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St Michael, Stockton
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This is a beautiful little place, a pretty little round towered church in a tiny graveyard full of character; but the noise from the traffic on the nearby A146 is annoying, and although St Michael is only just to the west of this road it is locked, in common with so many on this side; for some curious reason, virtually all of the churches to the east of the A146 are open. There is a keyholder, but this being Saturday they were out (rule number one of churchcrawling: don't expect to find a keyholder in on a Saturday).
There isn't much of a village, more of a hamlet really, and everything is concentrated together. The post box at the church gate is pleasing. It caused me to ponder why you don't see this more often, as it seems a very sensible arrangement.
As at Thurton nearby, the thatched nave and chancel are all in one, the chancel probably a later extension of a Norman nave, with some interesting 13th and 14th century windows all around. The Norman tower is rendered, which isn't a great look, but is counterbalanced by the use of red brick. The porch is a nice feature, a late 17th century frontage on a rustic late medieval structure.
The church has some medieval glass, which you can obviously detect from the outside, especially the Madonna and child, and it looked very fine, more significant than I'd expected. But I was not able to confirm this.
It seems daft locking St Michael. The only thing of value is the medieval glasswork, and as there are no stone protectors installed these can be as easily damaged or stolen from the outside as they can from within. Indeed, it is much worse than that, for as Ecclesiastical Insurance remind us, a locked church is twice as likely to be vandalised as an open one, and is even slightly more likely to have something stolen from it.
Peter Stephens was luckier than me at finding the keyholder in, and has supplied the photographs below.I was interested to see the crocketted font cover, and the board of the sundial that was once fixed on the porch which is now inside the church.
Leaving, heading on for neighbouring Hales (as so many people must be who find this place locked), I was greeted by a huge cat by the post box who thought I was wonderful, and loved me adoringly.
Simon Knott,January 2005
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