All Saints, Laughton-en-le-Morthen, Yorkshire, West Riding

Feature Sets (4)


The church stands prominently on an outlier of the magnesian limestone escarpment, with the earthworks of a motte-and-bailey castle immediately to its west; this was the successor to the hall of Earl Edwin of Mercia (recorded in Domesday Book), and later the administrative centre for this large part of the Honour of Tickhill.

The chancel is essentially late twelfth-century, built of local Rotherham Red sandstone in its lower parts on the S side, and Magnesian limestone rubble elsewhere, though heightened later on. Slim pilaster buttresses, constructed of magnesian limestone, can be seen (partial on the N wall) and on the S chancel wall (to the W of the priest's door and at the SE corner), and others are found on the E wall (at each corner and below the Perp window).

The N arcade of the nave consists partly of re-used twelfth-century material; the imposts and arches are later. The nave, aisles and tower were built in Magnesian limestone ashlar in the late 14thc in early Perpendicular style. The tower and its spire (rising to 185 feet) is one of the finest in Yorkshire.

There are remnants of 12thc features in the walls of the chancel; the N arcade contains late 12thc material. The pre-Conquest tower doorway was filled by a later, twelfth-century, doorway which itself has been blocked.


The earliest surviving feature, the N door of a late Anglo-Saxon porticus, now on the N wall of the nave aisle (vestry), probably formed the entrance into the N porticus of a large eleventh-century church (perhaps built for Earl Edwin). For a plan and elevation see Taylor and Taylor, I, p. 374.

The soke and the large parish of Laughton contained several townships and hamlets on the fertile soils of the magnesian limestone belt. 

The church was given to York Minster as the basis for a prebend by Queen Matilda and King Henry I probably in 1104-1105, and the prebendary became rector of Laughton (C.T. Clay, York Minster Fasti II, YAS. Rec. Ser. Wakefield 1959, pp 49-51; Regesta Hen. I nos 675,720). Before this, the tithes at least had been granted to Blyth priory by Roger de Busli, lord of the Honour of Tickhill; the king overruled this, but Blyth retained a pension from Laughton in 1534-4 (Fasti II loc. cit.). Laughton was appropriated to the chancellorship of York in 1484 (Fasti II loc. cit.) The chapel of Thorpe Salvin was confirmed to the church of Laughton in 1230, and the prebend also had some rights over the church of Handsworth (Fasti II, p.50). The prebendaries named by Clay, starting in 1224, appear to be papal or royal nominees rather than residents. The great church builder, William of Wykeham, became prebend of Laughton about 1377.


Exterior Features


Blocked doorway in N face of tower

On the N side of the tower a smaller, rather odd Norman doorway is set into the large, late Anglo-Saxon one. The doorway has no visible bases but probably was raised on the red sandstone that was already there. The jambs of the Notman doorway are plain with a 0.1m chamfer; a segmental head is made up of one large stone and one small one, originally all one piece. Its inner edge is stilted with a narrow chamfer. The label consists of three sections: the central part carved from a lighter stone, with a flat face and a chamfer on the outer and inner side. This piece is flanked by two lower, darker, worn stones, with triangular chamfer.

Height of opening 2.09m
Width of opening 0.82m

Blocked doorway in S wall of chancel

The remains of a priest’s doorway are seen on the chancel exterior, the W of a Norman pilaster buttress and the (renewed) 13thc priest's door. In Ryder's words, the doorway has 'one stone of the cut back hoodmould around its arched head'. The E jamb and more of the head of the Norman priest's door is evident in the interior, where in the 14thc it was used to form the east side of a lancet-shaped recess. 


Window and blocked windows

 There are the remains of windows in all three walls of the chancel. The N wall has a functional window.

Windows, E wall of chancel

On the interior walls, the blocked-up remains of two Norman windows can be seen on the E wall of the chancel on either side of the great Perp window. It is assumed that a third window of similar size was originally in the centre. Nothing is visible on the exterior.

Window, S wall of chancel

Externally, on the S wall of the chancel are the remnants of a Norman window above the 13thc priest's door (which has been renewed). Internally, the remnants of this window, largely obscured by a later window, can be seen; to the E are the remains of a second window, near the SE corner of the chancel.

Window, N wall of chancel

On the exterior of the N wall of the chancel, a Norman window opening is visible above the vestry. Internally, the N wall of the chancel has a 17th or 18thc door with a semi-circular arch leading into the vestry which was built at that time. Above this doorway can be seen the same window, the bottom of its splay blocked.

Window, N wall of chancel

In the N wall of the chancel, Peter Ryder has identified vestiges of a further window to the W of the functional window: 'a voussoir or two of its rear arch may be in situ outside the hoodmould of the later arcade, and [also] above that the cut back end of its internal hood, at the same level of the extant window further east' (pers. comm. 2017). See Comments for the implications of this find.

Exterior Decoration

String courses

String course on chancel

A Norman stringcourse is visible on the external E wall of the chancel (where the central part has been lowered to accommodate the Perp window) and its former course can be traced on the chancel S wall. Most string courses have been trimmed back flush with the main walling.


Reset incised stone

A stone with part of incised chevron is reused in the E wall of the chancel, in the S section.

Max. height 0.26m
Width 0.58m

Interior Features

Interior Decoration


N arcade, capitals

The late 14thc four-bay N arcade of the nave reused 12thc columns and their square capitals; imposts belong to the later work. The columns are heavily re-tooled. The worn bases with a simple torus may be original too.

There is no reuse at the W respond, the arch dies into the wall.

Capital, E respond

This is a 14thc type.

Capital, pier 1

With a narrow roll necking, a hollow bell with waterleaf on each angle. 

Capital, pier 2

Multi-scallop, with six repeats on each side, darts between the cones, and a deep plain band above.

Capital, pier 3

With a plain, deep concave chamfer and a short upright.


Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


In the S wall of the chancel, to the E, is a piscina of a shape that is perhaps unparalleled elsewhere in Britain. Two blocks of Rotherham Red sandstone (the material of the earliest building) form a triangular head. Peter Ryder has argued (1982, 74) that this pre-Conquest feature has been reused in the 12thc rebuilding of the chancel.



A simple sedilia in the internal S wall of the chancel might be a rare example from the late 12thc, but ‘appears to be an insertion in the [late12thc] wall’ (Ryder, 74). It has a round arched head, chamfered.


Doorway: The remarkable survival of the Anglo-Saxon doorway, with long-and-short quoins in the late Mercian style, suggests that it was deliberately preserved when the church was rebuilt in the late 14thc, perhaps to demonstrate the antiquity of the site.

Windows: The remnants of windows in the N, E and S walls shows that the chancel retains its Norman dimensions at these sides, there are indications of a group of three windows in the E wall, as well as the remains of a priest's doorway on the S. There are other late 12thc chancels with window remnants of this kind in the area. Pevsner had assumed the N arcade was all c. 1190, taking note of the capitals but not the imposts (1967, 300), but this is revised in the latest edition (Harman and Pevsner 2017) in the light of Ryder 1982. Ryder has argued that the original chancel extended further west into the present nave, this is on the evidence for a second window to the W of the buttress in the N wall, of which he identified 'the end of its cut-back hoodmould' just above and on the E side of the eastern arch of the N arcade. He suggests the chancel arch would have been just west of the first pier of the arcade (1982, 75). 

N arcade: Glynne (Butler 2007, 271) remarks on the 'square abaci' and 'flowered capitals resembling those at Worksop': he is referring to the 14thc imposts. Pier 2 has a scalloped capital; pier 1 has waterleaf; Ryder suggests that these clearly Romanesque elements were re-used and re-positioned in the 14thc re-planning of the church. The E respond is Early English Gothic. Nothing survives in situ of the 12thc nave. If Ryder is correct in defining a two-bay chancel, as mentioned in 'Windows' above, this lost nave would have been confined between the lost chancel arch and the inferred Saxon tower, it could hardly have had space for a four-bay arcade. Perhaps there were two arcades, one N and one S, made at about the same time as the chancel. These would have yielded the three capitals, and enough stone for the columns to be heightened in the remodelling in the 14thc.

Stone types used in chancel: Buckland has argued that the Rotherham Red sandstone came from the Roman fort at Templeborough, west of Rotherham. It was used for the late Anglo-Saxon door on the N side and in the lower parts of the chancel, where it is particularly obvious on the S side. It is usually supposed that the stones in the chancel were re-used from a pre-Conquest building on the same site. Slim Norman pilaster buttresses, built of magnesian limestone, support the chancel on the S and E sides.

Sedile, etc.: Glynne, who visited Laughton in September 1860, wrote, 'There is a round arched sedile south of the altar and a piscina having a straight-sided arch, of early appearance' (Butler 2007, 271). But see the Taylors' account, pp. 375-6, which argues against an old suggestion that this is Anglo-Saxon. Ryder has a section on the pre- and post-Conquest buildings, with a plan (1991, 72-75). Ryder considers the piscina as re-used, with a 19thc basin; the sedile looks 12thc but appears to be an insertion in a 12thc wall.

Reset stone in E wall of chancel, exterior: Coatsworth 2008, 287, discussing  stones wrongly associated with the pre-Conquest period, mentions a stone in the external face of the east wall of the chancel. It was not seen by Collingwood; Ryder (1982, 82) identified this as possibly Norman/overlap, and reused in the fourteenth-century rebuilding of the church.


  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: West Riding, Harmondsworth, 1967.  2nd. ed. Revised E. Radcliffe. 1967.

  • Paul C. Buckland, 'Ragnarök and the Stones of York', in John Sheehan and Donnchadh O Corrain (eds), The Viking Age. Four Courts Press, 2010, 2-12.

  • Lawrence Butler (ed.), The Yorkshire Church Notes of Sir Stephen Glynne (1825-1874). YAS Rec. Ser. CLIX, (2007), 269-71. 

  • C.T. Clay, York Minster Fasti II. YAS Rec. Ser. Wakefield, 1959, 49-51.

  • E. Coatsworth, Western Yorkshire. CASSS vol. VIII, Oxford 2008.

  • R. Harman and N. Pevsner, Yorkshire West Riding: Sheffield and the South. London 2017, 378-80.

  • David Hey, The Making of South Yorkshire (Landmark), 2003, 48-50; 73-4.

  • Charles E. Keyser, ‘The Norman Doorways of Yorkshire’, in T.M. Fallow, ed. Memorials of Old Yorkshire (1909), 165-219.

  • J. E. Morris, The West Riding of Yorkshire, 2nd ed. (1906) 1919.

  • Richard Morris, Churches in the Landscape (Dent, 1989), pp. 258-9, 461, pl.23.

  • P. F. Ryder, Saxon Churches in South Yorkshire (South Yorkshire County Council, 1982), pp. 71-83.

  • H. M. Taylor and Joan Taylor, Anglo-Saxon Architecture, I, pp. 373-6.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SK 518 882 
now: South Yorkshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
now: Sheffield
medieval: York
now: All Saints
medieval: St John (Raine 1873)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
David Hey, Rita Wood 
Visit Date
14 May 2011, 21 Aug 2017