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St John the Baptist, Kirkby Wharfe, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°51′52″N, 1°13′55″W)
Kirkby Wharfe
SE 506 412
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
24 Feb 2000; 18 Feb 2013

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Kirkby Wharfe is a village 2 miles S of Tadcaster in the Selby district of Yorkshire. The church of St John the Baptist appears to be compact and small-scale from the exterior, but as well as usual nave and chancel, it has north chapel, north and south aisles and west tower. Inside, there is work of many periods including pre-Conquest cross pieces and window glass collected from the Continent. There is quite alot of plaster on the arcade pillars, though without any significant marks. Pevsner says the restoration was in 1860, but no papers exist at the Borthwick Institute.

The Romanesque work includes a little late sculpture on the south doorway, N and S arcades, and, most unusually, of the three fonts, two are plain and of probable Romanesque date.


In DB, Ilbert de Lacy held Churchebi, but it was waste; TRE the manor was worth 5s. No mention of a church (VCH II, 297). Like Kirkby Malzeard, the name implies an early history as a church settlement.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches






S Doorway, cylindrical label-stops: One comparison for this unusual form is in the nave of Fountains Abbey, where a blocked doorway in the S wall has circular label stops, but these are formed by a spiral running off the exterior chamfer of the label. Another comparison is an end-stop on a stringcourse in the interior of the N aisle of the church at Wadworth, adjacent to the N doorway. This string-course has a profile which is rounded above and concave below: the stop is on the rounded part; it is circular but contains a spiral. In short, both these comparisons look somewhat later, or at least more in step with Gothic forms, while the ones at Kirkby Wharfe maintain Romanesque solidity and symbolism. It is likely that the motifs in the centres of the circles are intended to represent stars.

Pendants on W respond of S arcade : The use of pendants recalls the choir aisles of Ripon cathedral, where they are much more elaborate. The arches of the W range at Fountains are supported by pendants.

Regarding the font from Ulleskelf, there is no trace of a medieval church in that village. Lawton (1842), 67, n.2 gives the population of the parish of Kirkby Wharfe as: 'Grimston 63, Kirkby Wharfe with Milford 90, Ulleskelfe 339'. Some of the books mention a Chapel at Ulleskelfe, but no such building is in existence. A Victorian church was built there later in the century, but is now the Village Hall.


Victoria County History: Yorkshire, vol. II (London, 1974).