A bit like these limericks, really! (Courtesy Michael Palin)
The story of St Mary’s goes back to Saxon times. The original church building probably suffered during William the Conqueror’s Harrying of the North activities, and consequently became a rectory in the patronage of the Treasurer of York Cathedral (who also was Lord of Alne). Hence the current church is primarily of the Norman period, with alterations and additions over the centuries, such as the North Aisle and chapel. A steeple, probably made of wood, blew down in 1697 and the tower was partly constructed with brick as we see today. The stained glass windows are by Charles Kempe, a notable Victorian glazier, with a new stained glass window added in recent times by Steve Collins. The east window of the chancel was replaced in 1958 by Harry Harvey. There are many artefacts in the church including the pulpit, an oak table and an oak chest all dating from the 17th Century. The three bells in the tower date from the 17th and 18th centuries. An unusual item is a Virgin’s Crown which was carried in front of the funeral procession of a young girl and later hung in church.
The South Porch of St Mary’s, built around 1150, is famous for its animal carvings. Some of the scenes are very rare, indeed pictures of this porch appear in books about 12th century sculpture. The original carvers made use of the illuminated manuscript of a ‘Book of Beasts’ – or Bestiary – which would have been available from the Minster library. Incidentally, these carvings were used as a blueprint for a mosaic sundial created by villagers. It is situated on the corner of Monk Green, to commemorate the new millennium.
We have constructed a grid-based location map of the graves, including as much of the inscriptions as was readable. The information is available on a spreadsheet. Possibly due to the extra rain this year (2012), a larger than usual number of headstones have begun to lean. We are working to rectify this, particularly with graves from the 19th century, although more recent headstones also need a bit of a helping hand. Please could anyone who has a family grave help with this problem? It would be much appreciated – please call Peter (838346).
Apart from the church, there is an area in the south part of the churchyard which is allocated as a site for quiet contemplation. It is marked by a wooden cross and there are a number of simple seats in the vicinity. Nearby is an ash tree estimated to be over 300 years old. All are welcome to enjoy the peace of this place.
In the true spirit of the original meaning, the church building as a place for gatherings, our church is also used for teaching Maths lessons (Alne Primary School), exhibitions and concerts. We have recently installed a little kitchen and toilets, making our church available for a broader use.
The fabric of the church and the surrounding large churchyard is looked after by a small group of dedicated volunteers. Sheep help with keeping the grass down during the growing season. If you want to get involved please call Peter (838346).
If you wish to know more about Alne Church please contact the Revd Chris Park (838122) or one of the Wardens - Peter Cove (838346) or Carol Glen (838016).