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St Wilfrid, Cantley, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°30′20″N, 1°4′10″W)
SE 618 014
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now South Yorkshire
medieval York
now Sheffield
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood

24 March 2011

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Feature Sets

The church lies in Cantley, surrounded by modern houses, on a lane between Cantley and Branton, about a mile from the village of Old Cantley and Cantley Hall. It is in Church Lane, within a large wooded graveyard rising up from the surrounding roads. Its orientation is a long way north of east (Ryder 1982). The west tower is of white stone, the walls pebble-dashed except for door and window surrounds, the porch and the buttresses of the east end. Much of the church is EE or Dec. with a Perp. W tower. Restored by Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1850s. N. aisle, interior additions and splendid decorations by Sir Ninian Comper in late 19th century (Pevsner 1967, 156-7). The restorations are listed in Butler (2007). Earlier commentators remark on restorations (Hunter 1828, 81-5) or the need for them (Visitation Return 1877). For further comments on the site itself, see VII, History. The priest’s door is Romanesque.


It is suggested in the current church guide that the distance between the church and the older village may have been to place the foundation on an earlier heathen site. There is some evidence of second-century pottery in the area.

Domesday Book records that in Branton and Cantley there was a priest and a church (land of Geoffrey Alselin) (Williams et al. 1987-1992, f.326). Later history suggests that this church was at Cantley: Branton has no church now, and is a small place, whereas Cantley church road is mentioned as early as 1183-1200 (Farrer 1915, no.817). Thompson and Clay (1933, 63) think the church was definitely at Cantley. The advowson was held by various lay families, but by 1260s the advowson belonged to the prioress and convent of Wallingwells, Notts. (Thompson and Clay 1933, 64).


Exterior Features



A pieced tympanum with a regular lintel has been recorded at Hooton Pagnell. A reset lintel of irregular outline (i.e., it never supported a tympanum) has been recorded at Stainton [RAW 0190]. The tympanum at Wales, on the reset doorway now on the S nave wall, has been recut with its lower edge upcurved; the chequer pattern on the tympanum is interrupted by this recutting. Fordon (YE) has a tympanum with upcurved lower edge, this appears to cut into a cross within a circle on the face, which can still just be made out; the doorway has probably been rebuilt. Kirkburn’s N and S doorways seem to have been built with an up-curved head: these are made of voussoirs. Jambs with a narrow chamfer are generally a feature of the later twelfth century, not the early part of the century and earlier, when lintels were used alone. It is suggested that originally the priest’s doorway at Cantley had plain jambs and a lintel with a horizontal lower edge; in the face of the lintel, a plain semi-circular field which may have been painted. A more elaborate version would be the priest’s doorway at Alne (YN).

Dedication: Torre suggests St Nicholas – but his account of testamentary burials (e.g. of 1504) shows people being buried before the image of St Wilfrid, patron of the church. Is this an alteration, or, which seems more likely, had Torre made a mistake? It was called St Wilfrid’s church c.1218 (Thompson and Clay 1933, 65).


The Yorkshire Church Notes of Sir Stephen Glynne (1825-1874)., L. A. S. Butler, ed. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 159. Woodbridge, 2007.

D. Carter, St Wilfrid's Church, Cantley., N.p., 2009.

The Yorkshire Domesday, A. Williams et al., eds, Alecto Historical Editions, 3 vols. London 1987-1992.

W. Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters 2, Leeds 1915.

Joseph Hunter, South Yorkshire, Deanery of Doncaster 1, Nichols, London, 1828.

N. Pevsner, revised by E. Radcliffe, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire, The West Riding, Harmondsworth, 1967.

Fasti Parochiales , A. H. Thompson and C. T. Clay, eds, I part I (Deanery of Doncaster), Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 85 (1933).

J Raine, The Dedications of the Yorkshire Churches, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal , 2 (1873).

P. F. Ryder, Saxon Churches in South Yorkshire, South Yorkshire County Council Archaeology Monograph no.2. Sheffield, 1982.