Kilnwick Percy, East Yorkshire

We've been on several trips walking, cycling, and running to the nearby hamlet Kilnwick Percy (silent w, pronounced Kilnick). A main feature of the area is a large hall that is now the Madhyamaka Buddhist meditation centre. The grounds are open to the public. It's a beautiful area of rolling hills, grazing sheep, a lake, walking paths, friendly Buddhist monks, and a café.

In the woods nearby there is even a really old wooden trailer room thingy:

Near the hall is St. Helen's Church, Kilnwick Percy, a Norman style church that was built in 1865 using some of the original Norman architectural features, so presumably there was a church there for around 800 years before this current one was built. However, this church has been "made redundant", and is now deconsecrated, locked up, and decaying, with overgrown grounds.

The Buddhist café has a binder with some historical information about the hall and the church, and it says that a key to the church is available at the nearby "Home Farm". The first time I visited Kilnwick Percy I dragged the kids on a quest to find the key so we could go into the church. We met several friendly people but none of them knew who had the key.

But the exterior of the church is well worth a look. There are so many carved stone heads of various types. Click on these photos to embiggen them and take a closer look:

On Monday I went on a run there by myself and once there, knocked on doors and asked around and ran between farms. This time I met a good number of the residents of Kilnwick Percy and finally found the man who has the key a mile or two away. We met back at the church and he let me in and left to go to town.

Here are the broad views of the interior, with most of the interior decoration removed but the pews, baptismal font, bells and ropes, pulpit, parts of the altar, and some metal family dedication plaques remain:

Yes, I'm posting a lot of photos of this church. Since it's been deconsecrated and is in the process of being sold, there's no telling how much longer it'll be there and I feel it's worth documenting more than usual. And yes, history will probably not look kindly upon me for discharging this documentary duty with a mobile phone camera, I know. Next come the beautiful stained glass windows:

And finally, there remains a lot of intricately carved woodwork of Biblical and other scenes and various mysterious figures. Some of it is damaged, and in general these are my worst photos due to glare, dark coloring, blurriness, etc., but I think they're still worth a look:

It was an interesting experience to be here compared to the many other Norman-era churches I've visited, which are still in use for worship. They're all old, and the outside of this church intrigued like the others, but once inside it definitely felt different, empty. I felt a little sorry for the council and the church that owns the building -- I wouldn't want to let it go, but if there's nobody to use it and maintain it, letting it decay is no good.

Also, within 5 minutes of entering, another visitor showed up, pleased to find the church open! So we talked for a few minutes before he went on his way. After taking pictures and seeing what was to be seen and contemplating the melancholy of a deconsecrated church, I double-checked I had all my things, left, closed the door, and locked the padlock on the outside grate. The end.

(See also the National Heritage List entry.)


  1. Beautiful photos and cogent commentary. Makes me wonder if some of the trouble of preservation might be due to context. Here in the U.S. I imagine a building like that would be considered "old" and worth preserving. But in Europe with buildings--especially churches--dating back a few millennia, I wonder if the sense of antiquity isn't a bit different. Perhaps this registers as a modern building in comparison. Whatever the case, it's a beautiful structure, and certainly a testament to the faith of many who labored to build it. I hope it is preserved, even if not all together in its present form.


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