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St Oswald, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Yorkshire, West Riding

(54°8′39″N, 2°17′32″W)
SD 810 721
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
  • Rita Wood
22 Oct 2009

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Horton-in-Ribblesdale is a village in the far west of North Yorkshire. It is famous today as a starting-point of the ‘three peaks’ walk, and for having a station on the Settle to Carlisle railway.

The church is at the southern end of the village, and has nave, chancel and aisles under a single roof, together with a buttressed western tower. The fabric is of roughly-coursed stone of various sources including the local Silurian slate and Carboniferous Limestone.

Major restoration of the church in 1823-25, when the N aisle was rebuilt. In 1879-80 the aisles were roofed in one span with the nave (Horton Group, 1981, 52-3). Raine (1873) gives the ‘modern ascription’ as ‘St Oswald or St Thomas’; Lawton says ‘St Oswald or St Thomas a Becket’. Borthwick Institute card index says ‘formerly St Thomas a Becket’, probably sourcing this in Parish Register transcripts.

The Romanesque material includes a doorway, nave arcades, and a font.


DB says Torfin had 2 carucates here (VCH ii, 290); Roger the Poitevin had 2 carucates (VCH ii, 307n). Roger forfeited lands in 1102 (VCH ii, 289n35; 261b). Later, Henry I gave Horton to his nephew Stephen of Blois. In 1136, the Scots ravaged Ribblesdale and won a battle at Clitheroe (Horton Group 1981, 3). The village was the subject of a long-running dispute between the great monastic houses of Fountains and Jervaulx, finally settled in 1315.


Exterior Features


Interior Features






Doorway: Morris (1911), 1923, 272, says ‘the S nave door is Trans. with zigzag moulding’; Pevsner 1967, 269, says ‘the S doorway is Norman (the inner arch has zigzag decoration on the face).’ There are a few slight oddities, however, which could be explained by postulating a refashioning of an earlier doorway at the time the S arcade was made in the late twelfth century. Structurally, the doorway resembles the late 12th-century N doorway with continuous orders and label with stops that can be seen at Dent, but sculpturally it seems to have been composed of earlier pieces. No bases survive (and the whiteish replacements would not allow much space for any); there are different profiles on the first order in the jambs and in the arch.

The second order has reused impost blocks but no capitals; the arch is less than a semi-circle; the roll and hollow moulding is not in the later, refined style. The label has a pattern (raised diamonds) which is used in the early twelfth century in the East Riding – dentation, a zigzag pattern which had a longer currency, is used at Dent.

Label stops were not fashionable until the continuous orders necessitated them because of the lack of imposts, which was where labels had previously stopped. The heads here do not merge with the stone of the label as at Dent, but are separate, and, having the little plain band at their tops, I suggest these are reused corbels, perhaps from the S wall of the early twelfth-century nave. Two mens' heads on are quite often found on a corbel on the angle of a building; while muzzled masks are common as corbels anywhere. Stone for facings and sculpture must have been specially imported and may in part account for the reuse, though I like to think that the pieces reused were selected: the muzzled mask spoke of evil in the world, and the two men were looking up for the Second Coming and heaven.


Both arcades run the length of the church and are of 5 bays; all arches are round except the most easterly pair, which are pointed. Pevsner, 1967, 269-70, says ‘The arcades are both Norman... On the N side three bays with columns and unmoulded arches, on the S side four bays with a little differently detailed columns and arches with one slight chamfer. The bays further E on both sides Perp with the usual octagonal piers and double–chamfered arches.’

Leach (Leach and Pevsner 2009, 334) describes the arcades as 'a decidedly rough and outlandish scheme, inconsistent from N to S'. Necessarily rough, and outlandish. Consistency is not a Romanesque, or even a medieval, technical feature.

North arcade

Ornament on N arcade capital 4: These might be compared to the forms used on the N arcade at Hayton, YE.

Hollow in profile of capitals on N arcade: This is unusual, but has been seen round a hexagonal (recut?) font at Goodmanham.

Font pattern: The carving is called ‘herring-bone’ by Pevsner, but it is likely that the font began by being carved with the normal double-cable pattern at the rim, as for several fonts in the East Riding of the early twelfth century (Bainton, Flambrough etc). If only the top two rows are considered it will be seen that these are regular and limited by an approximate horizontal, and the carving is quite restrained. Once that rim pattern had been achieved, the sculptor saw no reason to stop, and started off again round the cylinder, carving the same thing in the space below, picking up the ridges of the cables, but working this time without any lower limit. The join of this section of the carving (on the W side of the approximate cylinder) is haphazard due to the lack of planning.


Horton-in-Ribblesdale Local History Group, Horton-in-Ribblesdale: the story of an Upland Parish (Settle, 1981).

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

J. E. Morris, The West Riding of Yorkshire (London, 1911), 2nd ed. (1923).

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

Victoria County History of Yorkshire, vol. III (London, 1974).