Howden Minster – The Collegiate Church of St Peter and St Paul.
Howden Minster has a long & glorious medieval history as the centre of an ecclesiastical mini-state, & out-station to Durham Cathedral, welcoming prince-bishops, cardinals & kings. The ringing of Howden Minster’s bells signalled the beginning of the Pilgrimage of Grace, a Yorkshire rebellion against Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536. The Minster lost all its endowments in 1548, followed by centuries of neglect & decay. The medieval chancel & chapter house are now ruinous (in the care of English Heritage), with the nave and transepts surviving as today’s parish church.
The Minster Parish covers the town of Howden and surrounding villages & hamlets including Barmby-on-the-Marsh, Asselby, Knedlington, Belby, Howden Dyke, Skelton, Kilpin, Balkholme and Sand Hall.
From the Norman Conquest until the Reformation, Howden was an important outstation for Durham Cathedral, with the Prior of Durham exercising archidiaconal authority over the Peculiar of Howdenshire. The Dean of Durham took over this role at the Reformation. This may be important for those tracing family history. Today it is no longer a Durham exclave but is fully integrated in to the Diocese of York and the East Riding Archdeaconary.
The 135 ft tower of the Minster can be seen for miles across the flat landscape near the River Ouse. It marks the centre of what was once a major market town and a key remaining part of the partially-ruined church. Started in the 13th Century the church continued to grow in scale to the end of the 15th Century. After the dissolution it became the parish church but soon started to decline due to lack of funds. Decay and damage followed, helped by a fire in 1929, but the slide was halted in 1970 with government control and repairs. Despite the missing section the minister remains a substantial, working church.
The present church was rebuilt in the latest style in the 13th Century. It was one of the first churches in the north in what is known as the decorated or geometric style, where all the abstract design has been drawn with a pair of compasses.