Saturday, 6 December 2014

Enigmatic carved words, pilgrims, sanctuary, and a dour message...St Mary's Church, Fridaythorpe

St Marys Church Fridaythorpe

We visited this beautiful and interesting small church at the start of what was meant to be a long day's walk on the Wolds. We were already full of misgivings about our timing, the day was brooding dark, the skies grey and full of rain....

Lychgate St Marys Church Fridaythorpe

Just as we walked through the lychgate, the heavens opened and we immediately ran into the church for shelter. This turned into a really interesting and memorable experience, as the church seemed to immediately wrap us up with a sense of comfort, safety and sanctuary, as we were surrounded by the drumming of the unrelenting rain hammering on the roof.

St Marys Church Fridaythorpe

Markings of crosses and various other bits of graffiti are spread on bits of stonework, and the church leaflet explains that these were made by pilgrims marking their progress en route from York to the shrine of St John at Bridlington Priory (the village of Fridaythorpe is the midpoint of the ancient road 'twixt the two.) We couldn't help but feel connected to these pilgrims and the many generations of people who may have sought sanctuary within the very same walls.

St Marys Church Fridaythorpe

The tower of St Mary's is 12th century and the stone and carvings inside point towards both the Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods so, although there is some folk knowledge dating the church back to 713AD, the only certainty is that there has probably been a church on the site for at least 1000 years.

Fridaythorpe is mentioned in the Doomsday Book as Fritagstorp - probably meaning 'the outlying farmstead of Frigedaeg,' and is the highest village on the Wolds.

St Mary's is a listed building and one of the 'Sykes Churches' - churches built, rebuilt or renovated by the Sykes family of Sledmere House in East Yorkshire.

St Mary's Church clock Fridaythorpe

One of the best known features is the bold and unusual clock on the West end of the church: said to be influenced by an 18th century French Chateau, it was designed by architect FC Eden and paid for by the vicar, Charles Sellers. Dated 1903, it has the rather dour message: "Time is short, eternity is long."

this 713 found hear inscription St Marys Fridaythorpe

A stone that forms part of the pillar on the north east side of the chapel, has the enigmatic words "this 713 found hear," carved into it. Almost worthy of a clue in a Dan Brown novel, the meaning has been lost, but some believe that this is the original foundation stone, reused in the pillar.

St Marys Church Fridaythorpe
Doorway St Marys Church Fridaythorpe

A beautifully carved 19th century Altar and Reredos from Sledmere Church, visible inner workings of the clock, beautiful stained glass, a fragment of the old wall paintings depicting part of the Ten Commandments, and one of the old bells, are some of the other items of interest.

Wall painting St Marys Church Fridaythorpe

Carving St Marys Church Fridaythorpe

There are many more interesting features within this small church, well covered by the available and informative leaflet, but, for me, it was the feeling tone of the church in the middle of truly awful weather, and that sense of connection with those who have gone before, that will be my abiding memory of this warmly beautiful little church.

St Marys Church Fridaythorpe

St Mary's Parish Church is well worth a visit. Please consider leaving a donation to help with the upkeep and maintenance.

We ultimately decided to postpone the rest of the trip for another they say...that is another story....

Thanks for reading!


Justbod Team

~ Justbod ~

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Sources and further information: 

St Mary's Parish Church - A Brief Guide by Liz Smedley  
(available inside the church for a nominal fee)


  1. One to visit if I'm up in that area. A fascinating little church.

  2. As ever, thank you for your lovely account. Your very evident love for these wonderful places shines out of the page.

    1. Very welcome Esther, and thank you - much appreciated ☺

  3. Very interesting old church, some nice features including a food screen