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St John the Baptist, Kirk Hammerton, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°59′36″N, 1°17′32″W)
Kirk Hammerton
SE 465 555
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
  • Rita Wood
  • Rita Wood
1 Apr 1996 and 27 Nov 2013

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Kirk Hammerton is a village in Yorkshire between York and Harrogate. The church of St John the Baptist (formerly St Quentin) has a complex architectural history. The building comprises a Saxon church (tower, nave, chancel) now acting as S aisle and chapel to a larger Victorian church of 1890-91 added on its N side; there was also some 'restrained' restoration at this time (Leach and Pevsner 2009, 374). The Saxon nave wall between the two is pierced by a two-bay arcade with pointed arches; the Saxon N chancel wall also has been opened up. The only clearly Romanesque sculpture is a re-used piscina basin in the form of a capital, a re-used corbel in the E wall of the Saxon chancel, and a third stone which may be relevant is in the E respond of the arcade.


Domesday Book mentions a church and a priest at Hanbretone (Spurgeon 1999, 11).

The Saxon church may have been built only shortly before the Conquest; A. H. Thompson (1909, 114, 117) notes overlap features of the building among its characteristic Saxon work. In the late 12th or early 13th century, an aisle was added on the N side which extended the full length, from tower to chancel.

In 1834 'the church was enlarged again on its north side... much regrettable damage was done' (Spurgeon 1999, 16).

In 1890-91, a larger building was attached on the N side of the ancient church, the medieval and later aisle being removed entirely.

There are no faculty papers in the Borthwick Institute.


Exterior Features


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Piscina bowl:

Bilson 1915 mentions this item without comment. Spurgeon 1999, 17, cites St John Hope, writing to the Society of Antiquries in January 1890 (Spurgeon 1999, 14). Hope is quoted as saying this 'may be a Norman pillar piscina built into the wall' in the thirteenth century.

The piscina was said then, and appears now, to be in use. The white powder of efflourescence, due to inadequate dispersal of the washings, is evident over the lower outside parts of the bowl, making it hard to distinguish the form of foliage which covers it.

Its capital is of an earlier period of work than the arcade; the sunken trefoil is seen, for example, at Kirk Bramwith, in a mid-century context. The square basin is a form seen elsewhere in the county in mid-century piscinas.

A pillar piscina would have been an innovation for the Saxon church, and easily imported without any major structural work. By the end of the 12th century, piscinas were built in the wall; the pointed hood gives the date suggested by St John Hope for this alteration, presumably to coincide with the construction of the arcade.

There is a good photograph in the Bingley Collection, University of Leeds, no. 581.5161.


J. Bilson, 'Proceedings in 1913: Kirk Hammerton', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 23 (1915), pp. 105-6.

T. M. Falllow, Memorials of Old Yorkshire (London, 1909).

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

R. K. Morris, 'Kirk Hammerton church: the tower and the fabric', Archaeological Journal 133 (1976), pp. 95-103.

M. Paul Spurgeon (ed.), A Short History of the Church of St John the Baptist Kirk Hammerton in the Vale of York (1999).

A. H. Thompson, 'The village churches of Yorkshire', in Fallow (1999).