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St Helen, Kilnwick Percy, Yorkshire, East Riding

(53°56′15″N, 0°44′30″W)
Kilnwick Percy
SE 827 498
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
medieval St Helen
now St Helen
  • Rita Wood
13 Oct 2006

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Kilnwick Percy is a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire, 1.5 miles NE of Pocklington. According to Pevsner and Neave, ‘The hall and church stand alone in parkland providing the classic deserted village landscape. Hollow ways and traces of house platforms to the S of the church mark the site of the small village finally deserted in the early c18.’ (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 579). The Norman church was rebuilt in 1864-5 ‘in a more elaborate Norman’ style but perhaps on the same plan. In 1901, A. H. Leadman wrote that the doorway ‘has had a chisel over it instead of a scrubbing brush and hot water’ (p. 284).

The church of St Helen has nave and chancel with north porch. Two doorways were reused together to form the N entrance; since the disappearance of the village in the previous century, the Victorian rebuilding was done for the entire benefit of the Hall, and both doorways now face it. The corbels are all likely to be copies, though good ones. There are said to be remains of the chancel arch, but none were identified.


Chilewick or Chillewinc in DB, the ‘Percy’ is first recorded in 1303. In 1087, the king had 16 carucates, of these, 6 belonged to the hall and 10 were in the soc of Pocklington (VCH II, 321, 197).


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Comparisons for porch doorway

Pevsner and Neave 1995, 579, say 'the restored N doorway is in situ, ... the S doorway is reset as the N porch entry...' The faces on the first order capitals resemble one on the chancel arch at Great Givendale, but that has probably been re-cut. Nunburnholme tower arch has similar faces and swags on the unrestored W half of its first order R capital, but not perhaps of such quality as here. Again, the work is either restored or deteriorating. Second order capitals are scallop with spirals in the shield as here.

The arch of the first order should be compared to that at Bishop Wilton and the innermost order of the S doorway re-set at St Margaret, Walmgate York. Two fragments of a voussoir with the pattern are reset in the N wall of the church at Burnby. As for how a door was fitted to the double-sided pattern, compare Bishop Wilton, but note that both have been restored.

The beakheads without ears on the arch of the second order are very like some re-set in the N wall at Burnby. An order combining beakheads and chevron mouldings is unusual.

The Bishop Wilton doorway, second order, has the unusual alternating treatment of beakheads, but there they all seem to have had ears (order partially restored; seven original beakheads remain).


Morris 1919, 215 says corbel tables, outer and inner doorways of the north porch are ‘apparently old’. The first impression of the corbels which run continuously along N and S walls of the nave is that they are genuine, but after seeing the wear on the doorways, it is hard to believe that better stone would have been found for the original corbels, which casts doubt about their provenance. There are one or two which might perhaps be original (N6, N11, S9, S13, S14) and probably the now-decayed examples were originals - but on the whole the fieldworker is continuously baffled by the question of whether these are original or made by a modern craftsman to reproduce old work. There is no obviously Victorian invention, except for the introduction of smaller corbels at the ends of the rows. Were the copies made from remnants already here?

The type of mask holding a complete small animal in its jaws is seen at Drax, reset in the porch, and another similar example in Selby Abbey. The human heads are very like those on the N side of the nave at Kirkburn.

Site update: the Madhyamaka Buddhist Centre at Kilnwick Percy Hall is applying for permission for the building to be turned into a store for their use (January 2016).


A. H. Leadman, ‘Five East Riding churches’, Yorkshire Archaeolical Journal 16 (1901), 283-289.

F. Mann, Early Medieval Church Sculpture: A Study of 12th Century Fragments in East Yorkshire (Beverley, 1985).

J. E. Morris, The East Riding of Yorkshire (London, 1906) 2nd edn. (London, 1919).

N. Pevsner and D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd edn. (London, 1995).

Victoria County History: Yorkshire, II (London, 1912), reprinted (1974).