Aldborough, St Andrew's Church
Aldborough, St Andrew's Church

The small Yorkshire village of Aldborough, near Boroughbridge, was once an important Roman garrison town known as Isurium Brigantium. The Romans established a temple dedicated to Mercury at Aldborough. The temple site was reused in the Saxon period for a Christian church.


That Saxon church was rebuilt around 1100 AD. Aldborough was a 'peculiar'; the living was not a gift of the lord of the manor but was in the hands of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster, and the church was free from the authority of the Bishop.

Sometime around 1318 Scottish raiders destroyed the Norman church. The present building was erected by 1330 to replace it. We know that the church was in place by 1332 when Richard de Aldborough founded a chantry chapel at the east end of the north aisle.

Roman figure of Mercury
The Roman figure of Mercury

A few years later Philip de Aylesbury founded a chapel dedicated to St Mary at the east end of the south aisle. a third chantry, dedicated to St John the Baptist, was established later by several prominent landowners.

These three chantry priests assisted the vicar in performing church services at both Aldborough and Boroughbridge. The chaplain of St Mary's chantry chapel also served as a schoolmaster, teaching grammar to students in the chantry of Boroughbridge church. The school survived after chantries were suppressed by Edward VI in 1547.

An intriguing note in church records for the year 1311 says that a layman named John Tankard of Ponteburgh, 'has struck and drawn blood' from Henry, the vicar of Aldborough. The offender was sentenced to a pilgrimage to Rome as penance for his actions.

A chancel and west tower were added in the 15th century. The tower walls have Roman bricks embedded in them - another reminder of Aldborough's Roman heritage.

William de Aldeburg memorial brass, 1360
William de Aldeburg memorial brass, 1360

The Roman Statue

A more striking reminder of Aldborough's Roman past is a small sculpture of the Roman god Mercury set into the wall. This relief carving was discovered during construction of the 14th-century church foundations. It was set into the church wall in the 17th century when the figure of Mercury was recorded as holding a staff, or wand. Sadly, the figure is no so badly worn that no staff is visible and you can no longer make out Mercury's wings.

The Aldeburg Brass

On the wall of the north aisle chapel is the life-sized memorial brass of Sir William de Aldeburg, showing the deceased in full armour and standing six feet tall. His head, neck, and shoulders are covered by chain mail and he wears a basinet helmet. His arms are covered in plate armour with chain mail at the joints. He wears gauntlets on his hands with plates over the fingers. His legs and feet are protected by plate.

The brass is interesting because it shows the transition from chain mail to plate armour. The brass was discovered under pews in the Lady Chapel during the 19th-century restoration and was placed on the wall for safety in 1827.

The Georgian bread shelf
The Georgian bread shelf

Historical highlights around the church include a beautifully carved 16th-century table, now used for displaying leaflets, and a pair of grave slabs to members of the Aldeburgh family, dated 1430 and 1475. The latter grave slab commemorates William of Aldeburgh, who gave money to build the chancel, west tower, and clerestory. The communion rail dates to around 1700 and the chancel boasts Jacobean panelling.

Most of the window glass dates to the Victorian era and the early 20th century. The most striking window was installed in 1905 as a memorial to Colonel John Holdsworth of the Royal Artillery, the son of Rev George Holdsworth, the rector of Aldborough.

On the wall is a striking memorial to William Aldburgh (d 1627).

Carved head, nave arcade
Carved head, nave arcade

A Georgian Bread Shelf

On the wall is an 18th-century bread shelf where loaves for the poor were kept. The bread shelf was a bequest from Mark Smithson, who left money for bread to be distributed amongst the poor of Aldborough every Sunday after services. It now holds hymn books instead of bread. A benefactor's board commemorating Mark Smithson's gift is under the tower.

Getting There

St Andrew's is a beautiful 14th-century building with a wealth of historical features. The church is in the centre of the village, just east of Boroughbridge and a short stroll from the remains of Aldborough Roman Fort. The church was open when we visited. There is no obvious parking area but it was very easy to find parking along the main road.

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About Aldborough, St Andrew's Church
Address: Aldborough, Yorkshire, England, YO51 9ES
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: In the centre of Aldborough village, just east of Boroughbridge. Roadside parking.
Website: Aldborough, St Andrew's Church
Location map
OS: SE406664
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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14th century (Time Period) - 15th century (Time Period) - 16th century (Time Period) - 17th century (Time Period) - 18th century (Time Period) - 19th century (Time Period) - brass (Historical Reference) - Edward VI (Person) - Georgian (Time Period) - grave slab (Architecture) - Norman (Architecture) - Restoration (Historical Reference) - Roman (Time Period) - Saxon (Time Period) - Victorian (Time Period) -


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