Christ Church, Marton-cum-Grafton, Yorkshire, West Riding

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (4)


Marton-cum-Grafton is a village 6 miles NE of Knaresborough in North Yorkshire. The present simple church of nave and chancel, with S vestry and N porch, was consecrated in 1876. It replaced an even humbler medieval church situated a distance away from the village (at site of the graveyard on Church Lane, SE 416 623). 

This new church reused much stone of the old one, including a sizeable quantity of 12th-c carved work harvested from the walls by the vicar, Mr Lunn, during demolition. 12th-c worked stone was reset in the entrance doorway to the nave, the vestry’s exterior doorway and interior, and in the reconstruction of a supposed chancel arch, now an internal doorway opening from the chancel into the vestry (the latter includes much new work).


In Domesday Book, Gospatric had 12 carucates at Marton; the manor was worth 20s, half of its value in the time of King Edward (VCH II, 283).


Exterior Features


N doorway into nave.

Lunn (1879-80, 228) describes the nave doorway in the old church as ‘perfectly plain… its tympanum filled with cobbles, and the semicircular arch was very faulty.’ It was then in the usual position, on the S side of the nave near the W end. On resetting it was placed in the N wall as that is the side nearest the village. Plain voussoirs, 'Norman abaci and plinths found in the rubble' were added to repair the opening, and a ‘small early cross’, part of a grave-slab, was inserted among the cobbles (Lunn 1879-80, 234).  

The doorway has: a one-step chamfered plinth; jambs plain and square; impost chamfered and plain with a strong groove at the angle; a worn lintel with a new stone inserted halfway; the tympanum filled with cobbles and the ‘sepulchral’ fragment; a plain square arch of voussoirs. 

For the fragmentary grave-slab, see Comments.

Height of opening 2.06 m
Height of recessed area of tympanum 0.37 m approx.
Width of opening 1.06 m

S doorway into vestry.

This is an exterior doorway, reusing what was formerly the priest's doorway in the S wall of the chancel. Limestone.

Of one order: two courses of plain plinth, a plain and chamfered course. The first course of the jambs begins a narrow chamfer after a short length of plain-and-square; no chamfer stop is identifiable. The jambs and arch are continuous and the arch is round-headed. The label is only partial, at the top; it has a rather heavy appearance, but the usual chamfered and plain profile.

Height of opening 2.05 m approx.
Width of opening 0.95 m


Windows in N and S walls of chancel

Lunn says two small and two larger window heads were found in the old church (Lunn 1879-80, 230). Two of these were re-used for the chancel's N and S windows, a third window head is in the vestry as part of the 'cupboard' (Lunn 1879-80. 234). The fourth window head has not been identified.

The windows re-used in the N and S walls of the chancel are pointed and larger than Romanesque arrowslit windows. 


Mass dial

This feature is no longer on an exterior wall, but was reset in the vestry. (See Interior Decoration, Miscellaneous).

Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Doorway from chancel into vestry.

Doorway of three orders and label. Curvature of arches was calculated from individual voussoirs found (Lunn 1879-80, 230) and these were judged as compatible with a single archway. Outside the label, an arch of coloured voussoirs, flush with the main walling, artfully enlarges the apparent size of the doorway. Some of the new carving Lunn says was worked in old stone, such as the sandstone from the western quoins of the 12th-c nave. The sandstones employed for new work have a wide colour range: cold grey, bluish purple and pink. The old carved stones identified by the fieldworker are all in a golden sandstone: Lunn compared the stone of the Norman pieces he found to that of Lingerfield quarry near Knaresborough (1879-80, 230). Lunn had trouble persuading the workmen to respect old work (1978-80, 240), and, for all his archaeological zeal, he was not beyond 'improving' things as the Victorians often did. Of this doorway, therefore, only a small amount is original.

The doorway represents what Lunn suggests was the Norman chancel arch (see Comments). For the new sculpture, eclectic styles were chosen. No original bases were found, so they were copied – 'but not servilely' – from some at Burford (Oxon) with the addition of foliate lugs (Lunn 1879-80, 234). Genuine old shafts were plain and he says were left so (order 2).  Lunn mentions copying capitals from Canterbury, and capitals and decorated shafts from Windrush (Glos); these are in orders 1 and 3. They are far from being straight copies, but are selective, and with additions. The impost is new stone throughout, but Lunn borrowed for it the star ornament preserved on two stones in the vestry.

The old work is discussed in the 'Details' below. (Note: images 1-13 are general views; images 14-40 show details of the stones thought to be original).

Height of opening 2.09 m
L capital, height incl. ring 0.18 m
R capital, height excl. ring 0.17 m
Span across label from side to side 2.42 m
Width of opening 0.86 m
1st order

In the arch, the part of the first order on the vestry side is new. On the chancel side, the first five voussoirs from the L seem to be original work.

The voussoirs have one row of slender chevrons on the soffit; on the face there are two fatter rows flanking two slimmer ones, these are centrifugal chevrons. 

According to Lunn, the chevron voussoirs found seemed to be fire-marked (1879-80, 229). However, sandstone notably grades in its colouring and sometimes has quite sharp changes. The colouring of these voussoirs is not unusual; the first voussoir of the second order shows a natural change in colour, with strong pinks in part of the stone.

2nd order

The plain detached shafts to order two are original, as are the capitals used in this order. The L capital is in yellowish sandstone and carved very flat although it is rich in beading. Integral ring is cabled. The capital does not widen much upwards. Each face has a central hollow surrounded by a double beaded ring, which opens like a narrow funnel at the top. A further row of beading runs round the top of the capital on the two faces. The R capital is a double scallop capital, again of an upright form; it seems to have been trimmed on the R side. The shields are emphasized by a deep channel on the curve edgess. Lunn found two capitals (1879-80, 241), but they may have been in different orders originally.

Three voussoirs are identified as original in this arch: voussoirs 2, 6 and 9. The profile of the arch is a heavy cable roll on the angle with a smaller plain roll outside. The cable twists in opposite directions, meeting (as reconstructed) symmetrically in a V at the centre. The cable itself is sophisticated; it has alternating wide and narrow ropes, and the wide ones are alternately convex and concave. See Comments.

3rd order

The third order is similar in profile to the second, but the roll is not cabled. Lunn found 'a single voussoir worked into a plain roll' (Lunn 1879-80, 230). The third order seems to be based on one fragmentary piece only, lower R. 


The plain and chamfered label seems largely restoration, but Lunn says he found 'a few pieces of label' (Lunn 1879-80, 230), and perhaps three pieces might be identified: other pieces of similar stone may have been re-tooled.

Ex-situ grave-slabs

A survey of grave-slabs was done by Peter F. Ryder c. 1986, and a copy of his unpublished notes and drawings were sent to the village. These have now passed to the Marton-cum-Grafton History Group. Ryder's notes suggest that there are the remains of three slabs which may be 12thc in date:

1) The first is a broken but complete slab remounted in the W wall of the vestry. This is in Magnesian limestone and may be late 12th or early 13thc. It has a foliated cross and an incised chalice and wafer (Ryder 1986, item 1).

2) The stone in the filling of the tympanum of the nave doorway is 'probably a headstone and perhaps C12' (Ryder 1986, item 3).

3) A piece which might be pre-Conquest or as late as the 12thc. It is reset as a mullion on the S wall of the vestry. It has a cross pattee on one side and a saltire cross on the other (Ryder 1986, item 5).

Reset mass dial

This item was found by Lunn in the quoin stones of the chancel. He assigns it to the First Pointed period (1180-90), like the piscina, and calls it a sun-dial.

The stone found by Lunn's workmen has been reset in the jamb of the outer doorway of the vestry. Being hidden behind a curtain it was not seen by the fieldworker, nor by Elizabeth Coatsworth. Because of a remark by a previous 19th-c writer, Collingwood thought it might be possibly pre-Conquest, but he does not seem to have seen it either (Coatsworth 2008, 291). A photograph has been supplied by Peter Sutton.

The mass dial is a familiar 12th-c form, and one which probably continued is use for some centuries. The stone seems to have been damaged, and would in use have had the rayed semicircle downwards, not diagonally as now. The fabric appears to be limestone, and thus perhaps might belong to the later rather than the earlier 12th-c phase of the old church.

Reset stones in vestry.

As well as the pieces reused in the nave doorway and the internal doorway, a few 12th-c pieces of interest survive in the vestry. These are: three window heads, two pieces of impost, and a fragment of a grave-slab. Below the slab is a broken capital with integral ring and part of a column.

Broken capital, height 0.12 m
Grave slab, height 0.57 m approx.
Grave slab, thickness 0.12 m
Grave slab, width 0.43 m
L impost fragment, max. dimensions 0.42 m x 0.26 m
R impost fragment, max. dimensions 0.44 m x 0.21 m
Single window head, width 0.51 m
1. Window heads

Lunn says he found two small and two larger window heads (1879-80, 230, 234), but more can be seen in the present church. Three small ones are reset romantically in the vestry. The two used together were too high to measure, but their ‘window’ is nearly 1m high. The third window head is at the top of the niche with shelving. It is of fine yellowish sandstone.  Two larger window heads were reused in the N and S walls of the chancel, but are pointed.

2. Pieces of impost

It is assumed these two pieces are from impost blocks but, as only one face can be seen, that function is uncertain. The pieces now form the sides of a niche with shelving.  Their star pattern was said to be the model for the imposts of the internal doorway. Along two edges these stones have a double rounded border, any chamfer is lost in the wall. The star-in-square pattern, which would have been on the upright of the impost, is two rows deep but has been trimmed of its full height.

3. Fragment of a grave-slab.

In the E wall of the vestry, in front of windows, high up, is set a thin slab edgewise. On the N face is a saltire cross whose ends extend to the limits of the stone and probably once beyond; on the S face is a cross patee with a central disc, all flat and the background excavated to make the cross stand out. Lunn mentions it and calls it a ‘standing grave-stone.’ (Lunn 1879-80, 230-231).

4. Broken capital

Reset as if the jamb between two windows in the E wall of the vestry is a broken capital with integral ring; this seems to have had a column integral also. It was perhaps a sort of scallop or cushion capital, with angle tuck. 

Shaft and base near pulpit

Lunn (1879-80, 234) says: 'we found a portion of a large cylindrical shaft of First-pointed work and a mutilated base that would suit it', which he thought belonged to the chancel arch of that period (1180-90). It is presumably this piece that forms the lowest part of the slender chancel arch, immediately to the E of the pulpit.

The base is very weathered and its form is unclear.


Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


Lunn describes finding 'in the coigning stones of the chancel... a First-pointed piscina, with plain square basin...'; the 'First-pointed' period he dates to 1180-90 (1879-80, 230). Later (234) he says 'the First-pointed piscina is placed in the chancel, and from part of the Middle-pointed chancel arch stones and capital is made a bracket-credence.'

The piscina and credence are in the SE corner of the chancel on the E wall. The piscina has a trefoil arch with angle roll. The square basin is like that of a Romanesque piscina, but otherwise the item is Victorian.


The medieval church was demolished 1873-74 under the direction and close observation of the vicar, the Rev. J. R. Lunn, who left an account (Lunn 1879-80; Lunn 1870). There is a painted model in a glass case in the vestry which may be by him. Lunn postulates a history of burning at the incursion of Scots in 1318, immediate rebuilding, ruination at the Dissolution and rebuilding about 1600; there were various early 18th-c alterations, a brick tower had been added in 1726, its foundations within the W end of the nave (1879-80, 236-38). His paper includes his drawing of the old church in 1863 and a conjectural drawing of the church as it might have been c. 1400, nave and chancel under one continuous roof. Three of his drawings are used in Butler 2007, to illustrate churches at Farnham, Kirk Hammerton and Little Ouseburn. This early fieldworker is commemorated in a brass on the N wall of the chancel at Marton.

From his description, the medieval church at Marton in 1863 was a long rectangular building developed from a Norman nave with an eastern chancel of similar length and width; there was no chancel arch, and he reasons that the position of this primary division had varied over time. The internal dimensions were 91 feet by 15 feet 6 inches (27.7m x 4.7m). 

Lunn describes the church as he knew it as being built almost entirely of ‘cobbles’, with gritstone used on the quoins at least of the NW and SW angles of the nave. He suggests the church in the Norman period measured internally about 48 feet 9 inches by 15 feet 6 inches (14.8m x 4.7m), with three of four corners being marked by sandstone quoins. The church had two plain semicircular-headed doorways on the S wall of the church, one now rebuilt as the N doorway to the nave, the other now the exterior doorway to the vestry. This easterly doorway and a few other remains he thought belonged to a new chancel of 'First Pointed' date, (defined as c. 1180-90, 233).

Of the carved stones found in the demolition, he says '...Norman work was of grit-stone, such as that at Lingerfield quarry, near Knaresborough... the First-pointed lancet windows were worked in limestone, very likely from Burton Leonard quarries...' (Lunn 1879-80, 230).

From carved stone found in the walls as the church was dismantled, Lunn postulated a 12th-c chancel arch, of three orders but with an opening width of only about 3 feet (Lunn 1879-80, 230). His reconstruction forms the doorway from the chancel into the vestry.

The fabric of the old church was described by Lunn (1879-80, 227) as 'of all the churches in the deanery... certainly the rudest in material, being almost entirely built of "cobbles" with some rudely squared stones in the chancel.' Cobbles are seen widely in the village in the older buildings, and would have been plentiful (and a nuisance) in the ploughed fields. They originate from glacial till. 

The cross-slab in the tympanum is 'probably a headstone and perhaps 12th century' (Ryder 1986, unpublished notes courtesy of Peter Sutton, Marton cum Grafton History Group). A similar item is seen at Calverley, reset on the N wall of the nave under the roof; and South Stainley (Coatsworth 2008, 281; illus. 835).

Regarding the 'chancel arch' (archway to vestry), the determination of what is old and new is, of course, partly subjective. Old stones, which show some decay or damage, were reused, and are easily separated from mechanically-cut perfect surfaces. Slight variations in handling, evidence of 'the workmanship of risk,' differentiate old work from carving made with improved technology and higher expectations of perfection. Jenny Alexander visited the church very briefly - and unprepared - in 2013, and she made a different assessment from this fieldworker, in particular selecting the bases of the first and second orders on the L side as being original: she did not know that Lunn says he found no bases and had new ones with lugs carved. She also did not identify the L capital of the second order as original. As seen by the fieldworker, with more time to spend, it looks as though all original work was in a light yellowish sandstone.

What is original in the 'chancel arch' is very limited, and if it is isolated from all the rest in the mind's eye, a less spectacular effect is perceived. However, the successful cable arch demonstrates proficiency, and the pattern of the L capital is not known locally: the workman/men may not have been so inexperienced as these battered remains might imply. 

The supposed chancel arch seems to the fieldworker to represent work of a distinct period, intermediate between the simple cobble rectangle of the first church with tympanum and sandstone quoins (and there is something resembling an Anglo-Saxon baluster in the vestry), and the Transitional limestone extension represented by the exterior vestry doorway. The opening is narrow for a chancel arch. Might the arch be a mid-century improvement applied over the existing, perhaps damaged, nave doorway? One other cobble church in the region, Askham Bryan, seems to have had a later doorway applied to it, although that doorway was later moved to form the archway to the porch. I have suggested a similar alteration was made at St Peter's, Conisbrough (Wood 2004, 106-08).

For the cable pattern in the second order of the arch, compare Kirk Bramwith S doorway, where the meeting of a double cable pattern is not quite symmetrical, or the Monks' doorway at Ely cathedral. Chevrons with alternating convex and hollow mouldings are used quite often, a game played by Norman-period pattern-makers likewise on the font at Carnaby.


  • L. A. S. Butler (ed.), The Yorkshire Church Notes of Sir Stephen Glynne (1825-1874)', Yorkshire Archaeology Society Record Series 159 (2007).

  • Elizabeth Coatsworth, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, Vol. VIII: Western Yorkshire, Oxford 2008, 281, 291.

  • J. R. Lunn, 'Marton-cum-Grafton Church, Yorkshire', Associated Architectural Socities Reports and Papers, XV (1879-80), 226-41.

  • J. R. Lunn, The Ecclesiology of the Rural Deanery of Knaresborough, York 1870.

  • P. F. Ryder, 'Cross Slab Grave Covers at Christ Church, Marton-cum-Grafton', Unpublished notes and drawings, 1986.

  • Victoria County History, Yorkshire, vol. II, ed. W. Page, London 1912, 283.

  • R. Wood, 'Not Roman, but Romanesque: a decayed relief at Conisbrough church', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 76 (2004), 95-111.

The old church from the SW, c. 1873
The old church from the NE, c. 1873.
Church from SW.
Brass of the Rev. John Lunn on N wall of chancel
Cobble walls of church grounds


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SE 418 627 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
now: North Yorkshire
medieval: York
formerly: Ripon and Leeds
now: West Yorkshire and the Dales
medieval: All Hallows (Lunn 1879-80, 235-6.) and All Saints (Lunn 1879-80, 235-6.) and St Michael and All Angels (Lunn 1879-80, 228, 235.)
now: Christ Church (since 1876)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Rita Wood 
Visit Date
25 August 1998, 10 May 1999, 25 Feb 2015, 10th March 2015