The monastic wealth sequestered, it must have been some challenge for the parish to maintain such a church and the choir was quickly demolished. That was just the start of a centuries-long contraction of this once-noble building. The central tower was demolished in 1636. The south aisle is thought to have been lost to fire. In 1732 the north aisle was demolished. This was, as were most Norman priories, a church whose nave was on three levels: arcade, triforium and clerestory. The clerestories were removed and the ceiling of the nave lowered to the level of the triforium. This led to necessary alterations to the noble west front of the church. Two bays of the nave were removed, necessitating a new east wall. If MaltonPrioryChurch had been a horse they would taken it away and shot it to end its suffering.
A west gallery was added in 1800. Like most such galleries it has since been removed. An Early English style triple lancet window was inserted in the east end in 1884. It is now filled in with ghastly rendering: just one more indignity. for a church that had already suffered grievously. Major restoration was carried out in 1877 and in 1959.
Why visit after all this you might be asking? Well this is still a church with a fair amount of architectural interest. The Norman triforium has survived as have the arcades, albeit filled in. Within the precincts of the grounds a late Norman doorway with beakhead decoration has been reconstructed. There is, within the precincts of the nursing home next door, what looks like the original font being used as an enormous flower pot! It is the west front though that is still the glory of this church. Because this was an extraordinary church. It was built, as was the way, from east to west, the east end being of primary importance to the monks. By the time building had reached the west end, Romanesque architecture in Europe was giving way to Gothic.
The west end of this church, therefore, has tall "blind" pointed arches. The west door, however, has a round profile. It has five orders of moulding and five sets of "clasped" pillars on each side. It is, in fact, the very epitome of a "Transitional" doorway bridging the old and new styles. Flamboyant Norman monsters, dragons and chevron mouldings have given way to altogether more formal decoration. There is still a south west tower. Before the depredations it would have had a north west tower as well. With the central tower, also long lost, this would have been a very fashionable west church indeed, very much in the avant garde French Gothic style that in due course was modified into the idiosyncratic Early English style.
Finally, the church has a range of 35 misericords. Sadly, only seven date from the fifteenth century while the other 28 are from Temple Moore's reconstruction in 1880. It is not known whether the mediaeval seats were here originally but since this is a former priory church there is no reason to suppose otherwise. Rather more of a mystery is why Temple Moore took so much trouble to add their Victorian counterparts. The answer is surely that Moore was a devotee of the Gothic Revival and its practitioners were also often "mediaevalists" with a devotion to the quirky art of that era. Moore was not regarded as a member of the Arts & Crafts movement which, coincidentally, began in around 1880 but Moore's new misericords would have very much met with its approval.
There is nothing twee about these more modern creations. With a few exceptions they are mediaeval in subject matter and style. They are not to be despised and Moore or his craftsman surely took inspiration from mediaeval misericords they had seen elsewhere. Moore himself built no fewer than forty churches, of which thirty four are listed by English Heritage, two of them Grade I.. First a pupil and later a collaborator with George Gilbert Scott, he is regarded as one of the “greats” of modern church design.