St John the Baptist, Wales, Yorkshire, West Riding

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Feature Sets (4)


The village of Wales is eight miles ESE of Sheffield. Of the medieval church only the early 12thc two-bay nave and chancel, and a Perpendicular 15thc W tower survive (Harman and Pevsner 2017). The village was transformed by coal mining in the late 19thc and a necessary extension to the church was added in 1897. The large nave and S aisle were added on the S side, so that the small old building was reduced to the status of a N aisle. At the same time, the Norman S doorway was re-set on the S side of the new aisle.


This was originally a chapel-of-ease in the large parish of Laughton-en-le-Morthen. The place-name refers to a settlement of British people, perhaps serfs, and is recorded in 1002-4.


Exterior Features


S doorway to S aisle of nave

The doorway was reset in 1897 on the S wall of the new S aisle. It has two orders and label; a tympanum in the first order. The door shuts onto a wooden frame supporting the tympanum, which has a roughly-vertical crack to the right of centre, also some damage in the lower part of the pattern on the left. The opening is upcurved and cuts across the pattern on the tympanum: this seems to be a modern neatening of an originally horizontal door-head.

Height of opening into upcurve of tympanum 2.01m
Height of R capital 0.23m
Width of opening 1.175m
1st order

First order is plain and square in the jambs. The tympanum is decorated with a chequer pattern of sunk and raised squares; these are enclosed by an arched band of lozenges, or two rows of point-to-point zigzag, all in one stone.

2nd order

Second order (all forms very worn and rounded): upright rounded base and ring; shaft in sections, not coursed; single-scallop capital with necking; deep and heavy impost. The arch above is decorated with crude beakhead, which is damaged and worn on the left, but voussoirs to the right may be restored. The motifs are flat and have alternately beaked and rounded faces, and all have incised circular eyes. They lie over an angle roll.


Label, much worn, is perhaps of double-chamfered profile. A head, top centre, is probably a reset corbel placed there by the Victorians. It is perhaps a human head but the front and top are broken off (and has been seen with a bird's nest on top).

Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Re-used corbel

The centre of the label is decorated with a reused but now significantly damaged corbel.

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

Arch of two orders, there is no label. First order bases much broken, but they seem to have the form of a square plinth and then a rounded base with a concave belt. Half-round column; plain necking; broad single-scallop capitals with irregular small volutes projecting on the angles. Impost plain and chamfered, quite heavy. In the arch, a heavy half-round roll.

Second order, to nave only, bases and column similar but of lesser dimensions. Capitals single scallop with a very prominent head on their W face. That on the L is broken, but a notable feature of the arch is the head on the S side, apparently depicted with a smile. The eyes are circular, similar to those on the doorway. The head appears to wear a hat with another pair of eyes. In the arch, plain in the soffit, and on the face a double row of centrifugal chevron, with pyramids on the angle.




The font is located near the tower. The plain, circular bowl is resting on a circular chamfered base and matching, slightly ranger, plinth. All parts show similar tooling and are likely original.

External diameter 0.85m
Height of font drum 0.465m
Height overall 0.875m
Internal diameter 0.33m


Ryder (1982, 100) observes that 'The surviving N and E walls of the original building are of rubble, with irregular but quite large angle quoins, and some very large stones used in the lower courses of the N nave wall'. He places it 'quite early' in the Norman period, with an 'impressive' doorway.


  • Borthwick Institute faculty papers Fac.1896/5.

  • R. Harman and N. Pevsner, Yorkshire, the West Riding, Sheffield and the South. London 2017, 719.

  • P. F. Ryder, Saxon Churches of South Yorkshire, South Yorkshire County Council, 1982.

  • A. H. Smith, The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, I. Cambridge University Press, 1961, 155-6.

The N side of the old nave.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SK 478 827 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
now: South Yorkshire
medieval: York
now: Sheffield
now: St John the Baptist and St John (Lawton 1842, 238)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
David Hey, Rita Wood 
Visit Date
28 July 2011