19. St Mary's Church.

No building in Scarborough has a longer or more turbulent history than the 800-year old parish church of St. Mary’s near the top of Castle Road. A church has probably occupied this commanding position even before the first castle was erected. The first single aisled structure of around 1150 was enlarged in 1180 by the addition of a west front and towers and the creation of north and south aisles. Around 1457, St. Mary’s was almost doubled in size with the building of a great perpendicular aisled choir. During the Civil War, nearly 200 years later, St. Mary’s was used by the parliamentarians as a forward position for bombarding the castle. Inevitably, the castle batteries returned the fire, destroying the beautiful medieval choir and north transept. The church steeple and bells collapsed in 1659, 14 years after the bombardment. Within 10 years, enough money had been raised both nationally and locally to repair and rebuild the nave, St. Nicholas aisle and the central tower. The western and central parts of St. Mary’s were thus restored to approximately their pre-1450 dimensions, but the north transept and medieval choir have never been rebuilt. Almost 200 years passed before further major restoration, by Ewan Christian, took place between 1848 and 1850. The numerous wooden galleries and box pews that had for long cluttered the interior were removed and the building regained some of its earlier spaciousness. The four belfry bells were replaced by a peal of eight, augmented in 1979 by two smaller bells from Christ Church in Vernon Road, a former chapel-of-ease to St. Mary’s that was demolished in that year. The clock in the central tower, visible from most parts of the Old Town, was installed in 1856.

The latest important restoration of St. Mary’s was undertaken in 1950, under the direction of  Mary’s have set themselves the never-ending task of helping to preserve the fabric of this ancient parish church. On 27th September 1993, the Lady Chapel project was begun and this was completed and dedicated by John Habgood, Archbishop of York on 6th February 1994. The ruined sections of the pre-Civil War church are still visible at the eastern end of the main churchyard, silent witnesses to the fearful destruction of 1645. Beyond is the east churchyard, containing the grave of Anne Brontë (see Grand Hotel page ). Since the mid 19th century burials have taken place at the Dean Road Cemetery. For students of church architecture, St. Mary’s contains some odd features in the differing pillars in the nave. Some interesting medieval heads are to be seen at various vantage points in the church. Only four of the many former chantry chapels, dating from the end of the 14th century, remain today. They all lead off the south aisle. Look out on your way up to the Castle for a weatherbeaten sandstone plaque on the garden wall of The Towers, the large battlemented house that is the last building before the Castle fortifications. This plaque commemorates the Hinderwell Memorial Drinking Fountain of 1860, which formerly stood in the roadway at this point in memory of the great Scarborough historian, Thomas Hinderwell. The drinking fountain fell into disuse and was removed many years ago.

Click here to continue your walk to 20. Scarborough Castle