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St Michael, Eastrington, Yorkshire, East Riding

(53°45′37″N, 0°47′38″W)
SE 796 300
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
31 May 2005, 09 Dec 2015, 03 Feb 2016

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The church has a nave and chancel with N and S aisles, based on a nave and chancel of the 12th century; it has also a W tower and a S porch. The chancel has traces of its Norman structure in the following features: exterior pilasters on the E wall, a string course inside and out, corbels on the N and S walls, and blocked N and S windows. The chancel was partly reconstructed in 1632 after partial collapse, hence the square pillar and woodwork in its N arcade. In the chancel aisles a few corbels remain in situ; the best-preserved are on the N side. An object of particular interest at this the church is the reset panel in the porch, the use of which is unknown (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 398; Butler 2007, 167-8).


King Edward had this land before the Conquest, and at the time of the Domesday Survey it was associated with Howden either as soc or as land held by the Bishop of Durham. All the berewicks of Howden were waste (VCH II, 319).


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

String courses
Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features

Interior Decoration

String courses


Corbel N3: scrolls or rolls. Compare Selby Abbey NE pier of crossing; or Brayton, a corbel on N side of tower; Bramham YW61. The form also occurs at Newbald. At Selby Abbey, some paint remains; here at Eastrington the form suggests scrolls - in scroll-boxes?.

Corbel N4: bearded man with ‘cigar’. If only one could get nearer! This corbel is remarkable in that the object has been made to project beyond the apparent limit of the block, adding to the impression that it might be emerging from the man's mouth. Compare Bilton-in-Ainsty (YW), corbel 3. Might it be a swaddled child? That is, a soul reborn? The idea of the soul being reborn would accord with the fieldworker's general interpretation of corbel tables as the place from where the end of the world, the second coming of Christ and the day of Judgement were being watched for, and thus where the entry of believers into the new life of heaven is expected; see Wood 2003a, 13-25.

Corbel CN5: two human figures It is common enough to find a corbel with two heads looking out in this way, and Harswell has a local example: there is a two-head corbel reset inside which may be of a man and a woman. Usually these heads are expressionless, and fixed in a distant gaze like the single heads of men; sometimes they smile, as if seeing their redemption drawing nigh, at the Second Coming of Christ.

It is unusual to find whole figures carved, and these at Eastrington give the possibility of precise evidence supporting the suggested 'end of the world' scenario. The corbel with the two figures could be read as a man in the act of proposing marriage to a woman, or making some sexual approach to her, but the turn of his head away from the woman and his shocked expression show he has been interrupted. At the end of the world, the corbel is saying, such things become irrelevant. Perhaps an appropriate text would be Matthew 24:38 (‘in those days which were before the flood they were… marrying and giving in marriage… the flood came and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man.’)

Corbel CN7: bears. Bears are not common, but there are several on corbels at Kirkburn.

Corbel CN8: smiling animal. There is a corbel with a smiling sheep in the Hull and East Riding Museum. That has big coiled horns.

Corbel CN9: smiling bearded man. He is another of the faithful glad to see heavenly life dawning.

Corbel CN 13:human head. Reminiscent of corbel heads at Hayton, also seen from the N aisle.

Font. Pevsner and Neave (1995, 398) say 'What date is the font, which appears to stand on a circular cross base?', and Morris (1919, 145-6) says 'Remarkable (?)Norm. font'. It seemed to the fieldworker that the two unusually large, plain, shallow circular plinths might be later medieval ones reused, and the upper structure - octagonal in all its parts with some subtle concavity in the profile - could be a post-Reformation, 17th- or 18th-century font design; the font might have been thought of as made in wood. The effect is quite theatrical. The font is not 'Norm'.

Panel reset in porch

The animals and bird might be interpreted as heavenly creatures so, perhaps, making the panel suitable for use as a reredos behind the altar. Formally-posed creatures of these kinds were seen on precious silks which were hung in churches. It is an unusual relic.

String course reset

Because there were plain string courses on the N, E and S walls of the chancel, and because a chancel would be preferred for decorative string courses rather than a nave, it is not easy to suggest where these pieces came from. The alternatives seem to be either the E interior wall of the chancel, or as a continuation of the imposts of the chancel arch on the E wall of the nave.

Re-used corbels

The re-use of carved heads of various ages as label stops is seen in nave arcades at Pocklington, including beakhead voussoirs recut.


L. A. S. Butler, ed., The Yorkshire Church Notes of Sir Stephen Glynne (1825-1874), Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 159. Woodbridge 2007.

G. Lawton, Collectio rerum ecclesiasticarum de diocesi Eboracensi; or, collections relative to churches and chapels within the Diocese of York. To which are added collections relative to churches and chapels within the diocese of Ripon, New edition, London 1842.

N. Pevsner & D. Neave, The Buildings of England; Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd ed. London 1995, 398-9.

Victoria County History: Yorkshire, II (General volume, including Domesday Book). 1912, reprinted 1974.

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