This is St Mary's Church, Studley Royal, North Yorkshire. I've shown this church before but not this view.
When the estates of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal were united in 1767, a celebrated medieval monastic ruin was incorporated into one of England’s finest 18th-century landscape gardens. The most significant later addition to this setting, now a World Heritage Site, is the Gothic revival Anglican church of St Mary. Created partly as a result of a tragic family death in 1870, St Mary’s Church was designed by William Burges in an eclectic Gothic style for the Marquess and Marchioness of Ripon in 1870 and completed in 1878. A masterpiece of an astonishingly inventive designer, it is rich in decorative detail and symbolism.
Despite the story of St Mary’s being designed ‘on the spot’ it is a deeply considered building, to every detail of which Burges gave great attention. This care is evident in the choice of site. St Mary’s is placed at the western end of the avenue of lime trees that crosses the estate from south-west to north-east, and is aligned on the west front of Ripon Minster to the east. The church stands about 80 metres to the east of an obelisk erected in about 1805, which it supplants as a prominent accent in the landscape.
At first glance, St Mary’s may look like a conventional medieval Gothic church. However, closer inspection reveals Burges’s originality at every turn. He greatly admired English and French Gothic of the first half of the 13th century, which was often described by architects of his time as ‘vigorous’, ‘masculine’ and ‘muscular’. It was a style that made great use of sculpture, which for Burges was an essential element in architecture. To this he added a love of coloured materials, including marble, mosaic, gilded metalwork and stained glass, as well as paintwork.
St Mary’s important secondary role as an accent in a formal, designed landscape is emphasised by its tight, symmetrical outline. The stones used for the exterior are a grey limestone from a quarry at Morcar, near Markenfield Hall, and sandstone from another local quarry, at Cat Crag, near Aldfield.
The church has a low west tower, supporting an octagonal belfry stage. This is surrounded by four pinnacled turrets that rise up to clasp a tall spire with two tiers of lucarnes (small gabled openings). Externally, decorative carving is concentrated on the east front, in which a large four-light traceried window with a rose at its apex is surmounted by three sculptural groups under gables: a Crucifixion at the top, flanked by pairs of saints, St George and St Bernard, and St Michael and St Wilfrid.
Further sculpture appears in the gable of the south porch (an Annunciation scene, proclaiming the church’s dedication to the Virgin Mary), and in the heads between the chancel windows. These heads depict human society in its various ranks and aspects: on the south, a huntsman, a male peasant, a mason, a bishop, a nobleman and a queen; and on the north, an artist or writer, a female peasant, an architect, a knight, a countess and a king.
At the west end, a low arch between the tower buttresses forms a lean-to porch sheltering the trefoil-headed west door. The window tracery becomes increasingly elaborate towards the east end, but it is given unity by being designed as a series of variations on a single motif, a lancet (narrow pointed window) with a cinquefoil head.
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