St Stephen, Acomb

3 July 2006

St Stephen's Church, Acomb

I knew little about this church – though I’d probably seen it more times than any other. Thinking about it, it would be the first church I ever saw, as it was visible from the garden of the house where I was born.

This is a personal appreciation of a church rediscovered – the familiar seen as if for the first time.

I grew up in Acomb, in a new house built in one of the new streets which made up part of this rapidly expanding area. St Stephen’s Church, built on a hill, was the focal point on the horizon from our back garden, as it was for many streets around.

St Stephen's, view from the north side

It never looked particularly interesting to me. It was just there, on the hill, and we could see it when we were in the garden, and from various points in Acomb, and I passed it on my way to school.

These photos were taken in the early evening in July 2006, after I’d visited my family. Before leaving Acomb I thought I’d take some photos of these places that were so familiar to me in my youth. A long wander around Acomb ensued – with this visit to St Stephen’s a part of it.

 

St Stephen's Church, detail

Visiting here made me realise that we take familiar places so much for granted, particularly when we’re young. St Stephen’s looked beautiful in the evening sunlight, and its churchyard too, and it was like visiting the place for the first time, because it was the first time I’d looked at the place properly, close-up.

Acomb is an ancient settlement, originally a village outside of York. Its medieval church was rebuilt in the 19th century.

St Stephen's, from the north side

As I’m no expert on architecture, I’ll leave it to Eric A Gee to describe this church: "The nave, transept and west tower and spire are superficially Early English but are grafted on to a classical plan." He also mentions the magnesian limestone, and the "intriguing battered buttresses". The Pevsner guide mentions the tall lancet windows and describes the church as "an interesting essay in pre-archaeological Gothic".

 

St Stephen's, Acomb, from the churchyard

Eric Gee also suggests that the church has "perhaps the most attractive situation in York, for it is on a hill a hundred feet high and from the churchyard most of the hills round the Vale of York can be seen on a clear day." I didn’t spend much time looking outwards from here – as I was so charmed by the place itself.

The churchyard too was far more attractive and peaceful than I ever remembered it. These Victorian churchyards always look happily settled into themselves. The stone monuments are so much more attractive than the modern marble ones, and here, as in other old churchyards, monuments leaned towards each other in the rough grass.

From the churchyardChurchyard path

Perhaps on a cloudy day in winter it doesn’t look so beautiful here, but on its high hill this place seems to collect the summer sunlight falling through the surrounding trees.

Sources & background information

The Architecture of York by Eric A Gee (Cerialis Press, 1979)
Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (The Buildings of England series) by Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave (2nd edn, Yale, 2002).

Website – www.acombparish.org

2 comments

  1. Diana Clark. Nee Walker

    I am new to computing and was delighted to find so many photos ect. about Acomb, my home 1935 – 1963.
    I was christened, taught Sunday school and was married at St. Stephen’s,
    My grandparents lived in Danebury house so close through the builders yard at the back. The gardens and orchards around look to be long gone.
    ,

  2. Rebecca sheehan

    I was adopted in 1961 trying to trace my birth mother who was june davis lived at 22 st stephensroad she was born in 1943married Terrance kirby at st stephens church 29th July 1961had a son John in 1962 and twins in 1964 can anyone help me with any more information on her or famalies whereabouts please

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