St John the Baptist, Stanwick, North Yorks

One of the joys of ‘church-searching’ is never quite knowing what you’ll find – from a shape on a map to a magnificent or indeed humble building, there will always be a glimpse of the past waiting for you.

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I arrived at Stanwick with no expectations and then spent about 20 minutes after I arrived hopping from foot to foot. One of my absolute favourite things is when Anglo-Saxon stonework is re-used in later churches!

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Vine scroll, zoomorphic figures and parts of carved cross heads are on the outside of wall of the nave. Inside the porch are further pieces. These are all later cross slabs to mark burials, interspersed with other carving.

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The church itself dates to the thirteenth century now, but the re-use of the carving indicate a huge likelihood that there was an earlier church on the same site.

Two other indicators are the awesome carved cross now inside the church …

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See the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture for detail – the lights weren’t working and my phone camera flash struggled

[Plus another cross shaft outside}

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… And the situation of the church within a much wider and complex prehistoric landscape. Dr Sarah Semple has written fascinatingly on early medieval attitudes to prehistoric sites (if you don’t take my word for it).

stanwick overhead

The church is in the centre-right of the image and you can see a part-circle around it. I was taught during my MA that this indicates a much earlier enclosure that the church was built within – cultural appropriation in a medieval way. To the top Stanwick Iron Age Fortifications are shown, which is a huge bank, some of which is under the protection of English Heritage. Some of which is not.

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Distant Stanwick church, from Iron Age fortifications

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Walking on top of the bank

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View from south west, at churchyard boundary

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Has a barrow, or subsequent burials raised the level of the churchyard?

With all this earlier history aside, the church itself is lovely as it is now, with really interesting furnishings too.

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Translation, please?

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Replica church armour – the original are now in a new display at the Royal Armouries

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Sir Hugh Smithson, 1st Baronet, died 1670 and HIS WIFE Dorothy Rawstorne

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Other points of interest outside the church included this ace medieval coffin and an iron grave marker!

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