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All Saints, Hessle, Yorkshire, East Riding

(53°43′25″N, 0°26′9″W)
TA 033 264
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
12 Aug 2005

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The medieval, largely Gothic, church was radically remodelled in the nineteenth century. Sir Stephen Glynne visited in 1848, before the modern reconstructions, but describes nothing which is obviously twelfth century; the nave arcades and chancel arch are 'First Pointed' (Butler 2007, 220). Pevsner & Neave 1995, 467, describe the work undertaken in 1868-71: ‘the chancel and side chapels taken down and rebuilt further to the E… the nave was lengthened… the aisles rebuilt…the area of the church was doubled'. A slightly longer account of the changes is given in Bilson 1911a and reproduced in Harvey 1980.

A collection of fragments from the twelfth-century building is reset in the S chapel on the N wall. One loose piece is in the same chapel.


At the time of the Domesday Survey, Gislebert Tison had 7 carucates, and Ralph Mortemer had one (VCH II, 317). A church and a priest are mentioned (VCH II, 272).

The VCH says that the church was given to the Augustinian priory of Guisborough by Ivo de Charchem or Karkem between 1180 and 1190 (III, 210); however, this seems to be a mistake. The Guisborough Chartulary (Surtees Soc. vol. 89) gives a number of charters: the first by Ivo de Karkem giving the church with land adjacent to the priory, and a series of later ones, by his son John and by William de Stuteville, witnessed by a prior of Guisborough and canons of Newburgh, etc., confirming the gift. It is the son’s confirmatory charter that can be dated to c.1180-90. The church guide (Harvey 1980, 17), citing the primary charter, gives a date between 1119 and 1135 for the donation, but without explanation. The witnesses include Alano the priest, Umfrido de Hotuna, Eustachio nephew of the Prior, Roberto filio Rualdi, Willelmo filio Haldini, Willelmo filio Hugonis, Ricardo de Eden, and many others. Presumably these witnesses provide the date. Eustachio was the nephew of the first prior, William.

In the latter part of the twelfth century, Henry de Traneby granted to God and the hospital of St James of Hessle one acre of land with common pasturage in the field of Hessle, near the mill between the land of Robert of Hessle and that of Warren de Vescy, stretching towards the shore of the Humber (VCH II, 306). This hospital might have been associated with the Augustinians at the church.

John Bilson considered that the 'twelfth-century church consisted simply of nave and chancel, without aisles, and possibly a western tower. The length of the nave is marked by the three original bays of the nave arcades – the three westernmost bays – and its width was the same as that of the present nave’ (Bilson 1911a, I). The form of the chancel is unknown. The aisles were added in the early thirteenth century. Despite the simple plan, the remnants show that the twelfth-century church was well provided with sculpture.

Until at least the late fourteenth century, Hessle was more important than the 'King’s town upon Hull' (founded after 1293).


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Loose Sculpture


Bases (stones 6, 8, 19 and 21): Flamborough chancel arch bases have a 'belt'; shafted windows are seen at Kirkburn, also Campsall (YW).

Capitals (stones 5, 7, 18 and 20). These seem quite early, or unskilled, capitals. Capitals 18 and 20 are reminiscent of capitals at Goodmanham, Lockington and perhaps Folkton.

String-courses, etc. The stones with little arches (nos. 28-31) were not able to be measured. They are of uncertain architectural function since the pattern has not been seen in situ as string-course, and the block looks rather deep. A loose block with similar arches was recorded at Fangfoss (not found in 2015) but that was too large to have been a section of string-course, and too small to be corbel table. The pattern might be compared to a corbel table at Millington, but that example itself is without local comparison. Little arches are used on the label of the chancel arch at Bubwith and they are in two layers, as here. The little arches stones 28-31 seem of a similar profile to the chevron-carved stones immediately above, and both might be string-course with the rectangular profile and deep upright which occurs at some churches, whereas a chamfered and plain string-course, as stones 11-15 above, is more usual.

Corbels or possible corbels. Stone 1 is a corble with a muzzled beast, the strap over the head and the ring round the snout are clear. The unnatural animal represents an evil spirit and the muzzle controls is, it is a sign that evil has been controlled since the Resurrection. Stone 24, the corbel with a centaur. The creature is in low relief, compare Eastrington font where there is an archer holding a bow without an arrow (Wood 2011, 118-19, figs. 4, 14). The likeness of the outline is so great as to suggest the bow on the corbel continued up to near the head of the centaur, and down to its front legs, and that there was no arrow, that is, it had been shot. The centaur is likely to represent Christ, the God-man, effecting the Harrowing of Hell, as described in the Livre des Créatures of Philippe de Thaon. The arrow, we are to understand, has hit and mortally wounded the Devil. Hessle was an Augustinian church, and the Everingham font is likely to have been an Augustinian project. Stone 32 appears to show an open mouth with a ring of teeth; there is a similar corble at Kirkburn, but no bar is present. The bar across the mouth could be a bit or gag, disabling the creature and stopping it biting, this would make a similar statement to the muzzle in the corble, Stone 1.

Loose stone with beakheads. The motif on the beakhead on the R is like that used at Aughton on the chancel arch. Jambs have motifs occasionally, as at Bugthorpe (chancel arch) and Adel (YW, S doorway). The roll moulding is gagging the vicious bite of the evil spirits, as for Stone 1 above.


J. Bilson, The story of Hessle church: Summary of an address to the Church of England Men's Society, Hessle 1911.

W. Brown, ed., Cartularium prioratus de Gyesburne... (2 vols.) Surtees Society vols. 86 and 89, Durham 1894.

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

A. S. Harvey, All Saints’ Church, Hessle, with additions by I. Nightingale, Hull 1980.

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, pp. 467-9.

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

Victoria County History: Yorkshire. III (Ecclesiastical History; Religious Houses; Political History; Social and Economic History) 1913, reprinted 1974.

R. Wood, 'The Augustinians and the Romanesque font from Everingham, East Riding', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 83 (2011), 112-47.