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St Mary, Etton, Yorkshire, East Riding

(53°52′42″N, 0°30′33″W)
SE 981 435
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now Yorkshire, East Riding
medieval York
now York
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Rita Wood

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Church with broad W tower, nave, chancel (Chantrell 1844-45) and S aisle (rebuilt 1867-68); porch and vestry on S side of the building added during 1891 restoration. The church stands up on a hill at one end of the village. Of Romanesque date are, on the exterior: the blocked W doorway; the lower part of the tower including plain N and S windows; and a reused window-head in the S wall of the S aisle, which has an incised pattern. Inside there is a blocked door with plain tympanum (once to a stair) in the NW angle of the tower; a magnificent tower arch of four orders; and five pieces of sculpture from the demolished church at Holme-on-the-Wolds, reset here in 1951 (see IV 5.c.)


Robert, Count of Mortain, held the manor in 1086; by the end of the 12thc. the Fossards held it. The Archbishop also had some land in Etton in 1086 (VCHER, pp. 106, 107). Another landholder was Hugh, son of Baudry, and the Stutevilles seem to have been involved (VCHER, p. 107). In about 1200 a rector was mentioned. 'The advowson generally descended with the Stutville's overlordship in the Middle Ages' (VCHER, p.111).


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

String courses

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Interior Decoration





Comparisons may be made between the N doorway at Stillingfleet and the tower arch at Etton, in the first order, which has similar domes of grapes, and the occasional other motif, such as a star and foliage. The W doorway at Etton has foliate motifs in a ring and hoop pattern comparable to those on the outer order of the S doorway at Stillingfleet. It is salutary to compare a current photograph of the tower W doorway with Plate 7 in an article of 1909 by Charles Keyser (see ). Keyser's illustration shows the two inner arches and all the columns of the doorway black, that is still with a thin coating of pollution deposit; the outer arch and label are light grey, that is, they show the natural colour of the stone. We now see that the carvings on the formerly lightest parts have become almost indecipherable, while those black a hundred years ago are in their turn shedding the protective skin together with the original surface and are about to decay at a fast rate. The stone used at Etton is a Jurassic limestone; the process is even faster in the Permian Magnesian limestone, as used at Stillingfleet.

Better preserved examples of the beaker clasp motif are among the stones of the chancel arch at Bishop Wilton, and one voussoir mounted in the display of fragments from St Mary's Abbey in the Yorkshire Museum, York.

The quality of the three large reset panels contrasts with the rest of the known fabric of Holme church. It is unlikely that such panels had originally belonged in a poor church in a village. South Dalton's medieval church may have belonged to St John's Beverley. It also was poor and often rebuilt and patched up with brick. It was demolished in the 1860s. Perhaps the three panels came from a demolished church or monastery in Beverley.

The reset capitals from Holme should be compared with capitals in situ at Lockington. There are similar spirals in low relief, similar tongue-like foliage, and the little men in both have the same almond-shaped eyes with a horizontal ridge. It is likely that the capital with patterns was on the left and that with the swordsman on the right. The main star patterns would thus face each other and indicate the interior of the church was to be thought of as heaven. The horizontal posture of the man might indicate violence was overturned here. Leaves on both S faces may represent Life victorious over Death.

Victoria County History: Yorkshire, East Riding. IV (1979), 106-11.
K.J. Allinson (ed.), A History of the County of York East Riding, iv, Oxford 1979.
A. J. Barker, History of St. Peter's Church, Holme on the Wolds, n.p.,c.1990.
C. E. Keyser, 'The Norman Doorways of Yorkshire', in T. M. Fallow, Memorials of Old Yorkshire, pp. 165-219. London 1909.
T.A. Heslop, Norwich Castle Keep, Romanesque Architecture and Social Context. Norwich, 1994.
Borthwick Institute holds Faculty papers: Fac.1891/11 restoration for Lord Hotham, still the patron. Fac. 1868/8 also has a plan, but the work seems to have involved the NW corner of the tower, perhaps blocking the doorway to the stair-vice. This is when the main W doorway was blocked. NO papers for the installation of the five reset pieces.
J. E. Morris, The East Riding of Yorkshire, 2nd ed. (1906), 1919, p.193.
N. Pevsner and D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd. ed. London, 1995, p. 409.
R. H. Whiteing, '12th century figures from Holme-on-the-Wolds church', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 38, (1952-5), pp. 6-7.
G. M. White and P. Thomas, An Introduction to St. Mary's Church, Etton. After 1993, n.p.