South Dalton, St Mary's Church
South Dalton, St Mary's Church
Victorian churches are not everyone's cup of tea. Too often Victorian Revival 'restorers' created their own rather antiseptic version of Gothic craftsmanship and style, with none of the substance. But St Mary's church in the little village of South Dalton is an exception; a glorious, wonderful, inspired exception. I loved this church!

First, there's the spire, rising 208 feet above the surrounding countryside like Jack's beanstalk (except vastly more graceful!). You can see it for miles around, and when the sun catches it, it can take your breath away.

The church, in Early English style throughout, was begun in 1858 to replace an old medieval church located nearby. It stands high above a row of lovely Victorian almshouses, and the scene of the church and almshouses together makes an unforgettable, idyllic picture.

The new church was built by JL Pearson under the patronage of Beaumont, 3rd Baron Hotham. Pearson was also responsible for several other churches in the area, including those at Scorborough, Ellerker, Elloughton, and Kirkburn.

Pearson must have been glad that his patron had deep pockets; to complete the church cost fully £25,000, a quite staggering sum for the time, when even a new central London church would have cost only £8,000.

The east and west windows are by Clayton and Bell of London, and the richly coloured stained glass spreads glorious colours around the spacious interior when the sun shines.

In the transepts are six 18th and 19th-century funeral hatchments.

Hotham Chapel

The highlight of the interior is the Hotham Chapel, set off by an elaborate wrought-iron screen. The chapel contains wall monuments to Hotham family members, but the real interest here is an utterly superb monument to Sir John Hotham, Baronet (d. 1689).

The monument shows Hotham reclining atop a table supported by four female figures representing the cardinal virtues, while under the table is a vividly carved skeleton. The quality of the monument carving is simply wonderful.


A real winner. I don't think I've ever seen a more perfectly proportioned Victorian church than South Dalton; it really is one of the best examples of parish church architecture of any time period. This truly is a beautiful building and is one of the highlights of churches in the East Riding for me.