Kilham is a large village in the East Riding of Yorkshire, about 5 miles W of Bridlington. It was a busy market centre until being surpassed by Driffield in the late eighteenth century. The church has chancel, aisleless nave and W tower. According to John Bilson, it was one of the largest of the earlier Wold churches and the wide nave is on its Norman plan, without aisles or chapels (1898, xviii). Traces of an impressive Romanesque church survive. Sculptural remains from this period include the spectacular gabled S entrance with doorway of six orders, an elaborate series of sculptured corbels on the N and S nave walls, some fine reused voussoirs in the interior tower walls, and a cylindrical font.
Much the largest estate (30 carucates) in Kilham was held before and after the Conquest by a king’s thegn, Ernuin or Earnwine the priest who was a large landholder in the Riding. This estate reverted to the king probably soon after Domesday, and certainly by 1100 when with another smaller estate it formed the royal manor of Kilham; at the time of the survey the king had had eleven carucates. Another landholder in 1086 was Odo the Crossbowman (Otes Arblaster, VCH ii). At the time of DB, almost all is termed waste.
By 1166 the Arblaster’s lands were part of the Chauncy fee. Jordan Folioth gave land to St Peter’s hospital in York in 1160-70, and Walter of Warter gave a toft to the hospital between 1190-1210.
The church and its assets were given by Henry I to the archbishop of York: this happened some time between 1100 and 1108. That church was not necessarily, or even likely to be, the present one represented by the nave (see Comments on date). Archbishop Gerard passed the church and its assets to the Dean and Chapter of York; Jennings 1990, 6, considers 1107 a likely date for this. The rectory was appropriated by the Dean in the thirteeenth century. (VCH, II, 251-9; Jennings 1990, 5-6).
S Nave doorway of six orders and label; the patterned spandrels and gable above the doorway itself are an integral part of the design. Because of the depth of orders, the entrance originally formed a projecting pediment with a gable. The remains of this entrance are now enclosed by a relatively modern, barn-like, porch. Jennings says a porch was first documented in 1593; it was of stone, and its remaining medieval fabric is seen from the inside only, being clad in modern brick outside. The walls of the porch butt onto the pediment and obscure a little of the sides and capitals especially on the E, but without these walls, and the old slate roof with intrusive cross-beams that topped them until recently, there would be little left of the stonework. The porch walls on the W side allow the motifs on the capital of the 6th order to be seen, but on the E side the porch wall and a noticeboard conceal two of the three corresponding motifs no doubt originally (and perhaps still) present.
The rustic restoration saved most of the original gable. The present tile roof has made the entrance façade visible again as a unit. The gable was patched with brick where corner-wise square panels had been lost. Unfortunately, even now, the gable lacks its full extent and majesty, having already lost about 0.5m of pattern and mouldings along the sloping sides before being roofed in. The scars can be seen on the S wall of the nave on either side; the apex of the pediment would originally have been in the region of the corbel table.
Several stones from the gable are reset in the walls of the porch. Outside, the side walls of the pediment still have some passages of vertical zigzag in situ; a single slab with a compass-drawn cross survives on the W face at the top, perhaps a consecration cross, probably reset. For these items, see section on reset fragments.
|approx. ht. of capital and integral ring||0.22-0.23m|
|h. of doorway opening approx.||2.9m|
|w. of doorway opening approx.||1.765m|
Bases decayed or broken. The first course is half-buried in the paving of the floor, probably a plain and chamfered plinth. The jambs rise straight from this layer, coursed, with an angle roll; perhaps other mouldings on the reveal; plain on the face. Capitals throughout appear to have had a plain ring. L side, the block is plain either side of an ornamented capital above the angle roll. The small capital is now very worn, but it still just shows that it had a man’s head as a volute and a flat spiral to the R of that; perhaps also to the L. These motifs are above two rows of chip-carved star pattern on the bell. The sculpture on the R capital is entirely lost, and the deep impost on both sides similarly decayed: though one might guess at star patterns on the L impost.
In the arch: In the soffit, touching the angle is a row of chevron with two steps on the inside; plain to the door. On the face, a row of centrifugal chevron with a step outside it. This chevron meets point to point with the chevron on the soffit at the joint.
Bases. The first course of the base is in the floor. This and the bases of all subsequent orders are in poor shape. They had or have a square plinth and a steeply rising rounded base supporting a free-standing but apparently sectional shaft. Only half of these shafts survive, to orders 3-6 on the L and to order 2 on the R.
Capitals. On the L, both faces of the capital have a springing spiralling clump of vegetation in the centre; two of the spirals make notional volutes in the upper corners. On the angle are two linear star shapes, that is, a pentagram and a cross. R capital, unrecognisable. Only the L impost has motifs remaining, these are star patterns, probably eight-spoked chip-carvings.
In the arch: plain on the soffit; on the face, a row of edge chevron with a step outside it, that is, the basic right-angled profile of the order seems to have been chamfered off and then this angled face was carved with a row of chevron that has a step outside it.
Bases as for second order. On the R, lower parts lost to stone bench.
Capitals. The bell of the L capital is covered with approx. 5 rows of incised horizontal zigzag. Above this the capital is plain and there is the suggestion of a volute on the angle. In an upper spandrel of the zigs on the S face is a cross left in relief like that on the angle of the capital of the second order, L. The R capital is covered by a network of incised lines giving a tweedy effect. It may perhaps also have had many rows of incised zigzags, but have been damaged. Impost on L on the S face has a faint design of six flat bands crossing resembling a Union Jack; on the E face another pattern made from a flat band, here a continuous strip makes loops at each corner of a square. Impost on R lost.
Bases as for second order. On the R, lower parts lost to stone bench.
L capital a plain smooth bell having three scallops at the top on each face; no cones. At the angle the scallops form a volute, and on the inner corners too there is a slight volute. All scallops overhang the bell a little, and their curve is emphasized by a double incised line. R capital the same. The imposts of this and the remaining two orders are the same. The profile is a concave band on the chamfer, a roll just above the angle and plain above.
Bases as for second order. On the R, lower parts lost to stone bench.
Bases and lower parts on R and L lost to stone bench.
L capital has three motifs on a smooth rounded bell. On the L, a standing man facing R. He has the tight-sleeved and full-skirted dress of a layman. In his L hand he holds up what looks like a bunch of five sticks, but is probably a flaming torch. The next two motifs are inside plain circular borders. The first ring, on the angle, contains a mole, very like those in later bestiaries. The second ring contains a carving which is not standard, and has been damaged. In the lower half is a plain rectangular form. In the upper half is a human head, two eyes can be seen. It could be a woman, if the shape to the R is understood as hair, and if there was more hair on the L side of the head where the capital is pitted. Some 14 years ago when I saw this first it was easier to recognise the head. The R capital appears to have had a similar carvings, but the second of them is hidden behind the noticeboard and the third is built into the E wall of the porch. All that can be easily seen is another motif in a ring like the one just described, that is, a plain rectangular object in the lower half and a head above. Again, two eyes can just be made out and a head which is tapered to the bottom in the manner of a bearded head – like the man in profile on the L capital would have. This carving has decayed even more than those on the L capital in the time since I first saw it. Looking down behind the noticeboard, a glimpse of the second motif, on the angle, can be had. This might be another mole as on the L capital. Impost as order 4.
The gable proper begins at the narrow string course with chip-carved star pattern. The prominent, if narrow, string-course separates the rectangle containing the doorway from the triangle of the gable. The area above the string course is partitioned by what resembles the woodwork of a coffered roof. It is interesting to note from the fragments reset in the porch walls that this may have been how the stonework was conceived, the protruding bars are separate from the recessed square panels. The bars are given a pattern of incised circles or domes, with larger circles containing radial star motifs at the intersections. The squares of the trellis grid are filled with larger geometric motifs, the lower row and the single upper panel that remains having fourfold stars, while the central row of three has large plain rings with no other ornament.
Label is covered by wall of porch on both sides near the bottom. It is unusual for its width and the degree of decoration; it makes a 7th order of chevron. The main face has an emphatic single row of centrifugal chevrons without any parallel steps. The row is remarkably ‘jerky’ in appearance, with each repeat spanning a variety of widths. The spandrel next to the 6th order is notched, perhaps alluding to a conventional chamfer.
Outside the semicircular arches of the doorway just described, and below the horizontal string course marking off the triangular gable, the wall is completely covered by a pattern of vertical chevron. The rows of the pattern are alternately hollow and convex, each row separated by a quirk and/or arris. There are reset fragments in the porch walls where the beautifully regular nature of this work can be seen, close to and relatively unweathered.
The blocked Norman window in the S wall of the nave near the chancel ‘had a light 6 feet 6 inches high and 2 feet 6 inches wide’ (Jennings 1990, 3). The outline of the window can be seen in the easternmost bay of the nave, above the string course and just below the block of a replacement corbel. It appears not to have a perfectly semi-circular head, but that may be accident.
Plain string courses with a wide vertical section remain on the N and S walls of the nave. On the S wall they continue over the pilasters; the N wall has no pilasters. These string-courses would, presumably, have run immediately below the windows.
The lower course is below present-day ground level, being seen in the ditch dug out by restorers. Its profile recalls the Durham-type string course used at Selby Abbey, there part of an elaborate plinth. It is prominent, chamfered above (and possibly below?) with quirks at top and bottom of the upright face.
There were 34 corbels on this side of the nave; the same as on the north side at Kirkburn. Many interesting examples remain, but some have been replaced by blank blocks. The blanks are numbered but not described below.
NN4 A woman seated on a bench and looking outward, her hands clasped on her lap.
NN7 Stepped squares (a frequent device on this side of the nave). Here the central square is blank.
NN8 A couple holding hands, their heads turned outwards and upwards. They look surprised, jaws dropped.
NN9 A man’s head, with his mouth showing surprise.
NN10 A pig or bear? Complete animal faces L, that is, E.
NN11 Two small pigs, just the heads.
NN12 A man with round shield and a sword or stick raised over his head. He has a shocked expression, or he is shouting.
NN15 A man with a raised sword or stick, and shocked expression.
NN16 Similar stepped squares to corbel NN7, but there may have been something in the centre.
NN21 Two animals symmetrically placed. They are rather like the dogs on NS25.
NN22 Stepped squares with a central motif, animal head?
NN23 Stepped squares with human head in centre.
NN25 Stepped squares with nailhead or star in centre.
NN26 Possibly three fish tied together at the mouth (as for the two in a conventional Pisces representation).
NN27 An armed man (as so many on NS corbels), but he is putting his sword into its scabbard and smiling.
NN29 A tree. It has bent and overlapping branches. There are small round fruits at the ends of the branches and a large one at the top.
NN30 A man’s head, again with a shocked expression.
NN31 Four stepped squares.
NN32 A standing man with a sword or stick, a helmet of a sort, with a glum or determined expression. 2016 photo shows decay in posture.
NN33 A stepped square with an animal head in the centre, almost smiling.
NN34 A stepped square with a man’s head.
There were 32 corbels on this wall: almost half are now modern blanks. (For E end of the wall with corbels NS 24-32, see Feature on Windows).
NS 2 Two serpents symmetrically about a prominent dome.
NS 3 A monster with a bar held in its mouth by two (human or angelic) arms coming from behind.
NS 4 Very decayed, but probably a man’s head like corbel NS31.
NS 5 The antlered head of a stag, or an animal with leaves sprouting from its head.
NS6 A man with a bow, with an arrow fitted in it.
NS 8 A man in a large headdress (re-carved?), holding a crutch or crosier in his R hand, and his L hand to the side of the headdress. Unclear if he is kneeling or naked. His nose is like that of corbels NS 31 and NN27.
NS 9 Original but broken. Subject unrecognisable.
[Gable intervenes at this point]
NS 11 Subject unidentified.
NS 12 A pig, with small front trotters beneath the head.
NS 13 A large standing figure of a man holding a long curved object, perhaps a bow.
NS18 Only the L half of the corbel remains, with a standing or squatting man.
NS19 An upside-down falling man, holding a shield and sword, or sword and dagger.
NS24 Another armed man, but the top of the corbel has spalled off at his shoulder: he probably held a sword (compare NN15).
NS25 Two dogs running R (eastwards), with the trace of a roundel above, but broken.
NS29 A large bestial head is elaborately muzzled; a double strap can be seen horizontally just above two small eyes, also coming down to the mouth which is on the downward surface of the corbel. There is a single horizontal strap across the snout. The muzzle is crowned with a cluster of symmetrical foliage on each side and the front; this sticks up above the animal’s ears and fills the space to the top of the corbel. From the R or E, a man can be seen coming out of the jaws; his arms are up in the air.
NS31 Two men’s heads watching. These are long heads, exceedingly so, but they probably include a beard. There may have been a third smaller head in the centre.
NN32 A ram with a rather pig-like snout, but this is adjusted to the squared end of the block from which the corbel was carved.
Re-set stones in porch walls: both interior and exterior described together as a exterior feature.
|1. capital, ht. of capital and necking||0.21m|
|1. capital, w. of E face||0.31m|
|1. capital, w. of stone, S face||0.165m|
|3. ht. piece in exterior E wall||0.19m|
|3. piece in interior S wall, ht.||0.19m|
|3. piece in interior S wall, width||0.175m|
|3. spandrel fragment, interior E wall||0.325m x 0.17m|
|3. w. piece in exterior E wall||0.27m|
|5. ht. of fragment with star and two circles||0.16m|
|5. w. of fragment with star and two circles||0.23m|
|6. square panel near noticeboard||0.27m square|
Outside on the E wall of the pediment is a reset capital with faint rows of zigzag across its bell. The design is comparable to the L capital of the third order of the doorway, but it is slightly smaller than the average capital on the doorway. Below the metal pipe that acts as a column is a work base of upright proportion which may have gone with the capital.
Outside on the W side high up is a cross design in a square-ish stone.
The spandrels of the entrance, between the label of the doorway and the horizontal course of star pattern, are covered by a vertical chevron design. Above the capital (1) above, the pattern is seen to continue on the S face of the pediment but not on its E face. Elsewhere in the porch are several reset blocks of this pattern.
3.Outside the porch on the E wall, is a reset block with the diagonal pattern.
4. Low down in the E wall nearer its centre is another block of the vertical zigzag pattern. Immediately to its right is a small block with two units of a delicate star pattern not seen in the gable.
5. Inside porch, a block with the vertical zigzags is on the S wall to the W of the outer archway.
The square panels of the gable are sunk within, or held down by, a grid or framework of plain and chamfered lengths of stone; the concept imitates the panelling of a wooden ceiling. Three of the framing pieces are reset inside the E wall of the porch.
8. Near the bottom at the lower right is another short length, on which two circles flank an 8-sided star; this was at an intersection of the grid. The stone is somewhat obscured by mortar.
This block is just below the notice board to the R of the doorway. It is set square, but seems to have been one of the diagonally-set stones in the gable. Its pattern is not known from elsewhere, but perhaps was not completed; compare a four-loop cross on one of the imposts of the L side of the doorway. The central motif is symmetrical, but not identified, being slightly damaged.
Re-set voussoirs in internal walls of the tower
There are about 22 voussoirs in the S wall of the first stage of the tower and 42 on the N, with one or two in the W wall. Most are too high to measure, but a block with two chevrons on N wall, lower R, was measured. No capitals were seen.
There are perhaps six chevron patterns, all similar to work on the doorway:
1. Centrifugal chevrons with an incised line parallel on the outer side; numerous; blocks are straight-edged on the angle.
2, 3. Centrifugal chevrons with two incised lines parallel. Some of these have a notched edge, some are straight-edged.
4. A few stones with three parallel incised zigzags.
6. Three stones with a roll across a plain surface.
|Block with chevrons||0.35m x 0.19m|
|Voussoir, radial ht.||0.215m|
This is one of the largest fonts in the Wolds, but unfortunately its original appearance is uncertain. It was seen by Sir Stephen Glynne in 1873, and recorded as being ‘rescued from standing in a garden; the bowl circular, surrounded by a range of semicircular arches on piers, of Norman character, the work rather shallow’ (Butler 2007, 243). Probably after this, the outer surface was totally retooled and the cylinder rounded off at the bottom. The design could be original: a six-bay arcade with formalised capitals and bases; columns double. The angle of the rim has been scored for a cable pattern with fairly wide strands; the pattern is marked on both the vertical and horizontal: Glynne does not mention a cable pattern. The drawing of the arcade is weak; the cylinder is large but imperfect despite the superficial neatening; its rim rises on one side, and the opposite side slopes in to top.
|Depth of interior of bowl||0.357m|
|External diam. of bowl||0.85m|
|Ht. of font bowl||0.545m|
|Internal diam.of bowl||0.645m|
This item was found in 2008. It is a broken corbel with the head of a goat near the top. The stone was in good condition, unlike so many of the corbels still in situ.
J. Bilson, 'Kilham Church', Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society 6 (1898), xviii.
L. A. S. Butler (ed.), 'The Yorkshire Church Notes of Sir Stephen Glynne (1825-1874)', Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 159 (Woodbridge, 2007).
B. Jennings, A History of the Church and Parish of Kilham (Grimsby, 1990).
N. Pevsner and D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd. edn. (London, 1995).
M. Thurlby, ‘The abbey church of Lessay (Manche) and Romanesque architecture in north–east England', Antiquaries Journal, 94 (2014), 71-92.
Victoria County History: East Riding of Yorkshire II (London, 1974).
Victoria County History: Yorkshire II (London, 1912), in modern reprint (London, 1974).
R. Wood, ‘Geometric Patterns in English Romanesque Sculpture’. Journal of the British Archaeological Association 154 (2001), 1-39.
R. Wood, ‘The Augustinians and the Romanesque Sculpture at Kirkburn Church’, East Yorkshire Historian, 4 (2003), 3-59.