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St Augustine, Hedon, Yorkshire, East Riding

(53°44′31″N, 0°12′0″W)
TA 188 288
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
06 Dec 2005

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Feature Sets

The church is a large Gothic building, standing on a rise within the grid of the planned medieval streets (VCH V, 172). Pevsner & Neave (1995, 453) call it ‘one of the five largest and grandest parish churches of the East Riding.’ It was restored in 1868-77 by G. E. Street.

The earliest sculpture in good condition is a cluster of stiff-leaf capitals inside, where the S transept turns into the S nave aisle. Some writers suggest the building was begun as early as 1180, but there is little more than a blocked window, the roundness of the arch of the S transept doorway and some shallow pilasters on the wall nearby to recall Romanesque work.


There is no mention of Hedon in the Domesday Survey. The name Hedon was used in 1115 when Stephen of Aumale gave a hospice beside ‘the stream of Hedon’ and free passage across the Humber to Aumale Abbey. About 1140, William le Gros, count of Aumale, gave a toft at Hedon to St Leonard’s hospital at York. The town was founded by the earls of Albemarle as a port for their extensive honour of Holderness. A mint is mentioned at Hedon in the 1150s (VCH V, 168-9). There were numerous hospitals in and around the town (VCH III, 308-10). By the time the town received its first royal charter as a borough, c. 1170, at least two of its three medieval churches existed as well as two hospitals (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 452).

The port and town prospered in the beginning, but the rise of other ports along the Humber and the silting up of the inlets (some artificial) at Hedon steadily reduced it. Morris 1919, 178-9, quotes Leland on the sight of the decaying port, and Camden, who says ‘when Hulle began to flourish, Heddon decaied’. Ravenser Odd, the port on a predecessor of Spurn Point, was supported by Isabella countess of Aumale in the late 13th century.

For history of Hedon, see English 1979, 214-222.


Exterior Features




Sir Stephen Glynne visited in 1841 and wrote: 'The south transept is, perhaps, the earliest [work], and has a doorway with semi-circular arch just emerging from Norman, and with shafts having capitals of rude foliage' (Butler 2007, 212).

Ainslie 1936 gives a plan which seems to have coloured later discussion. The walls of the transepts, crossing and E end are tinted solid black (conventionally used for ‘Norman’) and in the key these walls are given a date bracket of c. 1180-1250.

VCH V, 183, says ‘the chancel, transepts and original crossing piers, besides a destroyed chapel, are all of the late 12th or early 13th century.’

Pevsner & Neave 1995, 453, contrast the round-headed S transept doorway with the pointed N transept doorway (dogtooth, pointed arch and original lancet windows above); the treatment of the transept walls similarly indicates that the S transept is the earlier. But another doorway that might be considered as a comparison is the S nave doorway at Great Driffield, which is round-headed and combines less sharp keeled mouldings with dogtooth.

David Stocker compares the N face and N doorway of the N transept with what remains of work at Holy Trinity Priory, York (N door and W front) and both to work of the 1220s and 1230s at York Minster (Stocker 1995, 92-3; fig. XVIIIa).

The crouching lions and clumsy annulets, the castellated capitals of the first order and stops at the end of the imposts and label, may be more Victorian than medieval. Would the doorway to the S transept have looked nearer to late Romanesque in its first state - more like, for example, the S transept doorway at Ripon Cathedral? As we have it, the attentuated chevron with foliage-decorated spandrels on the label, and the roundness of the arches, are only nods at Romanesque by a later generation.


E. H. M. Ainslie, Hedon, St Augustine’s Church, Hull 1936.

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

B. English, The Lords of Holderness, 1086-1260: a study in feudal society, Oxford 1979.

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.

J. E. Morris, The East Riding of Yorkshire, 2nd ed., London 1919.

N. Pevsner & D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd ed., London 1995.

D. Stocker, ‘The Priory of Holy Trinity, York: Antiquarians and Architectural Historians’, in L. Hoey, ed., Yorkshire Monasticism: Art, Archaeology and Architecture from the 7th to the 16th centuries, BAACT 16, Leeds 1995.

Victoria County History: East Riding of Yorkshire III, 1913, reprinted 1974.

Victoria County History: East Riding of Yorkshire V, 1984.