Monday, 30 August 2010

The Bells of... St Mary's

St Mary's Church, Lowgate, Kingston upon Hull

I said in yesterday's blog we were going to visit St Mary's Church in the centre of Hull near to the old town. My son and I did indeed and a handful of volunteers were on hand to open the church for passersby when we arrived. The church itself has undergone some restoration work, but inside is in desperate need of serious attention. The atmosphere inside is pleasant and welcoming and we were unofficially 'guided' by Judith Preston Anderson, a former Churchwarden and now helper/cleaner and a woman with a passion and a great deal of knowledge about her church.

Looking toward the alter

Although the date church was consecrated is uncertain, what is certain that it existed in 1327 and just 6 years later baptisms, burials and other services were permitted. The tower was added in the 15th century and fell down in 1518 - strange that the same thing happened to the church of St Mary's in Beverley two years later - Jerry builders!

A detail of the stained glass window with the small windows in the middle the oldest of the glass, the three crowns symbol of Hull and to the left, an old Royal coat of arms.

William Wilberforce's grandfather was a Churchwarden at St Mary's. The church has gone through several periods of upheaval and uncertainty and although the church miraculously survived serious damage in World War 2, there are less than 100 people living in the city centre parish today and I am told that a recent Sunday service had 22 people including clergy and the choir. The epitaph on the church's website states: "The future is full of question marks, as the past is full of interest and inspiration. And the past is present here and now. Above all, the same God is very present ... This is not just a "museum" - but a church."

One of many 'grotesques' in the church on the walls and perhaps you can see the poor condition of the wall and the carving is starting to deteriorate.

The reason my son and I visited the church was that my son bought an antique book recently, Tickell's History of the Town and County of Kingston upon Hull. This book is 200 years old and in great condition. The book itself is dedicated to William Wilberforce, but inside the book was a printed flyer addressed to Sir Samuel Standidge, Mayor of Hull at the time of publication, 1796. This is almost certainly the book that Standidge had and the flyer itself is a rare object.

Sir Samuel Standidge was born in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, UK in 1725. He served his apprenticeship at sea and by 1749 he was a Captain. In the Georgian period, Standidge was recognised as the father of the whaling industry in Hull and made a success of it despite his fellow merchants thinking this was a bit of a barmy venture.

Standige lived in the High Street, at number 1 and the house is still there today. He bought a house in the East Yorkshire countryside in Holderness to the east of Hull at a village called Thorngumbald with 200 acres of land to play with. His house was built from the bricks of a demolished leper house! Standidge was also a farmer and in his spare time was Sheriff of Hull, an Alderman as well as the Mayor.

The wall memorial to Sir Samuel Standidge

Eventually Captain Standige was knighted by George lll. Standidge died in 1801 and left £75,000 in his will, an enormous sum today: £2,412,750.00 in fact. He was married with just one daughter. There is a memorial to him in the church as well as to his son in law, his only daughter and his wife. He is buried in the north aisle – or so we thought. In fact his floor gravestone is now outside in the small graveyard attached to the church, exposed to the elements with the engraving slowly fading away. His bones were probably reburied in the church’s other graveyard, some half a mile away.

On the way back to the car, I spotted this familiar alley way, one of many that interconnect streets in the old town. This one is called 'The Pathway' and is on Bowlalley Lane.

This was a useful visit and I hope you found it interesting. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in St Mary's and I was both delighted and concerned; like Holy Trinity down the road, money needs to be found sooner rather than later if it’s to survive.

History on our doorstep.

Chat soon



  1. What a lovely book to have and to be able to uncover its history too. I enjoyed reading your posting. My MB and I bought box of memorial cards when we were on holiday and I'm looking forward to following up some of the stories they may throw up which I maybe able to use to write articles from to sell on to magazines.

  2. Hi Jarmara
    Thx for your kind comment. Are you going to follow up on your blog your exploits with the memorial cards?

  3. What a wonderful building.

  4. Of course... At the moment our kitchen is about to be pulled apart ready for a new one to be fitted. I'm busy with the garden and writing so I'm not sure when I'll get started on them.

  5. Hi Val
    Thx for the comment, yes indeed - a wonderful building, I thought it was somewhere you could go and contemplate your navel for an hour or so and feel very comfortable and refreshed afterwards. I felt so powerless when I thought about what was really needed just to bring it up to a good standard. Like all old churches, lots to see inside in the nooks and crannies.

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