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St Leonard, Speeton, Yorkshire, East Riding

(54°9′18″N, 0°14′20″W)
TA 151 747
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now North Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
12 May 2003; 28 Jun 2015

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Speeton is a village in North Yorkshire which lies mid-way between Filey and Bridlington. Formerly in the East Riding, it is now North Yorkshire's most easterly settlement. Pevsner & Neave describe the church as ‘The simplest of buildings…' and largely early C12 (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 708.) It has a small W tower, nave and chancel; the roof is continuous over nave and chancel. The church is about 110m above sea level and within a mile of the coast. It is no doubt sited in a hollow for protection from storms: there are no windows to the N or E, and there were none on the W wall until two were created in 1910. The nave is approx. 4.5m x 6.8m, the chancel about half that area.

No burials are apparent in the field and it seems there never have been any, corpses being carried to Bridlington priory (Sykes, n.d.). The church was never restored agressively, but there have been repairs and rebuildings on the old plan. In this way, two carved stones have been recovered from the W and the S walls. The VCH notes use of chalk along with the stone - there is a little in the W wall, but it is not visible as a major component as it is in some farm buildings in the village; chalk in this region is hard, but better kept for interior use in a church. In parts of the discontinuous double plinth the lower course includes cobbles from the beach.

Of our period are the round-headed bell openings in the unbuttressed tower; plain Norman chancel arch; font; two reset carved stones in N wall of nave.


This was an Anglian settlement. The placename is said to mean ‘speech enclosure’, and it is suggested (VCH) that it was the meeting place of the Domesday Hundred of Huntou. Huntow appears in the farm names on the Bridlington road; ‘how’ is a tumulus. The village was formerly larger, extending to the N as well as around the present site in the S.

In DB, manors belonged to the king and to the count of Mortain. Something subsequently passed to the de Gants. In the late 12th century, 3 carucates were given to Bridlington Priory by Gilbert de Gant, son of Walter, (VCHER, 101). In the 15th c. a parochial chaplain was presumably provided by the priory which by then owned most of the area around, [VCH, 103].


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Interior Decoration





Reset fragments

1. The Agnus Dei.

There is a tympanum at Thwing having an animal with a very similar body-shape. At St. Nicholas’, Gloucester, is a tympanum with a central Lamb under an arch; the tympanum at Quenington (Gloucestershire) on the N doorway also has an arch carved within the field of the tympanum.

2. Stone with patterns.

Sykes suggests it might be a consecration cross. Given the variety of decoration, it could well be a section of lintel to go with the Agnus Dei as a tympanum. If so, it should be imagined as rotated ninety degrees, so that there would have been a line of ‘diamonds’ along the bottom.


Several of the patterned cylindrical fonts in the Riding have their decoration interrupted by a blank, suggesting that they were to stand against a wall – or even in a corner, as this one does now.


G. Alcock, Speeton Parish and Church (Scarborough, 1936).

E. Ingram, ‘A carved Agnus Dei at Speeton, East Yorkshire’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 41 (1966), p. 590 and Pl. III.

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

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

T. Sykes, St Leonard’s Speeton (2003).

Victoria County History of York, East Riding, II (London, 1974).