St Mary’s Lead

This isolated fourteenth century building stands in a field close to the site of the battle of Towton, near Tadcaster in Yorkshire. Fought in the driving snow on Palm Sunday 1461, this was one the bloodiest but most decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses and it ultimately brought Edward IV to the throne. 10,000 men are said to have perished that day and the little stream, Cock Beck, which you have to cross to get to St Mary’s, is said to have run red with the blood of those who had died in the battle.

Lead, West Riding of Yorkshire

Lead, West Riding of Yorkshire

This simple building has Norman origins, but is mainly fourteenth century.  It has been shorn of its chancel and it seems to be highly charged with the memory of this Yorkist victory. It’s damp and atmospheric interior has rustic fittings, including a set of medieval rough-sawn benches and a seventeenth century triple decker pulpit. A medieval altar stone has been reset at the east end. Before the altar step are a row of thirteenth century coffin lids, mostly decorated with heraldry and comemmorating members of the Tyas family, including Baldwin and Marjorie Tyas and their son Franco. A single slab is decorated with a cross and chalice, denoting the burial of a priest. There is no settlement at Lead, just lots of sheep in the field surrounding the church and the building has been long disused. It is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and is well worth a detour if you are ever heading towards York.

Lead, West Riding of Yorkshire

9 thoughts on “St Mary’s Lead

Add yours

  1. It is a shame that no one is providing real care for this church. Even unused it should have a frontal and linens on the altar. And given that terrible battle, there should at least be the occasional service for the souls of those that died that day.


  2. I couldn't agree more. Yes the building is cared for my the Churches Conservation Trust but rarely, if ever is it used form it's proper purpose. Perhaps next March I should ask to offer a requiem there.


  3. Couldn't disagree with Canon Tallis more if an original stone medieval altar is still in situ. Is this a reconstruction using the original mensa, or a largely intact complete original altar? Long disuse has its advantages.


  4. If they would actually be used on the altar, I would like to do so. I would of course need the measurements of the altar slab and the distance to would be great to know that at least once a year a requiem could or would be said for those who died in that terrible battle. Thanks to Father Barton, they are now in my intentions book and i remembered them this last Palm Sunday.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: