Major £3.5m renovation planned for one of York’s most historic churches

Inside St Michael-le-Belfrey. Photographs: Richard McDougall
9 Jan 2019 @ 7.18 pm
| Environment, History

An ancient York church is set for a major makeover.

Under the £3.5m proposals, St Michael le Belfrey’s roof will be replaced, its bell-tower rebuilt, and the inside reorganised.

A modern stained glass window could also be fitted at the High Petergate church – which was where Guy Fawkes was baptised.

The vision is for the building, next to York Minster, to be made fit for the modern world. St Michael’s leaders say

  • changes in the numbers and profile of the congregation together with a more modern style of worship and the availability of new technology are providing incentives and opportunities – alongside the pressing need for major building repairs – to make the building more fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Architects are being invited to enter a design competition to reorder the church to meet this brief.

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Entering a new era… St Michael le Belfrey
According to the brief for that competition, essential work includes:

  • a new roof
  • rebuilding the bell tower
  • and external and internal stonework repairs.

Another York parish church has offered to take St Michael le Belfrey’s organ, “thus freeing significant internal space currently occupied by an instrument which has not been used for some 20 years and would be very expensive to repair”.

On its way to a new home: the organ
St Michael: ‘open, welcoming, accessible and warm’ – Photograph: Design competition brief

The document continues:

  • The existing organ will be removed freeing up much needed internal space and revealing a stained-glass window which is currently hidden, providing an opportunity for a contemporary stained-glass replacement.

    A more flexible internal arrangement is required to accommodate greater variety of worship with internal redecoration and removal of pews as necessary.

The design compeition was launched on Monday (January 7). The winning entry will be announced in June.

Church history

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There has been a church on the site of Michael le Belfrey Church from the 8th century.

It was rebuilt between 1525 and 1537, during King Henry VIII’s break with Rome.

In the church are boards bearing the names of York Lord Mayors who lived within the parish, and information about Guy Fawkes who was baptised here in 1570.

The 1848 bell tower is a replica of the earliest known bell tower, first depicted in 1705.

The west front was thoroughly “restored” in 1867 after houses attached to the church had been pulled down.

Source: Church website
St Michael le Belfrey in 1853. Photograph: Explore York Libraries and Archives