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All Saints, Shiptonthorpe, Yorkshire, East Riding

(53°52′37″N, 0°42′19″W)
SE 852 431
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, East Riding
now East Riding of Yorkshire
medieval York
now York
  • Rita Wood
03 Jun 2004; 16 Jan 2015; 26 Jan 2015; 21 Mar 2019

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The church of All Saints in Shiptonthorpe has a W tower, a nave with a N aisle, a S porch, and a chancel with a N chapel. It was restored by James Demaine, best seen in Borthwick Fac. 1883/86 which includes a plan and elevations (Pevsner and Neave 1995, 681).

There is a Romanesque S doorway composed of three orders and a label. A small carved panel was reset on the gable of the Victorian porch; a pre-restoration photograph shows the plaque immediately above the outer order of the doorway. Three reset stones can be seen on the S face of the tower and adjacent W wall of nave. Within the tower and acting as supports to the first floor, there are eight corbels from the first half of the 12thc (photos in Conway Library by George Zarnecki); four more corbels acting as supports for the wooden ceiling are in the nave.


In the Doomsday Survey, 'Epton' (then known as Shipton[thorpe]) was held by Earl Morcar, followed by the king (VCH II, 196, 319).

A medieval dedication is not known and the Doomsday Survey does not mention any church there. Shipton was a peculiar in the parish of (Market) Weighton, where the dedication was and is to All Saints.

Shipton and Thorpe were treated as separate settlements until quite recently. For example, the church was described as at 'Shipton' in Fallow 1909; it is also listed as 'Shipton' in Henry and Zarnecki 1957. Place-names with 'Thorpe' are about a mile NW of Shipton. The names were joined at the request of the Post Office, as there were so many 'Shiptons'.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Interior Decoration


S doorway: The beakheads on the S doorway here might be compared to those reset inside the church at Hutton Cranswick.

Slab on gable of porch: The carving could be early 12thc by its simplicity; however, it shows a bishop similar to that on the Conisbrough tomb-slab, estimated to be from the 1150s. On the tomb-slab, the bishop wears a chasuble, but here the figure wears a long robe or cassock, as worn by a figure over the chancel arch at Fridaythorpe (East Yorkshire), or those on the tympanum at Danby Wiske (North Yorkshire). He is more likely to represent St Peter than a contemporary archbishop of York, but without knowing the original place of the carving, it is not possible to be sure.

Reset stones on the tower and its SE buttress: The original functions of these stones are not clear as the outline shapes are masked by mortar. The lowest reset stone has a pattern of small arches. This type of pattern is also used on the curious corbel table at Millington; it is well-carved on the chancel arch at Bubwith and on the imposts at Birkin and Healaugh. These comparisons suggest the stone is also a 12thc piece.

Corbels: This is a good collection of well-preserved corbels, although the ones in the tower are very difficult to see. The wide range of comparisons given below is not necessarily an indication of connections between sites by individual workmen, but illustrates the common nature of corbel iconography together with the loss of runs of corbels at most intermediate 12thc churches. For corbels and the Second Coming, see Wood 2003, 14-25; Wood 2012, 11-12.

Corbel Tower E1, a harpist. Both hands are placed over the strings, perhaps to still the instrument so that the harpist can hear other sounds, or to show the harpist playing. There are other examples at Campsall and at Adel. It is suggested that this represents an event during Second Coming, when believers will want to make music.

Corbel Tower E2, a man's head. This is a common motif, a watcher looking for the Second Coming.

Corbel Tower N1, an open-mouthed animal. This is a common feature of corbels, and perhaps a good comparison is up the road at Hayton, corbels NN8 or NN11.

Corbel Tower N2. A man's head, perhaps smiling. The smile is in appreciation of the Second Coming. The corbels of human heads at Hayton differ from those here in the way that the eyes are made, but the corbels at Birkin are somewhat similar in the shaping of the head.

Corbel Tower S1. This is a human head, but little detail has been ascertained. Detail, however, is likely to be there if only one had better access and lighting.

Corbel Tower S2. The most interesting of the eight corbels in the tower because it is unique. The figure is probably sitting on the throne or seat decorated by two animal heads. Seats often had animal terminals on the arms or upright posts; the artist was better acquainted with benches than chairs. If this is meant to represent Christ resurrected, then it might be compared with the crucifix figure on the N wall of corbels at Kirkburn, NN8. At a stretch, the two happy lions (the L animal is definitely smiling and neither are muzzled) might be God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, and the figure of Christ ascending. Since there is no distinguishing attribute for Christ, it might be a believer resurrected at the Second Coming and given a throne as he ascends - that is probably the best solution.

Corbel Tower W1 is likely to be a woman's head because of the headdress. She is watching too.

Corbel Tower W2 A common form of an animal head with pointed ears and bulgy eyes. These are demons or evil spirits seeing the end of their power, as Christ comes in glory at the Second Coming. They either grit their teeth or open their mouths.

Corbel Nave N1 is unique. It seems to show two men falling out of the mouth of an animal, that is, released by Death.


J. E. Morris, The East Riding of Yorkshire, London 1919, 287.

Borthwick Institute, Fac. 1883/8.

T. M. Fallow (ed.), Memorials of Old Yorkshire, London 1909.

F. Henry and G. Zarnecki, “Romanesque arches decorated with human and animal heads”, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 20-21 (1957-58), 1-34.

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

Victoria History of the County of York, II, ed. W. Page, 1912 (reprinted 1974), 196, 319.

R. Wood, Romanesque Yorkshire, Leeds 2012, 11-2.

R. Wood , ‘The Augustinians and the Romanesque Sculpture at Kirkburn Church’, East Yorkshire Historian, 4 (2003), 3-39.