South Cowton, St Mary's Church
South Cowton, St Mary's Church
The church of St Mary at South Cowton stands alone in a field, at the end of a country lane. It was built in the years 1450-1470 by Sir Richard Conyers, whose late 15th century tower house of South Cowton Castle can be reached by a footpath to the south east. The church consists of a nave, west tower, chancel, two storey south porch and a vestry.
The appearance of the church suggests that it was built at least partly with defense in mind - not a bad idea given the turmoil of late 15th century England. The interior is a late medieval delight, with a nicely carved rood screen and choir stalls. There is a lovely old timber roof, and surviving wall paintings. The barrel-vaulted south porch has a chamber above the entrance for use of the priest.

The major interest here are three medieval stone effigies in the chancel. These have some wonderful carving and clearly depict medieval costume detail. Another item of interest is a peculiar carving on one of the choir stalls. This is two-faced, with a head looking each direction.

St Mary's church is no longer in active use and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust, but it is well worth a visit. There is no village - that was demolished and the inhabitants evicted by Sir Richard Conyers so the land could be used for pasture.