All Saints, Saxton, Yorkshire, West Riding

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Feature Sets (4)


Saxton is a village about 12 miles from Leeds. The church of All Saints has a W tower, nave with S porch and S chapel, and chancel with N vestry. An overriding impression of the interior was the dark pointing on the light grey stone: one unusual touch was that the stone slates of the porch were hung on wooden pegs on the rafters. (Pevsner, 1967, 431; Butler, 2007, 36).

There is a plan of the church in Borthwick Fac. 1876/5, but it is largely concerned with reseating, and so the windows (for example) are not entirely accurate: a better plan is in Kirk, 1960, pl. 1, drawn by J. H. Smith in 1959. An annotated plan drawn by S. D. Kitson in October 1920 is in the archive of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society; it is informative (summarised in Kirk, 1960, 14-15).

Apart from the N wall of the nave, which was rebuilt in later medieval centuries slightly to the N of the first line, the ground plan of tower, nave and chancel are basically from the twelfth century. The only Romanesque sculpture is in the waterleaf capitals and bases of the south doorway, and the simple imposts of the chancel arch. There are also two slit windows, and an aumbry - all supposed to be of c.1180 because of the waterleaf capitals.


In DB, Saxton belonged to Ilbert de Lacy (VCH II, 244, 297), and was held by the Peytevin family; there was a church. About 1160-74, Robert de Peytevin granted the advowson and some land to the hospital of St Peter (Farrer, 1916, 24). This is the family that had been concerned with the establishment of the Cistercians at Kirkstall. Lawton (1842), 73 says 'Torre calls this a parochial chapel within the parish of Sherburn'.


Exterior Features


Blocked doorway on N wall of nave.

From the inside this has a thick lintel, flush with the general surface level. The N wall was rebuilt in 1280 slightly further north (Kirk, 1960, 14; Gilleghan, 2012, 3), see narrow pile of stonework in the angle between the N and W walls. The opening is comparable to the blocked doorway in the S wall of the chancel.

Lintel 0.38m by 1.5m
w. of opening (interior) 1.06m
w. of opening (outside) 0.845m

S doorway to chancel.

This doorway resembles the one in the N wall of the nave in having a heavy lintel. According to the faculty papers, it would have been blocked around 1876, at which time a new doorway was made in the N vestry (Borthwick Institute, Fac. 1876/5). There seems to be a chamfer on the R jamb, where the cement is gappy. The whole S wall had been disturbed to put in the pointed medieval windows; there probably were two round-headed windows as remain more distinctly on the N wall of the chancel. From inside on this S wall, there is less to see.

Very approx. w. of opening 0.83m

S doorway to nave.

Doorway of two orders. First order plain and square; continuous.

Second order has plain plinth, ring and torus base, not waterholding. Detached shafts one-piece but severely weathered - they are probably modern restorations in an inferior stone (compare Askham Richard porch). Capitals simplest waterleaf with integral ring and impost. The waterleaf is thick, squat, plain, slit halfway with a slight bored indent at the bottom, something like them exists on the porch archway at Sherburn. Integral impost thin, chamfered and plain. This order finishes flush with the wall. 

h. of opening 2.96m
w. of opening 1.37m


Various windows.

There is a functional window in the N wall of the chancel, and marks of perhaps three others in the chancel stonework; there is a slit window in the S wall of the nave, to the E of the doorway.

Chancel windows

One complete window exists, at the E end of the N wall. It has a narrow chamfer outside. The interior facings of a second window also survive in that wall. The S wall of the chancel is much more complex, and both faces need to be examined to estimate what might have been the earlier fenestration. It resembles a general style found in various late twelfth-century churches in the S Riding.

Nave window

The one nave window surviving seems oddly placed in the S wall. It may have been reset here in the late 13th century when the S or Hungate chapel was added and that part of the S wall opened up with the two pointed arches. Placed unusually high and close to the doorway, it would have lit the entrance. Slight chamfer all round - or at least as far as can be seen from the ground.

Exterior Decoration


Grave-slab reused in plinth of tower.

This piece is on the N side of the tower, within the complex courses of the late medieval plinth, by the NW buttress. It is just the head of an incised 'bracelet-headed' cross. This style was current in perhaps late 12th century or early 13th century.

Higher up the same wall are the foot ends (steps and shaft) of further crosses. These more likely to be 13th century (Kirk, 1960, 16-17 citing an earlier description of the reuse of such slabs).

Interior Features

Interior doorway in tower.

The tower was refaced outside in \later medieval times, probably in the late 15th century, concealing what is supposed to be a 12th-century tower. In the SW corner of the tower is a vice or spiral staircase (not seen, but on the plan in Kirk, 1960, pl. 1); the entrance to the stair is now from outside. There is a blocked doorway inside, but its shape and age could not be ascertained.


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

Plain from the ground up to a simple plain and chamfered impost, grooved with quirk near the bottom of the upright. The chamfer on the jambs on both E and W is probably later, having different tooling.

Thickness of wall from E to W excl. chamfer 1.18m
Width of opening 2.98m



Aumbry in N wall of chancel.

This cupboard is below the one surviving round-headed window. The S wall has an indication of a similar rectangular alcove, but blocked; this may have been a wall-piscina.

The aumbry at present contains the fragmentary pre-Conquest cross-head (Collingwood 1915, 236-7; Coatsworth 2008, 245-6). Coatsworth estimates the date of the fragment as early tenth century. See Comments.


Kirk compares the S doorway at Saxton to the N doorway at Otley (1960, pl. IV.1), and the chancel arch to others, for example, at Ryther, Bardsey and Leathley.

Internal measurements of tower, nave and chancel, taken by S. D. Kitson, are repeated on the plan in Kirk 1960, pl. 1 (in feet). The church of c. 1180 had a tower 3.12m square; nave 16m x 8.3m; chancel 9.45m x 5.94m.

Kitson's notes on his plan of 1920 date the external casing of the tower, and the tower arch, to c. 1450-1500, the structure of the tower being orginally 12th century (cited by Kirk 1960, 14).

The N wall of the nave was rebuilt at some date estimated to be c. 1280 (Kitson in Kirk, 1960, 14).

W. G. Collingwood was told by the vicar that the pre-Conquest cross head had been found embedded "in early walling... close above the Norman south door." (Collingwood, 1915, 236). One might speculate that the cross-head was intentionally reused, placed on view there, in the late twelfth century. If so, it was quite the most decorative piece of sculpture used at the church.

S doorway to nave: the arch, plain and chamfered, has a somewhat broader chamfer than at Rufforth, but narrower than at Kellington. There is no label, which might suggest an early porch, but the present porch is of 1850 (Gilleghan, 2012, 9).


  • Borthwick Institute Fac. 1876/5 (includes plan of church)

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

  • E. Coatsworth, Western Yorkshire. Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, vol. VIII (Oxford, 2008).

  • W. G. Collingwood, 'Anglian and Anglo-Danish Sculpture in the West Riding'  Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 23 (1915)

  • W. Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters, vol. 3 (Edinburgh, 1916).

  • G. E. Kirk, Saxon Church, Lead Chapel, Towton Chapel (Leeds, 1960).

  • G. Lawton, Collectio rerum ecclesiasticarum de diocesi Eboracensi; or, collections relative to churches and chapels within the Diocese of York. To which are added collections relative to churches and chapels within the diocese of Ripon (London, 1842).

  • N. Pevsner, Yorkshire: West Riding: The Buildings of England (Harmondsworth, 1959), 2nd. ed. rev. E. Radcliffe (1967).

  • Victoria County History of Yorkshire, vol. II (London, 1974).

The church from the E
The limestone plateau, Headwell Lane.
The village from SE; Cock Beck valley beyond.
The village from SE.
The church from NE in winter.
The church from SE.
The church from the NE in spring.
Plinth at E wall of chancel.
Plinth at N wall of chancel.
Naturally pink Magnesian Limestone, in later medieval walling.
Sherburn church, 2.5km S across the limestone.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SE 476 369 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
now: North Yorkshire
medieval: York
now: York
now: All Saints
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Rita Wood 
Visit Date
22 June 1999; 3 May 2014; 13 Jan 2015