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St Mary, Sledmere, Yorkshire, East Riding

(54°4′8″N, 0°34′49″W)
SE 930 646
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Rita Wood
06 August 2004, 27 May 2016

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Feature Sets

Sledmere is a village about seven miles NW of Driffield. The church consists of a sandstone ashlar building of a chancel with a N vestry, an aisled nave, a W tower and a S porch. The church interior has delicate screens of wood and metal, and pink stone. The present nave and chance were built in 1893-8 and replace an 18thc church, which itself had replaced the medieval structure, enlarged in the 14thc. A range of plans and early views are displayed in the church, but no structure of our period has survived. As Pevsner and Neave (1995), 692, say, in the late 19thc ‘the church was rebuilt on the lines of the medieval building which were discovered on the demolition of the Georgian nave and chancel’. Remains of Romanesque sculpture consist of a series of corbels in the chamber above organ and a fragment reset into the tower arch.


The Domesday Survey records that in 1066 'Slidemare' was held by Thorfin of Ravensworth and Gospatric son of Arnketil. In 1086 it it was held by Gospatric and Nigel Fossard, being Count Robert of Mortain tenant-in-chief. The chapel at Sledmere was dependent on Kirby Grindalythe, a possession of Kirkham priory: in the 1160s Richard Wyvill granted the chapel to the canons of Kirkham priory and claimed them all his rights to the advowson of the chapel.


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


The reset fragment in the tower arch can be possibly compared with the impost of the chancel arch at North Dalton, which is carved on both upright and chamfer. Also, the piece may be a fragment of a stringcourse.

The two heads on corbel E1 seem to have broad grins, so their long watching is over and they see their Redeemer coming. Below the heads one would expect small bodies and legs, but this is not certain, as one head on corbel E1 appears to have a wide upper lip across the full width of the corbel, with part at least of a row of even teeth. The carving below may represent tiny human heads, probably symbolising people resurrecting out the big mouth (Death?). This mouth can be compared with that on the bronze door-pull at Novgorod, which has several heads in it, or at Adel, which has only one. The corbel E1 can be also compared with the corbel CN8 at Kirkburn. The corbel E2 has the two human heads looking in opposite directions: this is a common motif, but below both heads there is the suggestion of a pair of legs which are placed like the forelegs of a sitting cat, which there might be the haunch of the animal too. On the left, the chest has a star roundel. Probably his is to show the two watchers being transformed at the Second Coming and receiving their new resurrection bodies, as Christ-like lions. This can be compared with the Christ-centaur at Dijon (Wood (2009), 226-7). Another comparison can be established with the corbels at Kilham. It should be noted that one possible context for these corbels is the Second Coming (Wood (2003), 14-25): that event is preceded by patient watching and followed by Judgment, with Heaven for those who have been faithful.


G. Lawton, Collectio rerum ecclesiasticarum de dioecesi Eboracensi, London 1842, 280.

A History of the County of York: East Riding, East Buckrose, Sledmere and the Northern Wolds, vol. 8, ed. by D Neave and S. Neave London 2008, 175-6, 186, 198.

N. Pevsner and D. Neave, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire, York and the East Riding, London 1995, 692.

R. Sykes, Sledmere House, an illustrated survey of the Yorkshire home of the Sykes family, rev. by J. Cornforth and Lady Antrim, Huntingdon 1980.

The Victoria History of the County of York, ed. by W. Page, vol. 2, London 1974, 227, 285, 325.

R. Wood, ‘The Augustinians and the Romanesque Sculpture at Kirkburn Church’, East Yorkshire Historian, 4 (2003), 3-59.

R. Wood, 'The two major capitals in the crypt of Saint-Bénigne at Dijon', Antiquaries Journal, 89 (2009), 215-39.