121419046-1
Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

The Video below is just a trial to make sure it all works. We will post a better one shortly, but it will give you some idea of the way the two staircases work.

All Saints, Pontefract is famous for it's Double Helix Staircase, which is one of only two in the UK (the other being at St. Edithas, Tamworth), and our's dates from C1280. 

Unique in having a single Newel Post from which spring steps for both staircases, it can be accessed from both a small door inside the building and a more normal sized door from outside the building. Both now lead to the Bell-Ringing Chamber.

The inside door was restored during the 1966/7 building of the modern extension that now forms the main Nave in the Church. Before that the inner staircase was filled with builder's rubble left from the 19th century restoration. 

Originally the staircase would have led all the way to the top of the 82 foot high Octagonal Tower, but today a long (very long!) stepladder has replaced the section from the Ringing Chamber to the old 14th century bell tower.

Today the staircase has 35 steps that form the Double Helix section, with a 'Drawbridge' arrangement where the two stairways meet, and the remaining 9 steps are now single in form.

Various theories have been put forward as to why a Double Helix was deemed necessary, but I think the most likely reason for such a complication was to allow access to the Tower from outside the building so as not to disturb any service going on inside, and also to allow access from inside during the service, perhaps for access to the Rood Screen.

Most churches of this age would have had a Rood Screen across the front, separating the Nave  and the ordinary people from the Chancel and High Altar where the Mass would be said.

'Rood' is old English for 'Cross' and to the middle of the screen and above it would have been a Cross / Crucifix, probably with Mary on one side and John on the other side. Access would be needed to these at special times to either cover them up during Lent or deck them out for special celebrations.

Image Gallery

Cookie Policy

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer.

Do you accept?