St Bartholomew, Aldbrough, Yorkshire, East Riding

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Feature Sets (3)


The church has a W tower, an aisled nave and a chancel with N chapel. It is a large, heavy building, largely of boulders and ashlar, standing high on a raised walled churchyard in the centre of the village. The nave (without aisles) and the chancel seem to be on the twelfth-century plan.

Aisles were added in the late 12thc., but the arcades were completely rebuilt at the restoration. A watercolour of 1868 (Twycross-Raines 1920, 29) shows the interior before the arcades were substantially rebuilt in 1870-1: they look very plain early pointed; he describes the assortment of piers and arches then existing. In the rebuilding a single design of capital was used throughout.

Inside in the S aisle is a sundial often dated to the early 11thc.. Reset in the same wall is a small figure, called a ‘Roman soldier’. The altarpiece in the N chapel is set with tile mosaic from Meaux, the pieces being brought from Hilston church after the bombing. The effigy in the chapel (in the general view) is of Sir John de Melsa, died 1377.

For our Corpus, there are 11thc. windows, blocked, in the N wall of the chancel; and a third windowhead with sculpture in the S wall of the chancel outside. Chevron voussoirs are reused over the 14thc. priest’s doorway nearby. A reset figure is included, but its date is uncertain. Twycross-Raines says that the chevron voussoirs and the windowhead are not constructed from the same kind of stone as that used in later parts of the pre-restoration building (1920, 30).


Ulf had 9 carucates in 1066, and berewicks elsewhere. All land passed to Drew de Bevrere by 1086, and by 1115 it was part of the Aumale fee.

The 11thc. inscription on the sundial says the church was built by Ulf, perhaps the same who was the tenant of Atwick in 1066. In 1115, the church was given with others in Holderness to the priory, later abbey, of Aumale, (Seine Maritime). They held the patronage.


Exterior Features


Doorway in S wall of chancel.

Voussoirs reused at the 14thc. priest’s doorway in S wall of chancel.

Eight or nine well-preserved voussoirs with a row of centrifugal chevron frame the top of this pointed doorway. The voussoirs are all of the same pattern, that is, section, but their span varies, as does the height of the point within the stone. This appears to be yet another example of acceptable or deliberate irregularity with this pattern, that is, a purposeful enhancement of the effect of movement generated by zigzag.


Two blocked 11thc. windows in chancel, N wall.

Although they may remain from Ulf’s church, they are not included in the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture. Now seen from the N chapel, the exterior face of these windows both have decorated windowheads. The window to the E is possibly full length and it has half round mouldings following the outline of the curve which continue into a spiral at both sides of the same height. The second window preserves only a course or two with the head, here there is only moulding round the top and no sign of any other decoration.

Windowhead on S wall of chancel

Outside, immediately above the square-headed functioning window. Possibly reset, but since other windows are in situ on the N wall, it is included here. There are no mouldings on this slab, but carving of animals and vegetation covers the whole surface. There appear to be two animals facing each other, their heads turned away. The larger animal, on the L, is eating from a tree that bends over to it. This tree has a forked root and thick stem, from which feather-like leaves come off. The animal on the R is smaller and not eating. It has been suggested a third, smaller animal was suckling the larger animal (Mann 1985, 22). What elsewhere in this context would be foliage – a scatter of straight lines and nested 'V's, might just as well, or even more likely, be chevron forms, that is, stars or light. The suggestion of all this is a paradisal scene. Date very uncertain, but the tree might be compared to that on a corbel at Kilham. The erratic use of chevron forms might be compared to the base of the font at Burnsall, West Riding - again a paradisal context, with animals and (probably) foliage.

Exterior Decoration

String courses

String courses on the tower

‘The scroll moulding dividing the stages may be compared with that at the west end of St Mary’s, Scarborough, which is dated to c. 1190’ (Twycross-Raines 1920, 31).

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Arch in N wall of chancel.

Norman jambs to a pointed arch in the N wall of the chancel. Plain jambs and plain imposts. The arch to the E is not Norman and is over a tomb.

Width of opening (across the reveal, approx.) 2.56m



N and S arcades altered at restoration 1870-1

‘Inside, the arcades were completely rebuilt at the restoration, keeping the mixture of pointed and round arches to the N. All but one of the piers were previously rectangular.’ (Morris, 1919, 264). Now all the capitals are the same, in the style of a late twelfth-century capital, shallow in height and with a ball of foliate ornament on the angles. The 19thc. nailhead is like it came out of a sewing machine.

Interior Decoration


Inscribed sundial, reset in S aisle

The inscribed sundial is described in Lang et al. 1991, 46-7, 123-4, and there dated to the eleventh century; ‘Ulf may perhaps have been the man mentioned in Domesday Book as owning the land in the time of King Edward the Confessor.’ Comparisons are made with the early twelfth-century sundial and dedicatory inscription at Weaverthorpe as well as with pre-Conquest items.

Width of stone at bottom 0.22m
Width of stone at top 0.17m

Small figure on S side of S nave arcade above Pier 2

Described as a ‘figure dressed in the costume of a Roman soldier’ (Poulson 1840, quoted by Morris 1919). It was built into the wall in 1870. Twycross-Raines compares it to the (14thc.) Easter sepulchre figures at Patrington. The tiny eyes are similar to some on corbels at Kilham. Mann suggests his R hand lies on his stomach, but in various lights it is only a ‘thumb’ that suggests the hand, whereas the whole area of the lower body can be seen as covered by the folds of the girding of some random sort, as on a crucified Christ, for example. A sleeping posture is recognisable, yet comparisons for that (meriting sculpture) are few. There is some sort of likeness with a broken figure at Thorp Arch in the West Riding, where also there is a head carved on a capital in a similar style. Mann draws attention to a seeming cluster of little figures in the Holderness area: Catwick, Hutton Cranswick font, Bishop Burton.

Height of figure 0.5m



  • Borthwick Institute Faculty papers and plan 1870/1

  • J. T. Lang, et al., York and Eastern Yorkshire. Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, III. Oxford 1991, 46-7, pp. 123-4.

  • F. Mann, Early Medieval Church Sculpture: a study of 12th-century fragments in East Yorkshire, Beverley 1985, p. 7, 8.

  • J. E. Morris, The East Riding of Yorkshire. 2nd ed. (1906) 1919.

  • N. Pevsner and D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd. ed. London, 1995, pp. 263-4.

  • G. Poulson, The History and Antiquities of the Seigniory of Holderness in the East-Riding of the county of York London 1840.

  • G. F. Twycross-Raines, 'Aldbrough church, Holderness', Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society 23, 1920, pp. 29-32.

  • Victoria County History: A History of the County of Yorkshire, East Riding, Vol. 7 (Holderness Wapentake, north and middle sections) 2002, p. 10, pp. 22-25.

  • Victoria County History: A History of the County of Yorkshire, Volume 2, 1912.

General view from SE.
Tower and entrance, view from S.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TA 244 386 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, East Riding
now: East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval: York
now: York
now: St Bartholomew
medieval: St Bartholomew (1310)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Rita Wood 
Visit Date
05 Sep 2005