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St Michael’s Church, Coxwold, Yorkshire

Coxwold church exterior by Barbara Ballard Coxwold had a church as early as AD757. This early Saxon church was replaced with a Norman one in the late 11th century. The church now at Coxwold is a replacement of the Norman one. It was built in the perpendicular style 1420-1430.

The church porch has a number of memorial slabs. The tower, closed to the public, is octagonal in shape with pierced battlements and crocketed pinnacles. It has three bells with a huge oak frame dated 1601.

Effigy in the church by Barbara Ballard In the church nave is the coat of arms of King George II. Armorial bearings are on either side. The nave ceiling is made of oak and is original. The roof bosses have armorial bearings of prominent Yorkshire families. The north windows are stained glass with old tracery. The Wombwell family memorial windows are Victorian glass. A gallery at the west end of the nave houses an organ. Look under the gallery left of the vestry door to see the signatures of Queen Mary (wife of George V) and Princess Mary who visited the church.

The church pews are the box style. At one time the pulpit was a three decker. Look for four carved mice in the nave and Lady Chapel and on the lectern. These are the signature of Robert Thompson, the mouse maker.

Altar rail by Barbara Ballard An unusual feature in the chancel is the horseshoe shaped altar rail. In the chancel are four elaborate monuments. One is that of Sir William Belasye and his wife and children. He inherited the estate of Newburgh in 1546. The tomb was once painted black, red, and gold. Another tomb is that of the 1st Viscount Fauconberg and his wife. A third monument is that of his grandson Thomas, first Earl Fauconberg. The fourth tomb belongs to the last Earl Fauconberg, Henry (died 1802) and his wife.

View of church from the side by Barbara Ballard In the churchyard are many ancient graves. One section enclosed by a yew hedge was the burial place of the Wombwells, a prominent village family. The grave of Laurence Sterne, vicar of the church 1760-176,8 is located here. He became famous for his novel “Tristram Shandy”.

South-west of the church in the village is Colville Hall, which belonged to the lords of the manor, the Colvils. North-east of the church is Old Hall (now private), built as a grammar school in 1603. Up the hill from the church is Shandy Hall, where Laurence Sterne once lived.

Visitor Information

Coxwold is on a minor road east of the A19 and south of the A170. Nearby are Byland Abbey and Newburgh Priory.
Byland Abbey is an English Heritage property.
Newburgh Priory, a historic home and the burial place of Oliver Cromwell, is ˝ mile east of the church.

Photos and Text © by Barbara Ballard

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