St Mary, Leake, Yorkshire, North Riding

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Feature Sets (3)


This relatively substantial building comprises a chancel, nave, N and S aisles, and W tower. With the exception of the remains of the late 17th-c Leake Hall, currently used as a farm, the church is now situated in an isolated position adjacent to the busy A19. All traces of the village that would have surrounded the church have now disappeared. The church currently serves the nearby villages of Borrowby and Knayton. There are parts of the building from the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, though there is evidence of an earlier structure. The surviving Romanesque parts of the building are the tower and the arch between tower and nave. The tower is clearly a 12th-c structure and is similar in construction and design to other towers in this county dating from a period after c.1160. Internal details suggest that the remainder of the church consisted of a nave and small chancel. This can be observed at both the E and W ends of the N arcade.  Both the N and S aisles were added in the 13thc but not as part of the same programme of work. The S aisle looks like a later construction and is more consistent with the extended chancel built by William de Bilburgh at the beginning of the 14thc. 

There is also a carved fragment from the Romanesque period reset in the S wall of the nave.


There is some evidence to indicate the existence of a church prior to the Conquest, but the Doomsday Survey, in 1086, describes the village as ‘wasted’.  In 1852, excavation in the church grounds uncovered a large burial pit containing a substantial quantity of human remains. This was probably the result of a Scottish raiding party, a fate suffered by other villages in this region during the early part of the 14thc. It could also have been a consequence of the plague. Whatever the cause, the substantial number of remains would seem to indicate that the village had prospered during the 12th and 13th centuries. 


Exterior Features


Window, south wall of the tower

There is a small, round headed opening in the second stage on the S face of the tower

Exterior Decoration



The tower consists of three relatively low stages. Each face of the upper stage is decorated with an arcade of three bays. The outer arches are blind. The inner, slightly narrower, central bays are each divided by a recessed central column, forming a 2-light, louvered belfry opening. Only on the S and W faces are the outer arches supported on shafts. Though worn and restored in places, the shafts of the arcade sit on square bases, with a torus above, whilst the bases of the shafts that divide the bell openings are lower with more rounded tops. Above plain or rope necking, capitals are a mix of cushion, and trumpet scallop - with and without wedges. Abaci appear to be undecorated, apart from a quirk.

Corbel tables, corbels

Tower, corbel table

There is a corbel table above the arcades (see photographs above). Though worn, it is possible to distinguish simple roll mouldings and stylised animal heads. 


Carved stone reset in the south wall of the nave

A rectangular stone block, with a carving in relief of an animal with its head turned back to grasp its curling tail, set within a recessed circle, has been reset in the S wall of the nave. 

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Arch, junction of the nave and tower

There is a semicircular arch at the junction of the tower and the nave.  The arch itself is plain and unmoulded, resting on a simple chamfered impost. There is a single order, with shafts, roll necking and scalloped capitals with wedges.  The bases of the shafts have simple mouldings but are very worn.


Though the construction of the tower would seem to indicate a date early in the second half of the 12thc, the carving of the capitals on both the tower and the tower arch are relatively rudimentary in both form and execution. The medallion with the animal is typical of carving appearing in arches throughout Yorkshire c. 1170, for example at Alne. Its original location in this building it unclear; it might well have come from another church or abbey.


  • W. Grainge, The Vale of Mowbray: a historical and topographical account of Thirsk and its neighbourhood, London 1859, 250.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: The North Riding, Harmondsworth 1966, 226-27.

  • Victoria County History, York, North Riding: Vol. 1, ed. William Page, London 1923, 410-18.

General view


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SE 433 906 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, North Riding
now: North Yorkshire
now: York
medieval: York
now: St Mary
medieval: St Mary
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Jeffrey Craine 
Visit Date
September 2001