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St James, Braithwell, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°26′47″N, 1°12′12″W)
SK 530 947
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now South Yorkshire
medieval York
now Sheffield
medieval All Hallows
now St James
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
29 July 2010

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This church is built of sandstone and limestone, and the same material was used for the older houses in the village. The church consists of a chancel and nave, W tower, S aisle and a porch. The S wall of the aisle is of rubble, roughly coursed at the foot, with rubble above. The chancel, N side and tower of three stages are ashlar, with battlements. The roofs are brown and grey slate. In 2010 the church was restored, with a new roof and refurbished S porch. A little more of the structure around the tympanum, which is the main relevant feature for the Corpus, has been exposed.


In Domesday Book a church and a priest were recorded at Braithwell on the land of William de Warenne (Williams et al., 1987-1992 f. 321). The church was given to Lewes Priory as a dependency of Conisbrough church in or before 1147, the date of a confirmation by William, 3rd Earl Warenne (Clay 1949, no. 34).


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Tympanum: The variations in the direction of the cable patterns, and changes from single to double cable, must have been deliberate. We may therefore suspect that the slight slanting of the rectangle of star pattern was also deliberate. They add liveliness and variety to the tympanum which would be absent if perfectly regular.

The patterns on the face of the tympanum may signify heaven and perhaps the all-pervading presence of the Trinity; the saltire star pattern in the soffit represents the firmament that arches over earth and separates mankind from heaven. Such a pattern would usually be carved on the face of a lintel and is often continued onto the upright of the imposts, but the soffit evokes the over-arching sky very well as one passes through the doorway. Cable patterns define the border of a hallowed subject (Wood 2001, especially 5-14; Keyser 1909, 169; Ryder 1982, 89).

Label of doorway: Something like the pattern of closely-spaced radial lines is seen on the label of the doorway at Wold Newton (East Riding), but is not common. The tympanum at Wold Newton is also a geometric design; it includes a cluster of three domes and a single large ring either side of a central cross. It may be possible that the structure of the doorway at Braithwell before it was dismantled and moved resembled that seen at Wold Newton, that is, that the imposts helped support the tympanum and first order arch, and that the second order (as here described) was a label.

Mass dial: In the church guide this is said to be 12thc in date (Harker 2005, cover p. 3).


C.T. Clay, Early Yorkshire Charters 8 the Honour of Warenne, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series Extra Series 6. Wakefield 1949.

N. Harker, St James’ Church, Braithwell. n.p. 2005.

C. E. Keyser, 'The NormanDoorways of Yorkshire', in T.M. Fallow, ed. Memorials of Old Yorkshire (1909), 165-219.

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

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

P. F. Ryder, Saxon Churches in South Yorkshire. 1982.

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

R. Wood, 'Geometric Patterns in English Romanesque Sculpture'. Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 154 (2001), 1-39.