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Holy Trinity church is a lovely little oasis of calm in the centre of busy York! It's one of those places that is mostly known to locals and visitors who seek it out - tucked away off of Goodramgate I often pop in when I get a chance. The churchyard is one of my favourite places in York (my hometown) to pop in with a sandwich - the hog roast sandwich shop is just down the road, and there are a number of benches in the churchyard which make it ideall for a cheap and relaxed picnic stop!
The inside of the church is beautiful as well, it still has the original family pews, which are rare in York. It's location makes it a much quieter and more spiritual place than the Minster.
Also, useful to know if York is busy like it is this weekend, there are two entrances to the churchyard, making it a hand snickleway between Goodramgate and I think it must be Petergate. No hoardes of tourists to push through!
The city of York has many little hidden gems and the Holy Trinity Church is one of them. It is located off Goodramgate, one of the busiest streets in York and is accessed via a small narrow lane that leads through an arched iron gate into a small church yard.
If you walk down Goodramgate there is a tiny sign on the wall that leads to this church but to say that this is not prominent is an understatement. I actually did spot this sign quite by chance during a recent visit to York and was intrigued by its pointing arrow that said "12th century church" and so I set off to investigate. At the end of the lane, only about 10 metres away from the hustle and bustle of Goodramgate there is a brick built arch with an iron gate and beyond this the church itself, surrounded by a little churchyard and a well kept garden. As I peered around the corner and saw the quaint stone church in front of me there was a sudden "wow moment" inside of me. There is something remarkably tranquil about this place, despite its location and this is enhanced further when you walk around the side of the church towards its entrance and see that this small church stands in the shadow of York Minster, just over the side of a small wall. York Minster is so close to here yet this is a perspective that few tourists will ever see.
I visited on a Wednesday morning and the church was open. I was to later to discover that this church is open daily, except Mondays. It is open from 11am until 4pm Tuesdays to Saturday and on Sunday from 1pm until 4pm. Entry is free. These days this is a preserved historic church in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust so there are only a few services that take place on special occasions.
The exterior of the church is constructed from light coloured stone which looks as if it must have been recently sandblasted as it is very clean. The church has a typically square Norman tower and its whole appearance is one of quaintness, even from the outside it is simply oozing in centuries of history. It is little wonder that when Simon Jenkins published his book "England's Thousand Best Churches" in 1999 that this church should feature in it.
The Holy Trinity Church was for many years dedicated to St Helen and for this reason and the fact that it faces St Helen's Square it is sometimes referred to by locals as St Helen's Church, but this reference is both incorrect and misleading. With over 45 different parish churches within the centre of York the nomenclature of these churches will never be straightforward, but the truth is there is another, correctly named St Helens Church nearby, which is not to be confused with this one that is officially known as The Church of Holy Trinity, Goodramgate. To confuse matters more there is also another Holy Trinity on Micklegate.
The present church stands on the foundations of a 12th century church although the majority of the current church dates from the 15th century when the earlier church was rebuilt.
The entrance into the Holy Trinity is through a small wooden door within a brick porch that looks like a much more modern addition to the building, possibly dating from its last renovation during the 18th century. Beyond this entrance the interior of the church feels warm and its lacks the coldness of many other churches that I have visited. This may have actually had something to do with the fact that when I visited here it was a lovely sunny April day and the sunlight was streaming through the huge stained glass windows.
These huge stained glass windows date from the 15th century and are said to be amongst the finest examples of their kind. The East Window was made locally in 1470 and is truly huge, it depicts the Three Wise Men bringing their gifts to the baby Jesus in magnificent shades of red, blue, green and white cut glass. This was one of five large panels within the church that were donated by the Reverend John Walker, who was rector of the church.
These is no denying that the huge stained glass windows are magnificent. Three of the other large windows depict The Holy Trinity from where the church derives its name - the three different persons that represent God - the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. On each of these windows there is also a kneeling figure of a man and this is that of the Reverend John Walker himself. Sadly the fifth panel in the series was broken during the 18th century and has been replaced with a much plainer substitute.
One of the first things that I noticed when I walked into the church after the stained glass windows was that the stone floor was very uneven. In places it is visibly worn smooth from centuries of feet that have walked upon it and I also noticed that both the walls and ceiling were badly out of plumb. This misalignment is exaggerated further by the fact that none of the aisles of pews are even too.
The wooden pews date from the 18th century and are of dark oak. These are especially unusual as they are box pews, that is say that each of the aisles is blocked off with a panelled wooden door. This is the only example of a church in York with box pews that were once popular during the 16th century. These however are much later in date, from the 18th century, and are therefore much more unusual.
The majority of the other furnishings inside the church also date from the 17th and 18th centuries and include a number of different monuments. There is a large board that lists the names of all of the Lord Mayors of York and elsewhere there are other examples of fancy calligraphy that each tell of a locally significant event.
The interior of this church has remained more or less untouched for over two hundred years and it was the only church in York to escape Victorian restoration.
Everywhere you look there is something of interest and better still if you look hard enough there are also often discrete little signs telling the visitor what they are looking at. This is true of the piscina, which resembles half of a stone sink on a pedestal built into the wall. I was intrigued for a while until I spotted a small sign at the side of it that tells us that this is a piscina that was used for washing the Sacred Vessels after Mass, reading further we are informed that the drain from this leads to consecrated ground.
Close to the prisina there is a square cut out of the stone wall. Another small sign tells us that this is "a squint", a square cut at an angle in the wall to enable those at the back of the chapel to be able to see the altar.
I suspect that that despite this church being rather small one could quite easily spend an hour or more in here just wandering around. Before leaving however the small church yard should not be overlooked.
The church yard is very well maintained and whilst I was here the daffodils were still in bloom. The majority of the gravestones seemed to date from the 18th and 19th centuries, but many of these are worn and sinking slowly into the ground. In one of the corners of the churchyard I found several stone coffins that had been covered in plants.
I would suggest that The Church of Holy Trinity, Goodramgate is well worth a visit if you have just the slightest interest in historic buildings. Personally I think that this is a remarkable place and I am thankful that it is now in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust for future generations to enjoy.