The curious tales of discovery at Yorkshire churches

The curious tales of discovery at Yorkshire churches

Church Explorers 8 June to September 2019

From the remarkable to the bizarre, churches across Yorkshire are exposing their stories of discovery in a series of free events, open days and exhibitions this summer for Church Explorers - an annual summer-long festival celebrating the architectural and archaeological importance of Yorkshire’s magnificent church buildings.

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The curious case of an effigy’s broken nose, the return from Canada of a long-lost quilt last seen in Doncaster 125 years ago, and how one of Leeds’ greatest treasures was forgotten about for 500 years, sum up the ‘Lost and Found’ theme of this year’s Church Explorers, which also focusses on breakage (accidental and deliberate), conservation (successful and unsuccessful) and concealment and revelation.

“Yorkshire is blessed to have many beautiful old churches but the problem is that we’re so used to seeing them they become part of the scenery around us and we forget they’re there.  The idea behind Church Explorers is to entice people to visit our churches and find what they might never have realised they’ve lost,” says Dr Chris Tuckley, head of interpretation at York Archaeological Trust, owners and operators of York’s JORVIK Group of Attractions, which organises the annual Church Explorers, now in its 7th year, in partnership with Leeds Minster and the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

At the first Church Explorers event on Saturday 8 June at St Helen’s Church, Escrick, York, YO19 6JA, visitors will be able to add their vote to an interesting current debate about the future of the nose on the memorial to Caroline Neville, the 1st Lady Wenlock (1792-1868), which was seriously damaged in a fire.  After the fire minor repairs were carried out to the effigy and it was given a new nose, larger and more masculine than the original. As part of a new conservation project this sculpture has undergone cleaning and restoration work. It depicts Lady Caroline in old age and the intricate lacework on her gown and the delicate work on her hands can be fully appreciated. Visitors are being asked:
a) should the ‘new’ nose be left as it is?
b) should the effigy be given a new nose matching the original pre-fire model?

c) should the 'new' nose be removed allowing for the damage caused by the fire to be seen?

St Helen’s Church is open daily from 8am to 5pm. On the second Monday of every month, from 1pm - 4pm, volunteers offer guided tours and refreshments. Guided tours are available at other times by request, and audio tours can be downloaded at

The Church Explorer programme of events for 2019 includes:

· Saturday 8 June, 10.00am-4.30pm: stonemasonry workshop at St Helen's Church, Escrick.  Booking is essential: for further information please contact Caroline on 07774 461 026 or email

· 15 June, 10.00am–1.00pm: The Armthorpe Community Quilt at Saturday Oasis St Leonard & St Mary, Armthorpe, Doncaster.

· Friday 5 July, 7.30pm: The Military Wives Choir at St Helen, Bilton-in-Ainsty. Tickets £10, available by email from 

· Saturday 6 July, 11.00am–4.00pm: open day at St Helen, Bilton-in-Ainsty.

· Friday 26 July, 6.00pm: Lost and Found: The Leeds Cross In Its Historical Context Leeds Minster, Leeds.  Professor Joyce Hill, an international authority on the transmission of Christian culture in early medieval Europe, will give an illustrated talk on one of the city’s greatest treasures, the 10th-century Leeds Cross which stands proudly in Leeds Minster. For more information and to pre-book your ticket, visit the Leeds Civic Trust website:

·  Wednesday 31 July: Living History at Selby Abbey.

·  Saturday 10 August, 1.00pm-4.00pm: Hands-On Heritage Day at St Helen's Church, Escrick.  An afternoon of activities for all the family including guided tours, children’s crafts and heritage trails.

Church Explorers events take place in churches right across the region, from Leeds to Selby and Beverley, from 8 June to September 2019.  Most are free of charge but pre-booking may be required and donations towards the upkeep of the churches are always welcomed.

For more information about Church Explorers including a full listing of the churches and events, and normal church opening times, please visit

The Church Explorers team is always looking to bring new churches into the programme – for more details contact