The misericords and history of St Mary's Priory Church, Old Malton

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The misericords and history of Old Malton,

St Mary’s Priory Church

St Mary’s has seven 15th century and 28 modern misericords.

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Old Malton

History of St Mary’s Priory Church, Old Malton, Yorkshire

There has been a church at this site since the Saxon times, however, little is known about this church except that it is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  This church was probably destroyed when Old Malton was burnt down during the rebellion between King Stephen and Queen Matilda in 1138.  The current church, which is the last Gilbertine Priory church still standing, was stated in about 1150.When completed in about 1200, the church would have been much bigger, as the church’s east end is now roughly where the chancel steps would have been.  In addition to this, there would have been claustral buildings and a chapter house.  

The church would have stayed much as it was in the early 13th century until  the late 15th century, when a fire caused the collapse of the north west tower and severely damaged the north aisle.  Roger de Shotton, Prior between 1498 and 1517 caused the piers on the north side of the aisle to be remodelled.

The Dissolution seems to have been a relatively smooth affair, when the prior, John Crawshaw surrendered the priory in December 1539.  The chancel, which was no longer used by the parish, soon fell into disrepair.  The claustral buildings soon followed suit, but it appears that the masonry was used to build Old Malton’s Free Grammar School., which was commissioned by the Archbishop of York.

In 1636 the central tower was demolished and at some point in the late 17th or early 18th century, the south aisle was destroyed by fire.  In 1732 the parishioners petitioned to have the north aisle demolished, the  north arcade built up, removal of the clerestory,  removal of the two most eastern bays of the nave and a reduction in the height of the roof., so by the end of the 18th century, the church had achieved its present stature.

A major restoration was started in 1877 under the direction of Temple Lushington Moore, which included underpinning the south west tower. In 1899, the roof was found to be decayed beyond saving, and so was replaced by one based on a 15th century design.   The misericords were added during this renovation,   It is unknown whether the 15th century misericords originated with the priory or if they were brought in from elsewhere.  The 28 modern misericords were commissioned for the church, but were designed to fit stylistically with the 15th century misericords, however, the content of the medieval misericords are primarily animals from the bestiary, the modern misericords lean heavily to angels, devils and dragons.

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