RESTORATION work has begun at one of York’s finest medieval churches to return a chapel to the way it was almost 600 years ago.

Officials at All Saints North Street want to restore the Lady Chapel to the form it took in 1421, when a hermit-like “anchoress” in the church had seven famous visions of the Virgin Mary.

The church plans to replicate a 5ft 10in statue of Mary, which was larger than the average female height for the time, and to recreate the original tiled floor pattern, based on surviving fragments and old church records. The originals have worn and been lost over time.

Wardens have already found medieval oyster-shell paint pots and a coin that has yet to be dated and professional archaeologists began excavation work yesterday.

Church warden Robert Richards said: “Although work is still in its early stages, some incredible archaeological finds have already been discovered – including some oyster shell paint dishes, which could contain clues to the original colour scheme for the chapel.

“The oyster shells still contain original paint samples, and may represent the largest single collection ever found in England.”

He said they had also found evidence of iron working in the chapel, window glass and glazing bars, a Norman roof tile, a fragment of a 14th-century urinal, and very late Roman pottery.

He said the new floor would be the first medieval-style pavement laid in an English church for more than 400 years.

Depending on archaeological finds, the church hopes to have completed the work by next July, and hopes to draw more visitors to the church, which is also famed for its collection of medieval stained glass.

New floor tiles are being sponsored at £10 each to raise money for the chapel work.


Future foretold

ANCHORITES or anchoresses chose to be locked in an enclosed room with a small window, often attached to a convent or church, as a form of personal devotion that was popular in medieval times.

In 1421, Emma Roughton, an anchoress at the rear of All Saints North Street, had seven visions of the Virgin Mary. She reportedly foretold Emma of the death of Henry V and left instructions for the coronation in France of his baby son Henry VI, who at that point had not yet been born.

She also told Emma that Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, should be Henry VI’s guardian.

The visions were among the best-documented in medieval England, and made the church nationally renowned. Evidence of a workshop for charms similar to rosary beads has been found nearby, suggesting they may have been sold to pilgrims visiting the church.