Map Ref: SE8667594943
From Pickering in North Yorkshire, take the A170 towards Helmsley. Go through the market town of Kirkbymoorside, and after a mile or so you will see a road marked ‘Kirkdale’. Take this for a mile, then turn left. The Minster is in front of you.
I recently had a commission to photograph this lovely ancient church in Ryedale in North Yorkshire. The church is set in a beautiful, peaceful location near a river, and when I got there several sheep were lazily grazing between the old gravestones.
This church is very, very old – and you can feel the age of the place just by being there in the lovely surroundings. The church was erected on the site of an earlier building and was built between the dates 1055-1065.
We know this as there is a huge old sundial in the porch of the church and an inscription – in Old English – reads “Orm, the son of Gamal, bought St Gregory’s church when it was broken and fallen, and had it made anew from the ground in honour of Christ and St Gregory, in the days of Edward the King and Tosti the Earl”.
“Edward” is the Confessor. “Tosti” is better known to us as Tostig, brother to King Harold who was famously defeated by William the Conqueror in 1066. So it is easy to date it. Tostig was Earl of Northumberland between 1065-1066. The sundial is remarkable as it was plastered over for 700 years, the plaster being removed in 1771, thus preserving it so well.
Orm was a significant figure in Northumbria and he married Aethelthryth, daughter of Earl Ealdred of Northumberland. He was a major landowner within the Ryedale area. St Gregory’s was a minster church, that is one which is associated with monks who took the Word of God to surrounding villages and communities.
Inside the church are two extroardinary tomb slabs, which experts believe date back to the 8th and 9th centuries, suggesting that the original church may date as far back as AD750!
There are several additional designs on the outside walls which help determine the great age of this church. A beautiful woven design, possibly from a cross shaft and two Anglo Saxon or Viking crosses date from the 9th and 10th centuries.
St Gregory’s isn’t unique – there are plenty of other ancient churches about, with their equally beautiful and precious treasures. But I do like this one, it must surely be one of the best locations anywhere for a church to be built. It was just so nice to spend a couple of quiet hours away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and meditate amongst it’s ancient stones.
If you wish for more information about this old church you can read about it here.