carved marble effigies of themselves.

Organ, St Mary's, Studley Royal, North Yorkshire

Experts will tell you that Burges’s inspiration was highly eclectic, and I’m in no position to argue with that – even if I wanted to.  The exceptionally colourful chancel is like something out of the pages of a fairy-tale knightly romance, with a ceiling that depicts martyrs, apostles, angels and so forth.  Spot the winged lion of Judah, which is meant to represent Christ; it looks Babylonian.  The chancel contrasts with the relatively plain nave but, apparently, the whole place is rich in symbolism; Dan Brown would have a field day.

Chancel, St Mary's, Yorkshire, highly decorated church

St Mary’s is undeniably an astonishing place, with much in it to admire.  The workmanship is exquisite.  And there’s a sad story to go with it.  Twenty three year old Frederick Vyner, brother of the Marchioness, was one of a party of four tourists captured by bandits in Greece in 1870 and killed during an attempted rescue mounted by Greek soldiers.  Part of the cost of building the church was met from money that had been set aside for his ransom, but which was never paid.  His mother, Lady Mary Vyner, also commissioned Burges to build the church of Christ the Consoler at Skelton-cum-Newby in her son’s memory.


Church decoration, Gothic, high Anglican, visit Yorkshire


Font, Tennessee marble, Marquess of Ripon, Frederick Vyner

More information about St Mary’s Studley Royal at English Heritage’s website.

Linked to InSPIREd Sunday.

24 comments:

  1. i do hope you link these to inspired sunday at www.inspiredsundaymeme.blogspot.com/ they're really interesting!

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  2. A lot of very interesting information in this post. I didn't realise theta a lot of the churches were nicked by good ol' Henry

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  3. It is really beautiful and the outside reminds me of our Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican) in Fredericton, which I have posted about. The inside sure is 'fancy'.

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  4. you had me at the spiral staircase. awesome!! ( :

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  5. Funny how tastes change. In his day he was considered to be a great artist, but within a few years his work had become deeply unfashionable and much of it was destroyed. During our lifetimes it has become first acceptable, and now much admired. It will not surprise you to learn that Burges was fond of opium and that in the only known photograph of him he is dressed as a court jester.

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  6. It really is very eclectic, Mike. I do like it inside.

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  7. It is sooo decorated! Well worth a visit.

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  8. Another fascinating and informative post. Thank you so much, Mike! I really like this building, the design is lovely!

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  9. The UK has such interesting place names! Skeleton-cum-Newby? I can't believe that I've been to Fountains twice and never got to this amazing structure. Yes, I thought that Lion looked Babylonian too. Reminds me of the song, Lion of Judah. How could we have missed this??! As I've complained before, there's just too much to see.

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  10. PS. Babylonian, as in Babylonian Captivity (is what I was reminded of)

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  11. An interesting building, far more colorful than original Gothic churches.

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  12. It is quite magnificent Mike and your narrative is most interesting too.
    I hope Dan Brown leaves it in peace - you've guessed it, I'm not a fan!

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  13. I have been remiss and never visited St.Mary's, Studley Royal. Your photos have reminded me that a visit is long overdue. Earlier this year I visited Knightshayes Court, Devon - I love to see Burgess's utopian take on the English medieval style.

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  14. It's all about the detail, isn't it. Great! Tom The Backroads Traveller

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  15. That is an amazing place both inside and out! I'd love to see it for myself some day.

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  16. It is over the top and I would love to visit it.

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  17. So so beautiful. I love visiting churches and cathedrals in the U.K. Wonderful photos!

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  18. "O" wow I hav eto pay that place a visit when I get the chance, what a beautiful church

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  19. My Grandmother would have remarked, 'showy', (said in a stage whisper with much lip curling) but what an amazing place! It's not somewhere I can imagine sitting in quiet contemplation, there's far to much to look and wonder at.

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  20. Thank you for sharing another lovely part of Britain Mike. The church is a visual delight.

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  21. I enjoyed St. Mary's very much Mike, merci beaucoup. a little touch of glamour in the right places works wonders in many a situation :)

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  22. I don't think I have ever been inside that church - looks like an omission I will have to remedy.

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  23. The opening image with the three different columns of marble gave me a prelude to this post. I once did a walk with a friend from Fountains Abbey to Ripon and back and unfortunately St Mary's was closed when we got back.

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Hi - thanks for dropping into A Bit About Britain. New material is now being posted to www.bitaboutbritain.com and most of the material here will gradually be updated and moved over to that new site. Please drop in there, click on the blog page, and take a look round. TTFN - Mike.