We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

St Andrew, Bugthorpe, Yorkshire, East Riding

(54°0′40″N, 0°49′24″W)
SE 772 579
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
formerly St Helen
medieval St Andrew
now St Andrew
  • Rita Wood
24 April 2007

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=7068.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


The church consists of a nave, a chancel in two sections (there are two chancel arches, of which the western has Romanesque sculpture) and a W tower; there is a N chapel off the western chancel and a vestry off the eastern chancel (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 361).

The Faculty papers for the 1858 restoration show the existing S elevation with a round-headed doorway in the nave. The first order was plain, chamfered and continuous. The second order on the L had a double scallop capital with two volutes; no volutes are shown on a similar capital on the R. There is no label. The chancel was higher than the nave. The Norman nave was ‘pulled down, and rebuilt on a somewhat larger scale, in the year 1859’ (Appleford 1886, 12). In 1878, the upper stage of the tower was rebuilt. A N chapel on the chancel, demolished in the 18th century, was rebuilt in 1905.

The jambs and capitals of the twelfth-century chancel arch survive. There is also a large, possibly twelfth-century, grave cover in two pieces outside the church near the S wall of the nave.


In Domesday Book, the Archbishop held 4 ½ carucates, which were let ‘by St Peter’ to two rent-payers at the time of the survey. They rendered 20s. 4d, whereas at the time of King Edward this manor was valued at only 5s. Odo Arbalistarius also had 4 ½ carucates; these seem to have been held from Odo by Forne. The holding was worth 10s. in 1087, only half its previous value. All Odo’s 12 manors except for Bugthorpe, Skirpenbeck and Grimston were waste. Tithes of Bugthorpe and Skirpenbeck were given by Odo the Crossbowman to St. Mary’s Abbey, York, supplementing an earlier gift of 4 ½ carucates at Hanging Grimston, confirmed 1089 (VCH II, 324, 183, 212, 282).

Appleford 1886, 3-4, used the name Buckthorpe in the title of his work, saying that Viscount Halifax had ‘determined on restoring an approach to the ancient spelling’. On the other hand, Morris gives his opinion that the name of the village correctly is Bugthorpe, that it is the name in all sources except in Domesday Book, where it is Buchetorp, and that it is affectation or pedantry to use Buckthorpe.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

According to an entry in the card index of the Borthwick Institute, a former dedication of the church was to St Helen.

The tower is said to retain material of Saxon date (Appleford 1886, 12-13), but Pevsner & Neave 1995, 361, merely say ‘unbuttressed W tower, but the features Perp.’ A plinth of late-medieval type surrounds the building.

Appleford (1886, 13) says that ‘portions of the Norman window which once stood in the E wall are found built into the cap or spirelet of the eastern turret.’ Nothing on the exterior looked of early date.

Chancel arch: sculpture on the jambs

Appleford saw ‘in the jambs [a motif resembling] the cat-god of the Egyptians.’ Pevsner & Neave 1995, 361, suppose the ridged motifs are somehow related to beakheads, and describe them as ‘streaked abstract shapes’. These motifs are usually found on an arch.

On the R jamb is a possible sheela. The object described as possibly a cat-like mask emitting a human figure is listed as ‘a typical sheela’ by Weir & Jerman 1986 (116, 141, fig. 64; compare pl.34; 70). A sheela would be inappropriate on a chancel arch, but resurrection is appropriate.

Chancel arch: sculpture on the capitals

Morris 1919, 17, says: ‘on the N. St Peter with key and book; ?Our Lord in Glory; and apparently a representation of Our Lord with a penitent soul at His feet and a fiend holding back a second. On the S. is the figure of a Dove.’

Appleford 1886, 14-15, sees on the capitals on the N side: ‘the serpent whispering into the ear of one who seems hesitating between the desire to listen further, and the feeling that it was wrong to do so’. On the S side capitals he says there is a ‘hybrid, half man half serpent – the lower portion on the right side being a serpent in the act of lifting himself up to the man, who, with his hand, is trying to resist its approach; and on the left, another serpent is rearing itself, and whispering in the ear of one who seems to listen. There is also the figure of a dove, resting upon some animal.’

The snake with a man’s head in its mouth:

In the opinion of the present author, the snakes on these capitals should be seen as vehicles of eternal life, not malevolent spirits; compare the chancel arch at Rock (Worcs). Some are simple snakes, some have the form of wyverns. The whispering identified by Appleford is of good news, not temptation. The derivation is from classical antiquity, the bestiary and Gregory the Great. The man with foliage trails is an assemblage with similar interpretation.

The duplicated scene:

Duplication is not often found, and the only other example known to me, at Vignory (Zarnecki 1972, fig. 170), was used by the workman in a conventional manner, in order to draw two different lions. In the chancel arch at Bugthorpe, however, there seems no reason to repeat the scene. Possibly it arose following an instruction to the workman to ‘Use this for the chancel arch capitals that face the people.’

The person who gave the order would have expected the narrative scene to be split: two figures on one side of the arch, two on the other. The model given by the designer to the workman is likely to have been derived from an ivory carving of the Raising of Lazarus; many of these survive from the fourth or fifth century onwards and contain the four main characters carved here. The standing figure with the ‘horn’ is Christ, with Mary, the sister of Lazarus, at his feet (John 11:32). The ‘baby’ is the bound figure of Lazurus, commanded by Christ to come out of the tomb (John 11:43). The ivory would have been drawn by a craftsman with some knowledge of perspective, but the representation of scale and overlap was completely foreign to the Bugthorpe sculptor. In the ivory, Lazurus was carved as a small figure because he was at a distance (dead and smelly!), but the smallness would have appeared baby-like to the twelfth-century workman. The horn held up by Christ is derived from the magician’s wand following classical traditions, and the post held by Christ in the other half of the scene was probably the wand used as a walking stick.


J. W. Appleford, A brief account of the parish and church of St Andrew, Buckthorpe. London 1886.

Borthwick Institute, 1858 restoration: R xii. BUG 4; PR Bug 5 (plans).

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, 272.

J. E. Morris, The East Riding of Yorkshire, 2nd ed. London 1919.

N. Pevsner & 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.

A. Weir & J. Jerman, Images of Lust: sexual carvings on medieval churches. London 1986.

G. Zarnecki, The Monastic Achievement. London 1972.