Knaresborough is 4 miles E of Harrogate, North Yorkshire. The large church stands on much the same level as the castle above the gorge of the river Nidd. The church would seem to be linked to the layout of the town, rather than an adjunct of the castle.
Of the twelfth-century church, only parts of the early twelfth-century chancel walls remain, and parts of the later piers of the crossing and archways by the transepts. The chancel walls have been cut into, and no old windows remain. Lunn 1870 describes the church just before restoration, which was completed by 1872. The four piers supporting the tower were raised and largely remade at this time. Sculpture consists of a string course, reset fragments and two or three capitals of the crossing.
Gibson writing in 1923 says the church is mentioned as belonging to Nostell Priory in 1114.
Two lengths of string course remain on the E wall of the chancel. These have two patterns: beaded cable below and dentation above. N of the E window; the greater length of string course is original up to the vertical junction where the vestry was built on. S of the E window, a short length of a similar pattern remains, and shows the bold profile, rounded below and sloping above. (Length not measured, as access awkward).
The old exterior N wall of the chancel continues to the W of the present vestry door into a narrow passage space: here are two lengths of string-course. The profile is bold and rounded, with horizontal chevrons curving over the surface. One of these lengths is illustrated by Lunn. As he shows, the pattern returns into the wall, which itself resembles a pilaster in this area. The length of this piece is 0.37m. The same pattern is on the second length of string-course in the passage space, and is also found in the chapel to the W, where it is cut off by the frame of a memorial to one of the Slingsbys. The lengths are approx. 0.8m and 0.185m respectively.
A length of string-course is preserved in the vestry, formerly the exterior N wall of the original chancel. This length is the longest remaining intact, approx. 2.95m.The height of the moulding is 0.125m. It again is of a bold section, though the top has been masked by a concrete filling between the stonework and the charity boards above. The pattern on the vertical face is two interwoven rows of zigzag moulding, the diamond shape in the centre being hollowed out by a horizontal slash; on the lower face, a row of billet. Below the string is a course of ashlar with tooling and two mason’s marks still clear.
A short length of string-course is found in the S, Roundell or St Edmund’s chapel. The wall represents the exterior S wall of the original chancel. The piece is approx. 0.4m long, but too high to reach for accurate measurement.
The section is again bold: plain below; patterned with a close row of domes and chip-carved zigzag on the vertical face; perhaps rounded profile above.
|ht. of original stonework||0.33m|
|h. of slab with cross||0.33m|
|ht. of piece like N wall exterior string-course||0.124m|
|ht. of piece like that in S chapel||0.115m|
|w. of piece like N wall exterior string-course||0.147m|
|w. of piece like that in S chapel||0.247m|
|w. of slab with cross||0.3m|
A. A. Gibson, 'The Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Knaresborough', Journal of the British Archaeological Association New Series 29, part II (1923), pp. 79-83.
A. Kellett, Historic Knaresborough (Otley, 1991).
Anon., Illustrated Handbook and Official Guide to Knaresborough (1893).
P. Leach and N. Pevsner, Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradfordand the North (Yale, 2009).
J. R. Lunn, The Ecclesiology of the Rural Deanery of Knaresborough (York, 1870).