North Riding of Yorkshire
Pickering is a typical North Yorkshire market town with a sloping town centre leading up to a church and a castle at its apex. It is well known for being the home of the North York Moors Railway and in recent years has become a solid tourist destination.
The church hides itself somewhat when approached from the main car park in town, but approached from the direction of the railway and river it’s elevated position is more clearly seen.
It is thought that a Saxon church stood here originally, some possible Saxon stonework remains here and there, but it is thought this church was destroyed by William the Conqueror during the ‘Harrying of the North’ and seems to have been replaced at about the same time the Castle was started in the 12th Century.
The north aisle was added in 1150, and one to the south about 30 years later. The tower was built early in the 13th Century and the chancel and porch added in the 14th. The last major medieval additions were two chantry chapels added in the 15th Century, although only one has survived.
Late in the 15th Century the roof was raised and it is from this rebuild that Pickering Church’s most famous treasures date. Throughout the church are some of the most renowned English wall paintings, including the iconic image of St. George slaying the Dragon that forms the basis of many such depictions. All of these were painted over during the Reformation. In 1852 whilst the church was being repaired the paintings were uncovered and crowds flocked to see them. The vicar at the time, Rev. Ponsoby, disliked the paintings intensely and within two weeks had them covered with a thick yellow wash, but luckily not before an architect from Durham Cathedral, Mr W H Dykes, had recorded them paintings.
In the 1870s more work at the church re-revealed the paintings and although they had been damaged by the Rev. Ponsoby the paintings were restored at the orders of the new vicar, Rev. Lightfoot, the whole process finishing in 1895. Today, the paintings are by a long way the most exciting thing about Pickering Church.Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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