Significance of St Mary’s Church, Studley Royal

St Mary’s, Studley Royal, is both a demonstration of its architect’s individual genius and a well-preserved embodiment of many of the most significant religious and architectural ideals of mid-Victorian Britain.

The majestic winged Lion of Judah gilded carving on the south side of the chancel, St Marys, Studley Royal
The winged Lion of Judah on the south side of the chancel, its head supporting a painted shaft

The Architect and Craftsmen of St Mary’s

St Mary’s is a major building by one of the most celebrated architects of the 19th century, built at a time when the development of the Gothic revival in Britain was a matter of international interest. William Burges has always been recognised as a designer of exceptional inventiveness and originality, even when the Gothic revival was out of fashion in the first half of the 20th century.

The outstanding quality of his buildings owes a great deal to the highly talented artists and craftsmen he employed, whose work, notably in sculpture and stained glass, is exceptionally well represented at St Mary’s.

State of Preservation

The church is well preserved, and its original fittings and decoration are unusually intact. Since the house at Studley Royal was destroyed by fire in 1946, St Mary’s is the principal architectural monument to its patrons, the 1st Marquess and Marchioness of Ripon, who occupied a distinguished place in Liberal politics and church life in the second half of the 19th century. 

View of St Marys from the south-west, bathed in summer sunshine beneath clear blue skies
St Mary’s Church sits within a designed landscape of international significance, which was made a World Heritage Site in 1986

Designed Landscape

St Mary’s is also a prominent feature in an 18th-century designed landscape of international significance. This was acknowledged by the church’s inclusion in the designation in 1986 of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The site was chosen because it fulfils two of the criteria for the selection of World Heritage Sites, being ‘a masterpiece of human creative genius’ and ‘an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage or significant stages in human history’.



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