Less than three per cent of all the UK’s listed buildings are designated as Grade I, or of exceptional, possibly international, interest and importance.
But one of them is just a stone’s throw from The Pipe and Glass: the exquisite St Mary’s Church, with its breathtakingly elegant spire.
The church was built between 1858 and 1861, replacing an old medieval church nearby, at the behest of the third Lord Hotham.Built in the Gothic Revival style, its architect was John Loughborough Pearson, the son of a Durham family who began his career in that city articled to the fabulously-named Ignatius Bonomi, a man whose speciality – religious architecture – influenced the future direction of Pearson’s career.Pearson later moved to London to become a pupil of Philip Hardwick, the architect of the Euston Arch and Lincoln’s Inn, and designed churches in the city including St Peter’s, Vauxhall, and Holy Trinity, Westminster; his most famous work is probably Truro Cathedral in Cornwall. Pearson lived in London for most of his life – a blue plaque still marks his home at 13 Mansfield Street, Westminster, later the home of yet another famous architect, Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens. But he had a strong association with East Yorkshire, both through his work on St Mary’s, and on ‘the Sykes churches’ – a set of churches built, rebuilt or restored in the 19th century by the Sykes family of Sledmere House. Work on the 11 churches was started by the fourth Baronet, Sir Tatton Sykes (1772-1863) and continued by his son – the fifth Baronet, of the same name (1826-1913).
Pearson worked on the Sykes churches at Garton-on-the-Wolds, Kirkburn, Bishop Wilton and Hilston in Holderness, and also on churches at Scorborough, Ellerker and Elloughton.
All are spectacular in their own way, but none can rival St Mary’s at South Dalton for sheer visual impact – that dreaming spire stands 63m, or 208 ft, high and leads visitors from miles around to it – and to the Pipe and Glass!
Inside, the east and west windows boast stained glass designed by one of Pearson’s favourite makers, Clayton and Bell, who also designed the windows for Truro Cathedral, the west window at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, and mosaics for the Albert Memorial.
Another highlight of the interior is the Hotham Chapel, including a monument to Sir John Hotham, who died in 1689, with a finely carved skeleton reclining below the body of the baronet. It’s reckoned that the cost of building St Mary’s was some £25,000 – around £2.52m in today’s money. Compare that with the cost of another of Pearson’s churches, St Peter’s in Vauxhall, London – built in 1863-4, it cost £8,000 to build (just over £860,000 today) – and it’s clear that no expense was spared to give the people of South Dalton the church they deserved.