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Lead Church

Wikimedia Commons

St Mary’s Chapel, Lead, usually known as Lead Church, is in the parish of Saxton with Scarthingwell in the Selby District of North Yorkshire. The chapel is situated in the middle of a field containing the earthworks of a vanished medieval manor house, north of the B1217 road between Lotherton and Saxton. It is accessed by a bridge over the Cock Beck.

The redundant chapel is a Grade II* listed buildingStructure of particular architectural and/or historic interest deserving of special protection., cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust, and the wider site is a scheduled monument.


Lead was a medieval manorial complex centred on Lead Hall, which probably included the chapel and was the focus of rural life. The site of the ancient monument contains the earthworks of the manor buildings that extend over a large triangular area of the surrounding field, with the chapel at its centre. Use of the site for agriculture has destroyed medieval remains,[1] but it was occupied from the 12th century. The old Lead Hall was demolished and replaced by Lead Hall Farm soon after 1900.[2]

Towton, to the north-west, was the site of the bloodiest battle in the Wars of the Roses, with ten thousand men reputed to have been slain; Cock Beck, which passes close to the chapel, is said to have run red with their blood.[3]

The chapel fell into disrepair but was saved by a group of ramblers in 1931, and the repairs and rededication were recorded on the rear of the church door.[3] An archaeological survey was also carried out. Two stone coffins and human bones were discovered.


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Bench, pulpit and altar
Wikimedia Commons

The two-bay rectangular chapel was built in the 12th century, its angle buttresses at the east end were added a century later and its windows date from the 14th century. It is constructed of Magnesian limestone-coursed rubble with a stone slate roof and a bell turret on the west gable. The south and north sides have two-light, straight-headed windows with trefoiled lights. The east end has two-light pointed window with reticulated tracery under a hood-mould. The south entrance has a round-arched plank door inside a moulded surround under a hood-mould.[4]

The stone altar table incorporates a medieval tomb slab with a carved cross. Five medieval slabs memorialising the Tyas family, former lords of the manor, are set in the floor. The medieval font has a square base that widens out to a circular rim. The benches are late medieval and the church’s triple-deck pulpit is from the 18th century.[4]