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All Saints, Ryther, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°50′52″N, 1°9′28″W)
SE 555 394
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
24 Feb 2000, 08 May 2015

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Ryther is a village almost equidistant between Tadcaster and Selby in North Yorkshire. The church is in a quiet and open situation not far from the river Wharfe. It has a simple nave and chancel, perhaps of pre-Conquest origin, together with S aisle, S porch and a vestry made in the W end of the aisle. Mostly limestone, but quite a lot of gritstone. The wide S aisle was added about 1300 according to Pevsner; this has three bays, and in this are the best of the four or five medieval altar stones.

A leaflet in the church mentions a rebuilding of the chancel in 1843, and restorations in 1861 and 1898. For the restoration in 1898, by Hodgson Fowler, the papers (Borthwick Fac. 1897/16) do not include any drawings before work commenced. At this restoration it was proposed that the roofs were taken off and the gables taken down at least as far as solid old work, and rebuilt; a brick tower was to be taken away, the W wall of the nave refaced perhaps as a consequence, and the S porch renewed. Instructions in the specification say 'All old carved and moulded work that may be found or is in the part to be pulled down to be carefuly preserved and built into the porch walls as directed to show it'.

There is definitely Romanesque interest in the dozen or so reset pieces which are outside on the walls and buttresses of the S aisle, the W wall of the aisle, and inside the porch. Almost all are listed below as Features are in the exterior walls of the south aisle. Pevsner notes two reset window-heads, late Saxon or early Norman, in the N wall of the nave, and there is another twelfth-century slab on that wall too. The doorway to the chancel, at least in part of the late 12th century, is restored. Inside the church, the chancel arch is of uncertain date, and the font too.


DB says there were a priest and a church (VCH II, 245).

An information sheet in the church (no author or date) says 'Ryther was part of the de Lacy property after the conquest and later held by members of the de Ryther family with their manor house west of the church in a field called Hall Garth.'

Nun Appleton Priory was founded about 1150 by Eustace de Merch and Adeliz de Saint Quintin his wife (VCH Yorkshire iii). Dugdale (v, 652) gives a confirmatory charter (no. I) by Adeliz and her son and heir Robert which was witnessed by Waltero de Rithre, and charter no. VI written in the time of King John confirms a gift by Willielmi Rider of the church of 'Rider' (Dugdale, V, 654).


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches





Age of the building:

Pevsner (1967, 425) says the chancel arch is of ‘irregular shape on the plainest imposts. It may be late Saxon or Early Norman’.

Taylor and Taylor (1965, vol. 2, 526-8) comment as follows:

‘massive side-alternate quoins on east end of the chancel may be re-used material; three monolithic window-heads used as building stone in the north wall of the nave are certainly relics of a pre-Conquest church; and a plain square plinth beneath the greater part of the chancel walls may denote the line of the original walls… the chancel arch, though of Norman proportions, is unquestionably of Anglo-Saxon workmanship.’ They give reasons for this, although regard the chancel doorway jambs as Norman.

The dimensions are quoted by Taylor and Taylor as follows:

Nave, internally: 54ft x 19ft 6ins, side walls 2ft 6ins thick

Chancel, internally: 30ft x 15ft, side walls less than 2 ft and perhaps 15th century.

Chancel arch: 7ft 10ins wide; 11ft 8ins high as measured from the floor of the nave, 10ft 2ins from the floor of the chancel. Its wall is 2ft 3ins thick.

Fieldworker's comments:

Two visits were made to the church, 15 years apart. It was noticeable that the reset pieces on the W wall, and on the W-facing side of the buttress on the S wall, had worn considerably in the interval, though others were a little more protected and loss was not so bad. It might be supposed that, when found and reset in 1898, they had been pristine stonework, hardly reduced at all from their first crispness.

The large blocks of often reddish sandstone in the quoins and buttresses could well have been rafted down the rivers from Roman sites (York, Ilkley: compare Nether Poppleton). One block in the SW buttress was as large as 0.77m x 0.55m. On the exterior N face of the nave, high over the N doorway, one gritstone block with what may be a Roman lewis hole (lifting slot) was seen on the first visit. Also in this area is at least one semi-circular window head, reset upside-down.

The reset pieces:

The use of star pattern might suggest an earlier phase of building than that of the mid-century comparisons for the beakheads, masks and hare. There are seven blocks of star pattern, and the thin stone with 'daisies'.

The animal on stone S1 is comparable to a well-preserved hare on the doorway at Brayton (YW); the hare seems to be used to illustrate the dangers of living unprotected out in the field (world) and the advisability of seeking safety (in the Church). The detail in the paws and the ridge down the back might be original, or they might be due to bedding planes in the stone, but the ears, together with the comparison at Brayton, are enough to define the animal. On piece S7, the angle of the saltires changes subtly, perhaps due to the 'handedness' of the workman, or a sight defect.

The number of voussoirs must indicate a doorway, presumably the south doorway, but what the star-patterned blocks originally created is uncertain.

Comparisons with other churches locally:

The masks on the reset stones are all on voussoirs. Those masks having lined cheeks with a central flat nose resemble examples on corbels at Brayton, Birkin, Bramham and Healaugh. The eyes are outlined by incised lines at Ryther and not so prominent as the other sites named except for Healaugh. Several masks in the third order of the south doorway at Healaugh can be compared to those at Ryther, both the lined type and the long, round-snouted type. Some of these have incised lines depicting the eyes. As at Healaugh and Tadcaster, the beakheads have bored beaks. Most of the voussoirs at Ryther have an animal mask, not a bird-head; Healaugh is one of the few places with both animal masks and beakheads in one doorway, and even then they are not in the same order. (Bishop Wilton is another). The hare occurs in an order largely of beakheads at Brayton. For dating purposes, the style of the chancel doorway may be compared to the late 12th c. chancel doorway at Healaugh, but it is not so similar as to suggest a common workforce.


It looks very much as though a plain Norman cylindrical font was ‘modernised’, lifted onto a new base of chamfered square form perhaps in the 13th century, and cut to fit. When coated by plaster and/or paint, the upper and middle components would be unified, and the appearance would approximate to a shallow basin in an octagonal stem; the dimensions of the interior bowl are, however, similiar to those of twelfth-century fonts. Not mentioned by Pevsner.


York, Borthwick Institute, Faculty 1897/16

William Dugdale, Monasticon anglicanum (London, 1655-73).

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

H. M. & J. Taylor, Anglo-Saxon Architecture in 3 vols (Cambridge, 1965-78).

Victoria County History of Yorkshire, vol. III (London, 1974).