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St John the Baptist, Ault Hucknall, Derbyshire

(53°10′54″N, 1°18′9″W)
Ault Hucknall
SK 467 652
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Derbyshire
now Derbyshire
medieval Lichfield
now Derby
  • Richard Jewell
  • Olivia Threlkeld
8 Apr 1990 (RJ), Aug 2014 (OT)

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The church is low and embattled, but its early origins are suggested by a central tower, and indeed a large part of the fabric is Romanesque. The W arch of the tower is most impressive, with a jumbled-up label of beakheads, chevron and heads, and an E arch to the chancel, which is earlier, just post-Conquest, and is plain. Early Romanesque also are the nave and the N aisle, which has a narrow round-headed light of one stone, with zigzag to the exterior arch. The old W doorway of this nave (now blocked up), has a carved lintel and tympanum.


Though not mentioned in the Domesday Book, it is possible that a church existed at Ault Hucknall at this date as a priest is recorded at Stainsby, within the parish of Ault Hucknall. Certainly the architecture and sculpture point to a 11thc foundation. The church formed part of the endowment of Newstead priory, Nottinghamshire.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

The exterior sculpture dates from the late 11thc. The tympanum and lintel possess a barbaric vigour that is in the Anglo-Danish tradition. Cox compared them with the tympana at Hognaston and Parwich and the font at Tissington, all in Derbyshire, where similarly barbaric animal carvings are encountered. Keyser was convinced that the tympanum represents the legend of St Margaret emerging from the body of the devil who had swallowed her, through the power of the cross; and that the sculpture on the lintel, of St George and the Dragon, is an exposition of the same doctrine. We are grateful to our user Pol Herman who points out that the creature on the lintel of the W doorway, identified as a wyvern, is almost identical to one carved on the font in the church of St John the Baptist, Hannappes (Ardennes), a popular subject in the Mosan region in the Romanesque period. The zigzag window head is pre-Conquest in inspiration. The sculpture of the W tower arch is early 12thc, but has probably been rearranged and mixed up in a post-medieval rebuilding of the arch.


J.C. Cox, Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, Vol. 1: The hundred of Scarsdale, Chesterfield, London, Derby: Palmer and Edmunds, 1875, 241-249

C.E. Keyser, A list of Tympana and Lintels with Figure or Symbolical Sculpture Still or Till Recently Surviving in the Churches of Great Britain, 2nd ed., London 1927, 21.

C. Hartwell, N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, The Buildings of England: Derbyshire, New Haven and London 2016, 124.