Amid glorious weather, the six churches of the Waggoners' Benefice in East Yorkshire opened their doors for a fascinating set of exhibitions and much welcomed hospitality.

St. Mary's Church, Sledmere

All have close connections with the Sykes family of Sledmere: appropriately enough, a member of the family, Plum Sykes, was married on the Saturday at Sledmere. Five of the churches were built or restored by Sir Tatton Sykes II, her ancestor: Cowlam, the sixth, was built in 1856 to a design said to have been supplied by Miss Mary Sykes.

The weekend began with a talk by the entertaining and knowledgeable Phil Thomas, secretary to the DAC, who advises Yorkshire churches on proposals for work to the fabric of churches. He spoke about the great architects whom Sir Tatton Sykes I and Sir Tatton Sykes II employed during the period 1863-1913, who were figures of national importance. They all had close connections with East Yorkshire and did a great deal of work here, uncluding secular buildings as well as churches. He also talked about the wonderful stained glass which the Sykes installed in their churches. The Sykes built or rebuilt 17 churches in East Yorkshire, which is a phenomenal achievement not equalled anywhere else in the country.

There was an enormous variety and wealth of exhibitions in all the churches.

  • There were exhibitions by children in Fridaythorpe and Wetwang.


  • Fridaythorpe also had a display about the history of the church and the village, and about possible community uses for the north aisle: Fridaythorpe has no village or church hall, and is expanding in size.


  • Wetwang had an exhibition about the architects.


  • Fimber had displays about local history and farming, local weddings and baptisms, and the village and its church and chapel.


  • Sledmere showed old photographs of the Sykes family and displayed an exhibition about the estate and estate workers.


  • Thixendale covered the first vicar for the church which Sir Tatton II built, Rev Fox: their anc ient cross; and the village itself.


  • Cowlam enjoyed an archaeological exhibition by York University, and had the benefit of two exhibitions by Janice Smith, our Church Heritage Officer, on stained glass in those six Sykes churches, and on how to make stained glass.


Janice also sourced two waggons, which were in marvellous condition, and linked the churches by their name, the Waggoners' Benefice. The Waggoners' Memorial is to be found at Sledmere itself.

There was something for everyone, young and old, and the displays and hospitality made for a lovely afternoon out.

Pictured above is St. Mary's Church, Sledmere