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Christ Church, Marton-cum-Grafton, Yorkshire, West Riding

(54°3′30″N, 1°21′46″W)
SE 418 627
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
  • Rita Wood
25 August 1998, 10 May 1999, 25 Feb 2015, 10th March 2015

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Marton-cum-Grafton is a village 6 miles NE of Knaresborough in North Yorkshire. The present simple church of nave and chancel, with S vestry and N porch, was consecrated in 1876. It replaced an even humbler medieval church situated a distance away from the village (at site of the graveyard on Church Lane, SE 416 623).

This new church reused much stone of the old one, including a sizeable quantity of 12th-c carved work harvested from the walls by the vicar, Mr Lunn, during demolition. 12th-c worked stone was reset in the entrance doorway to the nave, the vestry’s exterior doorway and interior, and in the reconstruction of a supposed chancel arch, now an internal doorway opening from the chancel into the vestry (the latter includes much new work).


In Domesday Book, Gospatric had 12 carucates at Marton; the manor was worth 20s, half of its value in the time of King Edward (VCH II, 283).


Exterior Features




Interior Features

Interior Decoration



Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


The medieval church was demolished 1873-74 under the direction and close observation of the vicar, the Rev. J. R. Lunn, who left an account (Lunn 1879-80; Lunn 1870). There is a painted model in a glass case in the vestry which may be by him. Lunn postulates a history of burning at the incursion of Scots in 1318, immediate rebuilding, ruination at the Dissolution and rebuilding about 1600; there were various early 18th-c alterations, a brick tower had been added in 1726, its foundations within the W end of the nave (1879-80, 236-38). His paper includes his drawing of the old church in 1863 and a conjectural drawing of the church as it might have been c. 1400, nave and chancel under one continuous roof. Three of his drawings are used in Butler 2007, to illustrate churches at Farnham, Kirk Hammerton and Little Ouseburn. This early fieldworker is commemorated in a brass on the N wall of the chancel at Marton.

From his description, the medieval church at Marton in 1863 was a long rectangular building developed from a Norman nave with an eastern chancel of similar length and width; there was no chancel arch, and he reasons that the position of this primary division had varied over time. The internal dimensions were 91 feet by 15 feet 6 inches (27.7m x 4.7m).

Lunn describes the church as he knew it as being built almost entirely of ‘cobbles’, with gritstone used on the quoins at least of the NW and SW angles of the nave. He suggests the church in the Norman period measured internally about 48 feet 9 inches by 15 feet 6 inches (14.8m x 4.7m), with three of four corners being marked by sandstone quoins. The church had two plain semicircular-headed doorways on the S wall of the church, one now rebuilt as the N doorway to the nave, the other now the exterior doorway to the vestry. This easterly doorway and a few other remains he thought belonged to a new chancel of 'First Pointed' date, (defined as c. 1180-90, 233).

Of the carved stones found in the demolition, he says '...Norman work was of grit-stone, such as that at Lingerfield quarry, near Knaresborough... the First-pointed lancet windows were worked in limestone, very likely from Burton Leonard quarries...' (Lunn 1879-80, 230).

From carved stone found in the walls as the church was dismantled, Lunn postulated a 12th-c chancel arch, of three orders but with an opening width of only about 3 feet (Lunn 1879-80, 230). His reconstruction forms the doorway from the chancel into the vestry.

The fabric of the old church was described by Lunn (1879-80, 227) as 'of all the churches in the deanery... certainly the rudest in material, being almost entirely built of "cobbles" with some rudely squared stones in the chancel.' Cobbles are seen widely in the village in the older buildings, and would have been plentiful (and a nuisance) in the ploughed fields. They originate from glacial till.

The cross-slab in the tympanum is 'probably a headstone and perhaps 12th century' (Ryder 1986, unpublished notes courtesy of Peter Sutton, Marton cum Grafton History Group). A similar item is seen at Calverley, reset on the N wall of the nave under the roof; and South Stainley (Coatsworth 2008, 281; illus. 835).

Regarding the 'chancel arch' (archway to vestry), the determination of what is old and new is, of course, partly subjective. Old stones, which show some decay or damage, were reused, and are easily separated from mechanically-cut perfect surfaces. Slight variations in handling, evidence of 'the workmanship of risk,' differentiate old work from carving made with improved technology and higher expectations of perfection. Jenny Alexander visited the church very briefly - and unprepared - in 2013, and she made a different assessment from this fieldworker, in particular selecting the bases of the first and second orders on the L side as being original: she did not know that Lunn says he found no bases and had new ones with lugs carved. She also did not identify the L capital of the second order as original. As seen by the fieldworker, with more time to spend, it looks as though all original work was in a light yellowish sandstone.

What is original in the 'chancel arch' is very limited, and if it is isolated from all the rest in the mind's eye, a less spectacular effect is perceived. However, the successful cable arch demonstrates proficiency, and the pattern of the L capital is not known locally: the workman/men may not have been so inexperienced as these battered remains might imply.

The supposed chancel arch seems to the fieldworker to represent work of a distinct period, intermediate between the simple cobble rectangle of the first church with tympanum and sandstone quoins (and there is something resembling an Anglo-Saxon baluster in the vestry), and the Transitional limestone extension represented by the exterior vestry doorway. The opening is narrow for a chancel arch. Might the arch be a mid-century improvement applied over the existing, perhaps damaged, nave doorway? One other cobble church in the region, Askham Bryan, seems to have had a later doorway applied to it, although that doorway was later moved to form the archway to the porch. I have suggested a similar alteration was made at St Peter's, Conisbrough (Wood 2004, 106-08).

For the cable pattern in the second order of the arch, compare Kirk Bramwith S doorway, where the meeting of a double cable pattern is not quite symmetrical, or the Monks' doorway at Ely cathedral. Chevrons with alternating convex and hollow mouldings are used quite often, a game played by Norman-period pattern-makers likewise on the font at Carnaby.


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

Elizabeth Coatsworth, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, Vol. VIII: Western Yorkshire, Oxford 2008, 281, 291.

J. R. Lunn, 'Marton-cum-Grafton Church, Yorkshire', Associated Architectural Socities Reports and Papers, XV (1879-80), 226-41.

J. R. Lunn, The Ecclesiology of the Rural Deanery of Knaresborough, York 1870.

P. F. Ryder, 'Cross Slab Grave Covers at Christ Church, Marton-cum-Grafton', Unpublished notes and drawings, 1986.

Victoria County History, Yorkshire, vol. II, ed. W. Page, London 1912, 283.

R. Wood, 'Not Roman, but Romanesque: a decayed relief at Conisbrough church', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 76 (2004), 95-111.