See also Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire
Note: We spent 8 days in this area and could have used more time.
Note: We have posted times when the churches are supposed to be open; however, we did not find this to always be so—many were closed. Regardless, driving around the area and seeing the small villages was worth the time.
The areas of East Yorkshire include the Vale of Pickering, the Wolds, the Vale of York, and Holderness Plain. In some coastal areas the cliffs are eroding 5 feet per year. The chalk land of the Wolds encompasses the area from the cliffs of Flamborough Head down to the Humber. The steep-sided valleys give the area a dramatic air.
Until the 20th century much of the Wolds was in the hands of a few great landowners. Burton Agnes Hall was the early 17th century home of the Griffith and Boynton families and Georgian and Edwardian Sledmere house was home of the Sykes family. Sewerby Hall and Scampston Hall are two others.
All but a handful of villages are first recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Many have names derived from Anglo-Saxon words and there are a few with Scandinavian place names—examples end in ‘thorpe’. Nineteen villages had market charters dating from the 13-15th centuries and include Kilham, Kirkburn, Lund, N Newbald, Sledmere, South Cave, South Dalton, Thwing and Warters. Present market towns are Driffield, (the largest one and called the capital of the Wolds), Market Weighton and Pocklington. Estate villages include Sledmere, Londesborough, Warter, South Dalton, Bishop Burton, Brantingham, West Ella, Langton, and Settrington.
There are 62 sites of deserted settlements on the Wolds or edge of the Wolds. From the 15th to the early 18th century villages disappeared when the arable land was changed to sheep pasture or rabbit warren.
The Millington Dale Walk is an 8 mile circular route, signed and waymarked. It begins at Millington where there is an ancient ash woodland nature reserve. Hundreds of footpaths crisscross the land. The Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail runs for 79 miles through wooded slopes, valleys, and hill summits. Walk the Wolds walk packs are available at Visitor Information Centres. There are 15 routes in all. There are also a number of short circular walks. The National Cycle Network has routes passing through the East Riding. The National Byways cycling route has 257km in the East Riding of Yorkshire, all signposted.
There are ancient and Victorian churches in the area. Christianity came to the Wolds in AD 627. The earliest Wolds churches are Norman, dating from 900 years ago. Some of the finest examples are at Weaverthorpe, North Newbald, Wharram-le-Street, Garton-on-the-Wolds and Kirkburn. Other medieval churches are at Millngton (St Margaret) and 14th century St Andrew at Bainton. Examples of Gothic revival style are filled with stained glass, paintings, sculpture, woodcarving, and metalwork. The 17 Sykes churches are so named as they were built or restored by Sir Tatton Sykes.
Churches in East Yorkshire, especially in the Wolds area, to visit include:
Note: a couple of these are not strictly in the boundary line but we have included them as they are of interest and close enough to be part of a driving tour.
Atwick: Church of St. Lawrence
19th century; at the west end of the village; rebuilt 1876 with red brick; saddleback tower; tiled roof.
Bainton: St Andrews
Dates from 1330s-1340s; known as Cathedral of the Wolds; tower once topped with a spire; windows with net-like tracery; four bays with octagonal piers; tomb with military effigy; Norman font. Open daily, 10am-dusk.
Barmston: All Saints
17th century All Saints Church overlooks a pond and the stackyards of neighbouring farms; contains fragments of a hog-back tomb and some medieval glass and a 17th century Boynton family monument
Beeford: St Leonard
Grade II listed church; 15th century tower; stained glass window
Bempton: St Michael
Dates from c1200 with nave arcades and base of tower surviving from that time; rest of octagonal tower from 1300s; red brick chancel and chancel screen are late Georgian; stained glass windows—one is of St Francis, the Bempton cliffs and seabirds. Open daily, 9am-4pm
Beverly: St Mary
Founded in 1120; building and rebuilding over four centuries; late 14th century west front; south porch pinnacles; battlements on nave, south transept and central tower; chapel of St Michael; in 1520 the tower collapsed during a church service killing worshipers; medieval glass destroyed during Civil War; 1844-76 restoration by Pugin and son and Gilbert Scott
Bishop Burton: All Saints
Set above a pond in an estate village; 13th century tower with north and south doorways; rest of church rebuilt in 1800s; mosaic reredos; Victorian stained glass; some windows by Kempe; monuments include 17th century alabaster figure and chalice brass
Bishop Wilton: St Edith
15th century tower and spire; Norman chancel arch and south doorway (animals, faces, human figures); restored 1858-59 including new font and black and white mosaic floor. Open daily, 9am-dusk.
Boynton: St Andrews
Georgian brick church; 15th century stone tower; gothic interior; Georgian stained glass; east end is a mausoleum of the Strickland family (owners of Boynton Hall); noted for its turkey lectern carving and turkeys on the monuments. William Strickland in the late 16th century sailed to America and brought the first turkeys to England. Open daily, 9am-dusk.
Brantingham: All Saints
Rebuilt in 1872 while retaining medieval tower and old masonry; early 13th century doorway and font; 15th century arches to the short transepts; Victorian and later stained glass, some by Kempe; floor tiles in the chancel. Open by appointment only.
Bridlington: Priory church of St Mary
Medieval church of Augustinian priory founded c1110; most is 13th century with west end and south tower of 15th century; south and north towers restored in 1870s by Sir George Gilbert Scott. Open daily, summer 10am-4pm, winter 10am-noon.
Bugthorpe: St Andrew
Painted roof; white walls; large chancel dates from 1300; rebuilt nave; Norman chancel arch with beakhead decoration and carved capitals; 17th and 18th century monuments; restored in 1937. Open daily, summer 9am-4pm, winter 10am-4pm.
Burnby: St Giles
Small church with double bellcote; early Victorian Norman style west doorway; blocked arcades from Norman times remain; sedilia in chancel and tall slender window are Early English; medieval painted chancel window; east window designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. Open daily, 9am-dusk.
Burton Agnes: St Martin
Avenue of yews leads to the church beside Burton Agnes Manor House; dates from Norman times; interior dates from many periods with 15th, 17th, 18th century monuments, Georgian box pews, squire’s pew; stained glass window of 1772 by William Peckitt of York. Open daily, 10am-6pm.
Burton Fleming: St Cuthbert
Norman foundation; much reconstruction and changes dating from 18-19th centuries; 18th century fittings; unusual Victorian painted glass. Open daily, 9am-5pm.
Carnaby: St John the Baptist
Stands above the village; dates from Norman times but earliest left is 13th century; in 16th and 17th centuries much rebuilt and restored; Norman font; 14th century inscription on south arcade pier. Open, daily 9am-dusk.
Cherry Burton: St Michael and All Angels
large church built 1852-53; late 13th century style; earlier church once on the site; stone pulpit ; carved choir stalls designed by Temple Moore; collection of late 19th century stained glass by Kempe. Open daily, 9am-dusk
Cliffe: St John
Small chapel of ease; built 1873 for local landowner Samuel Fox, a Sheffield ironmaster (inventor of the umbrella frame); lancet windows, Romanesque bell tower; decorated organ pipes; medieval chapel of St Leonard was once here. Open by appointment only
Cowlam: St Mary
Small medieval church; partly rebuilt and restored 1852; once stood in a village no longer existing; reached through farmyard; tub shaped Norman font carved with figures. Open daily, 10am-5pm, keyholder details on church door.
Dalton Holme: Dalton Holme church
19th Century Church; 200 foot high spire; Hotham family monuments; one monument in black and white Italian marble with armoured kinight beside it.
Dunnington: St. Nicholas
Small 12th century church; some Victorian restoration; small bell; white wooden porch.
Elloughton: St Mary
Late 13th century church with 1520s tower; nave and chancel fell down in early 19th century and were rebuilt by J. L. Pearson, church architect; interior gutted by fire in 1964, restored following year and again in 2005. Open daily, 9am-dusk.
Etton: St Mary
Norman church restored by Victorians; two Norman arches and figure carvings; painted reredos by Temple Moore; ancestor (John Lowthrop) of US president George Bush was baptised in this church in 1584. Open daily, 9am-dusk
Fimber: St Mary
Constructed of Whitby stone in 1869-71 using 13th century style; built for Tatton Sykes II on site of small chapel of ease; brass and iron screen and carved reredos in chancel; stained glass windows by Clayton and Bell.
Flamborough: St Oswald
Church largely rebuilt in 1860s with tower added in 1897; remaining chancel arch and font are Norman; nave and chancel arcades are 13th century; early 16th century rood screen and tomb; late 19th-20th century stained glass. Open Mon, 10am-4pm; Thu, 9am-11am; Sat, 5-6pm.
Fordon: St James
Tiny church; some dates from Norman times including doorway; deconsecrated twice; legend says it served as a smugglers’ den at one point. Open daily, 9am-dusk.
Foston on Wolds: St Andrews
13th century with Norman nave and chancel; church yard on opposite side of road
Fridaythorpe: St Mary
Early 12th century church restored for Tatton Sykes II in 1902-03 with new south porch and north aisle added to replace demolished 13th century one; squat tower with Edwardian clock face; inscription carved on north arcade capital; in centre of village; Open daily, 9am-dusk.
Garton-on-the-Wolds: St Michael and All Angels
A church has existed here at least as early as the Doomsday Book (1086); Norman church dating from c1120 established by Kirkham Priory; top of tower and clock added in 15th century; restored by George Street for Tatton Sykes I in 1856-57 with reconstruction of south doorway and chancel; program of enhancement begun 1872 for Tatton Sykes II with wall and ceiling paintings, tiles, frescoes, reredos and stained glass added to the church; lych gate. Open daily, 9am-dusk
Goodmanham: All Saints
Norman chancel arch, south doorway and north arcade; 14th-15th century parts; early 16th century font; late 19th-early 20th century restoration by Temple Moore; stained glass windows; Open—see porch noticeboard for keyholder.
Great Driffield: All Saints
15th century 110 foot high tower; church has some Saxon stones; extended over centuries; restored in 1878-81 by Gilbert Scott Jr; early 20th century additions and furnishing by Temple Moore; stained glass. Open in summer, Thu-Sat, 10am-noon and 2-4pm.
Great Givendale: St Ethelburga
Small church set in trees at head of valley; rebuilt 1849 using its old materials; Norman chancel arch; 1180s fittings by Temple Moore. Open: always
Grindale: St Nicholas
Victorian village church; Norman font. Open daily, 9am-dusk
Harpham: St John of Beverly
Norman stone church remodelled in late 14th century; 14th century west tower and north chapel added; collection of monuments to St Quintin family, alabaster tomb chest, two 15th century brasses; Georgian stained glass windows by William Peckitt of York; figure of standing angel by Joseph Wilton.
Helpherthorpe: St Peter’s
19th century church; original wooden one demolished; designed by George Street for Sir Tatton Sykes; red, blue and gold painted oak panelled roof.
Hotham: St Oswald
Much of the Norman church survives, short broad tower and tower arch; private staircase to squire’s pew with own fireplace six stained glass windows from 1938-45 by Douglas Strachan. Open by appointment only.
Huggate: St Mary
14th century tower and spire; Norman nave and chancel arch and two small windows; late 15th century clerestory; Victorian coloured east window by Hodgson of York. Open daily, 10am-4pm
Hutton Cranswick: Church of St Peter
Norman fragment in south doorway; early English arcades; perpendicular tower; Victorian windows; six bells.
Kilham: All Saints
Situated on a rise; Norman carved doorways with seven orders of chevrons; open church with wide nave; interior dates from Norman through Georgian times; pointed Georgian windows with gothic glazing bars; west vestry screen; six bells. Open—key at butcher shop opposite although open when we visited.
Kilnwick: All Saints
12th century north doorway ; early 13th century north arcade; medieval tower with rebuilt 17th century brick top; rest of church rebuilt in 1871; medieval grave slab fragments built into exterior walls; Norman font; 17th century pulpit; Georgian and Victorian wall tablets to Grimston family. Open: supposed to be always open but locked when we visited.
Kirby Underdale: All Saints
12th century church set by a stream; restored 1870-71 with 19th and 20th century fittings that include rood beam figures designed by Temple Moore; windows date from 1937; Lord Halifax, foreign secretary and viceroy of India buried here. Open daily, 9am-dusk.
Kirkburn: St Mary
Early 12th century Norman church restored for Sir Tatton Sykes I in 1856-57; south porch added during restoration; Norman doorway of three orders with beakhead and zigzag in arch and hoodmould with beasts and figures; interesting tower stairway; Norman chancel arch; rustic carved font; chancel furnished in 1872; carved reredos by Redfern. Open: daily 7am-6pm
Langtoft: St Peter
Tower, parts of south aisle, south porch, and nave of 13th century; chancel with ogee-arched priest doorway and sedilia of early 14th century; two fonts, carved Norman one (from lost village of Cottam) and Edwardian one; stained glass by Kempe and Co; restored and north aisle added in 1900-03 for Sir Tatton Sykes II. Open: see porch for keyholder.
Lissset: St James of Compostella
Built 1876 with some Norman remains from earlier church on the site; bell dates from 1254.
Little Driffield: St Mary
Small Norman church mostly rebuilt in 1890 by Temple Moore; some old stones show; Jacobean style pews; early 18th century pulpit; medieval grave slabs on exterior walls; burial place of Aldfrith, King of Northumberland (died at Driffield AD705). Open: by appointment only
Londesborough: All Saints
Mostly Early English but dates from Norman period (Norman south doorway survives with 9-10th century cross-head); in estate village with links to rich and powerful families in the area, notably the 3rd earl of Burlington (Richard who was the architect of Chiswick villa and assembly rooms in York); monuments with brass coffin plates. Open: July-Sep, Wed, 10am-4pm.
Lowthorpe: St Martin
Tall ruined chancel, remnant of collegiate church founded in 1333 and dissolved in 1548; rest of church restored in 1859; monuments; high wood beamed ceiling. Open: always open.
Lund: All Saints
In village centre; Perpendicular tower; medieval chancel rebuilt 1845-46; 13th century nave, north aisle and porch rebuilt 1853; Norman font; remnants of medieval monuments; Victorian east window by Clayton and Bell. Open: always open.
Market Weighton: All Saints
Some late Saxon-Norman stonework at tower base; tower rebuilt in 13th century with brick top added in late 18th century and spire removed; 13th century nave and chancel reconstructed in 15th century and restored in 1870s; stained glass; wall tablets; choir stalls and other woodwork by ‘Mouseman’ Thompson. Open: Thu, 9-10.30am; Fri, 9am-noon.
Middleton-on-the-Wolds: St Andrew
In centre of village on a rise; Norman origins remaining are south doorway and font; early 13th century chancel with lancet windows, seven with stained glass of 1981; late 13th century nave; tower added in 1870s when church was completely restored; medieval tombstones in churchyard. Open: locked, keyholder notice on porch noticeboard.
Millington: St Margaret
Small church with original 12th century plan of nave and chancel; Norman south doorway; 13th and 14th century windows; early 19th century small brick tower and interior with west gallery; painted paneling; king-post roof; altar rails by ‘Mouseman’ Thompson. Open: locked, keyholder notice on porch door.
Nafferton: All Saints
Large church in village centre overlooking a mere; Norman chancel arch; 13th century chancel; 14th century nave arcades; 15th century perpendicular tower; north aisle; clerestory; Norman French inscription on south face of tower; late Georgian ox pews; medieval and later monuments; 20th century stained glass by Milner, Stammers and Waugh. Open: locked; see porch noticeboard for keyholder.
North Cave: All Saints
Built of local limestone; at east end of village; mostly late 13th century; lower part of tower is Norman, rest is 15th century; 15th century clerestory; monuments include two Jacobean figures and wall tablets; stained glass by Kempe, Bells, and D. Strachan. Open: by appointment only.
North Dalton: All Saints
Overlooks village pond; Norman church restored 1872-74; south doorway with carvings on capitals and zigzag decorated chancel arch survive from Norman times; low embattled tower; Early English chancel; east window restored in 1892 by Morris & Co, designed by Edward Burne-Jones. Open: by appointment only
North Frodingham: St Elgin
Norman church much restored in the19th century; on a rise; Norman font; perpendicular tower
North Newbald: St Nicholas
Norman church considered finest in East Riding of Yorkshire; cruciform building with no aisles; chancel dates from late 14th-15th century; corbel table well preserved on exterior; three Norman doorways, one doorway to the nave has seated figure of Christ above; wall tablets. Open: locked, keyholder details on noticeboard.
Nunburnholme: St James
small Norman church in rural setting at village edge; early 10th century Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft covered with figure carvings; Norman tower arch; fragments of 14th century stained glass; 1902 tower with peal of six bells. Open: by appointment only.
Pocklington: All Saints
Large church with tall Perpendicular tower in market town; late 12th-late 13th century with only a few Norman stones remaining in the porch; chancel rebuilt in early 15th century; grotesque stone carvings; rare Flemish carved wood altarpiece dates to c1520; monuments. Open: daily, 8am-4pm.
Rowley: St Peter
In parkland near Rowley Manor, a former rectory, one mile from Little Weighton village; mostly Early English style of 13th century; south chapel built 1730 as mausoleum for Ellerker family, walls have inscriptions; Puritan rector and congregation emigrated to US and founded town of Rowley, Massachusetts. Open: always.
Rudston: All Saints
Massive Neolithic monolith in churchyard, said to be largest single standing stone in England; church started in Norman times; rebuilt and enlarged in following centuries; 12th century chancel arch; Norman tower; Victorian work predominates; electric chandeliers; tiled reredos; organ; 19th century memorials. Open: 9am-dusk, but locked when we visited.
Ruston Parva: St Nicholas
late Georgian church in field above small village; reached through private grounds along a path; built of sandstone and yellow brick in 1832; box pews and two decker pulpit; cast iron pillars support a bell turret; drum shaped Norman font is only original feature. Open: by appointment only.
Sancton: All Saints
12th century church rebuilt in Early English style in 1869-71; 15th century octagonal tower; Perpendicular octagonal font; floor slab to Lord Langdale, Royalist commander. Open: by appointment only.
Sewerby: St John the Evangelist
Neo-Norman church built 1846-48; many Victorian details: pews, pulpit, font, carved granite reredos, Royal Arms, stained glass, monuments to Gream family of Sewerby Hall. Open: locked, see noticeboard for keyholder.
Skerne: St Leonard’s
In rural area reached by country lane or through farmyard; Norman features survive in nave and chancel; 15th century porch and perpendicular bell tower; decorated east window.
Sledmere: St Mary
Built for Tatton Sykes II in 1893-98, designed by Temple Moore; on site of 14th century church that was rebuilt in 1758; stone work in tower is from 1300s; Decorated style; red sandstone carved interior; ornate screen and rood loft; elaborate reredos; stained glass; Sykes family monuments. Open: daily, 10am-5pm.
South Dalton: St Mary
Victorian church in estate village; 200 foot high spire; built for Lord Hotham in 1858-60; stained glass by Clayton and Bell; carved woodwork and stone; original gas chandeliers and hatchments and memorials to the family. Open: daily, 9am-dusk.
Thornton-in-Craven: St Mary’s
1461 church on rise above village; tower; 17th century pews; east window supposed to be by Kempe; memorials; 18th century dome on spring in churchyard;
Thwing: All Saints
12th century church; restored end of 1800s; Norman south doorway, chancel arch, and font; late 14th century effigy of priest; 19th and 20th century stained glass. Open: daily, 9am-dusk.
Walkington: All Hallows
On southern edge of village; mostly late Georgian rebuilding with Perpendicular west tower; restored in 1898-99 by Temple Moore; 1200 south doorway and transept survive; medieval windows include five light Perpendicular east window with 1970 stained glass. Open: daily, 9am-dusk.
Wansford: St Mary’s
Village church built 1868 by the Sykes.
Warter: St James
Redundant Grade II listed; third on the site—once the site of priory church of Augustinian canons established in 1132 and dissolved in 1536; built 1862-3 for the 5th Lord Muncaster in estate village; 1863 stone font; 1863 stained glass windows; Edwardian arts and crafts monuments; pulpit; choir stalls; panelling; 1870 organ; prominent steeple.
Watton: St Mary
Tudor brick church with later additions and alterations; south porch dates possilby to mid 19th century; north vestry dated 1859; 20th century parapet added to tower; stone slab monument dated 1279
Weaverthorpe: St Andrew’s
sited on hillside above village; dates from 12th century with Norman tower; round staircase in tower partly protudes on the exterior; sun dial over south doorway.
Wetwang: St Nicholas
11th through 20th century church; 13th century tower and north chapel; 14th century north doorway; restored 1845-46 by Tatton Sykes I and later his son employed Temple Moore in 1895-96 for further work; restored again in 1901-02 at which time stained glass by Burlison and Ghrylls was put in place. Open: daily, 9am-5pm.
Wintringham: St Peters
(in north Yorkshire) Grade I listed sandstone building; 12th century chancel; rest of church from 14th century; rebuilding in 15th century; 19th century restorations; high tower with four stages; parts of medieval wall paintings; 15th century carved screens
Wold Newton: All Saints
Small church with bell turret; Norman foundation with Victorian north aisle; unrestored Norman south doorway, chancel arch and font; six late 19th century stained glass windows by Kempe. Open: daily, 9am-dusk.
Nature Reserves in the area are:
Follow minor road from Barnby Minor to Sutton on Derwent.
Access via small car park and gateways.
Tel. 0 1751 472 771
Small pine woodland planted on remnant of northern heathland.
Off unclassified Pocklington-Huggate road
Tel. 0 1842 395 209
Ancient ash woodland with different plants and animals; picnic areas
Tophill Low Nature Reserve
Off A164 Beverley-Driffield Rd, Watton Carrs, Hutton Cranwick
Tel. 01377 270 690
Open: all year, April-Oct, 9am-6pm; Nov-March, 9am-4pm; Wed-Sun; also open BH Mon
110 hectare reserve with 150 different species of bird; 13 bird hides; two reservoirs and wetlands; visitor centre
Visitor Information Centres:
34 Butcher Row
Tel. 0 1482 391 672
Open: year round, Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.15pm; Sat, 10am-4.45pm; July and Aug also open Sun 11am-3pm
25 Prince St
Tel. 0 1262 673 474
Open: year round; April-Sep, daily, 9.30am-5.30pm; Oct-March, Mon-Sat, 9.30am-5pm, Sun from noon-4pm
North Bank Viewing Area
Femby Rd, Hessle
Tel. 0 1482 640 852
Open: March, April, Oct, daily, 9am-4pm; May-Sep, Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm, Sat and Sun, 9am-5.30pm; Nov-Feb, daily 10am-3pm
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard
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