St Peter, Felkirk, Yorkshire, West Riding

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Feature Sets (4)


The church of St Peter lies in rural surroundings near the junction of Church Lane, Kirkgate Lane and Slack Lane in what is now South Hiendley; Felkirk as a settlement appears to be losing or to have lost its separate identity. The church comprises nave, chancel with flanking chapels, north and south aisles and a west tower. In the churchyard there is also an Elizabethan schoolroom now converted into a church hall.

The church is mostly 15thc and 16thc but incorporates a large number of reused 12thc architectural fragments. These include the jambs of the present tower arch (Ryder 1991, 24) and a reset windowhead. There is herringbone walling in situ (Ryder 1991, fig. 34) on SE angle of the nave. The interior walls have been heavily retooled, probably during that restoration. A faculty of 1875 gives a plan of the church (Borthwick Institute York Fac. 1875/3)

The tower arch, to the level of the imposts, is early 12thc and incorporates some carving.


The village is not in Domesday Book. Swain f. Ailric granted the church of ‘Hodroyd’ to Nostell in the time of Archbishop Thurstan (1114 –1130), and his gift was confirmed by his son; Hodroyd is a place in the parish (Thompson and Clay 1933, 110). King Henry I confirmed the church of Felkirk to Nostell priory, 1121/1127, the gift of Swein f. Ailric (Farrer 1917 nos. 1428, 1435).  There are faculties of 1774 to repew and to make other alterations, and of 1796 faculty to erect a gallery.


Interior Features

Corbels at present seen inside church in S aisle, see Interior

There are six corbels located above a 13thc. arcade of three bays and more widely spaced than corbels of a typical 12thc. corbel table. Their profile is a quadrant section, a profile usually associated with late 12thc. or 13thc. corbels. There is carving on the curved face of five of the corbels, reminiscent of Romanesque forms. The first four carvings (from the L or W) are men’s heads, some with their head on their hands, the fourth man has with an elaborate arrangement of moustache and forked beard. The fifth corbel has a small incised drawing of a man’s head in the middle of the curved field. The sixth corbel is plain.


Tower/Transept arches

Tower arch

The jambs, and the later vertical parts above the capitals, are coursed with the small extent of the W wall of the nave but not with the tower walls. There is some renewal of the impost, on the N and S ends, and on the angles, but it seems originally to have extended to the wall N and S.

The arch to nave and tower is of two orders. The bases on the S side are worn but better preserved on the N side. A large plinth,  plain and chamfered, supports all orders.

The first order is common to the nave and tower. The plinth to first order is plain and square, and the round bases of the double column extend to the edge of this plinth, with tongue-shaped lugs at the angles. The profile of the base is convex, concave with two plain neckings before the column itself. The pair of columns show more than half their circumference and are coursed. The N double capital has a cable necking, and on each face, a pair of double scallops, with sunk semicircles in the shields and ornamented with single varied symmetrical foliage patterns, one on each cone, except on the SE angle (towards the nave) where there is a bearded man’s head - he seems to be smiling. Above the scallops, the capital has a band of chip-carved star pattern. The impost is chamfered and upright, and on the chamfer a row of small arches, sunk in the bays. On the sides of the capital to the W and E these bays are empty, but on the S face there are nine bays each with a man’s head, placed sideways and looking down. On the upright of the impost, on the main face is a foliage pattern based on a wavy stem with ‘periwinkle flowers’; at the W side more of the arcade, and on the E side more of the foliage. The S double capital is similar in many ways including a cable necking and double scallops. There are symmetrical foliage patterns on the cones as before, but the ornament on the SW angle is not understood. Between each cone is a cabled dart, and in the two central shields on the main face, a triquetra and a cross pattern are incised within circles. On the upright above the shields is a second foliage pattern based on a wavy stem from which sprouts stems with small pointed and rounded leaves; this is on all three faces of the capital. On the impost, the chamfer has a pattern of intersecting arches; in the upright a foliage trail with ‘periwinkles’, except on the W side where it has been repaired and has an arcade.

Second order, on the nave side. The N capital has a cable necking and is double scalloped as before, but in much flatter in proportion. On the N face sunken shields are incised with a triquetra and an interlace cross pattern; on the upright of the capital, on both faces, is a length of the second foliage pattern. The impost is of two patterns, the second foliage pattern and blank arcades, both with repaired sections. The S capital is similar to the N capital, but has no incised motifs. The upper part of the capital bears the second foliage pattern. The impost is renewed in the upright section; it has intersecting arches on the chamfer, and, on the upright, blank arcades. On the L the second stone of the impost, running to the wall, is renewed.

Second order, on the tower side. On the N side, the base has a trefoil ornament formed of a rounded moulding. The  capital has a cable necking and is double scalloped, with flat proportions. There is no additional motif. Above the shields runs the second foliage pattern. The impost, renewed, has a blank arcade on both chamfer and upright. The S capital has a cable necking, as before, but this slim capital does not have scallops and cones, merely a slight taper. It has three pairs of spiral volutes, or perhaps three plants with spiralling foliage, and a leafy stem to the L. On the upright of the capital, is a band of the second foliage pattern. Most of the impost is renewed (perhaps incorrectly); the pattern of the older part is intersecting arcade on the chamfer and blank arcade on the upright.

Dimensions: width of base stone in which the lugs are carved:  0.7- 0.71m. 

Interior Decoration


Reset voussoirs in or near interior of tower

c. Miscellaneous reset pieces:

 (i) A number of chevron voussoirs are reset in the N and S tower walls, as are some slabs, perhaps slightly curved, with chip-carved star patterns alongside billet mouldings.

 (ii) Two chevron voussoirs are reset in the W wall of the N aisle, which could be measured:height of course, 0.2m; L stone, horizontally, measured 0.43m; R stone 0.38m.



Reset window head

(iii) windowhead reset in S aisle wall.

The outer face of the window head is flush with the aisle wall; rough chamfering has been applied to the arched head of the slit. The face has three concentric incised arcs, and strongly marked tooling, though not quite strong enough to be called a pattern. See Comments, and for an illustration, Steele 2007, 26.

Dimensions: diameter at base: 0.62-0.63m;  max. height:  0.34m;  diameter of slit:  0.16m.

Loose Sculpture

Grave slab; coffin, no lid

Outside against the S wall of the nave are two items:

 (i)  the major part of a grave slab, having a ‘cross’ with scrolled feet, and what may be a cabled or notched stem and a rosette head. Ryder 1991, 24, no.1. ,with an illustration, identifies the large cross slab of brown gritstone ‘now lying outside the south wall of the south aisle’ as probably mid- to late 12thc. 

Dimensions: length of slab: 1.73m; diameter of rosette  0.33m

(ii) a stone coffin in a shelly Jurassic limestone (Ryder 1991, 24). It has a drainage hole and has been broken into two pieces.

Dimension: length of coffin: 2.15m.


The church in general (for the tower arch, see below):  

Morris gives the clearest analysis of the building, saying that the tower is chiefly Perp, ‘with good Norman jambs’; the nave, aisles and chancel are essentially Early English but the N aisle, including the N arcade, was apparently rebuilt in Perp., at which time the height of the arcade was increased and the tower arch correspondingly raised. Two capitals can be seen one above the other on the W respond of the N arcade. At the tower, the Perp builders put new [vertical] jambs on the old ones, and the new arch. Numerous Norman carved stones probably belong to the old tower arch, and suggest that the tower was wholly reconstructed, with the exception of the jambs of the old arch, by the Perp builders.  (Morris, 1923, 188)

Ryder says that the name ‘Felkirk’ could mean ‘Plank church’, and may refer to a pre-Conquest timber building. He notes that the earliest phase of the building can be seen in the walling at the angles of the nave, especially the herringbone masonry at the SE angle. He thinks the 15thc. cent. tower arch probably incorporates the reset jambs and capitals of a fine arch of c.1100, which may have been part of the first build, and he notes many other reused architectural fragments. (Ryder, 1993, 152, fig. 34) 

Window head in the S aisle S wall: Pevsner asks whether this piece, which is made of one stone and arched, could be Norman. (Pevsner 1967, 198). Whlst admitting that 'on its own it would be easy to see this as an Anglo-Saxon piece', Ryder thinks it may belong in the context of the other reused material including the reset arch responds and the herringbone masonry.’ (Ryder, 1993, 27) The window head is not included in Coatsworth (2008).

The corbels are reminiscent of Romanesque forms, for example corbel 4 recalls corbels of bearded men at Bilton-in-Ainsty, but the corbels are likely to be contemporary with the 13thc arcades.

Tower arch: Morris considers the arch in place from the beginning. (Morris, 1923, 188) Pevsner thinks that the tower arch is ‘the most curious feature of the church', belonging neither to the present nave nor to the present tower, so perhaps a chancel arch?’ (Pevsner, 1967, 198-99) Ryder agrees that the highly decorated responds now associated with the present tower arch are probably those of a  reset c.1100 chancel arch. He notes that the scalloped capitals with cable moulding and ornament including 'intersecting round arches, star ornament, incised knots and a row of human heads' are reminiscent of an elaborate font now in the late 19thc. church at Skelmanthorpe that once belonged to High Hoyland church just over the border into South Yorkshire. (Ryder, 1993, 27, fig. 36)

The carving on the capitals and imposts of the tower arch is similar in workmanship to that on the fonts at Skelmanthorpe (from High Hoyland) and Cawthorne. The foliage patterns on the cones of the scallops are tree-like; the two patterns used on the upper parts of the capitals and on the imposts differ in scale rather than intention: the ‘periwinkle’ is a coarser version of the more detailed pattern.

Regarding the question as to whether the remains were originally a tower arch or a chancel arch, the following points may be relevant. The capitals are equally carved to W and E faces: this ornamentation is highly unusual for a chancel arch, which is usually plain, or at least much less likely to be carved, to the chancel than to the nave side. The range of patterns and motifs is similar to the fonts noted above; there are arcades of various kinds, foliage and men’s heads, but no grapes, which might have suggested a chancel arch. There is no sign that a rood beam or screen was fitted against the impost or responds. It is therefore possible to question the idea that this is a chancel arch rebuilt, or in situ, and that the nave was ‘moved’. The width of the arch, 3.7m at ground level, is comparable to that at churches in the East Riding that have an elaborate or unusually large tower arch in situ. Like those churches, there is no contemporary font at Felkirk church; the present font is octagonal, on a stem, and probably 13thc. 


  • Borthwick Institute Faculty Papers, York, 1875/3  

  • W. Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters 3, Edinburgh, 1917.

  • J. E. Morris, The West Riding of Yorkshire. London, 2nd ed. (1911) 1923.

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

  • J. Raine, “The Dedications of the Yorkshire Churches,” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 2 (1873), 180-92.

  • P. F. Ryder, Medieval Cross Slab Grave Covers in West Yorkshire, Wakefield, 1991.

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

  • A. H. Thompson and C. T. Clay, Fasti parochiales 1, part 1, Yorkshire Archaeological Series 85 [Deanery of Doncaster part 1], Leeds 1933.

The church from the SE
View NW from churchyard
View SW from churchyard


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SE 387 126 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
now: West Yorkshire
now: Wakefield
medieval: York
now: St Peter and St Peter
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Barbara English, Rita Wood 
Visit Date
30 September 2011