During a 57-year building campaign which would have cost £15 million in today's money, Sir Tatton Sykes, the 5th baronet of Sledmere, helped the father he was named after on a series of 18 rural churches across Yorkshire.
Some were newly-built, others were reworked or restored. And from 1856 onwards, their architects included eminent designers such as George Edmund Street – the man behind London’s Royal Courts of Justice – and Temple Moore.
© English Heritage
Now this trail along the Wolds – lauded as the “most important” set of small countryside churches anywhere in the country – is being entirely opened to the public for one weekend, allowing walkers a view of some extraordinary buildings on the centenary of Sykes II’s death.
“His aim was to create centre of art and worship, and there is nothing quite like them anywhere else,” says Catharine Otton-Goulder, the founder of the East Yorkshire Churches Trust.
“The family effort invested in raising rural church architecture to another level is probably unique in Europe.
"You do not have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of these places – they are works of art in their own right, capable of lifting the spirits.
“Over recent years interest in them has revived. We have been able to save many from closure and also raise about £5 million to restore and repair them.
“We would love to see more people discovering them for the first time.”
There are dozens to choose from, although the magnificent wall paintings at Garton and the lavish interior at Sledmere stand out.
The floor mosaics at Wilton are copies of the decorations made for the Vatican in Rome. Sledmere House is also staging an exhibition, Craftsmen of the Sykes Churches, in a flourish of stained glass, wall paintings, mosaics, woodwork and carving between April 26 and October 27.
- Runs May 4-6 2013. Visit eychurches.org.uk for more.