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St Michael and All Angels, Copgrove, Yorkshire, West Riding

(54°3′52″N, 1°28′22″W)
SE 346 633
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
medieval York
now Ripon and Leeds
  • Rita Wood
15 Jun 1998

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Copgrove is a small village in the Harrogate district of North Yorkshire, 5 miles SW of Boroughbridge. St Michael and All Angels is a simple church with nave, chancel and bellcote. Local sandstones and limestones are used. A century ago a sympathetic restoration was made and a vestry added, but the original plan is still identifiable (Major, 122, plan opp. p. 102). A medieval altar slab was recovered during the restoration and is now in use. C12th features include the chancel arch with sculpture on the imposts and an exterior reset stone with a figure on it. There is also documentary evidence for a font.


A church is recorded in DB. Before 1066 the manor was worth 20s, and at Domesday 16s. Some of the pre-Conquest church may remain, for example, in the lowest courses of the S nave wall. These courses are in large blocks of coarse sandstone with pink and white inclusions. Above that, limestone is used. By 1216 the church belonged to the Knights Hospitallers. Atkinson c.1885 calls the church a 'little ivy-covered edifice'. The main rebuilding was done at the restoration of 1897-1898 under Hodgson Fowler. No plans or faculty material exist at the Borthwick. The Rev. H. D. A. Major was the rector from 1911 to 1919, when he went to be Principal of Ripon Hall, Oxford.


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches




Major (1922) discusses a theory floated by Atkinson that the church may have been dedicated to St. Mungo before the present dedication, but there is no documentary evidence. Other dedications to that saint have a well close by: St. Mungo's well at Copgrove is a third of a mile (1/2 km) away. (See Major p.81 and O.S. 6" to 1 mile map reprinted as a folder in his book). Atkinson gives many details of local springs, and it may be just a romantic name given when 'taking the waters' was fashionable.

W. G. Collingwood, who was sent a description and a rough drawing of the 'Devil's stone' by Major, was of the opinion that it was not Saxon, Anglian, Danish or Celtic but 'probably Roman-British, that the man might be sacrificing and that the round thing in his hand is a patera or sacrificial dish. The headless cross or Tau cross, he pointed out, 'was pre-Christian, and in common use from Egyptian times, and its presence here suggests a religious motive' (Major, p.91). A professor of Classical Archaeology, shown the carving by Major, said 'the rude figure carved on it looked like a barbarian discobulus.' Major remarks that the popular local view was that it represented the captain of a football team. It has been suggested by others that the so-called 'Devil's Stone' shows an early 12thc. subject, a priest with a Eucharistic wafer, altered later (see Wood (1999), pp. 9-10). On the other hand, Weir & Jerman (1986), 76, suggested that it is an original carving of a ‘female exhibitionist who holds a large ring or purse’, thus combining the sins of Luxuria and Avaritia.


D. H. Atkinson, Ralph Thoresby the Topgrapher, his town and times in 2 vols (Leeds, 1885).

H. D. A. Major, Memorials of Copgrove together with the Parish Registers from A.D. 1584 to 1790 (Oxford, 1922).

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

R. Wood, 'Real People in English Romanesque Sculpture', Medieval Life, 11 (1999), pp. 8-15.