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St Peter, Barnburgh / Barnbrough, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°31′23″N, 1°16′17″W)
Barnburgh / Barnbrough
SE 484 032
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now South Yorkshire
medieval York
now Sheffield
medieval St Peter
now St Peter
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
28 May 2010

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Barnburgh is seven miles west of Doncaster. The honey-coloured stone church stands high in a village of which the older houses are of the same stone. It has a chancel with a N aisle or chapel, nave with N and S aisles and a porch, and W tower. The tower has four stages, the lower part including ashlar walling with two windows with one-piece heads; it is buttressed to the height of the S aisle, the roofs battlemented. A plan of the church is in the Borthwick Institute (Fac. 1869/2).

The earliest work inside the building is the nave N arcade of two bays with octagonal imposts and pointed arches. The base to pier 1 is the nearest to Romanesque forms.

Apart from two simple windows in the tower, the Romanesque remains are the two reset fragments of a sculpted pillar, formerly outside the church and now erected close to pier 1 in the N arcade.


The vill is in Domesday Book but no church is mentioned. Henry I granted a church here to Nostell priory 1119-1129 (Farrer 1916, 128), and in a confirmation of 1121-7 the king confirmed to Nostell the churches of ‘St Oswald and Aydanus of Bamburg’ as Algar the priest once held them. Could ‘Aydanus’ represent a dedication to St Aidan, brought to Northumbria by King (St) Oswald?

A dispute was resolved between Hickleton and Barnbrough c.1170-1177 which established Hickleton as the mother church. The suit mentioned the clerks of Barnbrough; ‘This shows that the church was divided between two or more secular clerks…this may have been a survival of one of those small secular communities which were abundant in the 11th century and were usually of pre-Conquest origin’ (Thompson and Clay 1933, 25).


Exterior Features


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Sir Stephen Glynne (Butler 2007, 79) visited ‘Barnbrough’ in 1860 and does not mention seeing it. Collingwood (1915, 135) dates it as late Norman. Brown discusses this shaft and the three others in the area (1937, 146-47, pl. XXXXIX 1, 3).

Drawings and description are given in Ryder (1982, 103) where he calls it a ‘thoroughly Romanesque piece’ and compares it to similar remnants at Thrybergh and Rawmarsh. He says the two pieces were found in the churchyard in the 19th century and erected in the church early in the 20th century.

In the opinion of the fieldworker (RW) it was not necessarily a cross-bearing shaft, for it shows no reliable sign of being developed into a cross at the top, or of being able to bear one there. The shaft is slender at the top, it is shaped and not flat: another stone above is unlikely. It is suggested that the top may have been developed into a low pyramidal shape, perhaps as a ‘roof’ supported above the architecture on the angles. Further, there is a large cross carved on the upper part of the E face. The face with the cross was almost certainly the principal one since it is wide, and the other wide face has no figure sculpture but a continuous foliage pattern. It is not known what purpose stones of this kind served, nor where this one stood; it may or may not have had a similar function to the items at Thrybergh and Rawmarsh. If the figures are tonsured clergy and the origin is local, perhaps these are Augustinians of Nostell, or saints of interest to them - however, this is speculation.

The stone is Magnesian limestone, and the shaft, when unbroken, could be compared to the coffin-shaped memorial in St Peter's, Conisbrough, which is 1.76m long and 0.6 by 0.4m at the head end. Thus the shaft is longer than the memorial but 60 per cent of the volume. The sculpture on the shaft would be thought ‘better’ than that on the memorial by a purist since it is all in one style, and accomplished. Figure sculpture in high relief is unusual for the period and this region. There is a worn figure on a slab in the porch at Conisbrough church which also has very small hands, using a mannerism of the period in which the heads of figures are much enlarged but bodies, hands and feet much reduced (Wood 2004, 98, 105). Free-standing figure sculpture exists at Nun Monkton, and was used on the lost Romanesque W front of York Minster; a fragment from there was recorded in the report for Private Collection 1. There are remnants of shafts, and a socketed base, associated with Pontefract Priory.

Morris 1919, 96: ‘At the W. end of the N. aisle – hollowed-out stone, with traces of having been closed by a brass, or iron, plate. It can hardly have been a reliquary in this position.’ From its diagonal placement and rather fancy outline, this item does not appear to be Romanesque, but if it were laid flat it would definitely recall the rectangular recess in the top surface of the old altar slab in the N aisle at Bolton Priory.


Borthwick Fac. 1869/2 includes a plan of the church.

G. B. Brown, The Arts in Early England, vol VI part II, Anglo-Saxon Sculpture. London 1937.

L. A. S. Butler, ed. The Yorkshire church notes of Sir Stephen Glynne (1825-1874), Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 159. Woodbridge 2007.

W. G. Collingwood, ‘Anglian and Anglo-Danish Sculpture in the West Riding’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 23 (1915), 129-299.

W. Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters 1-3, Edinburgh 1915-1916

J. S. Large, A History of Barnburgh. n.p., 1999.

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.

A. H. Thompson and C. T. Clay, ed. Fasti parochiales 1 part 1 [Deanery of Doncaster part 1], Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 85 (1933), 25-28.

P. J. Wilcox and M. Wilcox, St Peter’s Church Barnburgh church guide, n.p., n.d.

R. Wood, ‘Not Roman but Romanesque: a decayed relief at Conisbourgh church’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 76 (2004), 95-112.