Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

St. Oswald's lychgate


Many churches have lychgates. A roofed, mostly open-sided gatehouse into the churchyard. Traditionally, it marked the division between consecrated and unconsecrated ground, where the priest would meet the funeral possession, say prayers over the body, and then lead the way into the church1Wikipedia Contributors (2021). Lychgate. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lychgate#Use [Accessed 18 Oct. 2021].. ‘Lych‘ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for a corpse.

If the body had been carried a distance, the bearers would need to rest it on a lychstone at the church-stile, while they themselves rested on benches. Or if a person died at home, the body might be taken to the lychgate fairly swiftly and remain there for a day or two, while a vigil kept over it. A simple roof over the lychstone and benches provided protection against the elements for the bearers and watchers. Over time, lychgates became more elaborate.

One Victorian Welsh dialect term for a lychgate is ‘scallion-gate2“The English Dialect Dictionary, Being the Complete Vocabulary of All Dialect Words Still in Use, or Known to Have Been in Use during the Last Two Hundred Years; Founded on the Publications of the English Dialect Society and on a Large Amount of Material Never before Printed”. In six volumes edited by Joseph Wright, 1898. Volume V. Internet Archive, 2014, https://archive.org/details/englishdialectdi04wriguoft. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021., which is strange for the same document gives the meaning of a ‘scallion‘ as a shallot or leek.

This lychgate is at St. Oswald’s church in Newton-under-Roseberry. Although the church has Norman features and at least one Anglo-Saxon carved stone3Historicengland.org.uk. (2012). CHURCH OF ST OSWALD, Guisborough – 1139807 | Historic England. [online] Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1139807 [Accessed 18 Oct. 2021]., its lychgate was built in 1929 but is Grade II listed in its own right4Historicengland.org.uk. (2012). LYNCHGATE[sic], 30 METRES TO SOUTH EAST OF CHURCH OF ST OSWALD, Guisborough – 1311031 | Historic England. [online] Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1311031 [Accessed 18 Oct. 2021]..





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