Scheduled Monument: Standing tower and below ground remains of St Lawrence's Church and associated burial ground (1020683)

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Authority City of York Council
Other Ref 34838
National Ref 1020683
Date assigned 24 April 2002
Date last amended


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. 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 remembrance. 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.

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Grid reference Centred SE 6123 5130 (37m by 65m) (2 map features)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Record last edited

Nov 11 2019 11:44AM


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