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St Wilfrid, South Stainley, church, Yorkshire, West Riding

(54°3′49″N, 1°31′56″W)
South Stainley, church
SE 307 632
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
  • Rita Wood
8 Nov 1999, 8 Apr 2015, 22 Apr 2015, 07 Jun 2015, 19 June 2015

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South Stainley is a village near Ripon in North Yorkshire. The church has only a one-line entry in Pevsner (1967, 492), who gives the date as 1845. It has a nave with S porch; chancel with vestry, and was rebuilt on a medieval site. In an engraving of the church made before the rebuilding of 1845, there are no obviously 12th-century features (see Site Images). Sir Stephen Glynne did not visit the church.

In 1999, two loose pieces were seen which are relevant to the Corpus: two large half-capitals with waterleaf. At that time they were on the benches in the porch; in 2015 they were inside the church. There is some discussion about other features (for which, see Comments). A large plain cylindrical tub outside in front of the porch was said to be a font. A length of string-course in the chancel has been said to be original, but even if it is, it is unlikely to be twelfth-century.


DB says ‘waste’ at Chetune and Stainley, VCH 1974, 199, 304.

Medieval dedication unknown. Lunn was told by the incumbent 'that the dedication (S. Wilfrid) is modern, all trace of the old one having disappeared' (1870, 51). Payments to Aldborough mentioned in the charter were due on the feast of Pentecost (early summer, variable) and the feast of Saint Martin (St Martin of Tours, 11th November); it may be that one of these festivals was related to the dedication. Place sometimes called Kirk Stainley (Lunn 1870, 51). Lawton 1842, 559, says 'anciently in the patronage of the Stutevilles, who presented their Clerks to the Dean and Chapter of York for institution'. Farrer 1914, 392-3, charter 509 says that William de Stutevill has right of presentation to the church at 'Staynleya', which renders 15 shillings yearly to the mother church of Aldborough ('matrici ecclesie de Burgh'). Before the creation of the diocese of Ripon, South Stainley was for some time in the diocese of Chester, though at another time, in the diocese of York (Lunn 1870, 31).

Hudleston 1956, 48, citing 'Leeds Terriers' says the dimension of the old church at 1829 was 51 x 22 feet (nave) and 19 feet (chancel). Hudleston 1956, 50, says 'there was a N. aisle, and a small chapel N. of the chancel.' Nineteenth-century antiquarians mention a lost tower, see Comments, Font.




Loose Sculpture


Two large half-capitals

The two pieces might have combined to make one full capital, though the patterns carved are different in each half. They seem large and elaborate for a small church. The pieces were brought to light in a letter from Mr Hudleston to Dr Elizabeth Coatsworth when she enqired about pre-Conquest stonework thought to be in his possession in 1999. His reply to her letter includes the comment: 'In S. Stainley church porch are 2. Transitional respond heads from the vanished N. aisle'. The antiquarians do not mention the two half-capitals; and it is thought by the churchwarden (2015) that they were brought to the church from elsewhere by Mr Hudleston.

The crossing of the tips of leaves is unusual in this region, but has been seen at Thornaby-on-Tees, capital of chancel arch.

Font or fonts at South Stainley

In 1999, I was assured by Mr N. A. Hudleston (then churchwarden) that this item had previously been used as the font in the church. In Hudleston 1956, there is an illustration captioned: "High Cayton: stone water tub" which looks very like the tub outside St Wilfrid's. In a letter of 1999 to Elizabeth Coatsworth (fieldworker for CASSS) he says 'The plain tub Norman font I also returned (Thrown out 1870.) It had acted as a water tank on one of the farms and the steam engine (threshing) boilers were always filled from it and the tap to fit it is still in the Farm Yard!' The phrase 'thrown out 1870' may only mean that the present font was installed c. 1870. In a letter to this fieldworker (RW) Mr Hudleston says he 'found [it] as a cistern under a farmyard tap ... I put it in the churchyard'. There is no evidence that this stone tub was ever a font, and not only is it too deep, but the bored holes in the rim do not equate to medieval lid fastenings; Pete Wilson thought it could even be Roman.

Two authors, James Joseph Sheahan and William Grainge (fl. 1855-1871), are quoted by Hudleston (1956, 49) regarding the old church and its font. Sheahan (1871, 270) actually says 'The old Church, which stood on the same spot, suffered the loss of its tower by an accidental fire. The font is Saxon, very large, and richly carved.' Hudleston 1956, 49, appears to quote Grainge and a description of the church from 1838: 'a small ancient structure which suffered the loss of its tower by an accidental fire many years ago. It has a large Saxon font richly carved, and formed out of a single block, with a large cavity for the immersion of Infants.' (original text not identified, see Hudlestone 1956, 82, notes 15 and 17).

The large tub outside the church at South Stainley might be seen as faceted, hence arcaded, but this shaping is not at all obvious, and could be the result of the method of forming the cylinder. It could hardly ever have been 'richly carved', and was probably always in agricultural or domestic use.

A 'richly-carved' item presently at the church is the Roman capital reused as for a memorial sundial, just outside the S porch; it is said to have come from the church (Hudleston 1956, 50), though a plaque in the porch states that it was given by a family in Markenfield: it is Hudlestone who links it to the lost church. However, is it perhaps possible that it was here in medieval times in use as the base or stem for a font basin, and gave rise to the antiquarian descriptions? The antiquarians do not mention the Roman capital. It is currently (2015) being investigated by Peter Wilson as Roman. It has been said by others to be Norman or Gothic.

Further remarks by Mr Hudleston on stonework at the church

Hudleston 1956, 50, notes a length of string course 'from the old church' reused inside, in the S chancel wall; there are pictures of this in Site Images, but the string-course profile is not Romanesque, nor [I think] medieval either, but a water-damaged length of Victorian string-course.

Hudleston also notes windowsills reused in the flight of steps up from the lane, and the resetting of a medieval altar slab in the sanctuary floor, this said to have the five crosses. The slab was seen (in part); was very large and worn, showing no incised crosses on the two corners visible.

On the same page, the items listed as in the church porch appear to be those which we saw in an outhouse at Cayton Hall in 1999 (see separate entry).


W. Farrer (ed.), Early Yorkshire Charters, vol. I (Edinburgh, 1914).

N. A. Hudleston, Stainley and Cayton (Scarborough, 1956).

G. Lawton, Collectio rerum ecclesiasticarum de diocesi Eboracensi; or, collections relative to churches and chapels within the Diocese of York. To which are added collections relative to churches and chapels within the diocese of Ripon. New edition (London, 1842).

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

J. R. Lunn, The Ecclesiology of the Rural Deanery of Knaresborough (York, 1870).

N. Pevsner, Yorkshire: West Riding. The Buildings of England (Harmondsworth, 1959), 2nd. ed. revised E. Radcliffe (1967).

J. Raine, 'The Dedications of the Yorkshire Churches', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 2 (1873), pp. 180-92.

J. J. Sheahan, History and Topography of the Wapentake of Claro, being a supplementary volume to T. Whellan and co's. History of York and the North Riding (Beverley, 1871).

Victoria County History of Yorkshire, II (London, 1974).