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Standing tower and below ground remains of St Lawrence's Church and associated burial ground

A Scheduled Monument in Fishergate, York

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Latitude: 53.9542 / 53°57'15"N

Longitude: -1.0683 / 1°4'5"W

OS Eastings: 461236.345716

OS Northings: 451306.411215

OS Grid: SE612513

Mapcode National: GBR NQZQ.H8

Mapcode Global: WHFC3.KVHZ

Entry Name: Standing tower and below ground remains of St Lawrence's Church and associated burial ground

Scheduled Date: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020683

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34838

County: York

Electoral Ward/Division: Fishergate

Built-Up Area: York

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: York St Lawrence with St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes standing and buried remains of the medieval church
of St Lawrence and the majority of its burial ground. It is located in the
churchyard of the 19th century St Lawrence's Church on Lawrence Street.
Also included are a section of medieval cross shaft and two 19th century
grave memorials.

The earliest known reference to St Lawrences's York is in 1194 when it is
referred to as a church of the chapter of York Minster lying outside the
city walls. Over the years it was amalgamated with other extra-mural
parishes; with St Michael's of Walmgate Bar in 1365 and with St Helen's
Fishergate and All Saint's Fishergate in 1586. During the English Civil
War in the 17th century St Lawrence's was caught up in the siege of York
and there was fighting in the churchyard. The church was partly destroyed
but was restored by 1699 followed by a further stage of rebuilding in
1827. In 1881-83 a replacement church was erected to the south to cater
for the greatly enlarged congregation of the parish. Most of the medieval
church was demolished and the burial ground cleared of tombstones. The
tower of the church was left standing and the former north door relocated
against the east side of the tower.

The medieval church is shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1852 and also
in a number of illustrations of the 18th and 19th century. These sources
clearly show the church to be a single aisled structure with a western
tower and a chancel at the east end. Although this type of church plan is
typical of the medieval period, it differs from churches within the city
walls of York which tended to lack a chancel. Similar to most other York
churches it is orientated south west to north east. From the map evidence
it is known that the church measured 25m in length west by a maximum of
10m in width.

The church tower, which is Listed Grade I, is all that survives above
ground. It is three storeys high and measures 4 sq m in plan. It is a
largely late 12th century structure with some 13th century alterations
including the insertion of new windows. The top storey, which contains the
bell loft, was added in the 15th century and the crenellated parapet is a
20th century addition. The tower is built of roughly squared limestone
rubble except for the upper stage which is constructed of larger and more
regular blocks. There are blocked window openings on all sides of the
tower and an ornate Norman doorway on the eastern side. This is set within
a series of four, semicircular arches with some complex and sophisticated
decorative carvings which include mythical creatures and foliage. This
doorway was originally the north entrance to the nave and was re-erected
in its current position when the body of the church was demolished in the
19th century.

The burial ground was located to the north and south of the church and
will have been in use since the medieval period. The 18th and 19th century
illustrations show a number of rectangular and round headed headstones as
well as some chest tombs; these have now been cleared away. Some of the
headstones have been reused to form a path and small garden in the area of
the former chancel. The extent of the burial ground is shown on the 1852
Ordnance Survey map. The bulk of the former burial ground is included in
the monument with the exception of the area occupied by the garden of

The section of churchyard cross shaft is located against the south side of
the tower. It comprises a cylindrical limestone shaft set into the ground
with 0.45m standing above the ground surface. It represents the remains of
a churchyard cross relocated after the demolition of the medieval church.

There are two grave monuments included in the monument. One is located 5m
to the south west of the tower. It includes a brick wall with an inscribed
tablet set against it overlooking a grave surrounded by iron railings. It
is dedicated to four sons and two daughters of John and Anne Rigg who died
in a boating accident in 1831. The second memorial is located where the
east end of the former chancel lay. It is a cylindrical stone memorial
1.5m in diameter dedicated to the Allen family. The inscription is unclear
but it is thought to be 19th century in date.

The sign board adjacent to the road and the grave slabs are not included
in the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and
containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for
Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on
Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated
into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in
its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and
are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides
accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the
priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes
provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional
altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west
end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon
and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish
churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south
or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation
were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were
rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of
the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little
fabric of the first church being still easily visible.
Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the
density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed
settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest
clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of
1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New
churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to
around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches
have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for
their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later
population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour
and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are
identified to be nationally important.

The tower of St Lawrence's church survives well and significant remains of
the body of the medieval church will survive below ground. The monument
offers important scope for understanding the development of a medieval
church and its context in the extra-mural suburbs of one of the most
important medieval cities in England. A fragment of churchyard cross also
survives within the monument. These were mostly erected during the
medieval period (mid-10th to mid-16th centuries) and served a variety of
functions including the focus of processions, public proclamation and
penance as well as defining the rights of sanctuary. Crosses were
distributed throughout England and are thought to have numbered in excess
of 12,000. Although the remains of the cross are not in its original
position, it was located within the churchyard and its survival
contributes to our understanding of medieval customs, both religious and
secular, associated with St Lawrence's. The burial ground contains a
significant sample of the population of York spanning many centuries.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Yorkshire: Volume I, (1907), 385-386
Best, R, Views of the Parish Churches of York, (1831)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the historical Monuments of the City of York, (1975), 24-25
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the historical Monuments of the City of York, (1975), 25
Wilson, B, Mee, F, The Medieval Parish Churches of York: The Pictorial Evidence, (1998), 93-97
Wilson, B, Mee, F, The Medieval Parish Churches of York: The Pictorial Evidence, (1998), 93-97

Source: Historic England

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