ST PETERS HELPERTHORPE is a product of 'one of the most remarkable and fruitful collaborations between any architect and patron during the 19th centrury' in Britain. Sir Tatton Sykes of Sledmere (1826-1913) commissioned George Edmund Street (1824-1881), an eminent architect to design a new building on the site of an existing dilapidated church also dedicated to St Peter. The contract for the new church was signed in February 1871 and it was consecrated in 1875. This was one of the 18 church-related projects undertaken by Sir Tatton and his father. St Tatton is believed to have spent over £1m on his beloved churches.
Sir Tatton not only paid for the church but also provided the churchyard walls and fine arched gateway all by Street who also designed the Vicarage to the East (now a private house) and the stepped base of the cross to the Southeast of the porch. The original cross was replaced by the more elaborate head of a cross by J L Pearson from Kirkburn Church, another of Sykes churches in 1893.
The church that Street designed was in the high church gothic style with a Tower, Nave and Chancel, a Porch to the South and a Vestry to the North. Each element is clearly defined: the Tower is topped with a Surrey style broached spire; the long roof of the Nave is terminated by the higher Chancel roof which signifies its importance. This status is also emphasised by the string courses that wrap round the building which get higher towards the Chancel. The church is built in Whitby stone with a red tile roof and the contractors were Simpson and Malone of Hull who did work elsewhere for the Sykes'. James Redfern sculpted the figure of St Peter that adorns the Tower. In 1893 Sir Tatton employed Temple Lushington Moore (1856-1920) to design a new North aisle and enlarge the Vestry. This radically altered the previously tiny church recorded in a series of drawings by James Bayly in 1892.
To complete the church a cycle of stained glass by Clayton and Bell was installed in all nine windows. For some unknown reason this glass was removed in the late 1880's and the East 'Te Deum' window was acquired by Lord Sudeley who installed it in St Cynon's Church, Tregynon, Montgomeryshire. Burlison and Grylls were commissioned to design a new cycle of stained glass before the decision had been taken to add the North aisle since in the Baptistry window St Peter holds a model of the church without the later additions. The glass is of very high quality reflecting a Sykes commission; note for example the symbols of the Passion including the nails and crown of thorns held by angels in the Chancel windows. Throughout all is beautifully and expressively drawn and coloured. Look out for the crowing cock and Noah's Ark.