St Felix, Felixkirk, Yorkshire, North Riding

Feature Sets (3)


The present building consists of a porch, tower, nave and an apsidal chancel.  The church was comprehensively restored in 1860, though many of the original Romanesque parts were retained or re-used.  These include a chancel arch, arcades, a re-set doorway and several windows.


There are only six churches in England that are dedicated to St Felix, a 7thc monk from Burgundy, who is credited with converting the Kingdom of East Anglia. The dedication would support the existence of a pre-Conquest church. However, there is no mention of a church within the small manor at Felixkirk as featured in the Domesday Book. There are documentary references to lands at Felixkirk being owned by the Knights of St John as early as the 12thc (VCH, 160-162).


Exterior Features


Doorway, S wall of the chancel

This reset doorway is not entirely original.  The R nook shaft and capital are clearly restorations, as are many of the blocks used in the arch.  However, the capital on the L, with its scallop form is similar to some of the capitals in the chancel arch.  The bulbous base, resting on a square plinth also looks original.



Window, N wall of chancel

It has a single roll moulding, supported by capitals with simple cushion form, and plain necking.

Window, S wall of chancel

It has a single roll moulding, supported by capitals with simple cushion form, and plain necking.

Window, S wall of nave

This has a single, narrow opening.

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch - nave arcades

There are two arches; the E arch, between the chancel and the apse is part of the 1860 restoration; the W arch, between the chancel and nave is original.

E arch

Though the arch between the chancel and the apse is clearly part of the 1860 programme of restoration, the capitals supporting the arch are much older and share many similarities with the capitals in the W arch. There is a similar format of intertwining stems issuing from stylised heads and masks. These carvings should be regarded as being by the same hand as those in the arch separating the nave and chancel which were reused as part of the restoration.

W arch

The arch between nave and chancel consists of two orders.  The first, inner, order is composed of fairly elaborate and uniformly carved beakhead.  The outer order is composed of lateral chevron on the face and angled chevron on the soffit.

The arch is supported by three capitals on each side.

On the R side the central block is composed of complex intertwining stems forming stylised foliage.  The stems issue from a stylised humanoid mask in the centre of the block and from more animal-like faces at the corners. It has thick, incised necking. W capital has four cones supporting volute spirals and plain necking.  E capital has a more simple cushion like form and plain necking.

The central capital on the L side has a similar format to its counterpart on the opposite side but stems are restricted to the upper register.  Similar forms can be found on the E capital, though there are no spiral volutes and the surfaces are more worn.  The W capital has a simple cushion form though with the introduction of  a stylised leaf running down the edge.



Nave arcades

The nave arcades consist of two bays. The piers have simple, square cut capitals and abaci.  The imposts have plain, chamfered blocks.  All is supported by plain, chamfered bases.


The pre-Conquest church would have possibly consisted of an aisleless nave and apsidal chancel.  At some point in the 12thc the church would have been enlarged and the aisles added.  Later, a square sanctuary was added, perhaps at the same time as the tower was constructed in the 16thc. During the restoration of 1859/60, the architect, W. H. Dykes, was clearly attempting to recreate much of the church’s Romanesque character, by retaining the original chancel arch, constructing a second arch in a Romanesque style and incorporating some surviving fragments, and including Romanesque style blind arcading around the interior of the reconstructed apse.

Pevsner (161) has suggested a date of c.1125 for the carving in the chancel arch.  This seems a little early.  The construction of the arch and the use of volute spirals is very similar to Helmsley, where the stone appears more worn.  A date of c.1170 might be more realistic.

This is a difficult church to read, largely as a result of some very effective restoration work carried out in 1860 by W. H. Dykes.  Dykes uncovered the foundations of a semi-circular apse and built the current structure according to this layout.  Pevsner (161) reports being made aware of a photograph and drawing showing the E end of the S aisle as being rounded.  He further cites an earlier opinion that the church originally had a round nave.  There are certainly some fragments of stained glass still at the church, as well as documentary references to lands being owned by the Knights of St John as early as the 12thc (VCH p.160-162). Alhough some form of circular plan for this building at some stage in its existence might be a possibility, it would be very exceptional in this region.

Although the arch at the junction of the chancel and the apse is clearly part of the restoration, the capitals that support it exhibit some significant inconsistencies.  Though the material is similar, the capitals are much more worn and the cutting of the stone appears softer than the work in the arch itself, suggesting that they were originally part of the 12thc structure.


  • W. Grainge, The vale of Mowbray: a historical and topographical account of Thirsk and its neighbourhood, London 1859, 205-213.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Yorkshire, The North Riding, Harmondsworth, 1966, 161.

  • A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2, ed. William Page, London, 1923, 160-162.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SE 468 848 
now: North Yorkshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, North Riding
now: York
medieval: York
now: St Felix
medieval: St Felix
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Jeffrey Craine 
Visit Date
September 2009