St Mary, Askham Richard, Yorkshire, West Riding

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (3)


Askham Richard is a village 6.5 miles SW of York.  The church of St Mary is a single-cell building of rubble masonry, restored in 1878-9, at which time a chancel arch, vestry and porch were added and the W wall brought into alignment (Borthwick Institute, Faculty papers). Surviving C12th features are the S doorway to the nave and the plain S doorway to the chancel. The exterior vestry doorway is thought to incorporate material from the original porch. Romanesque sculpture is found on the S doorway to the nave and on a loose block inside the church.


Askham Richard (Ascam) was held by Osbern d'Arques in 1086, and was given (as Escham) to Nun Monkton priory at its foundation by William and Ivetta d'Arches, 1134-53.


Exterior Features


Chancel doorway

This is plain and chamfered, and blocked. 

S doorway, nave

Round-headed, of three orders.

h. of opening 2.54 m
w. of opening 1.20 m
1st order:

Plain, square. Chamfered impost, with a groove above the angle, continuous to label, restored first and second orders on R.

2nd order:

Double bulbous base on R, L base weathered away, plain detached nook shafts, L shaft monolithic.

L capital: waterleaf with angle volutes above plain necking, one large five-sided nailhead on each face between the leaves. Recut at top: may be a complete 19thc. replacement.

R capital: decoration as L capital. Weathered.

In the arch, a thick angle roll, between face and soffit hollows, followed by a concave moulding on the face.

3rd order:

As 2nd order, both bases weathered away.

L capital: waterleaf above roll necking, between the leaves on each face is a foliate form consisting of a central bud and long thin outer leaves, these extend to the angle to form volutes.

R capital: double scallop above roll necking, with angled mouldings between the cones and nail-head defining the scalloped edge of the shields.

Arch as second order.

Chamfered label with label stops in the form of humanoid masks, the R mask is severely damaged, with only one eye remaining. The L mask has wide set bulging eyes and the lower part of the head twists to the R, very weathered.

Above the apex of the arch a corbel carved with a male head is set. This has a wide forehead, tapering toward the protruding chin or beard, the lower part of the face is damaged. The head has round staring eyes and the L ear is set behind the smooth hairline, the R ear is missing.

Loose Sculpture

Carved block

A shallow square block, with a carved snake undulating around all four upright faces. The snake's head is in profile with a gaping mouth and drilled eye. It is unusual in retaining some polychromy.


d. 0.44 m
h. 0.135 m
w. 0.44 m


Collingwood states that the carved block 'has been thought to be pre-Conquest. The modelling of the surface, however, recalls an impost at Kirkstall Abbey of plaited design, and a stone at Coverham Abbey. There is no definite sign of pre-Norman work about it, though the motive is no doubt traceable to the dragons of the Anglo-Danish type'.

Coatsworth 2008, 286, describes the block as 'clearly post-Conquest', and cites Pevsner 1967, 343, on 'curiously Saxon-looking interlace' in the eastern parts of Kirkstall Abbey (Leach and Pevsner's revision of 2009 has deleted this passage). As far as the fieldworker is concerned, there is nothing like the block at Askham Richard known to her, nor does the work at Kirkstall resemble it, as there is no foliage for example. Pevsner suggests the stone might be a square cross base or support from the churchyard.


  • J. Bilson, 'Proceedings of the Society in 1913'. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 23 (1915), 108.

  • Borthwick Institute Faculty Papers, 1878/8, plans 1878/8c, 1878/8d.

  • E. Coatsworth, 'Western Yorkshire', Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture VIII (Oxford, 2008).

  • W. G. Collingwood, 'Anglian and Anglo-Danish Sculpture in the West Riding', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 23 (1915), 135.

  • W. H. Dixon, 'Notes on some Ainsty Churches', Proceedings of the Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society (1933), pp. 1-28.

  • P. Leach and N. Pevsner, Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the North (Yale, 2009). 

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Yorkshire: The West Riding (Harmondsworth, 1959). 2nd. edn. rev. E. Radcliffe (1967).

  • Victoria County History of Yorkshire (London, 1912), Vol. II.

The N wall of chancel and nave; the modern vestry addition
The Victorian porch in local neo-Romanesque style
S porch
Drawing of church before restoration.
S doorway, chancel, blocked.
W doorway (to vestry), general view.
Askham Richard pond
The church from the lane.
Walling on S side of nave and chancel
The S side of the church from SE.
The E wall of the chancel
The modern round-headed doorway on the vestry (NW corner of church).


Site Location
Askham Richard
National Grid Reference
SE 537 480 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
now: North Yorkshire
medieval: York
now: York
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Mary
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Visit Date
11 Apr 1995, 15 Mar 2014