St Michael, Eastrington, Yorkshire, East Riding

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Feature Sets (3)


The church has a nave and chancel with N and S aisles, based on a nave and chancel of the 12th century; it has also a W tower and a S porch. The chancel has traces of its Norman structure in the following features: exterior pilasters on the E wall, a string course inside and out, corbels on the N and S walls, and blocked N and S windows. The chancel was partly reconstructed in 1632 after partial collapse, hence the square pillar and woodwork in its N arcade. In the chancel aisles a few corbels remain in situ; the best-preserved are on the N side. An object of particular interest at this the church is the reset panel in the porch, the use of which is unknown (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 398; Butler 2007, 167-8). 


King Edward had this land before the Conquest, and at the time of the Domesday Survey it was associated with Howden either as soc or as land held by the Bishop of Durham. All the berewicks of Howden were waste (VCH II, 319).


Exterior Features


Windows in chancel

The remains of round-headed window facings can be seen in the N and S walls of the chancel. They are flush with the walling on the former interior and exterior faces.

(Illustrated under Feature, 'String course in chancel').

Exterior Decoration

String courses

String courses on exterior E wall of chancel

The exterior E wall of the chancel can still be identified. It has two pilasters, indications on the L side of the roof slope, and two string courses.

1. The string course at the lowest level is plain with a chamfer above and below.  This profile is also seen, for example, at Aughton and Lockington, and in part of the tower string courses at Everingham.

2. High up, just above the tops of the pilasters, are two lengths of string course on either side of the window. The upright has a quirk at top and bottom.

Height of course 0.19m
Height of upright part 0.12m

Corbel tables, corbels

Corbels on chancel walls, N and S.

The corbels are seen from the inside in the N and S chancel aisles. The corbel table now carries the roofs to the aisles, or is close to the roof, while about a foot below it a heavy pipe runs in front of the wall; on the N side, this obscures the view of some very interesting corbels. Corbels on the S wall are damaged; there may be more corbels hidden by the organ.

Corbels on N wall of chancel

CN1. Exposed in the E wall of the end of the aisle, but in sequence with the corbel table, is the W face of a corbel on which is carved a man bending forward as if to pick up something. The relief is very flat, and it was not possible to assess this effectively.

CN2.  A man’s head, compact and lifelike. He has a long thin twirled moustache and a small mouth.  

CN3.  Three horizontal rolls. Seen from the side, the circular ends are recessed. 

CN4.  A bearded man’s head with ‘cigar’. The head turns a little in the direction of the object, which is presumably symbolic and being emitted.

CN5. Two human figures. The man and woman are full length, with large heads. The man seems to be down on one knee before the woman, his right hand reaching out to her, but his head is turned outwards and his mouth open, his jaw dropped. She looks passively to the side.  

CN6.  A man’s head, looking. He has a long twisted moustache with curled up tip, but no beard.  

CN7.  A beast’s head with a big open mouth and its long pointed tongue hanging out. It is bear-like, with small round ears. 

CN8.  A beast’s head seeming to grin. It has small ears, just discernible. 

CN9.  A bearded man’s head; he is smiling. 

CN10.  A man’s head, again he seems to smile. The cylindrical form under his head is found elsewhere, but has not been identified. 

CN11.  A man’s head with, perhaps, a gag or bit across his mouth: it is slightly shaped and is not a simple billet moulding. What appear to be frowns are the lines of hair, since they continue down the sides of the head. 

CN12.  Damaged. A human face?

CN13.  A human face watching, perhaps a woman.

2. Corbels on S wall of chancel

CS1.  A human head? This is almost completely broken away. 

CS2.  A man’s head, broken off below the eyes. There remains a fringe of hair and two large eyes looking. 

CS3 and (higher) CS4 are broken and worn.

After a gap in the sequence, there is another legible corbel half-hidden by the organ:

CS5   A human head.

Interior Features

Interior Decoration

String courses

String course in chancel.

Short lengths of string course, plain and chamfered above and below, remain on the N and S walls of the chancel near the E end. They are similar to the outside string course.

Height of course 0.19m
Height of upright part 0.126m


Panel; string course fragments; corbels reset as label stops.

There are three diverse items, of which the panel is singular and the string course and corbel more common.

Panel, height incl. the stone above 0.73m
Panel, height of visible panel 0.445m
Panel, width 1.20m
String course E, larger piece, height 0.82m
String course E, larger piece, length 0.435m
String course E, small piece, height 0.07m
String course E, small piece, length 0.145m
String course, W, height 0.09m
String course, W, length of row 1.08m
1. Panel reset in N interior wall of porch.

The panel is divided into two horizontal rows of four animals. The rows and the animals are separated by a ridge, except for the two on the right of the upper row, where there is no division. The animals are lions in the upper row and griffins in the lower. They are mirror pairs with, to the R of the lion on the R, a small bird in the lower right corner of that area. The carving is fairly shallow but even so textures survive: of feathers or scales on the griffin and some attempt at a mane for the lions. The griffins are all alike and fluent, designed to fit the space, but the two pairs of lions, although similar in all significant details, seem to have been carved by a different artist. Part of the border has been lost on the R. It was not possible to be certain whether there is a joint or if the stone continues up under the notice board; if so the surface is set back about 0.01m. 

2. Reset fragments of string course.

These are in the S wall of the S nave aisle on either side of the window, under the memorials. The four main lengths of string course have a well-preserved chevron pattern; immediately below the piece on the E of the window is a smaller worn piece probably of the same. Between the window and the S door there are three pieces making a continuous row.

3. Label-stop in Nave N arcade

This arcade has ‘octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches with nailhead ornament’ and is 13th century, but there are ‘two Norman stops used as hoodmould stops.’ (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 398). There are in total four stops on the arcade, of which only one seems to have undoubtedly Romanesque features: the stop on Pier 2. This may have been a corbel. Its beard is more developed than those on the corbels in the N chancel aisle. It has an unusual form of ear, but the curls on the ends of the of the beard are in twelfth-century style. The eye is matched in corbel CN13, and many of the in situ corbels have a twirled moustache. The removal of the cavetto background gives it the appearance of a portrait head wearing a crown. The smaller corbels used at the E and W responds are like another small corbel high in the wall, but it is not thought that any of these are twelfth-century. The label stop on Pier 1 is later too.



Corbel N3: scrolls or rolls. Compare Selby Abbey NE pier of crossing; or Brayton, a corbel on N side of tower; Bramham YW61. The form also occurs at Newbald. At Selby Abbey, some paint remains; here at Eastrington the form suggests scrolls - in scroll-boxes?.

Corbel N4: bearded man with ‘cigar’.  If only one could get nearer! This corbel is remarkable in that the object has been made to project beyond the apparent limit of the block, adding to the impression that it might be emerging from the man's mouth. Compare Bilton-in-Ainsty (YW), corbel 3. Might it be a swaddled child? That is, a soul reborn? The idea of the soul being reborn would accord with the fieldworker's general interpretation of corbel tables as the place from where the end of the world, the second coming of Christ and the day of Judgement were being watched for, and thus where the entry of believers into the new life of heaven is expected; see Wood 2003a, 13-25. 

Corbel CN5: two human figures   It is common enough to find a corbel with two heads looking out in this way, and Harswell has a local example: there is a two-head corbel reset inside which may be of a man and a woman. Usually these heads are expressionless, and fixed in a distant gaze like the single heads of men; sometimes they smile, as if seeing their redemption drawing nigh, at the Second Coming of Christ. 

It is unusual to find whole figures carved, and these at Eastrington give the possibility of precise evidence supporting the suggested 'end of the world' scenario. The corbel with the two figures could be read as a man in the act of proposing marriage to a woman, or making some sexual approach to her, but the turn of his head away from the woman and his shocked expression show he has been interrupted. At the end of the world, the corbel is saying, such things become irrelevant. Perhaps an appropriate text would be Matthew 24:38 (‘in those days which were before the flood they were… marrying and giving in marriage… the flood came and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man.’)

Corbel CN7: bears. Bears are not common, but there are several on corbels at Kirkburn.

Corbel CN8: smiling animal. There is a corbel with a smiling sheep in the Hull and East Riding Museum. That has big coiled horns.

Corbel CN9: smiling bearded man. He is another of the faithful glad to see heavenly life dawning.

Corbel CN 13:human head. Reminiscent of corbel heads at Hayton, also seen from the N aisle.

Font.  Pevsner and Neave (1995, 398) say 'What date is the font, which appears to stand on a circular cross base?', and Morris (1919, 145-6) says 'Remarkable (?)Norm. font'. It seemed to the fieldworker that the two unusually large, plain, shallow circular plinths might be later medieval ones reused, and the upper structure - octagonal in all its parts with some subtle concavity in the profile - could be a post-Reformation, 17th- or 18th-century font design; the font might have been thought of as made in wood. The effect is quite theatrical. The font is not 'Norm'.

Panel reset in porch

The animals and bird might be interpreted as heavenly creatures so, perhaps, making the panel suitable for use as a reredos behind the altar. Formally-posed creatures of these kinds were seen on precious silks which were hung in churches. It is an unusual relic.

String course reset

Because there were plain string courses on the N, E and S walls of the chancel, and because a chancel would be preferred for decorative string courses rather than a nave, it is not easy to suggest where these pieces came from. The alternatives seem to be either the E interior wall of the chancel, or as a continuation of the imposts of the chancel arch on the E wall of the nave.

Re-used corbels 

The re-use of carved heads of various ages as label stops is seen in nave arcades at Pocklington, including beakhead voussoirs recut.


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

  • 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,  New edition, London 1842.

  • N. Pevsner & D. Neave, The Buildings of England; Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd ed. London 1995, 398-9.

  • Victoria County History: Yorkshire, II (General volume, including Domesday Book). 1912, reprinted 1974.

  • R. Wood, 'The Augustinians and the Romanesque Sculpture at Kirkburn Church', East Yorkshire Historian 4 (2003), 3-59.

The church from NW.
View from nave into chancel.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SE 796 300 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, East Riding
now: East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval: York
now: York
medieval: St Michael (Lawton 1842, 335)
now: St Michael
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Rita Wood 
Visit Date
31 May 2005, 09 Dec 2015, 03 Feb 2016