St John the Baptist, Wadworth, Yorkshire, West Riding

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Feature Sets (4)


A large church of creamy limestone, on a hill, overlooking a wide plain. Stone W tower in stages, with parapet; battlemented nave. A rectangular church with a S chapel addition and N vestry as a smaller addition. The earliest structures of the building were built in the 12thc; Romanesque sculptural remains are abundant and consist of a N and S doorway, a round-headed window visible in the exterior wall of the chancel, windows at W end of nave and tower, N and S porches, nave and S aisle arcades, string courses, and a piscina. Faculty papers in the Borthwick Institute, Fac. 1868/12, include a plan but it is extremely fragile and was not opened.


The vill is in Domesday Book but no church is mentioned. A chaplain of Wadworth occurs in 1201 (Clay 1958, 133) in connection with a grant of land from the dean and chapter of York, under which patronage remained until 1232: it can be assumed that the church existed then. The church was appropriated to the prebendary of South Cave before 1230 (Lawton 1852, 237, Clay 1959, 18). The prebend was South Cave, Wadworth and part of Otley.


Exterior Features


N Doorway to Nave N aisle

Round-headed doorway of one order finishing flush with the aisle wall. The order is plain and continuous; the angle rounded. Extensive traces of tooling survives, diagonal on the face and straight on the soffit.

Height of opening 2.35m
Width of opening 1.09m

S Doorway to Nave S aisle

This doorway is opposite the N doorway, and within a porch that might perhaps be keyed to the wall. The doorway into the nave S aisle is pointed (despite Pevsner 1967, 525, saying it ‘still has a round arch’). The Magnesian limestone is badly worn and all detail on the L head label-stop is lost, profiles generally are poorly preserved. Doorway of one order and a label, perhaps standing on a chamfered plinth which runs all along the N wall of the porch.

In the jambs, fine angle roll flanked by nailhead on face and soffit. Finishes flush with the main wall, and plain in the reveal. Capital and ring narrow, highly weathered on the L, remade on the R with a small chamfer; a concave chamfer; an upright with quirk. This profile continues as a string course to R and L a short distance beyond the label. In the arch, the mouldings as in the jambs continue, with a wide plain outer margin on the face. The voussoirs are very large. Label chamfered both inside and outside with a flat band between. There are head-stops above the string-course, that on the R has been remade as a woman wearing a crown, whilst the L side head-stop is broken and very worn.

Height of opening 2.90m
Width of opening 1.38m


Window remnant in chancel

Traces of a round-headed window in in the SE chapel to the S of the chancel, visible in the exterior wall of the chancel.

Windows at W end of nave and tower

Inside, the tower is engaged with the N and S aisles, and in this westernmost bay there are three round-headed windows, or the remnants of them, that is, in the W end of both aisles and in the S wall of the S aisle. Only the window in the N aisle is complete; the window in the W end of the S aisle has been reworked and probably extended at the bottom, and the top of the window in the S wall of that aisle has been tampered with. The arches the tower makes with the aisles are pointed and have a wide chamfer.


N Porch

The entrance arch to the N porch is Gothic; it is pointed with a deep chamfer. The porch is not keyed to the main wall of the aisle (as can be seen from inside); an earlier roof-line shows outside.

S Porch

As with the N porch, the entrance arch to the S porch is Gothic; it is pointed with a deep chamfer. The interior porch walls have a round-headed blank arcade of two bays on both W and E sides. The arcade stands on a low seat above plain walling of one or two rough courses – perhaps a little more is hidden by the modern pavement. The seating appears to be original and consist of slabs with a plain or bull-nosed edge. The back of the bays are lined with large slabs of plain stone. The single order in the arch rises from the seating at the sides (N and S ends), without a base, but on the W side of the porch the central pier has a plain square base with double torus above; detached shaft renewed. On the E wall the base is worn and unreadable, while both column and capital are renewed. The integral ring, capital and impost of the L capital is original, though weathered on the S. Round ring, protruberant; the bell is only a little wider than the (renewed) shaft; the top of the capital overhangs the lower part with a cluster of three concave leaves each side on the angle – one coiled, one straighter and the third leaf (or swag) meets the leaf from the other corner in the centre of the face. The abacus and impost are equally deep, plain and square. The capital is not isolated from the wall, but the forms of the ring, capital with foliage pattern, and impost profile continue and tie into the wall face. The arch has a keeled roll on the angle, separated by quirks from the plain soffit and wide plain face. A label, which has a chamfer inside and out with a plain band between, begins on the outer margins of the arcading just above the springing of the order.

Height of integral impost, capital and ring 0.205m
Width of bay between shaft and jamb 1.2m
Width of the impost 0.282m

Interior Features



Nave N arcade

This is of three bays with pointed arches.

E respond

It is a half-round column, with high and plain base which looks renewed on the lines of the W respond; ring round in profile. The capital is broken on the NW angle, but the SW angle has a foliage volute with seven leaves tied by a flat plain band. The upper part of the W face of the capital is filled by symmetrical foliage: a bunch of three upright leaves are at either side against the angle foliage, and between them the central space fratures an S-shaped stem with a leaf at either end. The bell of the capital, overshadowed by these foliage designs, is carved in low relief with flat loops bound together with flat bands in pairs; the loops perhaps represent stems or gatherings of the foliage above. The profile of the impost is worn and damaged, but seems to have been similar to that of the W respond, although there is only one quirk on the upright.

Piers 1 and 2

The bases differ: that for pier 1 overhangs a plain square plinth, then a sloping ring and small arris, above a hollow is a ring with a medial quirk; base of pier 2 is waterholding. Piers are round and fairly slender. The ring is roughly chamfered or approximately rounded. Both capitals are concave and plain, expanding to become square in plan with a plain upright. The impost overhangs the capital; the upright of similar height has a quirk near the bottom.

W respond

The base is high and plain with slight chamfer at the top (probably reworked). The lower ring shows a small ledge at the top; the upper ring features a medial quirk. Half-round column. The ring is either roughly chamfered or approximately rounded. The capital has a concave plain bell in the lower part, with angle volutes prominent above; between the volutes on the E face there is a series of five projecting forms which might have been developed from a scallop type of capital. These knobs are slightly keeled on the underside: on the face the five ‘shields’ unite to make a plain surface on which there are five pairs of deeply-incised lines, which perhaps were intended to have outlined leaf shapes. The side faces of the capital feature one ‘scallop’ as on main face; the volute at the wall has become one flat spiral in the face. The impost has a small hollow chamfer; it shows a quirk and a roll on the angle, and a double quirk on the upright.


All the arches throughout are pointed: they feature one plain order with a small chamfer; a label with chamfers on inside and out meeting at an arris. Label stops are used above Piers 1 and 2, and consist of one pair pointed and one pair rounded label stops.

Nave S arcade

This arcade is of three bays, with octagonal piers and capitals. The arches identical to those of S arcade (Pevsner 1967, 525-526). The only Romanesque element is the keeled column on both responds. As for N arcade, the responds are a pair and the piers are also a pair. Label stops are all pointed, and similar to, but much taller than, those used on the N arcade.

Interior Decoration

Blind arcades

Blind Arcade on S wall of S aisle

The arcade features six bays of blank arcading, three bays to the E end lower than the three on the W; the imposts are all at the same height and the span is narrower in the eastern bays. As on the inside walls of the S porch, the extreme ends of this arcade have no bases but rise directly from the platform; the shafts are cylindrical and mostly entire. The five piers have bases and capitals of various forms. There is a wall piscina in bay 1, the E bay (see feature below).

Pier 1

The plinth is plain and chamfered. The base is worn but appears as a lower and an upper torus with a plain upright hollow between. The capital is very worn and broken, but it probably had foliage, a plain abacus, and a hollow-chamfered plain impost, which is integral. It continues back to tie into the wall. The N face of the capital looks as though a wooden partition was fixed here at some time.

Pier 2

Square plinth; wide flat torus with small step at the top; lugs on the corners in low relief and much worn. The lugs are of a simple leaf shape, flexible and delicate. The capital is plain above and has prominent ring integral, plain bell and over hanging foliage clustered at the angles; it is similar to that in the S porch. The impost is separate and features a hollow chamfer and plain upright. This capital is free of the wall.

Pier 3

Plain and square plinth; the base is formed of a thick double torus. The capital is similar to pier 2, but its impost is integral and the hollow chamfer appears as more angled. This capital is tied to the wall.

Pier 4

Plain and square plinth plain and square; base waterholding. The capital is damaged, but it could be similar to pier 3; it is tied to the wall.

Pier 5

Square plinth and waterholding base. The capital features a round ring and a plain bell rising to narrow abacus; the impost has a hollow-chamfered and plain upright. This capital is tied to the wall.


Keeled angle roll, separated by quirk from plain soffit and face. The face of the arches finishes flush with the main wall, but traces of a second order or label in the stonework are clearly visible.

Height of E bay 1.45m
Height of ring, capital and impost 0.21m
Width of bays between imposts (E side) 0.737m
Width of bays between imposts (W side) 0.852m
Width of impost (including square plinth) 0.28m

String courses

String courses on N and S walls of nave aisles

S wall

Between the S aisle blank arcade described above and the bottom of the later windows, runs a string-course. Its W end is broken away above pier 5, and its E end continues into the jambs of the later arch into the SE chapel. The profile of this string-course is concave below and convex above; it is ‘beaked’ (see Comments).

N wall

A second string course, with the same or very similar profile, is in an equivalent position along the N aisle N wall. At the W end, this terminates about 1m from the N doorway with a spiral ornament; the lower concave part turns upwards and back on itself, whilst the upper part features a flattish spiral, made of an arris coiled three times. As on the S side, the string-course runs into the arch across the aisle at its E end.


Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae

Piscina in S aisle wall

This is in the E bay of the blind arcade on the S wall of the S aisle. Three-lobed recess with chamfered edge and plain back. The sill is damaged and decayed, and there is no sign of a basin. The alcove is not centred in the bay.

Height of cavity (maximum) 0.64m
Width of opening at back (maximum) 0.51m


Nave N and S arcades

In the 1820s Joseph Hunter noted that ‘the massy cylindrical columns between the nave and side aisles…, probably the arches springing from these columns, which are now pointed, were originally circular, like that between the nave and chancel. In the wall of the south aisle are six stone seats, beneath circular arches, supported by round pillars with Saxon capitals. The church is dedicated to St. Mary’ (Hunter 1828, I, 253). Pevsner (1967, 525-526) poses all sorts of questions about the arches of the two nave arcades, as well as the associations of the various components of the late-12thc work, the pointed arches and later features. The N arcade is ‘typical of c.1190-1200’ and the S arcade ‘is definitely later than the N arcade…. It has the standard octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches [yet] the responds are still keeled in the taste of c.1190-1200.’ Similarly, although the responds of the N arcade might perhaps have been retained from an earlier phase, from the mixture of features it appears more likely that the whole N arcade and its doorway are coeval. From the similarities between the two arcades – each has paired responds and a pair of similar piers – it begins to look as though the S doorway, with its nailhead and pointed opening, and the N arcade, with its voluted respond, could even have belonged to one (extended) campaign. The N and S arches in the tower are not so different from the arches of the nave arcades. The use of the similar string course on N and S walls ties the whole thing together. There was an overall plan to prepare the nave for processional use, in a way that is reminiscent of the alterations at Conisbrough church, and (perhaps) Campsall. The foliage on the E respond capital of the N arcade might recall heavier patterns used on the S nave arcade at Spofforth: that arcade has octagonal imposts and one octagonal pier; the similarity also extends to the carving on the bell of the same capital. For the W respond capital, there may be some echoes from the octagonal capital with foliage in the N arcade at Brodsworth.

S aisle blank arcade and piscina

Pevsner (1967, 525-526) considers the blank arcade as a ‘proof of a very ambitious and spacious Late Norman church’, and believes it contemporary to the S doorway, which capitals are said to be 'characteristic c13 work’, as also Morris (1919, 516-7) briskly noted. The lowest level, on which the bases of the piers is set, was presumably intended as seating, so the floor level must have been raised perhaps as much as 0.3m. Similar round-headed piscinas can be found at Kirk Sandall and Bolton Priory, whilst trefoil-headed basin and piscinas are in Conisbrough castle. At Adwick-le-Street the structure of the sedilia, the original fragments of base, and capital preserved there are very comparable to parts of the blank arcade in the S aisle.

String courses

Morris has called this profile ‘beaked’ and Draper says (2006, 92) ‘the beaked roll and an ogee profile to the keel [both illustrated from Morris], seem to have been developed in England, where these new ideas were taken up and explored more fully than in France.’ The spiral termination of the string course in the N aisle recalls a label stop on a blocked doorway in the S aisle of the nave at Fountains Abbey; the spiral is also used on a fountain-head at the abbey. Those spirals are rounded in cross-section and heavier than that at Wadworth. 

S doorway

Profile of impost/capitals, also roll and nailhead combination, and even the weathering of the stone, are very similar to the S doorway at Adwick-le-Street. The style of the foliage on the angle of the porch capital recalls carving which used to be on the doorway at St Denys, York (foliage from the mouth of a mask, L side capital). Some comparisons with other sites can be made: e.g., it might recall the N porch at Selby Abbey.


  • C. T. Clay, York Minster Fasti I, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 123, Leeds, 1958, 133.

  • P. Draper, The Formation of English Gothic: architecture and identity, New Haven and London,¬†2006, 92.

  • J. Hunter, South Yorkshire, Deanery of Doncaster, 1, Nichols, London, 1828, 253.

  • G. Lawton, Collectio rerum ecclesiasticarum de diocesi Eboracensi; or, collections relative to churches and chapels within the Diocese of York. To which are added collections relative to churches and chapels within the diocese of Ripon,¬†London, 1842, 237.

  • J. E. Morris, The West Riding of Yorkshire, London, 2nd ed., 1919, 516-517.

  • N. Pevsner, revised by E. Radcliffe, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire, The West Riding, Harmondsworth, 1967, 525.

  • P. F. Ryder, Saxon Churches in South Yorkshire, South Yorkshire County Council Archaeology Monograph, 2, Sheffield, 1982.

Church from SW.
Church from S.
WADWORTH, Groundplan of St Mary's by J. Woodhead and W.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SK 568 970 
now: South Yorkshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
now: Sheffield
medieval: York
now: St John the Baptist
medieval: St Mary
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Barbara English, Rita Wood 
Visit Date
14 April 2011