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St Mary, Fridaythorpe, Yorkshire, East Riding

(54°1′20″N, 0°39′57″W)
SE 875 593
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
4 May 2007, 10th May 2007

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The village sits at about 170m on the top of the wolds. The church is small, with a chancel, nave and tower on a twelfth-century plan, but also with low roofs and eighteenth-century pinnacles on the tower - as well as a late Victorian porch and N aisle which have structural problems. It was restored in 1902-3 for Sir Tatton Sykes. There is a magnificently-patterned S doorway, an interesting chancel arch, the horizontal slice of a font, and also three carved stones and eleven voussoirs reset.


'In 1066 most of Fridaythorpe was held by Forni, Gamall and Ormr who, as sons or close relatives of Karli, were connected to the leading Anglo-Danish families in the North’ (VCH VIII, 83). In 1086, Fridaythorpe was largely divided between the archbishop of York and a Norman settler, Odo the Crossbowman. Odo’s land is described as waste and no population was recorded. Other parts were held by the king and the count of Mortain. (VCH II, 205, 211, 282, 325; VCH VIII, 83).


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

String courses


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches
Tower/Transept arches

Interior Decoration





Pre-restoration photographs are from an album of the Thelwell Collection: ‘Photographs of East Riding churches’, c. 1900, volume 6, pp. 38-41. (Bridlington Public Library has four volumes, nos. 2, 5, 6, 7). Henry Thelwell, the photographer, was a teacher at Sledmere, working c. 1890s-1910.

S doorway RCHM has photo AA79/2008 of the S doorway which might perhaps have some detail of the second order that is now lost, or even of the stone at the apex.

‘Earlier [than the tower arch] by half a century is the utterly barbaric S doorway with three orders of columns, chip-carving, a rope motif, rosettes, decorated scallops, zigzag – any old thing that was going’ (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 426).

S Doorway, first order, N face of capitals Carving is unusual in this position, but occurs at Newbald and Lockington in work of the early twelfth century, a little later at Bishop Wilton .

S Doorway, first order, face on L capital It is, as George Zarnecki remarks, ‘one of the most eccentric examples of elementary figural motifs’ from the early post-Conquest period (Zarnecki 1979, 180). The doorway has a more normal human bust on the L capital of the second order (compare Millington and North Dalton), and there are those tiny heads in the second order arch that are not often spotted among the excitement of the chevrons. Is this hidden, misshapen head genuine? Could it represent earthly temptation? It recalls a menacing head lurking among the bases of the doorway between church and cloister at Nun Monkton (YW).

S Doorway, second order: three human heads and foliage patterns There are 14 lozenges on the angle of this arch; in 1994 perhaps six of them had human faces and three had symmetrical foliage patterns; five were already illegible. The three delicate little heads looking down from the chevron order could represent the ‘saints in light’ (Colossians1:12), that is, the blessed in the context of heavenly glory. The symmetrical foliage patterns similarly refer to life in paradise.

S Doorway, third order, R capital The volute may perhaps have been yet another a human head, as once existed on the L capital of the first order of the doorway at Kilham, above star pattern. That doorway also contains capitals with the zigzag pattern of parallel ridges.

S Doorway, label The extended block at the top of the label is an unusual feature for this region, but a crowned human head was carved in this position at West Lutton. Occasionally elsewhere in England a mask is carved here.

Chancel arch, moulding on plinth This moulding is used on the upright of the impost of the W doorway at Garton-on-the-Wolds.

Chancel arch, triangular spandrels The division in this manner is not often seen but occurs on the chancel arch at Aughton, where the subdivisions each contain a pierced small dome.

Chancel arch, figure near apex The circular object with the incised cross is a mass wafer. The leaves and small dome just below this probably represent a vine and its fruit. The figure may represent a priest, or Christ. See Wood 1999, 9.

Reset stone with bird This is likely to be 12th-century, but its original position is unknown. It has been suggested that the bird is a peacock because of its long tail and clumsy feet. A local comparison would be with the bird on the L side of the doorway at Wold Newton, which closely resembles a partridge, or the bestiary bird, Perdix. Similar elements appear in both doorways, for example, zig-zag in the imposts, patterns with parallel lines, and large circular pattern units.

Reset stones on interior of doorway and tower arch It would be unusual to have had sculpture provided over the internal face of the doorway originally. Locally, twelfth-century sculpture is found reset internally over the entrance doorway at St Mary’s, Beverley (voussoirs from the earlier doorway), and at Foston-on-the-Wolds (stones of a label, possibly from the chancel arch). It is suggested that these voussoirs at Fridaythorpe came from an earlier tower arch. The two stones in the tower arch could have belonged to the same opening.

Font The alterations would have made the font more suitable for infant baptisms. The font at Kilnwick-on-the-Wolds retains only the upper part of its twelfth-century cylinder. A font at Goodmanham could have once been cylindrical, before recutting into a hexagon.


Frances Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications: or, England’s Patron Saints, Volume 3, London 1899, 128.

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

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

Victoria History of the County of York: East Riding,, VIII (East Buckrose: Sledmere and the Northern Wolds), D Neave and S. Neave (eds), 2008.

R. Wood, 'Real People in English Romanesque Sculpture', Medieval Life, 11, 1999, 8-15.

G. Zarnecki, 'Romanesque Sculpture in Normandy and England in the Eleventh Century', Proceedings Battle Conference on Anglo-Norman Studies, I, 1978, ed. R. Allen Brown (1979) 168-189, 233-235.