Barton Le Street

This parish has the parish church of St Michael and All Angels Barton-le-Street and the Chapel of Ease at Coneysthorpe in the Castle Howard Estate.

St Michael and All Angels Barton-le-Street

Coneysthorpe - Chapel of EaseThe original church at Barton-le-Street was probably built about 1160. The present church, rebuilt in 1871, contains much of the stone from that old building. The fine carvings are famous, and suggest that masons and stone-carvers who had worked on the cathedrals at York or Durham may have been employed here. Their work shows influence from Western France and Lombardy in the great Norman tradition of stone-carving.

The Porch and main entrance are particularly worth studying. Immediately above the doorway are striking figures of the seasons, one kneeling to prune or plant, one with a mattock, one with a sling to protect the growing crop, one with a sheaf of corn. Flanking these are depicted the Blessed Virgin Mary in bed, with angels swinging censers round her (on your left), and shepherds and wise-men coming to adore the Holy Child (on your right).

Around the arch of the doorway, outer and inner, can be seen designs of birds, dragons, signs of the zodiac and various figures, religious, mythological and human. One of these (just above floor level on the right of the door) shows Samson, hair streaming out behind him, killing the young lion. He has jumped on its back and is breaking its neck by wrenching back its head. On the other side is a figure of a man by an ass with its nose in a bucket. Is this the ass which was to carry the King of Peace into Jerusalem ?

Barton-le-StreetMany of these vivid carvings are original, as the weathering, tooling and colour of the stone indicate. Others have been copied, and some further designs added by skilful craftsmen who were engaged for the complete restoration and renovation of the church in 1871, when it was rebuilt from ground level on the old foundation lines.

Inside the church the great Norman arch at the chancel entrance frames the altar. Its carved capitals show forest leaves with creatures running or peeping through them, reminding us of the miles of forest which used to lie between Barton and York. Under the roof within the chancel can be seen the carved corbel-stones of the early building. These were originally on the outside, and were brought within the chancel and porch to preserve them when the church was restored in 1871. They are very varied and most interesting. Some show expressions of the human face, serious, pathetic or absurd. Sometimes the. carver seems to have cut in stone the oddly animal characteristics he has observed in people. He has noticed these types - and so have we - the catty, the aggressive, the pompous, the mischievous monkey and the wise owl!

To the right of the Altar can be seen the old piscina for washing the sacred vessels with an elaborately carved small pillar supporting it. The same richness of carving is picked up in the stone frieze at the level of the window sills all round the church. The three East end windows are not original. The old church had only one; but they are in the Norman style. The glass is Victorian.

The Font at the West end is also of the 19th century, but in a rather elaborate Norman style. The woodwork of the church designed at the time of the restoration is of high craftsmanship, and picks up some of the old patterns of stone. The beautiful timber roof is more elaborate than the old roof, which would have been of plain heavy beams.

The woodwork of the Organ case was designed by the Yorkshire architect, Temple Moore, early in the 20th century, and shows the colouring he often liked to use. The organ itself probably came from Temple Newsham private chapel which was owned by the Meynall Ingram family who owned the manor and land of Barton in the latter 19th century, and whose devotion carried through the renovation of the church, as is recorded on the panel in the sanctuary. The tiles in the sanctuary are of the same period and illustrate the fine work of that time.

A sketch of the old church (in the vestry at the West end) was taken from a photograph which showed the appearance of the church outside before it underwent its restoration. It will be noticed that the roof pitch was rather different, that there were heavy buttresses on the North wall, indicating structural trouble, and no porch. The doorway originally was on the South side, as is usual; and was moved to the shadier North side to protect the stone from the weathering action of sun, frost and rapid thawing, which crumbles stone exposed to the South.

An ancient stump of a church-yard cross stands near the porch; and the plain round font in Butterwick chapel, which was found in a farm-yard at Slingsby, is believed to be originally from Barton church.

When the Priory of the Holy Trinity in Micklegate, York, was founded Sir Ralph Pagnel, who was lord of the Manor then, gave the church at Barton with a fair amount of land to the prior and convent there. By 1302 however the patronage seems to have passed to the de Grey family who were then lords of the manor of Barton-le-Street.

Close to the door and the font can be seen a list of the names of rectors which is continuous from 1280 (the first recorded appointment of a rector, Robert de Aete) up to 1964. The way the Norman type of name was replaced by more English sounding names from 1425 onwards is interesting.

Further information and pictures are available here