An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1981.
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Parish Church of St. Cuthbert
(5) Parish Church of St. Cuthbert (Plate 10; Fig. 16) stands in a churchyard on the N.W. side of Peasholme Green. It consists of a Chancel and Nave, structurally undivided, South Porch, West Tower and Vestry. The walls are of magnesian limestone and the roofs are covered with plain tiles and stone slates. The church is mentioned in Domesday Book, when the advowson belonged to William de Percy. By 1238 the patronage had passed to Holy Trinity Priory, Micklegate, thence to the Crown at the Dissolution and was transferred to the archbishop in 1868. In 1586 the parish was united with those of All Saints, Peasholme Green, St. Helenon-the-Walls, and St. Mary, Layerthorpe (VCH, York, 378–9).
A complete gabled wall, possibly of the late 11th century, survives incorporated in the much wider E. wall of the existing church. It is only visible externally, includes some reused Roman masonry, and has a blocked doorway placed off-centre which may have communicated with a former vestry to the E.; there are no signs of any original windows. In 1372 the rector, Nicholas de Swanland, obtained a licence to pull down some houses at the E. end of the church and use the materials for repairing and enlarging the choir (Raine, 97); rubble masonry to each side of the early wall may be of this date. The rest of the church was completely rebuilt in the middle of the 15th century, apparently begun by William Bowes, mayor of York in 1417 and 1428, whose descendant Sir Martin Bowes, alderman of London, wrote to the York city council in 1547, when the church was threatened with demolition, asking that it might be preserved (YCR, iv, 173). The brass memorial of William Bowes (d. 1439) and his wife is the earliest surviving in the church and occupies a position in the centre of the nave. Money was left to the fabric of the choir and the building of the rood-loft in 1442, and to the choir fabric again in 1446 (Raine, 98). Beneath the choir was a charnel-vault, later destroyed, lit by windows in the E. and S. walls.
Alterations made at several dates in the 19th century include the replacement of an 18th-century S. porch by a new one in Gothic style. In 1843 a W. gallery was inserted, in 1864 there was a restoration by Brakspear in which the walls were pulled upright and the old glass rearranged, and in 1889 an early 19th-century W. vestry was enlarged. In a thorough restoration in 1911–12 by C. Hodgson Fowler and W. H. Wood the W. gallery was removed and the sanctuary floor raised to allow reconstruction of the charnel-vault as a crypt (Borthwick Inst., HF4).
The church is of interest for the early E. wall and as a complete church of the mid 15th century with a notable ceiled roof spanning 29 ft. (G. J. Jenkinson, St. Cuthbert's, an Ancient York Church, 1913).
Architectural Description. The Chancel and Nave are structurally undivided. The gabled E. wall is unsymmetrical due to the 11th-century work incorporated in it, which also has a gabled outline. This early wall is 18½ ft. long, built of coursed limestone rubble with gritstone quoins and has a narrow plinth. Two irregular buttresses built against it are probably late mediaeval; the larger of these, to the S., slightly overlaps the 14th-century extension of the wall, which is also built of rubble masonry. Just to the N. of the larger buttress is a narrow doorway of uncertain date, blocked with 18th-century brickwork. It has a roughly-shaped lintel with relieving arch above and the threshold is 4 ft. above ground level, corresponding to the original floor level of the chancel, which is also marked internally by an offset. The N. part of the E. wall incorporates about 5 ft. of rubble masonry low down, probably representing the widening of the chancel in 1372, but is otherwise of fine jointed ashlar, characteristic of all the 15th-century work in the church. There is a three-light window with two-centred arch and vertical tracery, and below it a small charnel-vault window straddling the modern sanctuary floor.
The N. wall is of three wide bays, marked by buttresses, and has a moulded plinth. There are only two windows, irregularly placed within the middle and W. bays; they are square-headed, each of two cinque-foiled arched lights with hollow-chamfered mullions and jambs. Near the W. end is a doorway with a plain-chamfered two-centred arch. The S. wall, of five bays, has a moulded plinth, moulded string just above the windows, and a low parapet. The three-stage buttresses are finished with grotesque gargoyles, generally rather decayed. The windows are of three cinque-foiled arched lights in a square head with a moulded label. Low down in the E. bay is a charnel-vault window of two lights and in the second bay a narrow priests' doorway with four-centred arch, partly restored. In the W. bay a doorway with a two-centred arch has double hollow-chamfered jambs, moulded label with carved head-stops, and segmental pointed rear-arch. The W. wall has a diagonal buttress at the S.W. corner and N. of the tower is a two-light window with square head, blocked when the vestry was built against it.
The unbuttressed West Tower, narrow in proportion to the church, has a moulded plinth on the S. and W. walls. The opening to the nave is plain, with an arch of two chamfered orders. In the W. wall is an arched window of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery, and higher up a small single-light window with trefoiled head. The bell-chamber forms a small upper stage marked by a moulded string and has in each wall a square-headed louvred opening with a moulded label; above is another moulded string with carved waterspouts at the angles and an embattled parapet.
The 19th-century Vestry has walls of brick, except for the S. wall of limestone. It has a door of six fielded panels, two hung-sash windows and a fireplace set in a splayed projection which was a corner of the room before the enlargement of 1889. The South Porch is gabled, with thin diagonal corner buttresses and an arched doorway.
The Roofs of chancel and nave are structurally separate, though similar, the chancel being of two bays, the nave three. The whole is ceiled in the shape of a barrel vault, and divided by major and minor trusses and longitudinal ribs into rectangular panels which are faced with modern boarding but were plastered before the restoration of 1911. The bays are marked by major trusses with moulded arch-braces pegged to wall-posts which stand on shaped stone corbels. Within each bay is an intermediate truss with a moulded arch-brace springing from false hammer-beams with small shaped brackets below them. The hammer-beams are moulded and embattled and there are matching cornices on the side walls between the trusses. At the intersections of the trusses and ribs are carved bosses (Plate 31), mostly of foliage but seven are of bearded or grotesque heads, one a shield with arms of Wanton impaling paly of four and another of an angel bearing an apparently plain shield.
Fittings—Bells: two; (1) 'Gloria in altissimis Deo, 1673, H.E.O. churchwarden'; (2) 'Te Deum Laudamus 1693'; both by Samuel Smith (Benson, Bells, II). Benefactors' Table: one, present location unknown, photographed c. 1940, probably 18th-century. Brasses: in crypt, (1) Edmund Hungate, 1614, rectangular inscription plate and four shields-of-arms, of Hungate (twice) and Hungate impaling Bell (twice); (2) Robert Hungate, 1619, rectangular plate with long inscription in capitals, three shields-of-arms of Hungate impaling a cross flory and indent for fourth shield; (3) on same slab as (2), Susannah Lowther, 1714, rectangular inscription plate with shield-of-arms; (4) Richard Bell, 1639, rectangular inscription plate; (5) Ann Simpson, 1836, Elizabeth her daughter, 1836, rectangular inscription plate. In nave, (6) William Bowes (d. 1439), Isabella his wife, 1435, now covered over but described by Mill Stephenson (YAJ, xviii (1905), 45–6), rectangular plate with black-letter inscription, made before his death, blank spaces, left for date, never filled in. Coffin Lid: in tower, built into W. wall, with incised cross-shaft and calvary base, head missing, 13th or 14th-century. Communion Table (Plate 35): oak, with turned legs of columnar form and rail carved as fluted frieze, 17th-century. Door: now in S. porch but probably original S. door of nave, in two leaves each three panels wide and with Perpendicular tracery in arched head (Plate 26), mid 15th-century. Fonts: in church, (1) of painted stone, octagonal bowl with quatrefoil on each face, stem with trefoil panelling, 19th-century. In churchyard, (2) shallow bowl with foliage carving on underside, very decayed stem, 18th-century(?).
Glass: all reset, mostly 15th-century with extensive 18th and 19th-century repairs, and all the borders made up with fragments. In N. wall, 2nd window, nIII, shields-of-arms, (2a) City of York, (2b) Neville. 3rd window, nIV, fragments, including (2a) man pouring liquid from one pitcher into another, possibly part of the Marriage Feast at Cana, and at top, figure holding two nails, (1b) four quarries, (2b) St. Peter with keys, and at top, head with curly hair. S. wall, 1st window, sII, shields-of-arms, (2a) barry of six gules and argent, (2b) (?) St. George, above it composite figure with haloed female head, (2c) per fess gules and argent. 2nd window, sIII, shields-of-arms, (2a) and (2c) France and England quarterly, (2b) argent a bend gules. 3rd window, sIV, shields-of-arms, (2a) St. George, (2b) Neville, (2c) damaged, probably of Merchants' Staple, Calais. 4th window, sV, shields-of-arms, (2a) argent a chief gules, (2b) argent a bend or, (2c) argent a chief azure; at top of each light a small head. Hatchments: on N. wall, (1) with achievement-of-arms of Redman; (2) with achievement-of-arms of Darcy(?); on S. wall, (3) of Elizabeth, daughter of Christopher Hodgson of Beeston, with lozenge-of-arms of Hodgson of Highthorne; all 18th-century. Lord Mayors' Table: on N. wall, tall panel with names of four Lord Mayors from 1678 to 1833, arms of City of York in square panel above and surmounted by wider panel with polygonal top bearing two maces in saltire, letters 'A R' and crown, early 18th-century.
Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: on N. wall, (1) Anne Sybille Wilson, 1811, two white marble tablets, one oval, one rectangular with verse inscription, on single slate backing; (2) Louisa, wife of John Manby, 1832, white marble tablet on black marble backing; (3) Thomas Kilby, 1792, Grace his wife, 1793, white marble tablet surmounted by draped urn on obelisk-shaped slate backing, signed Wm. Stead, York; on S. wall, (4) Ann, wife of Samuel Simpson, 1836, Elizabeth their daughter, 1836, white marble tablet framed by fluted pilaster strips, with carved ornamentation on pediment, acroteria, consoles and apron, and surmounted by urn, on black marble shaped backing, signed Skelton; (5) Charles Mitley, carver, 1758, marble cartouche with two cherubs' heads (Plate 42); (6) Mary, wife of Charles Mitley, 1773(?), oval limestone tablet, convex surface; on W. wall, (7) Richard Lund, 1826, Sarah his wife, 1813, George Henry Lennox Edgar, son-in-law, 1815, George Donald McKay Edgar, grandson, 1820, white marble rectangular tablet on slate backing, signed Bennett Sr. York. In tower, on N. wall, (8) William Briggs, 1823, Jane his wife, 1847, the Rev. George Briggs their son, 1827, Frances his wife, 1824, William Briggs, 1852, inscribed parchment scroll in white marble surmounted by amphora on dark marble backing, signed M. Taylor, York. In churchyard, headstones reset against E. and W. boundary walls; nine are late 18th-century, the earliest 1775. Floor-slabs: in crypt, (1) Henry Watkinson, 166(6), with Latin inscription; (2) Henry Watkinson, (1712?), and William his son; (3) Capt. P. Haddock, (1722?); (4) Jane, wife of Thomas Burdon, 1822, William Burdon, 1823. At W. end of nave, (5) Eli(zabeth ?), wife of Henry Stainton, 1737; (6) William Briggs, 1823, the Rev. George Briggs, 1827, Frances his wife, 1824 (see also Monument (8)); (7) Thomas, (son of?) Thomas Kilby, aged 8 years (date illegible); (8) Elizabeth, wife of John Leng, 1806. Paintings: on W. wall, flanking tower arch, two tall painted panels with arched heads, subjects, now barely visible, appear to be standing figures, possibly Moses and Aaron, 18th-century(?). Plate: includes (1) cup, inscribed with name of church and date, by Christopher Mangey, 1615; (2) cup by Barber and North, 1840; (3) paten, inscribed 'Deo ac ecclesiae Sti Cuthberti Ebor Sacrum. H.W.', by John Thompson, 1673; (4) flagons, two, each inscribed 'St. Cuthbert 1819', by Barber and Whitwell, 1818 (Fallow and McCall, 1, 10). Pulpit: hexagonal, with an enriched arched panel on each face, 17th-century, on modern base. Recess: in sanctuary, in N. wall, small and plain. Stoup: immediately E. of S. door, with semi-octagonal bowl, moulded on underside, ogee-arched recess with plain chamfer and broach stops, 15th-century. Tables of the Creed and Decalogue: on W. wall, flanking tower arch, two panels with Lord's Prayer and Creed; further S. on same wall, double panel with semicircular head and bearing the Ten Commandments; all panels have gilt lettering, 18th-century. Weather-vane: on tower, date unknown. Miscellanea: loose in crypt, (1) circular base for quatrefoil pier or font, 13th-century; (2) limestone slab, possibly fragment of an altar.