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St Michael, Rossington, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°28′43″N, 1°3′35″W)
SK 625 984
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now South Yorkshire
medieval York
now Sheffield
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
26 February 2010

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Rossington is a village about five miles SE of Doncaster. The church lies in a wooded churchyard just off Sheep Bridge Lane between Rossington to the E and New Rossington to the W; it is a Magnesian limestone and sandstone ashlar building comprising a chancel, a modern transepts, a long nave with a S porch, and a W tower. Between 1840 and 1844 the purchaser of the Rossington estate, James Brown, rebuilt the church except for the Perpendicular W tower, the Romanesque chancel arch and the S doorway; he added transepts and a vestry. 20thc renovations added rooms to the upper levels of the N transept. The unusual length of the aisleless nave, approximately 18m between the tower and the chancel arch, is original. Romanesque sculpture survives in the chancel arch, in the S doorway and on the font.


Rossington is not recorded in the Domesday Survey. A chapel is mentioned here in 1207 as belonging to Doncaster, and was perhaps held by Mauley of the fee of Peverel (Farrer (1916), 329, 332).


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches




Joseph Hunter (1828, I, 68), considered the medieval fabric little altered except by the addition of a tower; he described the chancel arch and S door but no other Romanesque work. Sir Stephen Glynne visited the church in 1873, and clearly thought that the the rebuilding was too expensive and not satisfactory for a village or contemporary liturgical changes; he remarked that the S doorway was ‘good original’ and had been ‘carefully restored. Perhaps he did not go inside and see the best thing, for he added as an afterthought a note: ‘it is said that a Norman chancel-arch has been retained’ (Butler (2007), 346).

The alterations to the church in the 1840s used Mexborough sandstone, whereas the historic parts had used Magnesian limestone. The sandstone can be seen in the vaulting corbels near the chancel arch, and appears to be the same stone as used for the row of beakhead ‘corbels’ in the first-floor kitchen in the NE angle of the church. Outside, the roof-line has a continuous series of similar beakheads used as corbels. Seeing this extensive collection prompts further suspicion of the beakheads on the doorway and yet respect for the 1844 sculptor(s) who could so well reproduce convincing Romanesque minor patterns. There must have been plenty of originals to copy to find so many patterns, but beakheads are not a frequent subject for corbels. Perhaps the doorway was only one source of the patterned beakheads used on the building. Engravings of the fragments of Doncaster parish church left after the fire in 1853 include a beakhead of this proportion (Jackson (1855), pl. II); at the time of the rebuilding at Rossington, the church of St George would still have been standing, and available for reference.

Regarding the S doorway, its odd bases resemble those found at Bolton Abbey, on the interior face of the E doorway from the church to the cloister.

Regarding the chancel arch, as at Frickley, the shafts start high above the floor level suggesting the presence of a stone screen at an earlier date (Ryder (1982), 91; Pevsner (1967), 418). The pattern decorating the necking of the L capital of the second order, which features two rows of scallops with a medial quirk, can be compared with the doorways at Birkin, at Brayton, and, especially, with the doorway at Stillingfleet. The beading and small scallops decorating the arch in the second order are also interchangeable on the outer margin of the voussoirs of an order of beakheads found on the doorway at Riccall. There are at least four different hands or patterns in the label and in the capitals; this carving can be compared with the exterior stringcourse remnants at Stillingfleet, some of which are very close to the forms used at Rossington. Various items at Stillingfleet have close parallels at Rossington, for example, the ‘pleated’ cones on the L capital of the S doorway, and the cable necking with a medial quirk on the chancel arch. The pattern of small scallops on the necking, with the head of a man on the angle featuring random stranded foliage trails on the doorway at Stillingfleet, are almost certainly by the same sculptor as at Rossington. The chancel arch capitals at Barton-le-Street also have many similarities with the chancel arch at Rossington. Chevron orders meeting to make a deep diamond on the angle are not uncommon, but this occurs at Stillingfleet. The 12thc arches in the doorway and in the chancel arch include some unusual, if not unique, profiles, and the variety of foliage patterns on the chancel arch show there were numerous sculptors employed. This relatively unvisited example of 'Yorkshire School' sculpture would to have been a significant one in its day.

The font is comparable in proportion and size with numerous cylindrical fonts in the region; however, a smoothly-rounded bowl is not very common, where internally the sides are straight and bottom almost flat. The cable pattern on the angle of the rim, and with this standard accomplished form, can possibly be dated to 1140-50s in the East Riding, but could be earlier here near the limestone, where more information on correct style would be available.


Borthwick Institute Faculty papers 1897/14.

The Yorkshire Church Notes of Sir Stephen Glynne (1825-1874), ed. by L. A. S. Butler, Woodbridge 2007, 346.

W. Farrer, Early Yorkshire charters; being a collection of documents anterior to the thirteenth century made from the public records, monastic chartularies, Roger Dodsworth's manuscripts and other available sources, vol. 3, Edinburgh 1916, 329-2.

J. Hunter, South Yorkshire: The history and topography of the deanery of Doncaster, in the diocese and county of York, vol. 1, London 1828, 68.

J. E. Jackson, The history and description of St. George’s church at Doncaster destroyed by fire, February 28, 1853, London 1855, plate II.

N. Pevsner, revised by E. Radcliffe, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire, The West Riding, Harmondsworth 1967, 418.

J. Raine, 'The Dedications of the Yorkshire Churches', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 2 (1873), 180-92.

A Home for God’s Family: St Michael’s Church, Rossington, Rossington 2008, 6.

P. F. Ryder, Saxon Churches in South Yorkshire, Sheffield 1982, 91.