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Vicar will replace religious carvings at Yorkshire church with BAME and feminist icons


A vicar is set to replace badly eroded religious carvings at her Yorkshire church with scenes depicting BAME and feminist icons.

St Mary's Church, a centuries-old parish in Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire, has been given the green light to introduce figures including the Queen, Marie Curie and nursing pioneer Mary Seacole in place of some of its ancient carvings. 

The 16th century carvings at the Grade 1 listed church, which dates back to 1120, have become so badly eroded over the years it is impossible to see what they are meant to depict.   

Now the go-ahead has been given by the Church of England's Consistory Court for some of the artefacts to be replaced with new carvings with a BAME and achievements of women theme.

In their application for consent the Reverend Lumley and the church wardens said: 'The contribution of women to humanity isn't always properly recognised in the telling of history, and throughout history women's voices have been silenced.

The plan is for the replacement carvings to include images of: the Queen; Crimean War nursing pioneer Mary Seacole, who in 2004 was voted 'the greatest black Briton'; Marie Curie; airship designer Hilda Lyon; pioneering aviator Amy Johnson; astronaut Helen Sharman; and women's rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft.

Some of the carvings currently being restored at the church, described as 'one of the most beautiful parish churches in England', were installed in 1520 when the main part of the church was rebuilt. 

In 2020, as part of the restoration of church, 14 new carvings of characters from The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis were made and installed at St Mary’s, after being blessed by the Bishop of Hull.

The announcement comes just days after the Church of England published new guidance following the Black Lives Matter movement, which urges churches and cathedrals to consider the history of their buildings and the physical artefacts and how it could impact their congregations' worship.  

For some churches this means removing artefacts with links to slavery and colonialism. 

Churches that have already taken action include St Margaret's church in Rottingdean, Sussex, which has removed two 'deeply offensive' grave headstones which contained racial slurs. 

St Peter's Church in Dorchester has also covered a plaque commemorating a plantation owner.