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St Nicholas, Bawtry, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°25′47″N, 1°1′7″W)
SK 653 930
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now South Yorkshire
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
10 June 2010, 6 October 2012

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The centre of Bawtry still shows the plan of a new town ‘founded within a decade or two of 1200’ (Hey 2003, 146); the church is to the E of that, and was beside the river before that was re-directed when the railway came. The church has a W tower, and a nave with N and S aisles which continue and enclose the chancel. The nave N wall is of irregular small stones, the remainder in ashlar. The present tower is said to date from 1713; it may contain stones from Roche, but no reused stones with sculpture were obvious in either the tower or the N wall of the nave. The church is in a mixture of styles, and a mixed fabric of Jurassic limestone and ironstone, ‘with many unexplained details’ (Pevsner 1967, 98).

Few Romanesque features were identifiable: the blocked N doorway is round-headed; bases of the N arcade may be relevant.


A chapel at Bawtry was given by John de Busli to the priory of Blyth 1199-1213 (Beresford 1988, 522).

Bawtry is not named in Domesday Book because it lay within another manor. A new town was founded around 1200 (Hey 2003, 146); the church is outside the planned town with its market-place, just beyond the eastern edge of the new town. The E wall of the churchyard overlooks a lane following what was the course of the river Idle before the railway company cut a new channel to take the water away from their viaduct. The county boundary followed the old course of the river but is now realigned. The church being just beyond the grid pattern of the new town, at the edge of the wharf and out of view from the market place, suggest that it was sited there before the town was planned. Excavations in 1990 give firm evidence of a pre-Conquest settlement at the wharf side: at Church Street, just inside the 12thc grid pattern, 10th or 11thc pottery was found (Hey 2003, 145-6).


Exterior Features


Interior Features



Morris says the tower was rebuilt in 1712, some stone being said to have come from Roche Abbey, and medieval bits can be seen. Regarding the arcades, Morris suggests that the S arcade was built new from the ground up, though partially rebuilt later. He believes the N arcade (its capitals and arches) replaced an early 12thc arcade (1919, 103-4).

Beresford (1988) records Bawtry as a new town c.1213-1215, but it presumably had an older existence, from the date of the chapel mentioned above (in History section). It may have been the new town that led to the enlargement of the church.

The plan by S. D. Kitson (YAS MS 1101/37), c. 1910, a copy of which is included with an anonymous typescript history kept in the church, indicates that traces of four early 12th-century piers survive within the rectangle of the present nave.

The N side of church is ‘a farrago’ of disjointed architectural elements; ‘the N arcade goes with the early doorway’ (Pevsner 1967, 98).

The architectural history of this church has never been properly explained, the N aisle wall especially is a puzzle (Ryder 1982, 89).

The N aisle of the church is an assortment, including some pieces of ironstone and Jurassic limestone that probably came up river as ballast (Hey 2003, 145-6).

Fieldworker’s comments (RW):

Base of pier 1. The bases of the chancel arch at Austerfield have a similar profile to the bases of the N arcade.

The man’s head carved on the W respond of the S arcade is a Gothic head, but it still has the formalised row of curls seen on some Romanesque heads, and lions’ manes.

The stones used throughout the round-headed doorway are large, and imply technical advances beyond the Romanesque – quite apart from the advanced stylistic details. Round-headed doorways are generally the last obvious Romanesque architectural features to survive.


M. W. Beresford, New Towns of the Middle Ages. Sutton, Gloucester 1988.

J. Hunter, South Yorkshire: The History and Topography of the Deanery of Doncaster, in the Diocese and County of York, Vol. 1 (1828).

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

N. Pevsner, revised by E. Radcliffe, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire, The West Riding. Harmondsworth 1967.

P. F. Ryder, Saxon Churches in South Yorkshire, South Yorkshire County Council Archaeology Monograph No.2, Sheffield 1982.

Yorkshire Archaeological Society MS 1101/37, plan of the church drawn up by S. D. Kitson c.1910.