St Mary’s Church in Cowlam is a beautiful little church located in a farmyard to the north of the current hamlet of Cowlem. The current church was rebuilt in 1852 on the site of the old church. The original village of Cowlam now only exists as a number of earthworks, it was decimated by the Black death, by 1690 only the parson and two shepherds were left.
My interest in this little church was sparked last year when I was looking through John Piper’s photographs on the Tate website and saw this.
The Norman font is located just beside the main door, I walked into the church and was immediately transfixed by it, it is stunning. Pevsner describes the carving as ‘crude’, Rita Wood is a little kinder and calls it ‘naive but dogged and consistent. I don’t know about such things, to me it is a thing of great beauty.
The carvings themselves depict the Adoration of the Magi, Adam and Eve with the tree and serpent, an angel, two wrestlers, a Bishop and King Herod and a man holding a dagger. When I got home I realised that I’d not taken a photograph of Herod. The other scenes are all shown below
This lovely church is currently under threat of closure and the fate of this wonderful font is unknown. If the church is closed the already failing fabric of the church will undoubtably leave it a ruin. There is currently a campaign running to try and save the church. Churches like this are not only places of worship, they are important custodians of our culture and history, some even contain nationally important artefacts, such as this beautiful font. Perhaps you could visit their Facebook page and help support their campaign.
The Buildings of England Yorkshire: York and the East Riding – Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave. 1997
Romanesque Yorkshire. Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Occasional Paper No. 9 – Rita Wood. 2012