One of the best things about compiling pages on this site is the way one thing leads to another, one local detail reminds me of another, things naturally link, and I can just wander off wherever the fancy takes me and the subject matter suggests.
So, ‘previously on York Stories’, we were standing on a patch of grass in front of the Bile Beans ad.
On that patch of grass was once a church, not long gone, demolished in the late 1960s. Gravestones remain to remind us of it, towards the back of that patch of grass, as most people passing have no doubt noticed. Just as there are gravestones in King’s Square, where once there was a church, and in an old churchyard in Bishophill, also now missing its church.
The three sites have their missing church in common, but not much else. King’s Square is all paved and functional and busy; St Mary’s churchyard is green, peaceful, feels ancient and special. The parishioners of St Maurice’s lie under neatly-mown grass in a rather ‘municipal’ environment, with a bit of shrubbery for company, next to busy roads and an unbeautiful 20th century building.
Walking onto their patch and looking back gives this much more pleasing view. They’re within sight of the Minster, and the city wall. That famous Bile Beans ad is just off to the right.
Here lie parishioners who presumably assumed that this ground would be forever sacred. Including the vicar, whose daughter died in 1854, aged six, ’suffer the little children to come unto me’ carved on her headstone.
Right against the boundary is a particularly large headstone, to Matthew Creaser, builder, lit beautifully by dappled sunlight through leaves. The beauty ends there, in the sunlight and stone. Right behind it is a functional wire fence and behind that an ugly municipal building. Around it, in the shrubbery, are piles of empty lager and cider cans from the street drinkers who have to hide in the shrubbery in case they offend the tourists.
I wonder what he would have thought of it all, this man who so carefully prepared for his end, for meeting his maker, and who planned a place for those he loved, in the certainty of their meeting later.
The inscription reads:
“Silent grave to thee I trust,
This precious part of mortal dust.
Keep it safe O sacred tomb
Till wife or child may ask for room.”
The map at the top of the page is from Sotheran’s 1803 guide to York and shows the earlier St Maurice’s church. This small church had become ‘dilapidated’, according to an 1854 guide book. It was rebuilt in 1878. A photo in the archives of The Press shows this later church, which was demolished in 1969.