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St Peter, Felkirk, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°36′30″N, 1°24′59″W)
SE 387 126
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now West Yorkshire
medieval York
now Wakefield
formerly St Peter
now St Peter and St Peter
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
30 September 2011

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The church of St Peter lies in rural surroundings near the junction of Church Lane, Kirkgate Lane and Slack Lane in what is now South Hiendley; Felkirk as a settlement appears to be losing or to have lost its separate identity. The church comprises nave, chancel with flanking chapels, north and south aisles and a west tower. In the churchyard there is also an Elizabethan schoolroom now converted into a church hall.

The church is mostly 15thc and 16thc but incorporates a large number of reused 12thc architectural fragments. These include the jambs of the present tower arch (Ryder 1991, 24) and a reset windowhead. There is herringbone walling in situ (Ryder 1991, fig. 34) on SE angle of the nave. The interior walls have been heavily retooled, probably during that restoration. A faculty of 1875 gives a plan of the church (Borthwick Institute York Fac. 1875/3)

The tower arch, to the level of the imposts, is early 12thc and incorporates some carving.


The village is not in Domesday Book. Swain f. Ailric granted the church of ‘Hodroyd’ to Nostell in the time of Archbishop Thurstan (1114 –1130), and his gift was confirmed by his son; Hodroyd is a place in the parish (Thompson and Clay 1933, 110). King Henry I confirmed the church of Felkirk to Nostell priory, 1121/1127, the gift of Swein f. Ailric (Farrer 1917 nos. 1428, 1435). There are faculties of 1774 to repew and to make other alterations, and of 1796 faculty to erect a gallery.


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Interior Decoration




Loose Sculpture


The church in general (for the tower arch, see below):

Morris gives the clearest analysis of the building, saying that the tower is chiefly Perp, ‘with good Norman jambs’; the nave, aisles and chancel are essentially Early English but the N aisle, including the N arcade, was apparently rebuilt in Perp., at which time the height of the arcade was increased and the tower arch correspondingly raised. Two capitals can be seen one above the other on the W respond of the N arcade. At the tower, the Perp builders put new [vertical] jambs on the old ones, and the new arch. Numerous Norman carved stones probably belong to the old tower arch, and suggest that the tower was wholly reconstructed, with the exception of the jambs of the old arch, by the Perp builders. (Morris, 1923, 188)

Ryder says that the name ‘Felkirk’ could mean ‘Plank church’, and may refer to a pre-Conquest timber building. He notes that the earliest phase of the building can be seen in the walling at the angles of the nave, especially the herringbone masonry at the SE angle. He thinks the 15thc. cent. tower arch probably incorporates the reset jambs and capitals of a fine arch of c.1100, which may have been part of the first build, and he notes many other reused architectural fragments. (Ryder, 1993, 152, fig. 34)

Window head in the S aisle S wall: Pevsner asks whether this piece, which is made of one stone and arched, could be Norman. (Pevsner 1967, 198). Whlst admitting that 'on its own it would be easy to see this as an Anglo-Saxon piece', Ryder thinks it may belong in the context of the other reused material including the reset arch responds and the herringbone masonry.’ (Ryder, 1993, 27) The window head is not included in Coatsworth (2008).

The corbels are reminiscent of Romanesque forms, for example corbel 4 recalls corbels of bearded men at Bilton-in-Ainsty, but the corbels are likely to be contemporary with the 13thc arcades.

Tower arch: Morris considers the arch in place from the beginning. (Morris, 1923, 188) Pevsner thinks that the tower arch is ‘the most curious feature of the church', belonging neither to the present nave nor to the present tower, so perhaps a chancel arch?’ (Pevsner, 1967, 198-99) Ryder agrees that the highly decorated responds now associated with the present tower arch are probably those of a reset c.1100 chancel arch. He notes that the scalloped capitals with cable moulding and ornament including 'intersecting round arches, star ornament, incised knots and a row of human heads' are reminiscent of an elaborate font now in the late 19thc. church at Skelmanthorpe that once belonged to High Hoyland church just over the border into South Yorkshire. (Ryder, 1993, 27, fig. 36)

The carving on the capitals and imposts of the tower arch is similar in workmanship to that on the fonts at Skelmanthorpe (from High Hoyland) and Cawthorne. The foliage patterns on the cones of the scallops are tree-like; the two patterns used on the upper parts of the capitals and on the imposts differ in scale rather than intention: the ‘periwinkle’ is a coarser version of the more detailed pattern.

Regarding the question as to whether the remains were originally a tower arch or a chancel arch, the following points may be relevant. The capitals are equally carved to W and E faces: this ornamentation is highly unusual for a chancel arch, which is usually plain, or at least much less likely to be carved, to the chancel than to the nave side. The range of patterns and motifs is similar to the fonts noted above; there are arcades of various kinds, foliage and men’s heads, but no grapes, which might have suggested a chancel arch. There is no sign that a rood beam or screen was fitted against the impost or responds. It is therefore possible to question the idea that this is a chancel arch rebuilt, or in situ, and that the nave was ‘moved’. The width of the arch, 3.7m at ground level, is comparable to that at churches in the East Riding that have an elaborate or unusually large tower arch in situ. Like those churches, there is no contemporary font at Felkirk church; the present font is octagonal, on a stem, and probably 13thc.


Borthwick Institute Faculty Papers, York, 1875/3

W. Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters 3, Edinburgh, 1917.

J. E. Morris, The West Riding of Yorkshire. London, 2nd ed. (1911) 1923.

N. Pevsner, Yorkshire : West Riding. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth, 1959. 2nd. ed. revised E. Radcliffe. 1967.

J. Raine, “The Dedications of the Yorkshire Churches,” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 2 (1873), 180-92.

P. F. Ryder, Medieval Cross Slab Grave Covers in West Yorkshire, Wakefield, 1991.

P. F. Ryder, Medieval Churches of West Yorkshire, Wakefield, 1993.

A. H. Thompson and C. T. Clay, Fasti parochiales 1, part 1, Yorkshire Archaeological Series 85 [Deanery of Doncaster part 1], Leeds 1933.