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St Michael, Catwick, Yorkshire, East Riding

(53°53′32″N, 0°16′49″W)
TA 131 454
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
formerly St Michael
medieval St Michael
now St Michael
  • Rita Wood
03 Sep 2005

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W tower is Perpendicular, the rest rebuilt in 1862-3 using old materials, for example, in windows and chancel arch (Pevsner & Neave, 1995, 383). Cobble with stone dressings. The church largely follows its medieval plan, according to VCHER, VII, 255-9. It faces S onto open country, most of the village is to the N on a parallel road (B1244). There is a footpath that connects the church to this road near the second site in Catwick, which has reset twelfth-century pillars and capitals; see report for Catwick (Main Street).

Inside the rebuilt church is a reset figure cut into a flat panel, also a medieval stoup.


There were two manors of Catwick in 1066, comprising 5 carucates. By 1086 these were held by Drew de Bevrère, and they were later part of the Aumale fee. Two of Drew’s knights held the manors. ‘A church is there and one mill and 40 acres of meadow’. This church belonged in moieties to Drew’s undertenants and their successors. Before 1127, Ralph of Catwick gave a moiety of Catwick church to Pontefract priory. By 1160, Pontefract priory had been given the other half by Peter de Fauconberg. Peter gave Meaux a rent in Catwick in the late 12th century.


Interior Features

Interior Decoration





J. E. Morris reports seeing this fragment outside: “Built into the exterior of the N wall of the chancel is a small stone figure - perhaps of St Michael to whom the church is dedicated. The appearance of cable moulding at the top of the stone suggests that this effigy is Sax., or Norm.” (1919, 128).

If we assume the sculptor was using conventional iconographic signs, a few clues are available. The figure is not winged, nor is there a dragon, and so it is probably not St Michael. It is a man, not a woman, because of the short garment. Shoes can be seen, he is therefore not an apostle.

There is a figure on the Hutton Cranswick font (Figure B) which is quite close to this figure artistically. There the cable-marked area around the head could represent the hood of a cloak (Mann 1985, 16); the man has his arms crossed equally to pull at the sides of his cloak. At Catwick it is unlikely to be a hood as it disappears at the ear. Figures D and E on the Hutton Cranswick font have hair indicated by incised widely-spaced parallel lines.

A comparison for holding a processional cross would be a carving on the font at Toller Fratrum (Dorset). In that carving, a long-robed figure, presumably a cleric, holds a processional cross which has a cabled stem; he leads a procession of several individuals (Wood 1999, 13). It is perhaps possible that a person carrying or holding onto the cross could be a layman, not a cleric. Such a carving would not be a literal representation of a ceremony but a symbolic one of a believer, shown as a member of the Church or in heaven. It is unlikely, though not impossible, that the figure represents the resurrected Christ: the enclosure by the cable arch might suggest that.

Faith Mann notes that there are a number of carved slabs in this area of the East Riding, and single figures that are without context. Of these, the figure at Shiptonthorpe has been suggested as St Peter, and one at Bishop Burton as a Foolish Virgin. The figure at Aldbrough is not possible to interpret. Carvings on the font from Hutton Cranswick are illustrated and briefly discussed in the report for the Hull & East Riding Museum; in the several bays of an arcade there are representations of ordinary people, and symbolic creatures.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England's Patron Saints, 3 vols., London, 1899, 79

F. Mann, Early Medieval Church Sculpture: a study of 12th century fragments in East Yorkshire, Beverley, 1985

J. E. Morris, The East Riding of Yorkshire, 2nd ed., (1906), 1919

N. Pevsner & D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 2nd. ed., London, 1995

Victoria County History: East Riding of Yorkshire, VII (Holderness Wapentake, north and middle sections), 2002

Victoria County History: Yorkshire, II (General volume, including Domesday Book) 1912, reprinted 1974

R. Wood, ‘Real People in English Romanesque Sculpture’, Medieval Life, 11, 1999, 8-15