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St Laurence, Snaith, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°41′32″N, 1°1′50″W)
SE 641 222
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now Sheffield
formerly St Lawrence
medieval St Mary
now St Laurence
  • Rita Wood
16 September 1996; 12 March 2014

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St Laurence is a large and complex church, which appears to be mostly from the 15thc. It has a chancel with N and S chapels and a vestry; N and S aisles to the nave; former chantries in the N and S transepts; remnants of a Consistory Court at the W end; and a tower above. The tower was added in the 13thc, with an additional bay at the W end of the 12thc nave.

Restoration 1868-9.

The only 12thc work previously recorded at this church are passages of walling in the transepts, and the W responds of the N and S arcades at the bay before the tower. The previously unrecorded corbels reused at the top of the tower are very worn. The tower was presumably updated in late medieval times with the battlements, so the date of reuse is not clear. There are about 50 12thc corbels, probably from the nave. The original corbels have the dimensions (a head-width) and form (cavetto) of 12thc corbels. The quoins of this course are not 12thc, but they are made of one extra large stone, at times with three carved heads - one on each face of the tower and one on the angle. These carvings have not survived in a good condition either.


Before the Conquest, King Edward probably had a manor here. Snaith was on the northern edge of the huge Hatfield Chase, a fenny hunting ground.

Gerard, archbishop of York (1101-08), granted the church of St Lawrence and the soke of Snaith to Selby Abbey. The church became a small cell of the Abbey. It was appropriated to Selby Abbey in 1310 (VCH Yorkshire III, 100-101; 150).

Much of the priory garth was taken for the railway which runs on the N edge of the town between the church and the river Aire.

The dedication is said by Lawton to be to St Mary, and Raine (1873) agrees, but the VCH Yorkshire III, 100, n.1, says that this is an error, and that it was St Lawrence.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features



Pevsner says 'The church was originally a Norman building with aisles and transepts. Of that no more can be seen than the W responds of the former arcades, and some unmistakable masonry in the end walls of the transepts. The Norman nave was shorter towards the W than is the present one. To this Norman building a sturdy W tower was added in the 13thc' (Pevsner 1967, 490).

It would orginally have been without aisles, to make the transepts meaningful. The transepts appear to be mere stubs due to the addition of aisles to the nave.

Regarding masonry seen internally, it is generally very mixed. The transepts have some rubble - but so do other walls. The string-course photographed in the S transept S wall seems a bit heavy for our period, but it has diagonal tooling.

The corbels on the tower are worn, but there are comparisons to their form at Birkin (the elongated human heads) and at Drax, the chunky animal heads. The corbels are therefore likely to be 'mid-century'. Though they do not seem to have got into the literature, their 12thc nature was recognised by at least one architect or restorer, since one worn stone has been replaced by a credible animal-head corbel, which is on the E face of the tower (corbel no. 9). Several others have been reworked in situ, with a smile, added or emphasised, on human heads: it can only be relatively recently that such original detail would have been lost. A smiley face is quite possible for a 12thc corbel, again as at Birkin.


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