Masham – St. Mary the Virgin

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire

The tower dates from the middle of the 12th Century, while the rest of the church has gone through a number of additions and alterations.  The upper part of the tower is work carried out at the end of the 14th Century – the clerestory may date from this time.  The spire, made of stone was rebuilt in 1856.

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire
Blocked window in the East end of South Aisle.

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire
View of East end of church.

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire

East end, showing relative structures of nave, and North and South aisles which were added in the 14th Century.   It is believed transepts had been added in the 13th or maybe late in the 12th Century.

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire

Note the round arch to the North aisle window and its ‘rougher’ stone work.

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire

Door to North Aisle.

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire
Window at West end of North aisle and slit window of the North side of the tower.

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire

West door of the tower.

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire

Unfortunately, this remnant of round shaft which was evidently richly carved, is now so worn that it is not possible to discern the original details – though they have been interpreted as showing Christ and the Apostles and perhaps baptisms.


St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire

Above the chancel arch is a large painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds.  It is believed to have originally hung at Belvoir Castle where it was damaged by fire (Belvoir Castle in Rutland is some 115 miles from Masham, North Yorkshire).

Nowadays, the church of St. Mary the Virgin has an alter placed just in front of the chancel arch.   The chancel seems to be used for more intimate ceremonies.

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire

Looking back through the church from just in front of the principal altar in the chancel.  Of interest is the fact there are more arches in the arcade to the North aisle than to the South aisle.
The function of the clerestory has been made particularly effective in this church because the ceiling has been painted white.  I am more used to seeing dark wood panelling to the ceiling which has the effect of absorbing much of the light made available by the clerestory windows.

Masham Mary


The pitch of the former 12th Century nave can be seen high on the west wall of the nave, which is essentially the East side of the tower.

Stained Glass

St. Mary the Virgin, Masham, North Yorkshire

Most of the tracery within the windows has been replaced in styles of former centuries.  The glass is relatively modern – Victorian or more recent.


British History Online
British Listed Buildings


11 Responses to “Masham – St. Mary the Virgin”

  1. Lovely photos, love the stained glass 🙂

  2. Please spell better. It is ‘principal altar’ not principle alter’!

  3. As you probably know, the final scene in the mystery novel Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J. K. Rowling) takes place in this church. I just finished the book, and was intrigued to look it up on the web. Very beautiful.

  4. I believe the model for the lovely portrait of the Virgin Mary was a 16-year old local girl and the baby was perhaps her brother. I would appreciate confirmation and name of the artist please.

    • Thank you for the information, much appreciated.
      Unfortunately, I don’t have the details of the painter. I’ve spent several minutes trying to improve the resolution of my original images to see if I can discern the signature on the painting but without success.

      I often take photographs of church notice boards when I can’t get in, as these often contain the contact details of church wardens who are always ready to help, but as I could get in to this church I didn’t bother. I’d recommend you contact the Vicar, whose details you can find here,
      Good luck.

      If you happen to confirm the painter, I would be happy to add an acknowledgement to my page.

      With my background photographic project on my ‘local’ parish churches, I’m continually intrigued how others, like yourself, appreciate some of the minutia that I capture in the images I produce – which I only take because something undefinable prompts me to take them (I’m no historian or genealogist, just a photographer).

  5. Thank you for the email. I too photographed the painting in July 1999, soon after it was installed. I think it was a project for the millennium .
    Yours, Paul Croft

  6. Could you tell me how to find graves at Masham church and is this the only church in Masham

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