East Moors St Mary Magdalene

Name: St Mary Magdelene's

Date of Temple Moore Work: 1881–82

Work done: Supervision of work and design of fittings

Church Description

One of Temple Moore's most enchanting churches, tucked away in a churchyard full of rhododendrons in the heart of the moors.

In 1882 Moore was still working as assistant to George Gilbert Scott. East Moors was his first major project. Although Scott designed the church, it was Moore who saw the job through and provided the design for the font, the reredos and the wooden partitioning to the south aisle.

Opening times: Please see www.helmsleyparish.org.uk. The church is normally open. Access is reasonably level but over quite rough ground and can be very muddy. There is a step into the church.

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By this date Scott's general and mental health were declining and he had begun to rely on his young protege to complete his commissions for him. Moore threw himself into the task with gusto. As Pevsner says, “The young architect obviously enjoyed this job thoroughly, and his pleasure is infectious.” The painted wagon roof and stepped bell-tower at East Moors would become characteristic of his later work.

The church may seem to be in the middle of nowhere, but in 1882 there were 200 people living on the surrounding moors. East Moors is the name for the lonely stretch of country between Bilsdale and Bransdale, where the limestone woods and pastures of the southern North York Moors meet the more unforgiving landscape of the central moorland plateau. There are no villages, only scattered farms and the occasional mineworking.

St Mary Magdalene's was built as part of Vicar Gray's campaign to draw the occupants of these far-flung realms of his parish into his congregation. Its small scale and the simple materials from which it is built are perhaps a reflection of the £700 budget set aside for it, but they also show that Moore's sensitivity to the social and geographical context of his buildings was already well developed.

Before the advent of the motor car, clergy would ride out to East Moors on a Saturday evening and sleep in a hammock in the south aisle of the church so as to be on time for the Sunday morning service. The rest of the time, the south aisle was used for the Sunday school. It was equipped with a little “squint” opening to allow people in the chancel to keep an eye on those in the aisle.

John Betjeman, a passionate advocate for Victorian architecture, devoted a poem to the church at East Moors:

... a stane kirk wi' a wee spire
And a verra wee south aisle
The rhododendrons bloom wi'oot
On ilka Simmer's day
And it's there the Airl o' Feversham
Wad hae his tenants pray
For there's something in the painted roof
And the mouldings round the door,
The braw bench and the plain font
That tells o' Temple Moore.

from “Perp. Revival i' the North” in Collected Poems (London, 1976)

Things to do nearby

Bransdale

Farndale has its daffodils, Rosedale its caravan sites and honeypot villages, but neighbouring Bransdale is just lovely: the very essence of the North York Moors. There's precisely nothing there, and that's the point. Drystone walls, green fields, woods, stone cottages, becks, endless hills and endless, endless skies go now.

Helmsley Castle

Castlegate Helmsley YO62 5AB

01439 770442

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/helmsley-castle

A thousand years of Yorkshire weather haven't quite finished off this splendid old ruin. It was built after the Norman Conquest by the Bond-villainesque-sounding Walter L'Espec. In Tudor times it was converted into a mansion, but it could still hold its own as a military fortress, as it showed during the English Civil War when it was besieged by Parliamentarian troops. The Royalist forces inside held out for three months before surrendering. Parliament ordered that the castle's defences should be partially demolished, and they have remained in a state of romantic dilapidation ever since. Complete wheelchair (and pushchair) access at ground level. English Heritage members get in free.

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Nr Helmsley YO62 5LB

01439 798228

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/rievaulx-abbey

Rievaulx Abbey was once among the finest in Europe, and its atmospheric ruins still convey a sense of what it was like in its prime. Worth visiting for the location alone: beautiful riverside fields in the emerald depths of Ryedale. On the hillside above the abbey are the National Trust-owned Rievaulx Terrace and Temples, a contrasting bit of 18th-century classical landscaping with fine views.

Duncombe Park

Helmsley YO62 5EB

01439 770213

http://www.duncombepark.com/

It's a shame the house isn't open to the public anymore, but the grounds are lovely. Half of Duncombe Park's 450 acres (182 hectares) of parkland are managed as a National Nature Reserve. It contains some of Britain's oldest and tallest broadleaved trees, many of which are nearly as old as the house itself.

Helmsley Walled Garden

Cleveland Way Helmsley YO62 5AH

01439 771427

http://www.helmsleywalledgarden.org.uk/

One of Helmsley's hidden gems, tucked out of sight under the castle ramparts. The Walled Garden was created to supply fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers to the Duncombe Park estate. It fell into disuse in the 1970's, but in 1994 a determined band of local enthusiasts set out to restore it to its former glory. Today it is once again a working kitchen garden, where you can choose from a huge range of plants, vegetables, and seasonal fruits, or just savour the wonderfully tranquil atmosphere. The Vinehouse cafe serves delicious vegetarian food using produce grown in the garden.

Where to eat and drink

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Nr Helmsley YO62 5LB

01439 798228

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/rievaulx-abbey

Rievaulx Abbey was once among the finest in Europe, and its atmospheric ruins still convey a sense of what it was like in its prime. Worth visiting for the location alone: beautiful riverside fields in the emerald depths of Ryedale. On the hillside above the abbey are the National Trust-owned Rievaulx Terrace and Temples, a contrasting bit of 18th-century classical landscaping with fine views.

Star Inn

Harome YO62 5JE

01439 770397

http://www.thestaratharome.co.uk/

Award-winning, Egon Rony-endorsed gastropub. Lovely thatch-roofed building. Superb "modern Yorkshire" cuisine. You're unlikely to get a table in the restaurant if you turn up on spec, so advance booking is advisable, although the same menu is available in the bar on a first-come-first-served basis.

The Black Swan

Helmsley YO62 5BJ

01439 770466

http://www.blackswan-helmsley.co.uk/

Upmarket inn with posh nosh.

The Feversham Arms

Helmsley YO62 5AG

01439 770 766

http://www.fevershamarmshotel.com/

Highly regarded luxury hotel with its own spa. The prices are not for the fainthearted, but the AA Hotel of the Year Award speaks up for the quality of the place.

The Feathers

Helmsley YO62 5BH

01439 770275

http://www.feathershotelhelmsley.co.uk/

A local's local, with unpretentious pub grub.

Teashops, many and various!

Helmsley

Helmsley is laden with genteel teashops, to the occasional chagrin of the locals and the delight of visitors. Too many to name - wander around and take your pick. Pinkies up!

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