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St Lawrence, Atwick, Yorkshire, East Riding

(53°56′23″N, 0°11′52″W)
TA 184 508
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
03 Sep 2005

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Feature Sets

Atwick is a small village in East Yorkshire near the North Sea coast. In 1876 the medieval church was entirely replaced. The present building consists of a nave and chancel in red brick. The only surviving medieval feature is a Romanesque font.


Atwick belonged to Morcar in 1066, and to Drew de Bevrere in 1086 (VCH ER vii, 207). In DB, Hornsea, which included Atwick, had a church and a priest (VCH ER vii, 265), although this documented church was presumably located at Hornsea. About 1130, Everard de Ros gave Atwick church to Bridlington priory. In 1295 the dedication was to St Peter, but it had changed to St Lawrence by 1461 (VCH ER vii, 205, 211). The medieval church had a W tower, nave, chancel and S porch. It is illustrated in Allen 1831, iv, 220-1 and Poulson 1840, 169-70.





Morris 1919, 54-5, quotes Poulson, 1840, I, 70: 'The font is cylindrical, and was probably originally sculptured, as it has been chisseled for the purpose of smoothing and ‘improving’ its appearance; some of the details are of the decorated style of the fourteenth century'. There is, however, no sign of lost sculpture on the cylinder. Pevsner and Neave 1995, 267, describe it simply as ‘medieval, drum-shaped on a base with a trefoiled arcade’.

From the dimensions of the upper cylinder, it seems likely that that part at least is a standard early twelfth-century font. Another feature indicating this period is the imperfection of the cylinder, which is wider at the bottom (compare Market Weighton). Plain cylinders of comparable dimensions occur locally at Lissett and Fraisthorpe, both on modern bases. The Fraisthorpe example probably has its original tooling, suggesting that the chamfer on the Atwick font may be the original one retooled.

Both the plain cylinder and the arcaded base have a fairly fresh surface exposed by the retooling; the stone in both of them looks the same, a whitish limestone. It is therefore possible that the cylinder had this base from the beginning, and that the arcade was cut in it in the 14th or 15th centuries. Retooling was mentioned by Poulson in 1840, so is unlikely to be the product of a Victorian restoration.

The irregular part of the trefoiled pattern might perhaps be bounded by the remains of a 12th-century arcade. For this, the font at Barmston supplies a rare comparison. This base protrudes beyond the cylinder and has been damaged in places; it has a semicircular arcade cut in it which is hollowed out. The upper cylinder at Barmston has similarities of pattern and size to the font at Flamborough. It seems possible that a later medieval repair at Atwick cut away a similarly-projecting base to a surface continuous with the cylinder containing the basin. The contemporary style of arcade was then cut, except in one place where the old round-headed hollowed-out arch could not be eliminated.

The purpose of such a base as that surviving at Barmston is curious: that it projects could be something of an impediment in modern-day baptisms of children. Why was it then extended like this? Was an extended base not only to give a low cylinder height, but perhaps to help the (adult) person baptised to step into and out of the font?


J. E. Morris, The East Riding of Yorkshire (London, 1919).

N. Pevsner and D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (London, 1995).

The Victoria County History: East Riding of Yorkshire, VII - Holderness Wapentake, north and middle sections (London, 2002).