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St Mary's one.jpg
St Mary's one.jpg
UK News

Extraordinary women immortalised as church statues get revamp

by Donna Birrell

Extraordinary women are being immortalised at a church in East Yorkshire as part of its restoration.

The existing carvings are so ancient it's impossible to depict who they show - apart from the fact they are mainly male.

New statues are now being created as part of a £10 million restoration at the 900 year old St Mary's Church in Beverley.

Reverend Rebecca Lumley told Premier it's an ideal opportunity to make sure women are rightfully celebrated for their achievements :

"St Mary's is a bit like a cathedral in terms of scale and size. It's also incredibly beautiful. It is a stunning church but it's in need of massive repair. Part of the work that needs doing is to replace the carvings. Some of them are Biblical, but a lot of it is to do with the society at the time. 

"Our church is full of imagery of men and kings and all sorts of interesting people from the past, but very few images of women and what they've done. And so, thinking about justice and mercy, we wanted to connect our church with people who have been overlooked in history. So, we've got these amazing women who some people have never heard of."

Rev Lumley says it was very difficult to decide who to include, but after much discussion women who had largely been overlooked for their achievements and those with a connection to the local area were chosen:

"A lady who went to the school down the road from here was an aeronautical engineer and she designed the airship. She's called Hilda Lyon. She was never recognised because she was a woman and in her time it was only her boss who got any of the credit for it."

Other women being commemorated include the aviator Amy Johnson, the astronaut Helen Sharman and the Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole. The 18th century philosopher and women's rights campaigner Mary Wollstonecraft, who lived in the area, is also being included. The church also hopes to receive official permission to include the Queen. 

Rev Lumley says local reaction has been very positive, with people supporting the idea that the ancient church is "connecting with justice and mercy today, including with those overlooked because of gender, race or colour."

The "Extraordinary Women" carvings will feature on the south side of the Church which features the chapel of St Catherine and a  stained glass window honouring St Hilda, St Ethleburga and St Mary.


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