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All Saints, Dewsbury All Saints (or Minster), Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°41′21″N, 1°37′49″W)
Dewsbury All Saints (or Minster)
SE 245 215
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now West Yorkshire
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
21 Feb 2006, 27 Oct 2010, 12 Aug 2011

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The church is in the centre of a busy town but in a relatively quiet and open situation with a large churchyard, a formalised park, to its south and south east. It has been largely rebuilt in various post-medieval Gothic styles: the tower dates from 1785, the remainder from 1823, 1884-5 and 1895. The north and south arcades of the nave were spared demolition and are of 13th-century date (Pevsner 1967, 178-9), having clustered piers with annulet rings, waterholding bases and pointed arches. A small area of Anglo-Saxon wall remains above the north arcade.

Around 1995, the east end of the church was converted into meeting rooms, a chapel, refectory and an heritage centre in the former south transept. In the heritage centre the Anglo-Saxon and Romanesque sculpture which was largely found in the walls as the medieval church was demolished is displayed. The nave was re-ordered in 1996 so that the congregation faces the main altar at the west end, and the former nave and aisles are open, with chairs and no screens (Middleton 2006, 4, 24).

Four grave slabs and a headstone in the Heritage Centre are possibly of twelfth-century date, according to Peter Ryder (1991, 20-22); a further fragment illustrated by him is reset in the wall of the vice in the west tower, now accessed from the vestry behind the main altar.

The ‘Minster’ status was revived in 1993, (Middleton 2006, 5), but the current edition of Crockford’s Directory does not use this title, only All Saints.


Middleton (2006) suggests that the very large ancient parish of Dewsbury (some 400 square miles) implies a former Minster status. Middleton reports that Bede mentioned a 7th-century monastery in the kingdom of Elmet, which might be either Dewsbury or Leeds. When Leland visited Dewsbury, there was a standing cross with an inscription which read ‘Hic Paulinus praedicavit et celebravit’. Parts of several pre-Conquest cross shafts are now in the church heritage centre.

According to the Domesday Book there was a church and a priest at Dewsbury, which belonged to the king (Williams et al. 1987-92, f.299v). The king presumably granted the church to the Warennes, as part of their large fee in Yorkshire, as between 1091 and 1097 William, 2nd Earl of Warenne, granted Lewes priory a number of Yorkshire churches which included Dewsbury (Thompson and Clay 1933, 68). Lewes priory held the rectory until the reign of Edward III (Page 1973, 64-71).


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Loose Sculpture


Slab - Ryder 1 (ref. from Ryder 1991):

John Higgitt, in an e-mail of March 2006, and working from photos, made the following comments:

‘Given the condition of the stone and the awkwardness of the angles from which you have had to take the photos, it is not easy [to] say very much about the inscription. HIC is certainly clear and it seems to be preceded by a vertical, probably part of an introductory cross. The ET of IACET is also pretty clear. I can also make out most of the C. There is room for IA but the forms as shown in the photos are not very distinct. My guess for what follows this is TH and I can also see marks in the stone that might have been OM. So the deceased was presumably called Thomas. A provisional transcription might be:

[/+/] HIC [/I/AC]ET TH[/OM/]--, which can probably be reconstructed as


Commenting on the lettering is hazardous, given the difficulty of making out the lettering. The letters that I can see or half-see in the photos look like the kind of capitals that you might meet in the later 12th or 13th centuries. They make use of rounded forms including uncial (round) E and, perhaps, M. The T of ?Thomas looks as if it too is a round leter. What I can’t really see is the detail of the letters, of serifing, etc. There appears to be a slightly curved vertical stroke immediately to the right of the main curve of the C of HIC. If the curving vertical is a stroke closing the C, rather than an odd I, that makes the letter typical of late 12th- to 14th-century “Lombardic” capitals, in which curved letters like C and E are closed by such strokes.

What I can make out of the lettering from the photos cannot be dated more closely than later 12th- or 13th-century but it would fit the probably late 12th-century date suggested by Ryder for the carving.’

In the church guide, this slab is suggested to be for a de Soothill (Middleton 2006, 64). Since the inscription cannot be read in its entirety and would probably contain one name only, this is hard to prove.

Locally, similar bold relief is seen on a damaged grave-cover at Conisbrough parish church. That is almost devoid of patterning and had no other carving apart from two fairly realistic birds.

The cross is bursting with greenery, from its scaly stem, to the shoots attracting the wyverns, to the strong symmetrical cross-head itself. In the very centre is a small fourfold motif, perhaps foliage, perhaps star, perhaps ‘dogtooth’. The wyverns might be compared to the pair on the Tournai marble slab at Bridlington, with the additional clue to their nature that the Dewsbury pair are about to eat from the greening cross, the Tree of Life; the Bridlington wyverns also have 'bangles' at the wrist.

The ears are long; some of the foliage detail looks quite 'late' - but both features may have been in fashion a long way away.


W. Page (ed.), A History of the County of Sussex 2 (Victoria County History), London 1973.

W. P. Baildon, Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield 1., Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 29. Leeds 1900.

The Yorkshire Domesday, A. Williams et al. (eds.), Alecto Historical Editions, 3 Vols. London 1987-1992.

Fasti Parochiales , A. H. Thompson and C. T. Clay (eds.), I part I (Deanery of Doncaster), Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 85 (1933).

R. A. Middleton, The Church at Dewsbury: a History of the Ancient Parish of Dewsbury and a Mother Church of West Yorkshire, 3rd edition, Huddersfield 2006.

N. Pevsner, revised by E. Radcliffe, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire, The West Riding, Harmondsworth, 1967.

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