Travelling along the B1249 via Staxton, Foxholes and Langtoft towards Driffield, it’s hard to imagine as you follow signs to Little Driffield and Garton-on-the-Wolds, the hidden beauty of villages.
We made a return visit to Garton-on-the-Wolds, blessed with glorious weather.
At the end of a little lane, with a farm for company, stands a fine church. Situated on a bank behind tall trees, and ringed by Irish yew trees, the church overlooks countryside to the south.
Entering a walled entrance gate, steps and gravelled pathway led across the immaculately maintained churchyard to the doorway. This church is one of many Wold churches restored by GE Street for Sir Tatton Sykes. It was built by the Normans, but there are remains of medieval alteration. The massive tower has a Norman base. The great buttresses reach the battlements, and the lovely west doorway halted our steps. The church clock struck 2pm as we admired the doorway’s arch of rich zigzag decoration on four shafts at each side. Entering the darkness of the church, lighting soon illuminates the features you seek to discover.
To your immediate left is a marble font. It has a handsome cover like a traceried tower and spire with eight carved saints around it. Left again beneath the lofty tower lie stone figures of a knight praying, with his legs crossed. There’s also a woman wearing a draped head dress with angels by her canopy. They’ve been brought in here from the churchyard.
As your eyes become accustomed to the lighting, you’ll appreciate what a jewel of a church this is. Are you dreaming? No! The arresting feature of the restoration is the amazing wealth of colour enriching the interior from floor to roof.
The mosaic floors are stunning, with formal patterns in black and white with touches of creamy yellow.
The roofs have fine medieval colouring with much barber-pole work. The rich glow of the chancel windows is a mosaic of red, blue and gold.
Look at the walls. The north wall is painted with a pageant of Bible people such as martyrs, apostles, saints and angels. Can you find the Creation, Garden of Eden, building of the Ark, and the return of Joseph from Egypt etc?
Now view the south wall, beginning behind the organ near the chancel. The panels clearly depict the months of the year from January to December. This theme is repeated in the tower at the west end of the church.
Turning to the altar at the east end of the church is a remarkable reredos. This is in the form of a sculptured wall decoration at the back of the altar. There you’ll discern scenes of the Annunciation, the Baptism, the Crucifixion, the Entombment, and the Disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Before leaving this breath-taking church, you should read the wall plaque in the tower, which conveys acknowledgement to those who have cared. “The wall paintings in this church were cleaned and conserved 1987-1995 through the generosity of many advisors of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, Architectural Historian 1902-1983.”
Finally, how many roof corbels can you identify? There are animals, grotesques, dragons fighting, and St George slaying the dragon etc.
Allow plenty of time to view this treasure before exploring the village itself. Pond Street leads into the A166, and by turning left up this main street you’ll discover the pond, where you may choose to have a picnic. Take care – there’s a warning of deep water. Enjoy your day – it’s one you mustn’t miss!
l At the top of Garton Hill is a look-out tower 120ft high, set up in 1865 in memory of Sir Tatton Sykes.
Ref: AA Road Atlas Great Britain and Ireland.