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St Peter, East Marton, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°57′8″N, 2°8′30″W)
East Marton
SD 908 507
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
medieval St Peter
now St Peter
  • Rita Wood
03 September 2009, 19 July 2010, 23 Sep and 21 Oct 2016

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East Marton is also known as Marton-in-Craven, and, together with West Marton, is called Marton (Pevsner; Leach and Pevsner), Martons Ambo (Borthwick Institute) or Martons Both (locally).

St Peter's is a small Dales church in a small Dales village between Skipton and Clitheroe. The village street descends steeply from the main road, the churchyard is on the hillside near the bottom. Between the church and the river (now made into part of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal) are the platforms marking the site of medieval buildings; these are shown on OS map of 1852 as ‘Old Hall’. The church has a broad early tower with small windows; in the S wall of the tower are two slit windows (ground and first floor) with what were probably one-piece window-heads but are split. In the W wall of the tower, the lower storey has a round-headed window-head, while the higher level has one made with two flat stones meeting at a point. The N wall has a window with a one-piece window-head. The low nave, N vestry and chancel are largely an 18thc rebuild with five reused chevron voussoirs in the exterior walls of the nave and chancel. Inside, the S arcade is Perp, and there is a plain cylindrical font. There is also a fragment of a carved pillar, originating from St Helen’s Well at Thorp Arch near Tadcaster (Whitaker (1812), 185); see the report under Thorp Arch for the find-spot.


In Domesday Book, before the Conquest, Archil and Orm and Ernebrand had 6 carucates for geld; after, in East and West Marton, Roger the Poitevin had 6 carucates. Shortly thereafter (following Whitaker (1805), 67), the manor was in the hands of a family who took their name from the village, and the Marton family retained possession, and the advowson of the church, until the 17thc.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches



Loose Sculpture


Provenance of the shaft

There can be no doubt that this is the piece illustrated by T. D. Whitaker in the early-19thc (1812, plate facing p. 185; 1878, pl. between pp. 94 and 95). He says the shaft was found at ‘St Helen’s Well upon the River Wharfe’ (1812, 184-5; 1878, 239-40). There had at one time been a road-side chapel there (see report for St Helen’s well and chapel, under Thorp Arch). The caption to Whitaker’s illustration (1812, opposite p. 185; signed ‘J. Harris sculpt. 1808’) reads: ‘Shaft of a cross found among the bushes, near St Helen’s Hill [artist’s mistake for ‘Well’], upon the River Wharfe two miles below Thorp Arch in Yorkshire. It now stands in Mr Asheton’s Garden at Boston [Boston Spa]’. In the 1878 edition, the same illustration appears between pages 94 and 95, but the shaft is by then ‘in the possession of Mrs Richardson of Gargrave’. Collingwood (1915, 176-8) saw this stone at Gledstone Hall, West Marton. He says that it had been brought to Gledstone Hall from Knaresborough about a hundred years ago by the Roundell family. Having been in a garden, it had recently (April, 1913) been taken under cover for better preservation. Scriven Park, mentioned as a former resting-place of the stone, is just N of Knaresborough (Pevsner 1967, 362). It is not known when the shaft was brought to St Peter's. Collingwood says the shaft 'appears to be of the yellow freestone found at Knaresborough. It is terminated below with a large tenon… in the top, as seen at present, is a hollow too large to be the socket for the upper part of the shaft'; he wonders if the stone had been used as a holy-water stoup or basin.

Nature of the sculpture on the shaft

Within the wooden support, according to Collingwood (1915, 176-8), is an uncarved tenon about 10 inches (c. 0.25m) high. Whitaker noted the ‘hole’ in the top of the shaft as 2½ inches deep (1812, plate opp. p. 185), but the cavity was seen as a shallow bowl by Collingwood; both descriptions still apply. The carvings have decayed since being drawn by Collingwood, for example, on side C, the fruit, top left. On side C Collingwood thought that there was perhaps a second figure suggested by what he saw as the legs of a man facing right; he sketched in a head and arm above the present limit of the stone.

Collingwood could not fix on a period for the carvings, but he assumed they were pre-Norman. Kit Galbraith (in material at the Society of Antiquaries) was interested in the fragment, so presumably thought it Romanesque. Elizabeth Coatsworth (2008, 288) mentions the stone among those wrongly associated with the pre-Conquest period, and considers it ‘unequivocally Romanesque’.

The stone used is Magnesian limestone: this is borne out by the colour, the nature of the general wear and the fine parallel ridging on, for example, face B, which has worn like some stone at Healaugh. The sculpture at Healaugh church has similarities to that on the shaft, particularly in the mass of aimless but busy and leafless trails on parts of the doorway and chancel arch (a pattern on the chancel arch has the threefold profile used on the broader trails), and there is an elongated fruit on the doorway (1st order, L capital). The supposed dragon might be compared to a lion on the doorway (2nd order, L capital; another on the R side). The doorway at Brayton (2nd order, L capital) has a standing human figure looking L; there is also a winged animal and a lion (4th order, L capital) that are biting coiling leafless stems as on the shaft. Capitals of the doorway at Wighill include the trails, with something like the fruit, and a winged beast. A medallion on the doorway at Birkin has the pointed fruit; fruits at Healaugh, Wighill and Birkin are cross-hatched. There are many such fruits at, for example, Autun in Burgundy.

Regarding Collingwood’s drawings of the shaft, the dragon’s head (side A) is a misleading reconstruction, and it is suggested that the animal is a winged lion biting a stem or eating the plant. That activity is carved at Brayton, where the animals have the usual short heads. Regarding the ‘weapon’ held up by the man on side B, it has been described above as likely to be a pair of leaves and a fruit. It is suggested that the standing man has picked the fruit, and that both lion and man are enjoying life in a flourishing paradise. The top of the shaft has been reduced by wear rather than breakage or it would not be rounded and approximately level; it cannot have lost more than 2 or 3 centimetres, hardly room for the man’s head added by Collingwood on side C. The figure postulated by Collingwood would have been much smaller than the complete figure on side B, which would be unusual. The smaller figure appears to be naked, but the other has a garment tied round his waist. The one ‘foot’ of the figure might well be something else, for example it might have made a loop with the broken foot: it is suggested that the standing man on side C is an illusion. The carving has deteriorated since Collingwood drew it, so his drawing is valuable, but it does not demonstrate the continuity between the four faces.

The finding of this shaft at a site associated with St Helen suggests that it might have been the shaft of a small standing cross, intended to show paradise made available to mankind through the saving power of the Cross. On the other hand, there are two small fully-carved shafts at Barton-le-Street (North Riding), one of which supports a modern piscina bowl. Several carved shafts further south in the West Riding are larger and, though probably broadly contemporary, have no direct similarities.


E. Coatsworth, Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture, Western Yorkshire vol. VIII, Oxford 2008.

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

P. Leach and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the North, Yale 2009.

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

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

T. D. Whitaker, The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven, London 1805, 2nd edn. 1812 and 3rd edn.Leeds 1878.