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St Mary, Leake, Yorkshire, North Riding

(54°18′33″N, 1°20′9″W)
SE 433 906
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, North Riding
now North Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Jeffrey Craine
September 2001

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This relatively substantial building comprises a chancel, nave, N and S aisles, and W tower. With the exception of the remains of the late 17th-c Leake Hall, currently used as a farm, the church is now situated in an isolated position adjacent to the busy A19. All traces of the village that would have surrounded the church have now disappeared. The church currently serves the nearby villages of Borrowby and Knayton. There are parts of the building from the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, though there is evidence of an earlier structure. The surviving Romanesque parts of the building are the tower and the arch between tower and nave. The tower is clearly a 12th-c structure and is similar in construction and design to other towers in this county dating from a period after c.1160. Internal details suggest that the remainder of the church consisted of a nave and small chancel. This can be observed at both the E and W ends of the N arcade. Both the N and S aisles were added in the 13thc but not as part of the same programme of work. The S aisle looks like a later construction and is more consistent with the extended chancel built by William de Bilburgh at the beginning of the 14thc.

There is also a carved fragment from the Romanesque period reset in the S wall of the nave.


There is some evidence to indicate the existence of a church prior to the Conquest, but the Doomsday Survey, in 1086, describes the village as ‘wasted’. In 1852, excavation in the church grounds uncovered a large burial pit containing a substantial quantity of human remains. This was probably the result of a Scottish raiding party, a fate suffered by other villages in this region during the early part of the 14thc. It could also have been a consequence of the plague. Whatever the cause, the substantial number of remains would seem to indicate that the village had prospered during the 12th and 13th centuries.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Though the construction of the tower would seem to indicate a date early in the second half of the 12thc, the carving of the capitals on both the tower and the tower arch are relatively rudimentary in both form and execution. The medallion with the animal is typical of carving appearing in arches throughout Yorkshire c. 1170, for example at Alne. Its original location in this building it unclear; it might well have come from another church or abbey.


W. Grainge, The Vale of Mowbray: a historical and topographical account of Thirsk and its neighbourhood, London 1859, 250.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: The North Riding, Harmondsworth 1966, 226-27.

Victoria County History, York, North Riding: Vol. 1, ed. William Page, London 1923, 410-18.