Simple church in Norman style with nave and chancel, N vestry: bell turret too elaborate to be a copy. Morris 1919 says the church ‘was gutted by fire some years ago, but has since been extensively restored'; other sources do not mention a fire. R. D. Chantrell rebuilt the church 1849-50 reusing Norman sculpture and masonry but was apparently restricted in what he could do.
The stone of the original building was a local Jurassic limestone and it is weathering fast where exposed. Almost all the original work is outside: Chantrell made a pleasing interior, but a plain one: his chancel arch, with blocky capitals, and plain and square orders, is as plain as the replacement corbels on the N wall. A restoration in 2015 included preservation work on the old corbels, mainly treating with lime plaster; photographs of corbel CS4 taken by Matthias Garn (by permission of Ferrey and Mennim, architects).
When Fangfoss church was rebuilt in 1849-50 many old stones were left lying in the churchyard. The late Kit Galbraith visited Fangfoss church and found, among the jumble of discarded broken or worn stones at the E end of the church, five which she obtained permission to remove for study. These ended up in Birkbeck College, where they were seen by the fieldworker in June 1999. At that time they included two voussoirs with beakhead, two with a radial fluted motif and one fragment of integral base, ring and column. The two pieces with radial fluted decoration were jambs stones, not voussoirs, but that was only possible to assess by eye. Eventually the stones were allowed on loan from the church to the Hull and East Riding Museum, where two were (2004) on display as “Romanesque Stonework”. The other three stones were not displayed.
In 2003, there was a loose chevron voussoir by the chancel arch; this was outside in 2015. It is shown outside in the later photographs, but has since been taken inside again. A permanent display at the church of old carved stonework is being discussed (2016).
There is a remade doorway and two patterned string courses; original corbels, all except one, are on the S side of the church. Inside, there is one reset stone over the S doorway.
All 8 carucates at Fangfoss in 1086 belonged to the king. Later the overlordship was divided, in the 1120s Henry I confirmed land at Fangfoss to William son of Ulf of Grimthorpe; in 1189 William’s descendant Ralph son of Ralph held 4 carucates 5 bovates. The family continued, becoming Lords Greystoke in the 14thc.
Ecclesiastically, Fangfoss was a chapel of Pocklington, given like Barmby Moor to the Archbishop of York and York Minster between 1100 and 1108. It was confirmed to the Dean between 1119 and 1129. Fangfoss became a curacy of Barmby Moor in the 13thc.
Of the building, the Borthwick Institute card index gives this summary:
1591 ‘chancel in decay’
1596 ‘chancel in very great decay’
1600 ‘chancel altogether ruinous’.
Allen 1831, which is used by Wood-Rees, describes a Norman tower with brickwork at the top, and does not mention an apse; he describes a ‘neat’ church. Allen says the south doorway was ‘formerly very rich in sculptured ornaments, but now only retaining a solitary bird’s head, which serves as a keystone’.
The apse was found by excavation, and described by Taylor as a ‘semicircular recess at the end of the chancel, containing three windows. The recess was entered by an open arch, the full width of the apse, and had pilasters and vaulting ribs, which met in a boss’.
Chantrell and the vicar of the day, the Rev. Robert Taylor, are quoted by Wood-Rees on the state of this ‘gem’ of a church as they found it. It seems that Chantrell wanted to restore the church and keep ‘so much beautifully carved material’ while the vicar was a digger after remains and a rebuilder. The contrast between the outside and the inside is telling.
Sir Stephen Glynne visited in 1865, after the rebuilding. 'A small church, with nave and chancel only. It has been lately reconstructed, and it is doubtful whether any part of the original walls are retained...The south doorway seems to be substantially original, and is a remarkably fine Norman specimen.' He lists motifs on the doorway - 'all difficult to describe' - but does not mention any decay. Butler illustrates a NE view of the church in 1848 by the restoring architect, Chantrell, and another view by him from the SE in 1850. The earlier drawing shows a Gothic window in the rectangular E wall of chancel; there is no visible brickwork on the top of the tower. The corbel table is not continuous, but corbels can be seen on N and E walls, those on the E wall, eight or more of them, were probably reused from the lost apse. The division of all walls in the new building by pilasters seems to be original.
The doorway stands on two courses of a plain plinth; then a square plain plinth with rounded bases, in remarkably good condition. The three orders have detached columns and scallop capitals with an unusually deep upright (abacus). The three orders and the label in the arch are almost entirely of old voussoirs; the five lower right voussoirs of the first order are renewed. The three principal orders share the profile of a heavy angle roll, with the approximately triangular motif on the face bridging the recess. The first order at the door itself is modern, additional to any authentic work.
In the arch, all three original orders comprise the section of a plain outer band on the face, and an angle roll of about half the width of the voussoir. Between these is a sloping plane, over which the motif bridges: pointed arches in order 2, beakheads on order 3 and platforms with a variety of abstract patterns in order 4.
|2nd order, L capital, height including necking||0.23 m|
|2nd order, L capital, max. width S face||0.21 m|
|Height of opening to top of impost||1.90 m|
|Total height of opening||2.575 m (approx.)|
|Width of opening||1.35 m|
Base. Heavy torus, ridges in upper part. Free standing shaft, renewed. Plain round ring. Capitals both double scallop of heavy appearance due to deep abacus (the vertical area of the shields and above). That on the L has plain cones and a symmetrical pattern of coiled foliage in the shields. On the R, the restoration supplied another symmetrical leaf pattern.
Impost on the L side shows the remains of three motifs on each side; these are of the daisy/star type (see Comments). On the R, the restorers' version of the same.
In the arch. This has sixteen voussoirs with the same pattern. The 5 repeats on the R side are of the 19thc. On each voussoir, the motif is widest at the outer margin and tapers across the face of the voussoir from outer edge inwards, where its straight-cut tip projects slightly over the heavy angle roll. This outline is repeated three times in layers, smaller each time, like a stack of pen-nibs (the sort of ornament called ‘abstract beakheads’ by Pevsner). The impression is of a series of little pointed arches, or a zigzagging pattern. See Comments, authenticity.
Bases on square plinth are in three graded sloping bands, the outer are slightly concave, the middle one convex. Free-standing shafts. rounded ring. L capital has three cones and shields which occupy only half the height of the capital. There is a moulding and then the vertical face has a band of pattern perhaps based on double cable but treated as if a foliage pattern, that is, the strands of the cable are single leaves. The pattern makes ‘ears’ or unfolding leaves at the angle. R capital possibly remade: double scallop with one large shield having a beaded border. The shield has a sunk face with an inverted foliage spray, very close to a pattern used in the 1st order of the W doorway at Etton (see Comments). Impost on R has the daisy/star pattern, it may also have existed on the L impost.
In the arch. This order has 19 beakheads of which only the three on the R side are at all legible, that is nos. 17, 18, and 19. There are relics of the designs on a few others – nos.1, 3, 6, 7, 10 and 15. Small ears, strongly patterned foreheads, large eyes with pierced pupils, 'eyelashes' on voussoir 17, and beaks with a scatter of pierced holes. There are traces of very finely worked surfaces.
These bases have two divisions. Columns and rings as before. L capital remade with double scallop forming a heavy 'drop' on the angle by the reduction in prominence of the cone on the angle. Darts between the cones, a keel on the cones and drop. In the upright part, the shields are outlined by a deep continuous quirk; remainder plain above. Impost plain. R capital is another double scallop capital but only the cones and narrow darts between them could be identified.
In the arch. There are 22 voussoirs, each having a flat tapering platform crossing from the outer edge to end on the angle over the roll in a broad straight tip. The motif does not taper so much as that of the first order, nor are they joined at the outer edge. Each platform has a different pattern. Only a few are still clear: voussoir 4 has three radial lines of domes; 7 has two radial lines of Vs with a line of Vs in various directions, mostly counter, between them. Voussoir 11 has incised zigzag, again radial. Voussoir 13 has a loose cable of two strands which seems to have been copied for the remade voussoir 22. Voussoir 15 has circumferential lines; 17 has radial lines; 18 has a band of trellis pattern; 20 has shallow circumferential rolls with, at the outer edge, one star similar to those on parts of the impost and perhaps beading at the inner edge.
All windows are round-headed: some in the nave have the old one-piece window-head, some are remakes. When Chantrell has made a pair of windows, often one of the pair of windowheads is an old one. The dentation pattern on the windowheads is very comparable to that used at Adel on windowheads
Two or more windows on the S wall of the nave have a narrow chamfer at the window. The pattern begins almost its own width from the chamfer, there are about 15 repeats. The outer half of the pattern is flush with the general surface of the window head, but the inner triangles are recessed, flush at the inner side and deepest towards their outer point. The pattern on the window heads at Adel goes to the angle of the block – there is no chamfer, but there is an inner plain order at the window at Adel which is lacking at Fangfoss.
The windows on the chancel do not look so authentic, but we have nothing to compare them with locally.
It is difficult to identify any original length of the arched corble table in situ, unless it is the fragment squeezed in on the N wall of the chancel, so it is likely all to be due to the restoration by Chantrell. The corbel table has a series of arches separated by a straight horizontal passage; there is a small roll moulding on the angle. A corbel fits on alternate straight edges, these are wider than the intermediate edges.
The old corbels do not always fit correctly under the table, being sometimes too wide, and sometimes to narrow, or set forward or backward. There are also some trimmed corbels: the beakhead, when it is used on a corbel, always has the roll-moulding as on an arch, but here they have no roll; NS6 also looks as if a roll has been trimmed away.
See VI, Loose Sculpture for a fragment of original corbel table found in the grounds of Fangfoss Hall in October 2003. Not seen in 2015.
Some corbels are no longer recognisable, since the Victorian restoration, and corbel N4 has been replaced recently (2015).
Corbels are numbered from L to R on nave, and on chancel, N and S walls.
Corbel CN1 is the only original corbel on the N side of the church. It has the common motif of two men watching. Their hair remains, protected under the overhang of the corbel, and is made of thick straight strands which curl slightly at the tip.
It was hard to see what the condition of this corbel was in 2015, due to the dull light and the nearby trees.
The south wall of the chancel is divided into three bays by pilasters. There are two corbels in each bay. The corbels on the S side of the chancel are particularly crisp-looking, and might be remakes, but are recorded here. See Comments.
CS1 is a beakhead, with the roll trimmed away.
CS2 is an animal with lined forehead, and a gag in its mouth.
CS3 is an animal with lined cheeks and chin, pointed ears and its mouth open showing many small teeth. If it were not for the ears, it could be a human face.
CS4 is similar to NS15, but without the legs of the horse and horseman.
CS5 is a lined, round head of unknown animal, broken off in the lower half.
CS6 the head of a horse-like animal, muzzled by two little men, one on either side. They were pointed hats or helmets, and the one on the W side definitely smiles.
See Comments, Beakheads, muzzles and gags.
Corbels, Nave S wall:
NS1 has a pig-like head resting on human arms (this was the impression it gave in 2003); two human legs and feet and shoes can be seen. Similar corbels with a mixture of human and animal features are found at North Grimston, Kirkburn and Garton-on-the-Wolds. The left side of the corbel is broken away; this motif would have been alone in the centre of the field.
NS2 has a double feature, now unrecognisable. Possibly two men watching, compare CN1.
NS3 is a mask or perhaps a beakhead as it is raised on a roll section. The tip of the beak is missing, and the creature may be shown with its tongue hanging out (indicating defeat). Compare NS6. The upper part of the corbel, usually plain, is here given three crosses in sunk circles.
NS4 decayed beyond recognition. Replaced in restoration of stonework, 2014-15.
NS5 looks like a donkey’s head, but it is more likely to be a hare.
NS6 is a beakhead, from the side, it looks as though the usual roll was tooled away in the restoration.
NS7 has a beakhead with a man’s head beside it in the characteristic looking outward position - compare CN1. The beakhead has a few random bored holes in its beak and has been retooled on the W side perhaps to remove the roll. See Comments.
NS8 is a mask with flat downward facing snout, a wide head and little ears. Decayed, and almost featureless in 2015.
NS9 is possibly a Victorian remake because it is so fresh, but the features are right. Perhaps recut.
NS10 is a mask with a gaping mouth and a head covered in lines arranged rather like a turban. Possibly a bearded man with his mouth open wide; broken off below the moustache.
NS11 is a horse’s head – perhaps. Decayed.
NS12 is a mask decorated in the manner of some of the beakheads and NS10.
NS13 is a muzzled mask with the snout broken off.
NS14 is a creature with a long snout.
NS 15 is a horseman riding to the R or E. Compare CS4 .
NS16 and NS 17 recut, if not copies.
NS 18 A horse's head with the face of a man looking out of its mouth. Recut or copied.
There are two patterned string courses, and different patterns are used on nave and chancel.
The string-course itself is set a little higher on the chancel than on the nave, and the pattern is quite elaborate. Centrally it has a row of squares set diagonally and carved in the manner of the doorway’s label. This row is bordered above and below by a shallow row of zigzag moulding, very effective.
The string course used on the nave is reeded horizontally in four rows. See Comments, Adel and Stillingfleet.
The vesica looks modern, it is a seperate object to the sculpture at the centre, which looks much more authentic.
The figures are set on a square block with parallel sides, and there is a roll moulding at the back of them. The object is somewhat of the size of a corbel, but would not work as one. The carving is fairly crude, but one might imagine the carver of the beakheads and corbels could have done it. Large heads and smaller bodies, two seated and perhaps the central figure standing; they hold up the arms of the central figure.
There are a small number of voussoirs from Fangfoss now on loan to the Hull and East Riding Museum, and they were photographed there (see report for the Museum). They had been taken from Fangfoss churchyard (with permission) by Kit Galbraith probably in the 1980s, and returned from Birkbeck to the Museum after her death. At her visit, there was apparently still plenty to choose from. The Birkbeck stones included voussoirs like those on the doorway in orders three and four (beakheads and platforms).
Historically, it is recorded that 'a large number of carved stones, including many with beaks and grotesque masks (which certainly ought to have been used in the rebuilding), are to be seen in the grounds of Fangfoss Hall, also what is probably a holy water stoup; these are carefully and jealously preserved from desecration by Thomas Eadon, Esq., the owner of the Hall'; from that description we may suppose that Mr Eadon's collection included a large proportion of corbels. Walking round the grounds of the Hall in 2003, nothing with beaks or animal masks was found, although one or two relevant architectural pieces were found close to or in the churchyard, and photographed.
|Block, carved face, height||0.17 m|
|Block, carved face, width||0.28 m|
|Block with arches, max. dimensions||0.44 m x 0.44 m|
|Block, w. of cavity of the little arch||0.1 m|
|Chevron voussoir, height as placed in 2015||0.25 m|
|Chevron voussoir, height as seen in 2003||0.255 m|
|Chevron voussoir, max. width as seen in 2003||0.42 m|
|Chevron voussoir, star face, tapers from||0.19 m at widest, to 0.17 m about two-thirds of length.|
|Larger pillar, diameter||0.3 1m|
|Larger pillar, height||0.153 m|
|Smaller pillar, diameter||0.18 m|
|Smaller pillar, height||0.175 m|
Inside the church in 2003, there was a loose voussoir by the N jamb of the chancel arch. It has point-to-point chevron bordered by one or two sets of parallel ridges. In the spandrel on the long face is a chip-carved star. Tooling is evident on both faces, fine on the same face as the star, coarser on the sides at right-angles to that (the joint faces).
In 2015, the stone had been taken outside; it was photographed outside, but is now again inside.
Outside in 2003, architectural fragments were scattered about at E end of chancel Most are formless, but two column bases of different dimensions were seen.
Also in 2003, loose, and sunk in the ground as part of the edging to steps down from the churchyard into the grounds of Fangfoss Hall, was one larger stone which resembles a corbel table, but is too small to take normal-sized corbels. (The stone is actually in the grounds of the hall, but since it is only a couple of yards from a little gate and clearly came from the church, there is not a separate report.) The day we had permission to search the grounds Barbara English was with us, and she found it under the ivy. The block is squared, and the R end would seem to be the position where a corbel might have been placed in the course below. The L end makes another little arch, but is broken off.
In 2015, there was a heap in the churchyard at the E end against the fence to the Hall. It was small, mostly of heavy shapeless stones and tracery; nothing of the relevant period was seen. It is possible that inside that heap were the arched stones seen in 2003, but it is not possible to shift the upper stones to check. There was no longer a gate through to the Hall grounds, and the area by the former steps had been smoothed out, made bare and was beginning to be grown over by ivy.
T. Allen, A New and Complete History of the County of York, Vol. 3, (1831), 412.
L. A. S. Butler, ed., The Yorkshire Church Notes of Sir Stephen Glynne (1825-1874), Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Record Series vol. CLIX. (Woodbridge 2007), 174.
J. E. Morris, The East Riding of Yorkshire. 2nd ed. (1906), 150.
N. Pevsner and D. Neave, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd. ed., (London 1995).
M. J. Ramshaw, A History of Fangfoss including Bolton and Spittal 1086-1988 (n.p. 1988).
A History of the County of York: The East Riding, Vol. 3 (Oxford 1976), 164-170.
W. D. Wood-Rees ‘Fangfoss Church’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 22 (1913), 253-255.
R. Wood, Romanesque Yorkshire, (Leeds 2012).
R. Wood, “The Romanesque Sculpture at Adel Church, West Riding – a suggested interpretation” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 85, 97-130