St Mary's Gate Helmsley. The building

St Mary’s Church, Gate Helmsley, York


Information about the church


The church building was so thoroughly restored in 1885-6 as to leave little trace of its architectural history.  The following will, nevertheless, be of interest to the visitor.


Nave         The west half of the existing nave appears to date from the 13th century.  The remainder dates from the 1885/6 rebuilding.   It is separated from the side aisles by arcades of rounded arches.  Some of the stonework may date from the 13th century, but is much restored and the base mouldings of the piers supporting the arches may have been altered.


Chancel    The present chancel is was added in the 1885/6 restoration.  It has a modern triple lancet window in its Eastern wall.  The only trace of old work appears to be a lancet window, restored and reset, in the Eastern wall near the present organ manual.  All the glass of these windows is modern, as is the glass in the nave.  Three of the windows are signed by the firm of (Curtis) Ward and Hughes, London between 1890 and 1910. The West window, in the tower, is also by Ward and Hughes (brass plaque below the window)


Tower       The tower is a 15th century addition.  It has a pointed arch opening to the nave and its Western door has been blocked.  Above it is a three-light 15th century window.


Clerestory      The roof of the nave and of the chancel, and the South porch are all modern, though the South door is probably 13th century.


The outer aisle walls are pierced by two-light square-headed windows at the Eastern end and by similar three-light openings further West.


Font          The font is a plain 13th century octagonal bowl, moulded on its lower edge.  It has a concave stem of the same form and a moulded base.


On the South wall is a mutilated PISCINA and in the porch the head (probably) of a holy-water STOUP.


Bells       The three bells in the tower were cast by John Warner of London in 1889 and weigh between 1 and 1.75 cwt.


Organ       The organ (2 manuals + pedals) is by Abbott and Smith of Leeds.  It dates from 1913 and, apart from the addition of an electric blower, remained unaltered until restored in 2016 by the York firm of Principal Pipe Organs. There is more information about the organ and about "Pipe Up !" - the Centenary Organ Restoration Fund appeal - elsewhere on the website.


The church exterior
On the South side of the tower is an OS benchmark dating from the 1845-46 survey of the road from York to Bridlington
A crude arrow-shaped mark above this is said to be a quarryman's mark.
On the wall of the South aisle is a Mass Dial - a circle of 12 marks with a hole at the centre for a pointer.
In the graveyard near the South aisle is what may be the base of a Saxon cross.

A record of parish registers between 1689-1812 a plan of burials in the churchyard can be consulted by contacting the PCC Secretary.

Names of the Parish:

X1 century      Hamelsec or Elmeslac (the latter meaning “pasture among the elms”)
X11 century    Hemelsay
XIV century     Emelsey – and also Gatehemelsay
XV century      Gaythamulsay
XVIII century   Gate Helmsley or Street Helmsley (the latter probably because of the great military road of Roman origin on which it lies)

The Lord of the Manor at the time of the 1885-6 restoration was William Benson Richardson - onetime Master of one of York's Masonic Lodges and a Director of the North Eastern Railway Company. He was born in York and had built as his residence a large house on Tadcaster Road - now the Elmbank Hotel.

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