Our Heritage

BACKGROUND

Both Churches have medieval foundations and are Grade 2* listed.  St Helen faces onto one of the City’s principal squares, the Mansion House and the Guildhall. It has been the York Civic Church in the past and before that the Glaziers’ Guild Church. St Martin is now a small and very attractive church on the city’s main shopping street. It shares a riverside site with a cinema and two modern pub/restaurants.

St Martin has a special story. Bombed and virtually destroyed in 1942 the decision was taken to restore only the relatively undamaged south aisle as a memorial chapel.  This was completed in 1968 with a dedication to Peace and Reconciliation.  However, this left St Martin without an active role for many years and it was largely unused until regular worship was re-established in the late 1990s

St Helen is probably a pre-conquest foundation with the earliest masonry 12th century.  Its earliest documented reference dates from 1235 although the font is older.  Essentially late medieval in style with chancel extended in 1858, this typically small city church has a pew capacity of about 130. Opening directly onto St Helen’s Square it is one of the most easily accessible churches for pedestrians. Disabled access is simple since there are no steps. The church has a fine pipe organ designed by Francis Jackson in 1959 and is in excellent condition. The bellcote contains two 400-year-old bells which have recently been rehung and equipped for automatic ringing by Whitechapel.

St Martin is also a pre-conquest foundation and the earliest masonry is about 1080. The aisle and tower are 15th century, as is the large west window now installed in its own transept as part of the 1960s restoration by George Pace. The pews accommodate about 40.  There is a good peal of eight bells and a small but unique and attractive pipe organ which is used for recitals in the summer.

Above the vestry is the “Upper Room” for meetings, seating about 25.  The unrestored part of the Church has been left as an enclosed courtyard visible from the street. There is no public access.