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St Andrew, Kirby Grindalythe, Yorkshire, East Riding

(54°5′43″N, 0°37′9″W)
Kirby Grindalythe
SE 904 675
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now North Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
medieval St Andrew
now St Andrew
  • Rita Wood
7 October 2000, 15 May 2007

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Kirby Grindalythe is a village about 8 miles SE of Malton. The church is on the slope between the road along the great Wold valley and the chalk stream of the Gypsey Race, beside which the village was established. The present building was restored by George Edmund Street for Sir Tatton Sykes II in 1872-5 (every church restored by Tatton Sykes was given a bust of him and it is seen in the view of the tomb-chest). A full account of this restoration and a plan of the church are in Bayly 1894.

The church is built of dressed sandstone and sandstone ashlars. The lowest stage of the W tower is 12thc. It has a W doorway and a tower arch to the nave. The Victorian nave is in a 13thc style; the nave is said to have been ‘barn-like’ before the restoration, but Street unearthed enough of the old structure to restore it to its probable original lines. The tomb-chest in the N chapel (former organ chamber) is included in this report as possibly early 12thc, but has pre-Conquest features. The chancel is Norman but rebuilt; parts of an original late-12thc sedile were reused by Street. Three mass-dials on the S wall (not seen) are illustrated in Bayly (1894, 12). Part of a late 12thc font is built into the SE corner of the tower inside.

Most of the photographs here were taken during a restoration of the tower in 2007.


Domesday Book records that in 1066 Ketilbert and Uglubarth held the manor. In 1086 the Count of Mortain had 16½ carucates, the king 1½. Nigel and Torfin held manors from the count and they were waste. The church and one carucate of land was given to Kirkham priory by Walter l’Espec probably at its foundation; this is recorded in the so-called ‘first charter’ dating from before 1133. Like Garton-on-the-Wolds, the church is referred to as ‘monasteria’ or minster in the early charter documents.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Interior Decoration

String courses




W doorway and lowest stage of tower generally has points of similarity with work at Wharram-le-Street. The conical bases of the doorway and the slender shafts are similar. Regrettably, the condition of the capitals on the S doorway at Wharram-le-Street (North Yorkshire) is too poor for comparison. The residual forms on the capitals at Kirby Grindalythe recall capitals in Normandy. The wooden tympanum now in place over the door does not appear to replace a former stone one. The tower arch to the nave is very slightly stilted, like both openings at Wharram-le-Street. An archaeologist, Colin Brydon of the Continuum Group, was making a study of the tower at the time of the visit in 2007. He mentioned Roman sandstone blocks being used in the quoins.

Font fragment

The font would probably have had a larger central pillar as well as the four pillars at the corners. A font at Crambe (North Yorkshire) is of this form and has capitals with fluted leaves and waterleaves; the font at Norton (North Yorkshire) has plain arcaded sides.

Romanesque sedilia are rare and it is a shame there was no photograph taken of the original before it was altered by Street. A fragment of small pillar and integral base was recorded at Bubwith (East Yorkshire), reset in the S wall of the chancel.

Beading (on sedile and font)

The capitals from the sedile have beading, and there is also plenty on the font fragment. It is clear that the beading on both was marked out swiftly by practised hands and sharp tools. Some rows of cuts on both items are slanted, perhaps due to the speed of working. This manner of making beading is not just a late 12thc one, but occurs in an earlier context, for example, on the pillar piscina at Sherburn-in-Herford-Lythe, near Filey (North Yorkshire). Yet there is a difference between the two items here: whereas some of the beading on the sedile was rounded off, the interval between cuts in some rows of the pattern on the font fragment suggests that the first cuts were thought sufficient to make an impressive pattern. Quite a few of the units are rectangular and so not easy to round off; they look as they are becoming Nailhead ornament.

Capitals which include a section of the shaft below the necking (as on sedilia)

These are not at all common, but another example is on the W doorway at Kirkby Underdale.


James Bayly (1894) suggests this is the chest ‘in which possibly the founder of the church was buried’. John Blair (in a draft note on the object dated 2005 shown to the fieldworker) thinks that a pre-Conquest date is plausible. Arcades with flat arches butting together, with rectangular slabs as capitals or imposts, and with pillars of the double width are seen on the early 12thc font at Sherburn and at Butterwick (East Riding/North Yorkshire). The arcade with rectangular impost blocks, seen locally also at West Lutton (North Yorkshire), startlingly resembles Anglo-Saxon arches (Fernie 2000), rather than Norman and later ones, yet the date would be post-Conquest to judge by the associated carved head at West Lutton and the font motifs of trees at Sherburn. The incised line emphasising the architectural units resembles canon tables in manuscripts.

The R impost on the arcading might perhaps have been squeezed in - a drawing in Bayly shows it but is not reliable. The irregularity of the arcading is not surprising, considering the general irregularity of the drawing/setting-out on the fonts of the Riding, for example. It is the tooling and the stone used which most depart from the local 12thc norm, but these may have been inevitable for such a large chest.

The conventional arcading on the sides of the late 12thc font fragment was still cut very shallow, but with pillars less than twice the width of the arches, while bases and capitals are given slightly-formed profiles, and the whole thing was much more regular and controlled.


J. Bayly, Four Churches in the Deanery of Buckrose restored or built by the late George Edmund Street, RA, for Sir Tatton Sykes, Bart, London 1894, 11-13.

J. E. Burton, Kirkham Priory from Foundation to Dissolution, York 1995, 3-4.

E. Fernie, The Architecture of Norman England, Oxford 2000, fig. 159.

J. T. Lang, York and Eastern Yorkshire, C.A.S.S.S. vol III (Oxford, 1991)

G. Lawton, Collectio rerum ecclesiasticarum de diocesi Eboracensi, London 1842.

N. Pevsner and D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd edition, London 1995, 580.

Victoria County History: Yorkshire. II (General volume, including Domesday Book) 1912, reprinted 1974, 205, 227, 325.

Victoria County History: Yorkshire. III (Ecclesiastical History; Religious Houses; Political History; Social and Economic History) 1913, reprinted 1974.