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St James, High Melton or Melton-on-the-Hill, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°30′37″N, 1°14′2″W)
High Melton or Melton-on-the-Hill
SE 509 018
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now South Yorkshire
medieval York
now Sheffield
medieval All Hallows and unknown
now St James
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
28th May 2010

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High Melton is a village five miles W of Doncaster. The church set back from the small village, on a hill, up a green lane. It consists of chancel, nave, S aisle and W square embattled tower, with a brownish slate roof; a S Lady Chapel was added during the second half of the 14thc. The nave is curiously tall, narrower than the chancel, and is not set out on the same lines as either the tower or the chancel; it looks as if the nave could be the survivor of a Saxon original. The later S aisle is as wide as the nave.

Romanesque sculptural decoration consists in the S arcade, in the chancel arch, and in a number of reset elements in the exterior of the N wall and in the window to the E of the doorway.


The vill is is mentioned in Domesday Book as 'Middeltun' and in 1086 its lord was Roger of Bully, having being held by Swein, son of Svavi, in 1066; it valued £4. No church is recorded, although it is supposed to have Saxon origins [Ryder (1982), 45-61]. A priest was however recorded at ‘Widuntorp’, which can be identified as Wildthorpe in Melton. The church is supposed to have been founded in the reign of King Henry I. The lands of the parish formed part of the honour of Tickhill. Probably on the foundation of the churches of Melton and Sprotborough the priest was removed, and the church at Wildthorpe, if it ever actually existed, was abandoned. Wildthorpe is now a deserted medieval village. The church of Melton was granted to the Cistercian nuns of Hampole priory in the middle of the 12thc [Thompson and Clay (1943), 12-13]. During the second half of the 14thc it was dedicated to All Hallows.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches



Interior Decoration


Morris (1923), 352-3, says that the building features ‘small Transitional church, nave, south aisle, chancel. Perpendicular south chapel and tower.’ The chancel arch is ‘plainest type of Norman style, but is unusually large of its kind’.


Morris also describes the font as: ‘Plain cup-font – possibly Transitional’. Apart from the upper 0.1 to 0.15m which is a separate stone, perhaps it is not even a medieval work.

Reset capitals

The reset capitals in the exterior N wall are probably contemporary with the capitals of the S arcade because their scale seems consistent, although they do not show any later features such as nailhead cutting. The mid-rib in the darts recalls the single instance of this feature in the chevron arch at Frickley.

S arcade

The bases of the arcade resemble the base of the pier in the arcade at Barnburgh, where the rest of the arcade is not Romanesque in style. Also in the S arcade, the capitals of E respond and pier have scallops hollowed in the shield as at Frickley on the chancel arch. The capital of the W respond might almost have been roughed out thus far in preparation for finishing like the other two capitals of the arcade, but left at this point. Ryder (1982), 93, says that the S arcade and chancel arch are Romanesque, while the other structures are later medieval. He believes that the tall nave suggests a pre-Conquest date. Capitals in Rotherham Minster, re-used as bases and now beneath the floor boards of the nave, feature several resemblances (several scallops; band of nailhead) to the capital of Pier 1 in the S arcade.


J. Bowkett, St. James' Church, High Melton, n.p. n.d.

A. H. Thompson and C. T. Clay, Fasti Parochiales II part II. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 107, Leeds 1943.

E. Coatsworth, Western Yorkshire, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, 8, Oxford 2008.

J. Hunter, South Yorkshire, Deanery of Doncaster 1, London 1828.

J. Hunter, South Yorkshire. Deanery of Doncaster 2, London 1831.

J. E. Morris, The West Riding of Yorkshire, 2nd ed., London 1923.

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

A. H. Thompson, ‘The village churches of Yorkshire’, in Memorials of Old Yorkshire, ed. by T. M. Fallow, London 1909.