An early C19 church with striking additions of 1973.
Hanging in St Mary’s, Hambleton, is a painting of the church as it looked before the remarkable building programme of 1973. It shows a modest early C19 church of four window bays separated by buttresses all under a single roof. The windows are pointed with “Y” tracery. There is a narrow unbuttressed west tower with heavy corner pinnacles, twin bell openings, and a west tower door. In its essentials it resembles the type of church sometimes called Lancet Style. This building replaced a Georgian rebuilding of 1749 and 1768, which itself superseded an earlier church that we know existed in 1577.
However, in 1973 a major building programme was undertaken which substantially altered the character of the church. The west tower was removed and two extra window bays were added to the western end of the nave. This extension followed the style of the existing nave and windows. Rooms were also built on the north western side. A new tower was built on the south western side of the nave, connected by a corridor, and having an entrance on its southern face. No attempt was made to match the architecture of the new tower and the body of the church. It is constructed of brown brick and metal cladding. The asymmetrically placed entrance has a steep gable, above which are wooden louvres. The upper corners of the tower are rendered and pointed, suggesting pinnacles, and over all is a tall, narrow, square-section spire covered in brown metal. The east wall of the tower has a window with gable, and a tall thin strip of metal above. There are those who do not like this juxtaposition of styles – the early C19 and the late C20. But, would medieval builders have done any different? Today too many architects and builders are borrowing from the past. We should build, with conviction, in the style of our own time, as was done here at Hambleton.
The interior of the church is a single large space, with no division between nave and chancel. The altar and east window are given emphasis by being raised above the main floor in a shallow recess. Arched scissor-braces support the steeply pitched roof. A few of the C19 pews retain the brass plates placed there by former owners. Number 17 is in the name of Robert Thompson who declared himself to be a maltster.
The four light east window has intersecting tracery. It is filled with late C19 stained glass depicting the life of Christ, with saints and angels above – a conventional piece. A window in the south aisle (dedication of 1950) shows a single figure with a shepherd’s crook. Is it by Abbot of Lancaster? In the west wall are four windows all in the same rather easy, semi-abstract, style. They must date from the 1970s. The lower windows depict the three aspects of the Holy Spirit and include a representation of the post-1973 church. They are made up of small angular pieces, each window mainly either red, yellow or blue. Above is a circular window portraying the Virgin Mary.
The font and pulpit date from 1919. They are of heavily figured marble in a traditional Gothic style. The former has quatrefoils and slender columns supporting the bowl. The latter has the columns too, but with arched panels with tracery and figures. The south wall carries two interesting monuments to the Bicherstaffs and Ramsdens, as well as a copy of a document of 1228 recording the granting of the manor of Hambleton by Henry III to Geoffrey the Crossbowman. In 1244 Geoffrey passed it to his nephew, Robert of Shireburn, in whose family it remained until the C18.