Standing tower and below ground remains of St Lawrence's Church and associated burial ground


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Standing tower and below ground remains of St Lawrence's Church and associated burial ground
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

York (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 61232 51307

Reasons for Designation

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little fabric of the first church being still easily visible. Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of 1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are identified to be nationally important.

The tower of St Lawrence's church survives well and significant remains of the body of the medieval church will survive below ground. The monument offers important scope for understanding the development of a medieval church and its context in the extra-mural suburbs of one of the most important medieval cities in England. A fragment of churchyard cross also survives within the monument. These were mostly erected during the medieval period (mid-10th to mid-16th centuries) and served a variety of functions including the focus of processions, public proclamation and penance as well as defining the rights of sanctuary. Crosses were distributed throughout England and are thought to have numbered in excess of 12,000. Although the remains of the cross are not in its original position, it was located within the churchyard and its survival contributes to our understanding of medieval customs, both religious and secular, associated with St Lawrence's. The burial ground contains a significant sample of the population of York spanning many centuries.


The monument includes standing and buried remains of the medieval church of St Lawrence and the majority of its burial ground. It is located in the churchyard of the 19th century St Lawrence's Church on Lawrence Street. Also included are a section of medieval cross shaft and two 19th century grave memorials.

The earliest known reference to St Lawrences's York is in 1194 when it is referred to as a church of the chapter of York Minster lying outside the city walls. Over the years it was amalgamated with other extra-mural parishes; with St Michael's of Walmgate Bar in 1365 and with St Helen's Fishergate and All Saint's Fishergate in 1586. During the English Civil War in the 17th century St Lawrence's was caught up in the siege of York and there was fighting in the churchyard. The church was partly destroyed but was restored by 1699 followed by a further stage of rebuilding in 1827. In 1881-83 a replacement church was erected to the south to cater for the greatly enlarged congregation of the parish. Most of the medieval church was demolished and the burial ground cleared of tombstones. The tower of the church was left standing and the former north door relocated against the east side of the tower.

The medieval church is shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1852 and also in a number of illustrations of the 18th and 19th century. These sources clearly show the church to be a single aisled structure with a western tower and a chancel at the east end. Although this type of church plan is typical of the medieval period, it differs from churches within the city walls of York which tended to lack a chancel. Similar to most other York churches it is orientated south west to north east. From the map evidence it is known that the church measured 25m in length west by a maximum of 10m in width.

The church tower, which is Listed Grade I, is all that survives above ground. It is three storeys high and measures 4 sq m in plan. It is a largely late 12th century structure with some 13th century alterations including the insertion of new windows. The top storey, which contains the bell loft, was added in the 15th century and the crenellated parapet is a 20th century addition. The tower is built of roughly squared limestone rubble except for the upper stage which is constructed of larger and more regular blocks. There are blocked window openings on all sides of the tower and an ornate Norman doorway on the eastern side. This is set within a series of four, semicircular arches with some complex and sophisticated decorative carvings which include mythical creatures and foliage. This doorway was originally the north entrance to the nave and was re-erected in its current position when the body of the church was demolished in the 19th century.

The burial ground was located to the north and south of the church and will have been in use since the medieval period. The 18th and 19th century illustrations show a number of rectangular and round headed headstones as well as some chest tombs; these have now been cleared away. Some of the headstones have been reused to form a path and small garden in the area of the former chancel. The extent of the burial ground is shown on the 1852 Ordnance Survey map. The bulk of the former burial ground is included in the monument with the exception of the area occupied by the garden of remembrance.

The section of churchyard cross shaft is located against the south side of the tower. It comprises a cylindrical limestone shaft set into the ground with 0.45m standing above the ground surface. It represents the remains of a churchyard cross relocated after the demolition of the medieval church.

There are two grave monuments included in the monument. One is located 5m to the south west of the tower. It includes a brick wall with an inscribed tablet set against it overlooking a grave surrounded by iron railings. It is dedicated to four sons and two daughters of John and Anne Rigg who died in a boating accident in 1831. The second memorial is located where the east end of the former chancel lay. It is a cylindrical stone memorial 1.5m in diameter dedicated to the Allen family. The inscription is unclear but it is thought to be 19th century in date.

The sign board adjacent to the road and the grave slabs are not included in the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Yorkshire: Volume I, (1907), 385-386
Best, R, Views of the Parish Churches of York, (1831)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the historical Monuments of the City of York, (1975), 24-25
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the historical Monuments of the City of York, (1975), 25
Wilson, B, Mee, F, The Medieval Parish Churches of York: The Pictorial Evidence, (1998), 93-97
Wilson, B, Mee, F, The Medieval Parish Churches of York: The Pictorial Evidence, (1998), 93-97


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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