Langtoft has a medieval Gothic church restored and enlarged between 1900 and 1903, the last of the ‘Sykes’ churches (Pevsner & Neave 1995, 94-5, 592). It houses two pieces of twelfth-century date from Cottam (or Cotham), a depopulated village about 5 kilometers or 2 miles to the south west (see separate site report). These pieces are a celebrated font with numerous figures and a less-known fragmentary lintel with the Agnus Dei. Langtoft church also contains a plain font and a small corbel or label stop of uncertain provenance.
By the time of the Domesday Book two estates, each of 9 carucates in Langtoft and Cottam, had been assigned to the Chapter of York Minster (VCHER ii, 265); that at Cottam was waste (VCH ii, 211). It is said that ‘a church may have existed at Langtoft and a chapel at Cottam’ but their manors were the same size, and there seems to be no certain evidence as to which was the senior or more wealthy site (VCHER, ii, 270).
In the south wall of the nave, a possible consecration cross.
|height of stone||0.31m|
|width of stone||0.28m|
The font is in the south west corner of the nave; its figurative sculpture is illustrated in line in Cole 1902, 115-6; pl. viii, but the carving is more accomplished than the drawing leads one to expect. There are six subjects arranged in five bays of a rudimentary arcade. At the foot of the cylinder is a plain band, and around the top is a single cable pattern. This pattern is damaged, but seems to have turned onto the horizontal rim, with its units slightly shaped in a ropelike manner. There are comparisons of subjects with the font at Cowlam.
1. The first scene is the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve. Eve receives the fruit, here like a cherry, from the serpent, and Adam picks one for himself from the bottom of the tree. Both Adam and Eve clasp palmate leaves. Contrary to the illustration in Allen 1887, 193, both faces are shown in profile: the left side of Adam’s head has a broken ear, not a second eye; his profile is similar to Eve’s. Their bodies are much the same, breasts are shown on both by small incised circles, it is the larger hips of Eve and particularly her elbow-length hair that show she is a woman. The serpent is pecked. The tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil has leaves of hollow diamond shape; its root and trunk are a mixture of observation and convention.
2. The next subject to the right is a large tree, presumably the Tree of Life. This Tree is really three trees, for the stems may be traced back to two sources in the upper cable pattern as well as the obvious one at the foot, where there is a triangular clump of roots. The two trees from above interweave with the one standing below. The Tree has a later, flexible, form of foliage, a fluted half leaf having graded leaflets and a lush, floppy habit; this form is not so much used in the scene of the Fall. The stems and trunks are shown by a double band, with the usual cross-binding at intervals which is also of two strands. The tree/trees seem to have been intended as symmetrical, but in the actual making the left side proved too narrow: the inequality is made up by extending a shoot from the lower tree to fill a vertical space on the right. One or two leaves have an incised outline but have not been finally carved with their leaflets, lower right. The column of the arcade to the right has a developed capital; this is of upright leaves.
Scenes 1 and 2 have biblical subjects (from Genesis and Revelation): the remainder of the carvings show three martyrs and an undefined subject.
3. The first martyr is St Margaret being swallowed by, and coming out of the side of, the Dragon. The legs and feet of the saint stick out of its mouth, while her head and upper body emerges out of its stomach. This is a conflation of her story; this was one of several deaths the mythical saint had to face before finally being beheaded. St Margaret has long hair like Eve and wears a dress with a finely-pleated skirt. It is sometimes thought that the face has been damaged, and that her mouth was never intended to be open in this manner. It would be reasonable to have the saint shown with her mouth open, however, either to breathe or to cry out praise and triumph. The dragon is magnificent: it has a spotty tail like the serpent in the Fall scene, but it has a much larger head, a wing and one foreleg. The head is hairy or scaly, and there is a fringe of eyelashes as well as a sort of moustache. The teeth are numerous but not very pointed.
4. In the same bay of the arcade is the martyrdom of St Lawrence on a grid iron, his hands are tied in front of him, and he is prodded by an executioner with a hooked pole reminiscent of the rakes held by demons in Hell. Lawrence was a real martyr in third-century Rome, but how he died is not recorded. The face of the executioner is barely recognisable, while the saint, in some lights, seems to smile. There is cable pattern surviving above this scene.
5. The next subject to the right is undefined. There are two wings, and should therefore be two legs, compare the one leg and wing of the dragon that swallows St Margaret. There is one leg spread forwards, and the claws of the second foot are at the bottom limit of the carving: traces of the whole lost leg itself can be seen in some lights, and a short length remains of the top of the thigh although the actual surface pattern has flaked off. The creature has a serpentine tail the tip of which is lost in the degraded lower right corner; there is other damage on the left side near the lost leg. The body is spotty in the upper part and scaley under the wing, and spotty again in the tail, and by this simple means is varied from the snake in Eden (all spotty) and the dragon with St Margaret (furry or scaley above and spotty below).
The creature seems to be the combination of a bird and a snake. It is the region of the head which is the most problematic part. It has a longish beak, both mandibles are present, indicated by a shallow incised line visible intermittently along the beak. The creature might be a standard Romanesque bird-and-serpent combination, except for the odd form below the beak which very much resembles a single wattle.
6. The last motif, to the left of Adam, is the martyrdom of St Andrew. Like his brother, St Peter, St Andrew is said to have been crucified; the executioners tie him to his saltire cross. The saint has a halo; he wears breeches, an undergarment not often depicted. There is a part of the rim with cable pattern surviving above this scene.
|Depth of interior of bowl||0.42m|
|External diameter of bowl||0.85m|
|Height of carved panels approx.||0.50-0.54m|
|Height of cylinder||0.68m|
|Internal diameter of bowl||0.54m|
There is in use in the church an ornate font of 1903. A disused plain cylindrical font also in the church has been tooled and patched, and the rim chamfered. For some years it is said to have been leaning against a radiator opposite the door.
|Depth of bowl||0.26m|
|Height of cylinder||0.382m|
|Outside diameter ignoring chamfer||0.68m|
Lintel with Agnus Dei: The fragment now in Langtoft church is the left side of the lintel almost certainly from a doorway to the medieval church at Cottam. In the soffit, the tooling is still clean and the stone undamaged; the rebate for the door is also present. On the vertical, carved, face, the left end is plain, though it may have had some incised pattern; to the right is a foliage design and then the formerly central Lamb and Cross. The break in the lintel runs through the shoulder of the Lamb, and the head and one front leg were on the right side of it. It seems that the lost right side also contained foliage, for there is a little piece in the top right edge to balance some to the left of the Cross. The boundary of the carved field is angled on the left margin, as if it led into a round-headed tympanum or arch above the lintel, but there seems to be a moulded boundary at the upper margin too. Measurements were not taken.
|Horizontal depth of block (normal to the wall)||0.19m|
|width of corbel||0.1m|
J. R. Allen, Early Christian Symbolism, London, 1887
F. Altvater, ‘“Bless this Body”: Baptismal Iconography on the 12th-century Cottam Font’, Unpublished paper, Leeds IMC 2004, session 702b
E. M. Cole, ‘Ancient Fonts on the Wolds of East Riding’, Trans. East Riding Antiquarian Society 10 (1902), 107-117
N. Pevsner & D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd edition, London, 1995
Victoria County History: East Riding of Yorkshire, II (Dickering Wapentake), 1974
T. H. White, The Book of Beasts, London, 1954
R. Wood, “The Romanesque Chancel arch at Liverton, North Riding”, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 78, 111-143