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St Mary, West Lutton, Yorkshire, East Riding

(54°6′37″N, 0°34′44″W)
West Lutton
SE 930 692
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now North Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
15 May 2007

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Feature Sets

West Lutton is in the Great Wold Valley and about three miles north of Sledmere. From 1872 to 1875 a medieval chapel of ease was replaced by a new building (Pevsner and Neave, 1995, 746; plan and full descriptive text in Bayly, 1894). The modern church has a spire, an aisled nave, a chancel lit by a large rose window, and a S porch and N vestry. Bayly (1894, 9) says the church is situated on the site of the old chapel, and that the label, now reset in the vestry, was once over its S door.

This arch, probably a label, is the only Romanesque sculpture surviving from the chapel.


In Domesday Book, 9 carucates were held by the archbishop at Uchiltorp and Ludton. Some land was soc of Weaverthorpe (VCH, II, 212). West Lutton often appears bracketed with East Lutton under the name of Luttons Ambo. There were two chapels in Luttons Ambo, but neither dedication is known (Lawton, 1842, 282).


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


The shape of the stones that form the arch suggest that it was once a label. The pattern at West Lutton may be recognised as made up of arches because of their high relief and rolled profile, combined with the flat rectangular block at which each two curves meet. There is no attempt to describe a specific style of architecture here, but this is reminiscent of the blank arcades on fonts of the early 12thc in the Riding, for example at Sherburn-in-Harford-Lythe, 7 miles NE. The inverted arch is found in work of the 1150s at Riccall and Barton-le-Street, where it is intertwined with an inverted leafing tree, perhaps the Tree of Life. Inversion of a man in the context of foliage has been recorded on a capital at Lockington. In these three cases, inversion serves to suggest that the motifs concerned are based ‘up there’ in heaven. The arches on the label may thus be supposed to stand for heaven or to mark the lower limit of heaven (Wood, 2001, 18-20).

The workmanship brings to mind the small arches, though without ‘capitals’, on the label of the chancel arch at Sherburn. Furthermore, at both places there is a head at the approximate apex of the arch. At Sherburn the face has split off, but the hands lifted in praise on either side have survived. The crowned head at West Lutton probably represents a believer who is going into heaven and therefore receiving a crown. A central head at the apex of a doorway is not often found in Yorkshire, although there are heads among the spandrels of a chevron order of the doorway at Fridaythorpe, while the S doorway at Healaugh (YW) dramatizes the scene with several individual participants rising heavenwards. The apex heads on the spiral orders of doorways at Ely cathedral are more sophisticated parallels for the crowned man at West Lutton. (Fieldworker)


J. Bayly, Four Churches in the Deanery of Buckrose restored or built by the late George Edmund Street, RA, for Sir Tatton Sykes, Bart., London, 1894.

G. Lawton, Collectio rerum ecclesiasticarum de dioecesi Eboracensi, London, 1842.

N. Pevsner and D. Neave, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, London, 1995.

Victoria County History:Yorkshire, II (General volume, including Domesday Book) London, 1912, reprinted 1974.

R. Wood, Geometric Patterns in English Romanesque Sculpture, Journal of the British Archaeological Assocation, 154 (2001), 1-39.