Reform, Rebellion, Restoration: St Mary’s, Beverley & the Tudors

Meet the great personalities of Tudor England through this exhibition which highlights paintings in the National Portrait Gallery. Learn how the lives of these people shaped sixteenth-century Beverley, and discover a local history that includes saints, rebels and a remarkable rebuild.

This is a digital version of the exhibition that took place in St Mary’s in October 2020, to coincide with the completion of the first phase of the restoration of the church’s magnificent Tudor nave. It provides open access to all of the text and images on display in church. Enter this online exhibition using the links to the characters and the plot below.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

The sixteenth century was one of the most transformative periods in English history.

The reigns of the Tudor monarchs —Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I — witnessed dramatic religious and political upheaval.

These events were driven by a cast of captivating characters, including kings, queens, statesmen, and martyrs.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

National changes had local consequences.

Within a generation, the people, institutions, and buildings that had defined towns such as Beverley were either discarded or refashioned. 

The medieval church of St Mary’s barely weathered the uncertainty of these times. Its role and relationships had to be reformed, meanwhile architectural disaster threatened its very survival.

Dr Jennie England in the nave of St Mary’s
© Yorkshire Post | Photo: Simon Hulme

Reform, Rebellion, Restoration explores this turbulent period:

The characters

Click here to view the portraits in high definition and read the stories of the characters featured in the exhibition.

The plot

Click here to learn about dramatic events which shaped Beverley and the nation during the Tudor era.


There are lots of ways in which schools can get involved with the exhibition. Click here to find out more.

Tracy Borman talk

Click here to buy tickets for the talk by Tracy Borman on 14th November.

“… the heart & stomach of a king, and a king of England too”

The first phase in the restoration of St Mary’s has been carried out thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project focuses on saving and interpreting the medieval and Tudor roof bosses which adorn the ceilings of the church. This exhibition is part of the project and has been co-curated by St Mary’s Heritage Learning Officer, Dr Jennie England, and its Director of Development, Roland Deller. Huge thanks to Prof. Barbara English for her invaluable help and guidance in planning the exhibition.