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St Giles, Copmanthorpe, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°54′54″N, 1°8′28″W)
SE 565 469
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
12 April 1995; 10 Apr 2014

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Feature Sets

Originally a single-celled church of rubble masonry, extended to the E in the 19thc. and to the N in the 20thc.

Pevsner says: 'small church, nave and chancel in one. The bell-cote imitation Norman. The nave may be Norman, but none of the details seem original. Chancel added 1889.' (1967, 171). See also Dixon 1933, 22-29; VCH Yorkshire III, 257, 262.

Little 12thc. carved stone survives, apart from a narrow, square-headed slit window in the S wall; there is some evidence for the position of an original S nave doorway. The chamfered arch at the W end of the nave, internally, may be reset. The decoration of the exterior W doorway is 19thc. as is that of the W window and bell-cote. There is a large fragment of a plain stone basin of unknown date beside the churchyard path.

There were two rebuilding programmes in the 19thc. The first was carried out after 1868, of which no records survive; the second followed around 1889. Borthwick Institute Faculty papers (Fac. 1889/7, plan HF 13/1) represent the ground plan of the 12thc. church, with eastward extension, post 1868 W doorway and E windows.


Copmanthorpe was under St Mary Bishophill Junior, York in the 12thc. A Knights Templar preceptory was founded sometime before 1258 (VCH) but this was probably a mile E of the church near Temple Hill Farm. Domesday Book says Gospatric had 2 carucates 2 bovates for geld and one plough. Erneis [de Burun] has there now 2 ploughs and 3 villeins and 2 bordars with one plough. TRE, worth 20s, now 40s; Earl William [count William, perhaps the king's son] has 3 carucates and 2 bovates for geld (VCH Yorkshire II, 278; 289; 303).


Exterior Features





The walls were described in the Borthwick Faculty documents, Fac. 1889/7, as of 'cobble stones and rubble'. Eric Gee (1972, xliii) lists "Rectangular Romanesque churches" in and around York. Of these, eight churches are in the city, with Copmanthorpe and five others outside York. They had similar construction of 'haphazard material', and thinner walls than 3 feet (which he takes as a standard Norman thickness). At only one of these churches was a plinth found; this was "of square section and Saxon in character". The difference at the foot of the S wall at Copmanthorpe, between the modern chancel and the simple nave is clear, though a plinth was not explored for. The long low building is one of the few of this group which still maintains its early profile, though it has been extended by about 15 feet or 4m.

Askham Bryan, Askham Richard and Fulford St Oswald are churches he lists in the West Riding; Fulford, Murton and Osbaldwick to the E and SE of York. Bilbrough would very likely have also been of this kind but has been rebuilt.

Rubble walls are hardly sculpture, but are strong evidence of local conditions. The Rev. William Airy, vicar of Keysoe, wrote in support of them in the mid-19th century, on their "beauty, utility and antiquity". Not sham or unreal. (Airy 1850-1)


W. Airy, "Rubble or Rubbish." Assoc. Architectural Socs. Reports and Papers 1 (1850-51), 373-381.

Borthwick Institute Faculty papers, Fac. 1889/7.

W. H. Dixon, "Notes on some Ainsty Churches". Proc. Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Soc. vol.1. no. 1, (1933), ed. A. Raine, 22-29.

N. Pevsner,The Buildings of England. Yorkshire: West Riding. Harmondsworth, 1959. 2nd. ed. revised E. Radcliffe. 1967.

Victoria County History Yorkshire, 3, 1913, reprinted 1974.