St John the Baptist, Carnaby, Yorkshire, East Riding

Feature Sets (2)


The church has a chancel, nave with S aisle and a W tower, and it has been much altered and repaired over the centuries (Pevsner & Neave 1995, 381). Only the fine font survives from the 12th century.


In 1066, Chilbert had 13 carucates and there was land for 7 ploughs. In 1086, under the king, there were 2 estates comprising 13 carucates, of which one carucate was in Auburn; two rentpayers had 9 villeins with 3 ploughs (VCH II, 287). In the early twelfth century the hospital of St Leonard, York, had one bovate.

Robert son of Picot de Percy gave the church to Bridlington priory between 1148 and 1153. In the 12th and 13th centuries the church had dependent chapels at Fraisthorpe and Auburn; these became independent later (VCHER II, 126-7).




Font in NW part of nave.

The font is briefly described and sketched in Cole 1902. It is a cylinder higher than wide and stands on a ring of end-wise bricks opposite the S door to the nave. At the time of the visit in 2005, parts on the N side were green with damp. Baptismal water is not being put down the plug hole (though that is open) so presumably ground water is being drawn up. The basin is deep and slightly angled between sides and floor. The rim has a cable pattern on the angle, separated by a channel on the horizontal rim, and a narrow plain border on the side. The units of the cable are narrow but well- rounded, visible equally on rim and side.

The sides of the cylinder have eight divisions marked into full-height lozenges by a channel gouged in the general surface. Where these channels cross and the lozenges would meet at a point, a small lozenge is left uncut. The horizontal centre line of the cylinder is roughly, not accurately, followed by a pair of chip-carved eightfold stars in each lozenge. The zone of the lozenges is edged top and bottom by a small plain moulding

Above and below the stars, the tips of the lozenges are generally filled with a chevron-like pattern, but in one or two cases there are plain lozenges instead. The chevron is generally one where a hollow roll and a normal roll are separated by a ridge, but this too is varied, so that the lower portion of one lozenge has a series of ridges with flat chevrons between. One upper portion has a series of convex chevrons. The alternation of hollow and convex chevron was seen on capitals of the chancel arch at Goodmanham, and is seen occasionally elsewhere. No doubt variety is continued in the green areas, but I did not spend long looking there due to the damp and there is some damage there too.

The triangles between the lozenges, above and below, show very fine tooling which usually comes to a point on the vertical mid-line but sometimes follows a zig-zag course of its own. This textured surface was perhaps a key for gesso or plaster: a similar surface with a ‘tweedy’ texture was observed on capitals of the S doorway at Kirkburn.

Depth of interior of bowl 0.31m
External diameter of bowl 0.74m
Height of font 0.715m
Internal diameter of bowl 0.55m
Width of one main lozenge 0.27m


Because the large group of fonts in the East Riding seem to belong to the early twelfth-century, it is thought likely that this font would have been made before the church was given to Bridlington priory in 1148. The Augustinian canons seem to have had baptism as a pastoral priority, and not all churches that have fonts belonged to a priory (Wood 2011, 145-6).

The font from Auburn is now at Wragby (YW). It has lozenges, fine texturing etc., but is not so adventurous and individual as the one at Carnaby. The font at Fraisthorpe is a plain squat cylinder.

The small plain lozenge at the intersection of larger units is reminiscent of one of the patterns on the pillars of Durham cathedral; it may be a means of avoiding the intersection of too many straight lines, which would make weakness in the stone and might lead to flaking.

Chip-carved stars are not common on the East Riding fonts, but are seen on the font at Reighton, together with a similar cable moulding and lozenges (as trellis grid pattern). The font at Reighton is square in plan, like a few in the North Riding.


  • F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England's Patron Saints, 3 vols., London, 1899, 78

  • 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. ed., London, 1995

  •  Victoria County History: East Riding of Yorkshire, II (Dickering Wapentake) 1974 

  • Victoria County History: Yorkshire, II (General volume, including Domesday Book) 1912, reprinted 1974

  • R. Wood, "The Augustinians and the Romanesque font from Everingham, East Riding." Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 83 (2011), 112-47


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TA 145 656 
now: East Riding of Yorkshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, East Riding
now: York
medieval: York
now: St John the Baptist
medieval: St John the Baptist (pre-Reformation)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Rita Wood 
Visit Date
17 Oct 2005