The church has a rectangular nave and chancel, with a bellcote of 1839 above the W gable. There are square, traceried windows on the S side and the E wall has been rebuilt, but otherwise the whole is substantially 12thc. For 19thc. works, including restoration in 1879 by Street, see Draper (1908). The church is built in local sandstone and stands in a large churchyard overlooking suburban Leeds on one side and fields and woodland on the other.
Romanesque sculpture is concentrated in the S doorway, the corbel tables to N and S and on the chancel arch, but there are also decorated window heads and an unusual array of corbel-like heads on the W gable. The remains of a plain font are near the SW gate. The top of a pillar piscina, which had been re-set outside the chancel doorway (see III.4.(i) below), was stolen in 2002.
Roman remains have been found in the area. Draper 1908 thinks there might have been a pre-Conquest stone church. The Domesday Survey does not mention a church at Adel. Adel was held by Alweard in 1066. The manor was granted to Robert, count of Mortain, by William I. It was subinfeudated to Richard de Surdeval. Ralph Paganel or Paynel married one of Richard's daughters, who inherited it. Paynel had Holy Trinity church in York, which he re-established as a cell of Marmoutier, endowing it with the 'church of St John of Adela'. One carucate (of 1½ carucates in the territory of Adel) and the tithes of the desmesne were also granted by Ralph Paynel to Holy Trinity Priory. The present church was dedicated betweem 1152 and 1185 (Zarnecki, 1979). Sometime later, William Mustel gave the advowson of Adel church to Kirkstall. Lancaster thinks this means there must have been two churches at Adel (Lancaster, 1895, 272-73). In 1166 the other half carucate of land at Adel was held by a knight, Robert d'Autrey, from William Paynel of Hooton Pagnell. Before 1204 it was gifted to Kirkstall Abbey (Faull and Moorhouse, 1981).
|w. of opening||0.845 m|
|h. to apex of gable||5.64 m|
|h. to eaves||3.05 m|
|w. of porch (i.e. gabled projection)||4.42 m|
|h. of opening (measured from the raised threshold)||2.53 m|
|w. of opening||1.265 m|
Bases and nook-shafts as fourth order, but on L some original surface survives. Plain plinth, steep base with horizontal grooves at top, and two near bottom. Detached column. Necking and capital on both sides worn to extinction. In the arch on face, centripetal chevron. There are two rows of shallow chevron mouldings on the face, one on the soffit, bordered by incised lines and meeting point-to-point on the angle in the centre of each voussoir. Voussoirs are not of equal size.
Plain and chamfered plinth, very worn. It probably had a groove like the others. Within the first course above the plinth a decorative moulding begins on face and jamb. This is continuous through the arch, and has the effect of angle rolls to N and S, with a plain fillet between them in the reveal; an incised line parallels the roll on the S face.
Plain plinth as before, then square plinth and column base. The base is similar in form to the base described under VI Loose Sculpture. It is fairly steep and has a shallow concave 'collar'. En-delit nook shafts, necking on R has cable pattern; capital on R has symmetrical foliage stems. In the arch, two roll mouldings with two ridges between, set at an angle.
Immediately above this label, and filling the gable, is a sculptural display in which the motifs are separated into panels, though there are joints within the spandrel ornament. In total, including small triangular pieces under the Bull and Lion motifs, there are 17 separate pieces of stone used to make up the display. Presumably these panels are face-bedded, and probably from such strata as would, later, provide the paving stones of the West Riding. Despite extensive erosion, two or three of the eye sockets still seem to have the coloured filling noted by Whitaker, who saw this gable before the removal of the rustic porch. The style is not that of the carvings on the chancel arch, but more rounded. The mask now in place at the apex seems to be a restoration. For the structural relationship of this display to the nave wall, see VIII Comments/Opinions.
All the main characters are surrounded individually by a raised border. At the top of the gable is the haloed Lamb with pennant flying and the cross above it. The Lamb carries a pennant at Barton-le-Street, but it is not all that common a feature. The neatly slabby fleece can still be seen on shoulders and back. Just a little below the level of the Lamb's feet, to L and R, were the Sun and Moon. Christ is seated directly below the Lamb: one part of his throne, like a column with capital and base, can be seen, but the pose of the figure can only be guessed at, or seen in old engravings. The four living creatures are placed two either side. The bull and winged man and eagle have the dark eye colouration perhaps still in place. The eagle is relatively well-preserved. Its feathers are slabby, tile-like on the body (compare with the beakheads on the arch). The lion has a small head.
Simple plinth, as first order. The jamb and arch both have beakheads on a roll, but these are very worn on the lower parts. Capitals seem to have had loose foliage stems (see Bingley Collection slides). Impost not heavy, chamfered and the upright with two grooves, widely spaced. In the arch, the soffit is plain, with 20 beakheads on an angle roll. These are quite well preserved, especially nos. 10-16. They are not quite typical beakheads for Yorkshire, their heads have flat tile or slate-like 'feathers'; their beaks have transverse ridges and so might be seen as tongues, in which case their maker was thinking of masks and not beakheads. The emphasis, however, is on the beak, and the heads are long rather than square in proportion. The transverse ridges might be the development of ridges below the eyes, or even a binding or muzzling strap.
Simple plinth, as first and second orders. Chevrons in both jamb and arch. Capitals again seem to have had loose foliage stems, perhaps symmetrical with a head as a volute; a similar impost. In the arch on the face, centrifugal chevron moulding with balls in the space at the angle. These balls are criss-crossed and made berry-like, as, for example, at Stillingfleet. Outside that are three rows of stepped dentation. Soffit plain.
|max. diam.||0.79 m|
|max. h. visible||0.42 m|
Stands on a deep, plain and chamfered plinth, which has a groove below the angle and a groove on the angle. This plinth is 0.4 m high. On this is a plain block, then a round base. On the N this base is of upright form with a groove in the lower third and a belt in the top two-thirds. On the S side, there is a large belt with a concave profile and the lowest part of the base is plain. Half columns, coursed in with the adjacent jambs, rise to a plain ring and a double-width capital. The S side necking is shallow-waisted into a double ring horizontally.
The capitals are of cushion form and have figurative subjects carved in flat relief and in naive style, but the content is ancient and the sources various.
This capital shows the Baptism of Christ on its S face. Christ is haloed, visible from the waist up and standing in a heap of stripey water with both arms raised. A bird, the Holy Spirit, is above his head. The Baptist, dressed like a 12thc. man, stands on the R of centre. He seems to be blessing and holding a book. On the L an angel flies in with arms outstretched holding a cloth in the Byzantine manner. Below the angel is a four-legged animal sipping at the water. The animal seems to be a boar. On the far right stands a crowned figure in a skirt (and perhaps no upper clothing) who holds a leafing staff, and perhaps a book. The leafing staff runs into a similar plant which grows from the ring of the capital. The staff can be understood as a shoot from the larger form, which spreads onto the E face of the capital. (See VIII Comments/Opinions.)
The Baptism scene is bounded on the angles by foliage stems, which are stranded to the W, plain to the E. These stems come from the mouths of small heads in the position of volutes. On the SE corner the head seems to be human, and the E face contains an animal which may be a wolf. It has its open mouth to the ear of the man, whose own mouth emits foliage, a long willow-like leafy shoot. On the SW volute the many teeth of the head suggest a bestial mask, and one beaded strand is tangled up with the boar.
A fight of a centaur with a dragon. The dragon on the S face is breathing fire. It has two horns and an ear, two front legs and a beaded knotted tail ending in a leaf-like flourish. There are perhaps the remains of a small head as a volute. On the W face is a centaur with a bow and arrow aimed at the dragon's head. The rear of the centaur is being attacked from above by a flying dragon. This dragon has two ears, two striped wings, one front leg and a tail that is banded and ends in a leaf-like flourish. (See VIII Comments/Opinions.) Unusually, the carving extends onto the outer part of the block to the N, adding to the vitality of the swooping dragon. Because of its context and activity, and because it is not paired and symmetrical, this dragon (or wyvern) need not be interpreted like the wyverns on the capitals of the second order.
The subject is the Deposition of Christ from the Cross. The relief is again flat, but even so the heads of Christ and the man with the pincers have been broken off. Christ's head drops to the E and seems to have been crowned. The crown has three square lobes. The cross is rough. To the E of the cross, a bearded man in a cloak supports Christ's right arm. To the E of this man, a woman stands, her hands up in distress. She wears a crown and hood or wimple and cloak. The crown is rather like that of the king on the N capital, but is in better condition, it has three three-lobed finials. On the opposite W end of this face of the capital stands a man. He also has one hand up to his face, the other holds a book. He may have a halo, but otherwise only Christ in the Baptism scene has a halo. At his feet, the head of a creature rising out of the plain necking would seem to have more to do with the scene on the W face of the capital than the Deposition. On the E of his head is a face in a ring, presumably meant for Sun or Moon. (See VIII Comments/Opinions.) The W face of the capital has a head as a volute on the angle. The dragon or wyvern has its head averted from the main scene. Its knotted tail ends in foliage and another head, which touches the back of the goat below. This animal is standing upright looking round the corner in the direction of the evangelist and the cross. From the necking of the capital, a grotesque head with open mouth looks up at the goat. It is reminiscent of the head breaking through the star pattern at Kencott (Oxon). That head is an equivalent for Death or Hell. The composition on the W face may be read as the seeker after higher things escaping Death and Hell, and receiving a new body in heaven, due to the death of Christ. The E face of the capital also has a small head on the corner. This emits two plain stems, which, unlike those on the E face of the N capital, end again quite quickly. On the shield is a boar with tusk and curly tail, a parallel to the wolf on the N capital. In the receding bell is a lion with foliate tail tuft and its face turned to the R, towards the main scene, though from the E the lion is seen alone with the boar. This is the resurrected Christ, and in both the N and S capitals the boar represents the destructive powers of the Devil (Psalm 80:13).
The impost is decorated with two grooves or lines like that on the S doorway. This spacing is unusual, and tends to link the two works, as does the use of dentation on the label in both, and similarities in the bases.
In the arch: on the W face, facing the nave, there is chevron on the angle, with three parallel rows of zigzag on face and soffit. This, again, is similar to patterns on the doorway. The chevron is centripetal on the face. It is unusual in that the zigs and zags are gently curved. On the E face, there is only an angle roll.
A lion and a mounted horseman. The lion on the N face of the capital is a large-eyed with human-like face and it smiles. This is quite common for Romanesque lions. The horseman on the W face of the capital has his lance in a 'rest' position, held upwards; the lion and he are not in combat. He has a cross on the Norman pointed shield. He rides on a saddle with a cloth under it; he wears spurs, helmet and mail. From the nave, this knight would be seen with the centaur on the opposite capital.
Form of base not noted. Plain jambs with chamferd imposts. On the S side of the arch, at the impost, the first two voussoirs each have a beakhead, thereafter the arch is plain. These are decorated between the ears, on the forehead and on the beak with parallel v-lines and have tear-shaped eyes. They are not particularly like those on the doorway. It is an unusual place to have any sculpture, let alone beakheads. (See VIII Comments/Opinions.)
Bases similar to that of first order, i.e. having belts and grooves variously arranged. En-delit nook-shafts; plain, necking with heavy cable to N and S. Both capitals have confronted beasts, wyverns, which are likely to be more positive than they look at first sight (see Wheatcroft, 1999).
N capital: The carving is scooped out at the top edge. The four animals are similar, with tear-shaped eyes and incised diagonal lines or nested Vs on the body. Their mouths are open, with rows of plain square teeth. They have one front leg, and end in a tail and 2/3 leaves. The tails are bound together in the angle and at the ring: foliage is often bound in this manner.
S capital: These animals are slightly more varied than those on the N capital. Three of them have two front legs; the central pair has differently patterned bodies: one has a cross and the other is striped. The outer pair is diagonally striped as before. The foliage ending their tails is angular, but similarly bound. The animals' mouths are shut but still toothy, the central pair having interlocked pointed teeth.Impost as before. In the arch, in the soffit, plain with an angle roll. On the face, each voussoir has a radial cylindrical moulding in the centre, which runs smoothly in the same plane from the angle roll to a circumferential roll moulding. This has the effect of making what Pevsner describes as 'a chain of box-frames'. In its imaginative use of simple roll mouldings to form patterns, it is characteristic of the work of masons from Normandy (see VIII Comments/Opinions).
Victoria County History, Yorkshire, vol. III, reprinted 1974.
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G. Lewthwaite, 'Adel church: its Fabric, Restoration and Discovery of Norman Roof', Assoc. Archit. Socs. Reports and Papers, XIX, 1887, 102-120.
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G. A. Poole, The Churches of Yorkshire, Leeds, 1844 (with five plates).
P. Ryder, Medieval Churches of West Yorkshire, Wakefield, 1993.
H. T. Simpson, Archaeologia Adelensis or a History of the parish of Adel in the West Riding of Yorkshire, London, 1879 (drawings, 220-238)
T. D. Whitaker, Loidis and Elmete, York, 1816.
R. Wood, 'The Romanesque Sculpture at Adel church, West Riding - a suggested interpretation', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 85, 2013, 97-130
W. T. Lancaster, 'Adel Church', Thoresby Soc. Publications, vol. 4, Leeds, 1895, 259-286.