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The parish of Garton-on-the-Wolds is situated in what was once the wapentake of Dickering, part of the historical East Riding of Yorkshire (see maps in Introduction) It had no recorded sub-parishes before the 1832 parish boundary changes.

Before the Conquest Garton was in the possession of the archbishop of York and seven Anglo-Saxon lords. The village’s situation on the more sheltered eastern flank of the Wolds, on dry land ideal for farming well above the marshland of Holderness, might explain why it found favour. It currently boasts five farms and at least another four occupy the surrounding area. By 1086 there were only two estates, the smaller one (9 carucates) still held by the archbishop of York and the larger one (19 carucates) held by the Anglo-Norman count of Mortain.

The count of Mortain was the son of William I’s half-brother Robert, and his estate was forfeited following his defeat at the battle of Tinchebray. By the 1130s it had passed to the Ros family who held it in chief until 1539. In the mid 1750s the estate came into the hands of Thomas Howard until his death in 1792, when it was sold to Sir Christopher Sykes. The canons of St. John’s College Beverley were already holding the archbishop of York’s estate in 1066 and continued to do so in 1086. By 1284-5 the college’s holding had been reduced to 2 carucates, the rest being split between local families and St. Catherine’s chantry at Beverley Minster, until the Dissolution put an end to all ownership by the church in the mid 1500s. Like the the count of Mortain’s estate, the archbishop’s estate eventually came into the hands of the Sir Christopher Sykes. The Sykes family were still landowners in 1970.

The original Anglo-Saxon church at Garton was destroyed during the Harrying of the North following the Norman Conquest. It was granted to Kirkham Priory in 1121, and was established and dedicated to St. Michael in 1132. The lower part of the impressive tower is of this period, as is its west doorway with its four orders of columns and the decayed carving above it of St Michael and the dragon, flanked by angels, though the upper part of the tower is 15th century. Over the centuries additions were made and alterations carried out to the church, but it is the 19th century restoration and the all pervasive wall and ceiling paintings, both commissioned by the Sykes family, that strike the visitor. The south doorway is a Victorian reconstruction in the Norman style, as is the chancel, built on the old foundations using some original features. The ancient octagonal font has been relegated to the churchyard, and its place taken by 19th century marble one, as have two 14th century monuments. The medieval knight with crossed legs and the medieval lady, her head under a canopy, seem to be the only original items to retain a place amongst this Victorian kitsch.

St. Michael's church
© Richard Rogerson, 2022
Victorian wall paintings and doorway
P. Hampel, 2016
Victorian font
R. Walton, 2022
Victorian painted ceiling
EYPS, 2018

The Pickerings of Kilnwick (22nd and 23rd generations) and the Pickerings of Skeckling cum Burtswick (24th to 26th generations) lived for a time in Garton-on-the-Wolds and celebrated their life events at St. Michael’s church.

Victoria History of the County of York, East Riding, vol. 2, pp.217-219: not online
Church of St. Michael:
The Buildings of England, York and the East Riding, pp.433-436:
Bulmer’s History and Directory of the East Riding 1892: