All Saints North Street
THE SHRINE and PARISH CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS NORTH STREET, YORK
All saints North Street is widely acclaimed the finest of York’s medieval Churches. The foundation stone having been laid sometime before the Norman Conquest, results in the rather narrow nave (still exactly one rod wide) relative to the aisles, and is lined up on the Roman street plan, rather than East–West, so that in all but the coldest months, the sun shines through the “North” windows in the evenings, lighting up some of the finest 15th century stained glass in the world.
The Chancel was extended added early in the 12th century, and extended again in about 1150, to its present length. Around 1180 the floor levels were raised by about a meter, and the aisles were added. In the 13th century the church was extended westward, and the “Great West Door” replaced by North and South doors in the new work. In the very early 13th century the Lady Chapel was added; the South Chapel (St Nicholas) about a century later, to give the building its characteristic rectangular shape. The building was extended westward again, and then in 1394 the west wall was replaced and the present tower built, complete with two stage octagon, and barrel spire rising to a height of 120’.
In the early 15th century the North wall was restored, a plinth was “applied” and the lancet windows replaced with contemporary windows containing fine examples of early 15th century glass, some of which is of international importance – particularly the Doom Window, or “Pricke of Conscience” which appears to have been deliberately placed next to the vast stone statue of the Virgin “to create an inspiration to pray for help in times of need”. Fine 15th century glass survives also in the South wall windows – including the last known surviving fragment in English glass of an indulgence.
The Rector’s stall is dated from its misericord to 1472, the same date as the Chancel ceilings, which contain hammer beams sporting carved angels. Many of the angels hold musical instruments, and these features are of national importance to scholars of early English music. The ceiling bosses are largely grotesques, or “Green Men”.
On the wall of the Lady chapel is a medieval panel painting – much over-painted, but described by one tourist website as “the epitome of pure beauty”.
The Chancel is enclosed by oak screens constructed in 1926. On the North Chancel pillar is a fine 14th century corbel supported by an unusually late “Resurrection Man” pushing himself out of the “native rock” at the General Resurrection, complete with Resurrection crown and very fine finger details On this stands a replica of the Church’s statue of St William of York – one of a mere handful of wooden devotional images to have survived from before the reformation – early 15th century English wood-carving. The fine pulpit, sporting panels with painted virtues, bears the date 1675.
The Roman column, in the North Chancel Arcade, is one of the few in the City still in use as a structural support. The building contains other re-used Roman stones and tiles, and the Churchyard is full of Roman fragments (including Samian Ware, and Roman glass). Viking and Anglian pottery has recently been identified.
The North Aisle ceiling is of early 15th century plaster, and the tie-beams are remarkable crude – largely unshaped tree-trunks, one of which grew somewhat less that straight! Above the ceiling, many of the timbers are original, and have been dated to between 1160 and 1191, confirming the Norman date for the addition of the aisle.
At the South-West corner of the building is an anchorhold – one of the earliest examples of shuttered concrete being used in domestic construction (1910). This was built to house Adeline Cashmore (formerly a cloistered nun) who later became Spiritual advisor to Mary Breckenridge the founder of The Frontier Nursing Service, which saved so many lives in rural USA, and continues its work still. Below the present structure is the boiler house which may contain fragments of the original medieval anchorhold, where in 1421 Emma Roughton had seven prophetic visions of the Virgin Mary which foretold the death of Henry V (August 1422) the future birth of Henry VI, and gave details for the future governance of England and France. No wonder that these are the best documented visions in medieval Europe!
Recent work has provided the Lady Chapel with a stunning medieval style tile pavement based on early 15th century tile designs known to have been in use in the building, some of which have never been recorded elsewhere. A vast new statue, based on the surviving medieval fragment, has also been re-created, and once more forms an iconographic duet with the Doom Window (Pricke of Conscience)