Sunday, 14 August 2022

St. Mary's Church in Tickhill

St. Mary's church in Tickhill

Although it was the first time that I had been to Tickhill Castle, I have visited the village of Tickhill a few times before – including a survey of an outcrop of Triassic sandstone for the Doncaster Geodiversity Assessment and a quick look at St. Mary’s church on behalf of the architect who had appointed me to survey the stonework at Brocklesby Hall in 2004. 
The approach from Church Lane

Back then, I didn’t have the interest in and experience of surveying mediaeval churches that I do now and I only noted that it is built in Permian dolomitic limestone from the Cadeby Formation and I only took one photograph - to record the condition of the limestone that has been used for a repair to the north porch.
The tower
Approaching along Church Lane, the early Perpendicular Gothic style windows to the south aisle and clerestory are its most distinctive feature - on first impression - and various sources period of extensive rebuilding and extension that took place from about 1350 onwards. 
The south porch

The church was not open and I just had a quick walk around its exterior, noting the principal elements of the structure and those parts of the uniformly grey limestone masonry that had been restored, which includes most of the window tracery. 
Restored window tracery in the south aisle

The fabric is in generally very good condition, with only repairs to some of the buttresses and isolated sections of ashlar having been undertaken with whole blocks of stone but, in places, the practice of using stone slips to undertake a SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) style ‘honest repair’ has been followed. 
A repair with slips of limestone

Continuing anti-clockwise around the church, the only elaboration decoration that I noticed was on the tall crocketted pinnacles but, looking closely at my photographs, I can see that there are couple of grotesques on the string course below the castellated parapet on the south aisle. 
The east end
Moving round to the east end, I did notice one of these at the junction between the chancel and the north-east chapel, which was built in the early C14 and has simple Early English Y-tracery to the east window, which has probably been reused. Its wide open mouth suggests that it is a gargoyle rather than a grotesque, but its current position does not form part of the roof drainage detailing and it may therefore also have been reset. 
A gargoyle on the chancel
With the north elevation being in deep shade, I just took a couple of general photos and continued around to the tower, which has an early C13 lower stage with very large simple clasping buttresses. It was raised during the general rebuilding but was still incomplete by 1429, which gives quite an accurate date for the subsequent completion of the tower, with arched crenellations. 
The west door

The church website states that the oldest parts of the church date back to 1109, when major work was being undertaken to the castle, with the broad buttresses forming part of the Norman church. The west door is Early English, but has many elements that are transitional from the Norman style of doorway, including its three orders of shafts and large nailhead decoration. 
Shafts and nailhead decoration to the west door

Looking up the tower, numerous coats of arms can be seen and a study of the heraldry show these to be associated with John of Gaunt, who held the castle and had claims on Castile and Leรณn. This dates this part of the rebuilding from 1373 to 1399 and other shields adjoining the west door are those of William Eastfield (d.1386) and of John Sandford who lived here in 1394.
A view up the tower
At the same level as the heraldic shields of the latter, there are other sculptures on the upper stage of the tower, which Pevsner describes as a canopied saint, along with a knight with his son and a lady, who are presumed to be the principal benefactors of the church. 
Figurative sculptures on the tower

I didn’t spent long enough to study the stonework in depth but, from subsequent desktop research into the extent of the land held by the Cistercian Order, I concluded that the stone used to build it was probably supplied by the Roche Abbey quarries.
A canopied saint on the tower

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