St Michael, East Ardsley, Yorkshire, West Riding

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Feature Sets (2)


East Ardsley is now within the metropolitan area of Leeds, only 6 miles from the centre. The medieval church consisted of a W tower, nave and chancel (Ryder 1993, 149; Booth (1963) 1997, 14-15). The building was demolished in 1881. Before that Sir Stephen Glynne visited in April 1871 and described a church that 'had originally only chancel and nave, but a north aisle has been added [1781], in debased style, to the nave, and there is a poor modern west tower, of small size, and not worthy of being exactly described. The south wall of the nave is original and had a fine Norman doorway...three orders of arch mouldings, two with bold chevron work and one with lozenges. The shafts are gone but the capitals have square abaci and good sculpture.' (Butler 2007, 166). A new church was built to the N of the old site, reusing the 12thc doorway, but apparently no other elements of the earlier structure.



According to the Domesday Book, East and West Ardsley (Erdeslau) were lands of Ilbert de Lacy. Before the conquest Alric and Gerneber had 5 carucates and 3 bovates, but after the Conquest Swen held those lands from Ilbert (VCH II, 251), and the king had 4 carucates and 5 bovates at Erdeslau (VCH II, 302). Nostell Priory's possession of the ‘chapel of Ardsley’ was confirmed between 1164 and 1181 (Faull and Moorhouse 1981).


Exterior Features


S nave doorway

The current doorway, forming the S entrance to the modern church, has three orders and a label, although the porch cuts into the label on either side. The doorway includes remains from an original doorway, but the lower parts are new, as described for each order. One stone in the label is also modern.

First order. The plain square jambs are renewed but run continuously into the arch, where the medieval work has a pattern of saltire crosses. Original work survives in voussoirs 2-, but the first voussoir on either side was replaced to match the rest of the arch. The soffit plain, except for some tooling. which may be restorer’s neatening. A roughly-rounded moulding, in the form of a raised saltire cross, sits on the face on each voussoir. The saltires are not chevrons, as they do not form a continuous zigzag. At the centre of each block the arms of the saltire run into a disc that is more or less circular: the pierced centres of the circle can be seen but the circumference is not completely accurate except in the new work. The opposing quadrants, on the angle and towards the second order, are slightly canted as they would be between chevron moulding; however those that face the joints seem to be flat and parallel to the face.

Second order. The bases and detached shafts are renewed. The square, roughly moulded, imposts blocks on either side are fomed of one piece of stone linking the second and third orders. The L and R capitals are of approximately the same form but reversed;  The L capital has an angle volute with a small coil on either side; on the S face a slight horizontal ledge runs along at the level of the volute. On the E face, against the first order, at the same level as the volute is chip-carved star with six arms. The R capital is similar, but reversed: the volute retains little of any coil, and the star on the W face, against the doorway, has eight arms. In the arch of 18 voussoirs, the soffit has a row of hollow chevron mouldings. The face has a centripetal chevron moulding coming to the angle, a step and a plain towards the third order. Just to the right of centre of the arch are two notable voussoirs (10 and 11), with beakheads. These have not been accidentally mixed in by the restorers, because one shares a voussoir with a repeat of the chevron pattern. The beakhead on the L has its beak arranged in the usual way over, or biting, a roll moulding. The detailing is worn, but the forehead may once have had horizontal lines and a central vertical stripe with pierced beading. The beakhead on the R is also arranged over a roll moulding, but the head is very narrow, appearing squashed by the chevron pattern that is resumed in the other half of the block. This beakhead is turned a little to the side and does not face forward like the other; its eyes are at different levels and of different sizes. 

Third order. The capitals are single scallop capitals. That on the L has a slightly recessed cone, whilst that on the R has a small horizontal tuck in the cone. On the soffit and face of the arch, of 20 voussoirs, centrifugal chevron meets point to point, forming hollow lozenges on the angle; on the face, there is a step outside the row of chevron and a plain towards the label.

Label. About a quarter of the lower part of the label is lost, cut away to accommodate the porch roof. The label is slightly chamfered at both edges and has sculpture on the main face, with the decoration varying from stone to stone. Most of the other stones have patterns based on zigzagging lines or lozenges. Stone 1 has zigzagging bars with solid half-lozenges below; stone 2 has solid lozenges in relief. In contrast stone 8 has a foliate pattern, based on a lazily zigzagging stem that sprouts symmetrical pairs of leaves at each angle. The next stone (9) has a zigzagging stem at the outer edge of the stone with a cluster of three leaflets at each outer angle. The next stone (10) is restoration and mixes leaf and star patterns. The last stone has incised lines outlining lozenges.











2nd order, L capital, h. incl. necking 0.202m
2nd order, L capital, max. w. E face 0.19m
2nd order, L capital, max w. S face 0.175m
2nd order, R capital, h. incl. necking 0.195m
2nd order, R capital, h. without necking 0.17m
2nd order, R capital max. w. S face 0.185m
2nd order, R capital, max. w. W face 0.19m
3rd order, L capital, max. w. E face 0.2m
3rd order, L capital, max w. S face 0.195m
3rd order, R capital, h. incl. necking 0.2m
3rd order, R capital, h. without necking 0.173m
3rd order, R capital, max. w. S face 0.2m
3rd order, R capital, max. w. W face 0.215m
h. of opening 2.11m
w. of opening 1.2m


The beasts of these beakhead voussoirs may represent the evil in the world that men have to resist. Comparisons for the lop-sidedness of the smaller beakhead exist, for example, at Stillingfleet (South Yorks) where a capital has a distorted mask; at Liverton (North Yorks) another lop-sided beakhead can be found on the chancel arch.  A label-stop mask at Moor Monkton (West Yorks) is treated similarly.


  • J. M. Booth, The Parish Church of St. Michael, East Ardsley, 1963, 2nd ed. 1997.

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

  • M. L. Faull & S. A. Moorhouse, eds., West Yorkshire : an Archaeological Survey to 1500, Wakefield, 1981.

  • P. Ryder, Medieval Churches of West Yorkshire,¬†Wakefield, 1993.

  • Victoria County History of¬†Yorkshire, vol. II, reprinted 1974.

The church from the SE.
View from the church entrance.
Distant view of the church.


Site Location
East Ardsley
National Grid Reference
SE 302 253 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
now: West Yorkshire
medieval: York
now: Wakefield
now: St Michael
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Barbara English, Rita Wood 
Visit Date
08 Aug 2000