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St James, Fordon, Yorkshire, East Riding

(54°9′39″N, 0°23′36″W)
TA 050 751
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
formerly St James
now St James
  • Rita Wood
03 Oct 2006

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A small chapel lacking a clearly defined boundary. It is situated on the road side, and backed by shrubbery. Stone walls, tile roof: nave and chancel. Much restored and patched.

There is a doorway with segmental tympanum, various reset stones noted in N and S exterior walls, and two shafts with scallop capitals reset in the sanctuary.


Fordon was a chapel of ease to Hunmanby in the 12th century; with which it was granted to Bardney Abbey by Walter de Gant in 1115.

The font has a 13th century base (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 424), suggesting that, as a dependent chapel, it might not have had right of baptism in the previous century when most of the cylindrical fonts were being supplied to the Riding.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Comments by earlier writers

G. A. Poole writes ‘The ecclesiologist must be very zealous who turns out of his way for such a church as this; but if he considers himself repaid by a pretty nook not without trees and other picturesque objects, in the bosom of the Wolds, he will take the church as a little item in the interest and pleasure of a morning’s drive’ (1848, 144-5). When Poole visited the church he saw the greater part had already been rebuilt, with ‘several portions of Norman decorations being inserted promiscuously with the rude stone work.’ Because the doorway and some remains of the original chancel arch were then to be seen in situ, he concluded the ground plan was Norman. Poole is ambiguous about a chancel arch: he saw 'two capitals of shafts, one in each gable of the nave, several portions of a moulded jamb, probably of the original chancel arch, of which not one half at present remains.' Did he mean in situ, or in toto?

Of items noted by Poole, the following were not seen by the fieldworker: the partial remains of the chancel arch in situ; 'a square piscina pierced in the centre', and a moulding over the door with ‘the usual square fillet bevilled on the lower side, with little half balls set at intervals in the bevil’.

In 1876, the vicar's returns to diocesan enquiries (Borthwick document V.1877 Ret.) said ‘thoroughly restored’. At this time the present chancel arch was built (as recorded on a plaque).

Morris (1919, 160), says ‘Fordon is scarcely worth a visit, except for the charm of its situation in the depth of a typically narrow chalk valley.’

Pevsner & Neave note that ‘It is very small - just nave and chancel… Some Norman masonry and reused carved stones in N and S walls. S doorway is Norman with a segmental tympanum with a faintly carved cross pattée’ (1995, 424).

Fieldworker's comments:

The doorway and tympanum. The faint cross carved on the tympanum recalls a similar one at Hunmanby, the mother church of Fordon. The label of the doorway seems to have been renewed; there are no domes on the chamfer. It is not a pattern I would have expected with a probably early 12th century doorway; might the doorway have been rebuilt when the lower edge of the tympanum had to be remodelled?

Reset scallop capitals etc: the reset pieces now in the chancel suggest, by the deep slots in their capitals, that they belonged to a chancel arch, for the slots could have taken a rood beam. The half-round pillars are remnants. The leaflet in the church suggests the slots may have been to take a communion rail, but they are a little high for that. The cable markings on the rings of both capitals recall the coarsely cut necking on the piscina at Sherburn near Filey, though there the cuts are vertical not angled. There are other examples of cable pattern only cut as incisions (for example, Flamborough and Folkton).


N. Pevsner & D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd. ed. London, 1995, pp. 424.

K. J. Allison (ed.), A History of the County of York East Riding, ii. London 1974.

G. A. Poole, Churches of Scarborough, Filey and the Neighbourhood. London & Scarborough, 1848, pp. 144-5.