Monument record MYO3687 - Parish Church of St. Michael, Spurriergate


A previous church existed prior to the Conquest of William the Conqueror and probably dates between 1088 and 1093. Church united with St. Mary's, Castlegate in 1936. In 1821 the church was reduced in size to allow street widening both in Spurriergate and Low Ousegate. The church was altered into a cafe in 1990, and continues to function as a commercial venue.


Grid reference Centred SE 6029 5169 (28m by 26m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (8)

Full Description

The advowson of the church of ST. MICHAEL, Spurriergate, was given to St. Mary's Abbey, probably as part of the foundation grant, by the Conqueror: the church, like other St. Mary's property, is missing from Domesday Book but was confirmed by William II in his general confirmation dated between 1088 and 1093. St. Mary's held the advowson until the Dissolution when it passed to the Crown, who presented until 1868. The patronage was then transferred to the archbishop.

The church was untouched by the 16th-century reorganization: the benefice was united with St. Mary's, Castlegate, in 1885 but both churches continued to be used for services. St. Michael's was relicensed for marriages in 1953. (fn. 77) The parish was small and lay around the church entirely within the walls: it was united with St. Mary's, Castlegate, in 1936.

In 1265, when a papal provision was made to the rectory, it was said to be worth 30 marks. In 1291 it was valued at £5 excluding a pension of £1 16s. to St. Mary's. In 1535 the income was derived from personal tithes (£10) and casual oblations (£1); the pension to St. Mary's was still paid. In 1649 the income was said to comprise £8 from a 'Mr Cotterell' and £4 from a house (probably 'Moseley's gift'). These two sources still produced income in 1716 although the interest on the bequest was then only £6; £3 10s. was received from anniversary sermons; 6s. 8d. from the rent of a house (probably 'Scott's gift'); £3 from Easter offerings and an unspecified sum from fees. The benefice was augmented from Queen Anne's Bounty by lot in 1758 and again in 1761 to meet a benefaction. In 1764 these moneys had apparently been laid out in an estate at Flawith in Alne (N.R.); Cotterell's gift now produced £5, rent from parish houses £61 16s. 11d.; eight anniversary sermons produced £4; clerks' and sextons' wages were paid by the parishioners. (fn. 84) The benefice was further augmented by the Bounty from the parliamentary fund by £1,000 by lot in 1815. In 1825 this sum, apparently with £120 remaining from previous augmentations, was invested; the rent of the Flawith property was then £31 10s. and £102 3s. was received from the rents of the parish houses; income from gifts, anniversary sermons, and the rent of a house in Coppergate amounted to £28 8s. 8d.; part of the churchyard had been sold to the corporation in 1812 when Ouse Bridge was being rebuilt. (fn. 85) In 1868 the gross income was said to be £90 but this was clearly an underestimate.

An ordinance of the archbishop dated 1336 granted permission to Robert de Sallay (later Saule) to found a chantry in honour of the Virgin which was to be supported out of rents from houses he was to build in the churchyard. The property was the subject of a dispute in 1350 but was preserved for the chantry by royal intervention. The chantry was augmented in 1385. The chantry was not valued in 1535 possibly because, as was said in 1546, it 'never paid any tenths': in the latter year it was valued at 19s. 4d. but there was apparently no incumbent. In 1548 there was a stipendiary priest attached to the church, the clear value of his endowment being £8 12s. 2d.

The church comprises a nave with north and south aisles and a tower over the west end of the nave. Internally the prevailing style is of the 13th century but the windows are of the fifteenth: externally, with the exception of the tower, the fabric has been much rebuilt in modern times. In 1821 the east wall was set back 7 feet to widen Spurriergate: at the same time houses along the south wall were removed and the wall rebuilt. The glass is mostly of the 15th century: in the east window on the south side are depicted eight of the nine orders of Heavenly Beings; there are two parts of a Tree of Jesse in the two central windows of the south aisle; the remaining windows of the south aisle all contain 15th-century glass. The reredos, communion rails, door screen, and chairs are of the 18th century. There are two chests and a stamped leather altar frontal of the time of Charles II. There is a rare example of a 'chalice' brass with an inscription in memory of William Langton (d. 1466), one-time rector of the church.

The custom of ringing a 'curfew' bell from the church at 8 o'clock each evening was observed in 1872 and maintained at least until 1931. There are six bells: one of them is probably a pre-Reformation bell. The plate comprises a silver cup with cover, a silver paten, a silver flagon, a pewter flagon, two pewter plates, and a brass alms-dish. Two pewter flagons are recorded in 1764. The registers begin in 1598. The church is the only one in York to possess a pre-Reformation account book.

'The parish churches', A History of the County of York: the City of York (1961), pp. 365-404.

Monument 13; Parish Church of St. Michael, Spurriergate stands at the corner of Spurriergate and Low Ousegate. It consists of a Nave with a sanctuary and no separate chancel, North and South Aisles and a West Tower within the body of the church. The walls are of gritstone and magnesian limestone, and the roofs are covered with tiles and slates.

A church existed on the site before the Conquest and was given to St. Mary's Abbey by William Rufus, probably as part of the foundation grant. The advowson passed to the Crown at the Dissolution and to the archbishop in 1868. The parish was united with St. Mary, Castlegate, in 1936 (VCH, York, 396–7).

The nave arcades were built in the late 12th century, when they were possibly five bays in length. The aisles would have been narrower then than those now existing but there is no evidence of the exact size of the church at that time. The N. aisle was widened in the 14th century, possibly in connection with the foundation in 1336/7 of a chantry of the Blessed Virgin, which was supported by rents from houses built on the churchyard immediately to the N.W. (Raine, 157). In an extensive remodelling in the 15th century the arcades were raised and a clerestorey was added; the latter has now gone, though evidence of it could formerly be seen on the E. face of the tower. At the same time, the S. aisle was widened and the W. tower built. The tower has remarkable piers and capitals in late 12th-century style to match the existing arcades. The floor was probably raised at this time since the tower pier bases correspond with the present level whereas the bases of the arcade piers are buried (except for two revealed by excavation).

Money was left to the making of new bells in 1464–5 (Raine, 162), which probably gives the date by which the new tower was complete. In 1821 the church was reduced in size to allow street widening both in Spurriergate and Low Ousegate; the whole of the E. and S. walls and the W. wall of the S. aisle were rebuilt in a uniform style, the E. wall being set back 7 ft., thus halving the bay inside (YG, 11 Nov. 1820; 20 Jan. 1821; 22 Sept. 1821). The clerestorey may have been removed at this time. In 1868 the N. wall was partly rebuilt and two new windows made in it, the architects being J. B. and W. Atkinson (Borthwick Inst., R.IV.F. 1868/6). In 1966–7 the tower was reduced in height and much of the 19th-century seating was removed. Only a very small part of the original churchyard now remains, on the N. side. The church is notable for its 12th-century arcades and for the repetition of 12th-century forms in the 15th century tower. Among the fittings, the early 18th-century reredos and altar rails are outstanding.

Architectural Description. The E. and S. walls and the W. wall of the S. aisle, rebuilt in 1821, are of gritstone with strongly marked vertical tooling. They have double chamfered plinths, moulded strings below and above the windows, and embattled parapets; the windows are identical, each with four cinque-foiled lights and Perpendicular tracery.

The Nave has N. and S. arcades, each of three full bays and a truncated bay at the E. end with a half-arch only. The arches are two-centred, of two chamfered orders, and stand on piers of quatrefoil section. The piers were originally 7 ft. high from the base and were raised by nearly 6 ft., the 15th-century heightenings being built of deeper courses of slightly smaller diameter than the original lower parts. The reset capitals, which differ only in detail, each consist of a water-leaf cluster with a hollow-chamfered abacus. The second pier from the E. in each arcade has been excavated to reveal the moulded base, showing that the 12th-century floor was 1¾ ft. below the present level.

The North Aisle has a N. wall built of a mixture of gritstone and limestone, with two windows of 1868 which have arched heads and Perpendicular-style tracery; the eastern end of this wall has a house of 1841 built against it, which contains the church vestry on the ground floor. The W. bay was rebuilt in the 15th century at the same time as the tower, with walls predominantly of gritstone; a plinth has been removed from the W. wall, but survives on the N. wall. The W. wall is gabled and has an unrestored window of four lights, with blocked tracery in the arched head.

The West Tower has openings to nave and aisles with pointed arches of three hollow-chamfered orders, the N. and S. arches being continuations of the nave arcades. The E. arch is higher than the nave ceiling, which slopes upwards to it. The eastern piers have four major and four minor shafts, with simple moulded bases, and there are corresponding responds to the W. Only the N. and S. arches spring from capitals, which are 15th-century copies of the late Norman water-leaf type, though not so well accomplished as the originals in the arcades. The W. wall of the tower has buttresses with moulded plinths which have been partly trimmed back to facilitate access along the narrow Church Lane. The central doorway has a four-centred arch of two hollow-chamfered orders, moulded label with carved stops, and segmental pointed rear-arch. Above is an arched window of four cinque-foiled lights with panel tracery and a moulded label. In the N.W. pier a stone newel stair opens off the N. aisle through an arched doorway; higher up, another door, to the interior of the tower, provided access to a former W. gallery. The top part of the tower is modern but, before it was reduced in height in 1966, creasing for the low-pitched roof of the former nave clerestorey was visible on the E. wall; the bell-chamber had a three-light opening with segmental pointed arch in each wall and there was an embattled brick parapet of 17th or 18th-century date.

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1981.

NMR Information

Parish church, now pastoral centre. Late 12th century arcades, heightened in 15th century; 14th century north wall, partly rebuilt 1868; mid 15th century tower; church size reduced in 1821, when east end and south aisle were rebuilt; tower lowered 1966-67; refurbished 1989. Alterations of 1821 by JB and W Atkinson. Aisled nave and sanctuary, with embraced west tower.

SE 60295169)St. Michael's Church (C of E) (NAT)

5343 Church of St Michael
SE 6051 NW 16/46 14.6.54

C12 and C15. Norman in origin but mainly Perpendicular. Partly rebuilt and shortened at east end C19. Nave and aisles with late Norman arcades. Fine Renaissance reredos and altar rails. Good glass.
(RCHM Vol V, Monument 13).

1 Ordnance Survey Map
Default value used to record large numbers of archive items which are not separately catalogued. See Monument Recording Guidelines for details of use. OS 1:2500 1963.
2 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. p321 City of York, June 1983

Related objects:
BF035191 ST MICHAEL'S CHURCH, YORK File of material relating to a site or building. This material has not yet been fully catalogued.

NMR06 NMR Measured Drawings This material has not yet been fully catalogued. As a result copyright and date information may be incomplete or inaccurate.

Related event - RCHME Archictectural Survey 1995 NMR ID 613515

ARCHITECTS J. B. and W. Atkinson

NMR, NMR data (Unassigned). SYO2214.

RCHME, 1981, City of York Volume V: The Central Area (Monograph). SYO65.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unassigned: NMR. NMR data.
  • --- Monograph: RCHME. 1981. City of York Volume V: The Central Area.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Record last edited

Jul 4 2020 7:02PM


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