Studio Practice 2b and Techniques and Processes 2b – Report on the architecture and archaeological significance of the Early English Church from the 11th century to the late 16th century

Report on the architecture and archaeological significance of the Early English Church from the 11th century to the late 16th century



Why investigate churches?

Church Plans and Iconoclasm

Why are churches important?

The development of the church from an archaeological perspective

Historic Influence

The global picture/influence:




Christian Art

Britain and Ireland: The First Phase

Christian Origins and Development

The endurance of Paganism

The Gospel in Ireland

British Christians in a Changed World

Celtic monasticism to the evangelization of the English

The lives of the Saints

Interpreting ‘’Celtic Christianity’’

The ‘’Synod’’ of Whitby


Medieval English Church Architecture

              Introduction of styles

Anglo Saxon

Norman or Romanesque

The Birth of the Gothic Transitional

Gothic Early English

Gothic II: Decorated

Gothic III: Perpendicular

The Photographers Responsibility in care and record

Case Studies:

Bradford Cathedral

Fountains Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey

Wakefield – Cathedral Church of All Saints

Wakefield – Chantry Chapel

Whitby Abbey

York Minster

Other Religious Buildings of note:

Beverley Minster



Easby Abbey and St Agatha’s Church

St Hilda’s Church and well at Hinderwell

St Mary’s Church, Lastingham

St Mary and St Alkelda’s Church, Middleham

St Cuthbert’s Church, Fishlake

Dewsbury Minster (Church of All Saints)

All Saints Church, Ilkley

Unusual Alternative Sacred Destinations:

              The Druids’ Altar, Bingley



Alcomden Stones, Stanbury Moor, West Yorkshire

Cow and Calf Rocks, Ilkley

Dove Stones, Widdop Moor

Wart Stone, Eccleshill, Bradford, West Yorkshire

 Why investigate churches?

Rodwell writes:

‘’While many visitors to churches, cathedrals and monasteries seem content to wander around with little or no understanding of what they are looking at, an equal if not greater number of have a positive or latent interest in learning something of the history of the building and its past usage.’’

Rodwell, 1980: 35

It is this way with me, as interest in the past is a part of human nature on which the tourist industry of Britain survives. Many questions raised by other visitors also intrigues me. For example: ‘How far does the church date back to?’, ‘Who inhabited such places and where did they come from?’, ‘What is the oldest relic/artefact/or part of the building you have found?’ and ‘What style is the building in?’ to name but a few.

A survey in Chelmsford (1974) revealed that only 60% of medieval churches had any information about them at all, so unless you are a scholar like myself and want to spend time and money on research, one would come away feeling frustrated by the lack of immediate information available.

One may be surprised to know that for the majority of medieval churches there is not much in the way of architectural description and only a few illustrations have been given in any evidence as to the clues of its origin and so on. In Prof. Nikolaus Pevsner’s ‘The Buildings of England’ medieval churches have received a mention. However, reports for archeological and religiously significant buildings are not well researched and sparsely illustrated.

To complicate the matter further, all churches in the period of time of their introduction to the English landscape, many have undergone forms of restoration which makes it difficult to stylistically date architectural features such as windows and doorways, as they are more often than not covered with 20th century ‘makeovers’. Vandalism, accident, the weather or simple neglect bring about centuries of destruction coupled with an inability to ensure the systematic update of records over many centuries has also added to the problem of authenticating period features.

It cannot be doubted that churches were the most ambitious buildings in the medieval landscape. Their designers aimed to provide an appropriate architectural setting for a sacred and theatrical liturgy and give the spectator a glimpse of what heaven might look like. In pursuit of this ideology a search for new architectural effects took place which meant that motifs would constantly evolve which in a broad sense came to identify different periods of style that aesthetically became distinctive. Additionally, there is a hierarchal quality to medieval art which is vividly demonstrated in our understanding and visual pleasure of the ‘’great church’’. In looking at an architectural template for the church, one can establish that the church as we know it today, developed over time, but by the 12th century church buildings began to aspire to success which meant designing and restructuring the church into a complex plan of methodologically imposing Christian ideals that changed with growing numbers of the population (as they strove to keep up with the growing congregation).

As a photographer and researcher and lover of all archeologically and religiously significant buildings, I feel hide bound to research this subject in greater detail so that it may inform my photographic practice and allow myself (and my reader) to engage with this topic in the hope that some nuance previously un-discovered or not commonly known, will come to light.

Church Plans

According to Wrathmell (cite Ryder:1993,103), there are at least ten different styles of the medieval church in West Yorkshire alone (see research folder for plans). The smaller sized churches are a reflection of 12th century buildings that answered the need of the population, Lotherton is such an example. In comparison to Halifax, (an atypical example of 15th century architecture), shows the fact that Halifax was a prosperous textile town. Small, simple constructions were built up until the 14th century and as craftsmanship and skill was acquired and the population grew in numbers and in faith the (Norman period) added nave walls which became pierced by arcades to give growing access to aisles built onto either side of the main part of the church. A subsequent theme of church planning developed further, with the inclusion of a tower at the junction of the nave and chancel with added transepts were added usually being included on both the North and the South sides of the church. These plans represented a growing congregation but also represented the development and styles of different periods that was driven by society and the Christian faith. It is to the evolvement of these plans that I will now discuss.

Decoration and Iconoclasm:

It cannot be doubted that all church buildings looked very different in the Middle Ages in comparison to now as according to Cannon, 2014: 12-13:

‘’Most medieval people preferred brightly decorated religious scenes and colourful geometric designs embellished on the walls and altars with floral patterns enriching architectural features such as mouldings, columns and capitals’’.

Such features have largely disappeared due to iconoclasm in the 1540 – 1640’s. Fonts and screens still remain in use but have been paired down. However the brightly coloured roods that dominated the nave of every church in the land have disappeared where originally the distinction between the parish Church; compared to a greater church, is not as clear cut as today. And again unfortunately these churches have been lost and none are recorded as existing still in the Yorkshire region (see research folder for more details).

Are churches especially important?

In theory, churches should not be different from any other kind of building that has archaeological significance. In practice, logistical problems can be considerable as churches are often the oldest surviving building in a village or settlement. Road patterns and the churches immediate surroundings are usually of an earlier date and churches are often built on top of pre-existing sites that date back to ancient times. One has to remember that churches were the only public building in existence in medieval times, so as consequence, were additionally used for social gatherings, as meeting place but also as spiritual centre. They were also used for commercial and educational needs, so, given that during the reformation, 99% of the monastic buildings were destroyed, parish churches survival by comparison is high when compared to the monastic building. The churches were often seen as being patrons of the arts also and during the Reformation, Henry the VIII’s proclamation emphasized the dissolution of the monasteries.

To emphasis how important these buildings are there is a range of evidence to support the notion that observational differences were regional and strategic in that the influences and decisions made regarding  structure and placement, architect and vision, were often carried by the tradesmen who built such places. We often take that knowledge and shared vision for granted. We look to the spires and towers as features in England to comprehend that their architectural, historical, typographical and artistic realization to identify that these buildings make up such a fundamental part of our psyche as a nation that we blatantly somehow overlook it. This is why I have chosen to dedicate my photography to reawakening the consciousness of the nation through the visual image. In the next chapter I will discuss how my adopted county of Yorkshire is incredibly varied and symbolic of the nation as a whole by utilizing several case studies. Demonstrating national and local hierarchy, religious piety and zeal.

The development of the church from an archaeological perspective:

The earliest church archaeological information is difficult to date as a quest for antiquarian knowledge but the monks of Glastonbury in 1190 could be described as being the first ecclesiastical architectural structure that is commonly acknowledged. An excavation in the abbey cemetery was undertaken to recover the bodies of King Arthur and Guinevere. Unfortunately they were not successful in identifying the remains but scores of other excavations carried out in Saxon times often for the purpose of recovering the remains of Kings and Saints were chronologically undertaken in a prolific way as the primary function of these digs were to bolster up antiquarian ideals in order to provide relics for veneration. There is indication that these men travelled around the country making drawings and collecting information between the mid 16th and mid 18th century which laid the foundation for future antiquarian studies as we know them now.

William Stuckley (1725) and Rutland Gough (1789) were the forefathers of creating drawings which involved a number of ecclesiastical structures and monuments, illustrating Glastonbury (Stuckley). Later, Samuel Lysons (1791) and John Carter (1780-94 & 98) discussed archaeological history. The onset of the

The new gothic created a revival in interest regarding the survival of medieval ecclesiastical buildings. Architects were engaged in restoration projects where new works needed to be realized in order to protect difference in styles to provide correct detailing.

In the 19th century architectural and archaeological recording increased with the likes of John Britton and Thomas Rickman who published seminal works. Their volumes were the foundations for the classification and dating of architectural detail in 1807-26 and 1814-35 respectively. Rickman began to establish a division of architectural styles and after a fire in 1829 which laid bare the remains of the Norman crypt under the choir at York Minster (Browne, 1947) and after a further fire in 1840 information began to be gathered on a regular basis. Ecclesiastical archaeological evidence to note would be that of James Irvine who was clerk of works to Sir Gilbert Scott (Example of Bath Abbey in 1863-72).

By the end of the First World War, there was a marked shift of interest as churches were no longer being restored in preference to ruined castles and abbeys. The Second World War led to a new kind of church archaeology after the obliteration and serious damage inflicted in the bombing in the early 1940’s. Historians identified that there wasn’t an adequate record of religious architecture and so created the Central Council for the Care of Churches in 1940. Part of their purpose was to obtain a government dispensation to allow for a special release of photographic materials to facilitate the recording of such buildings. Unfortunately, the result of church bombings meant so many were cleared away without much thought for archaeological recording. Post war investigation was crucial because they not only introduced the notion of recording the archaeological evidence of parish churches but they also began to highlight just how relevant they were (as they had occupied sites that could be dated back to Anglo Saxon and Roman times).

Hierarchal Influences both Ancient and International

According to Davidson (2005:123) there was a vast array of opinions and influences that affected the development of the Christian faith in Britain that are accredited to but a few spiritual and religious leaders in our history.


Under his influence, Damasus set about ‘’magnifying the prestige of his office’’ (according to Davidson: 2005:124/5) in a way which became unprecedented in the development of Rome’s ecclesiastical status by fashioning the importance of local churches and identifying Roman traits within Christianity. As the Romans brought with the knowledge regarding constructing roads and built new towns, the notion that ‘church’ within the city became both a social and cultural institution as the church grew in wealth and power. Women were seen to convert men into the faith and Roman architectural influences evolved which into institutions of power (control) and authority. Additionally, liturgy and language standardization used within the services also enriched the decision making in Rome and in the rest of Europe thereby influencing the development of language in England.


Another example of how a few changed the ways of many was Jerome. In creating a new version of Scripture and translating the liturgy from Greek to Latin, he influenced Monasticism (which became very popular in England). Jerome’s contribution in standardizing the western Bible was exceptional and far reaching. The ‘Vulgate’ (i.e. the common edition of the Scriptures), meant that Jerome intended that the Bible ought to be available to ordinary Christians as well as scholars. However, what we now know as the common Bible, wasn’t collated at all until the 6th century and not used by ordinary Christians until the 9th century. With the Codex Amiatinus first being produced in Northumberland, scholars deferred from Greek to Latin which changed the way that people were instructed and as a consequence the old languages of ancient Briton began to evolve into a language that was eventually universally spoken to what we recognize today.


By the end of the 3rd century, church buildings were beginning to be recognized in the Roman World, although due to controversy around the new religion (during the Great Persecution) a large number of buildings were seized or destroyed and the stronghold of Paganism particularly within rural areas continued to influence society.

However, as Constantine’s extensive Christian program stretched from Rome to the new Holy Land, the archaeological paradigm of church buildings became under the influence of his structural ideology and design, the Basilica. A classical form grew and eventually developed into a Lateran Basilica which consisted of a rectangular hall that had five aisles with a semicircular apse or a more conventional central nave flanked by two or sometimes four aisles. Whereas earlier basilicas often had their apse on the Western end of the building, the changes in thinking of Constantine altered the Basilica to the East to reflect the sun rising as a symbol of the resurrection. The paragraph alone demonstrates the influences that Rome had on developing what the Romans considered to be a barbaric world.

Additionally, a growing distinction between hierarchy within the Church i.e. between the clergy and laity, and a more traditional tribal structure of the clans that lived in the Northern regions began to influence design tradition as a reflection of the power and authority behind the Church as an establishment and as a symbol of Celtic and Pagan tradition. Subsequently, a growth in the population and attendance in the then Roman Church, created distance between what was considered to be ‘holy’ and that which was considered not (i.e. the priests in comparison to the congregation) and the tradition of Paganism that reflected the land and spirituality.

Britain and Ireland the First Phase

It is important at this stage to realise that Britain did not exist in the way we think of it today. ‘Brittania’ was a Roman province from around 43 to 410 and the ‘Scotti’ or Scots lived in Ireland and Scotland was inhabited by Caledonian and Highland peoples known in the 3rd century as ’Picts’. Britain was an asset rich island and a major supplier of grain and mineral sources to the Romans but the regions which came under Roman rule and its power of authority varied significantly. Prosperous Roman towns grew with all the evidence of its culture, art and architecture but in other areas (the Moorlands of Devon and Cornwall, the Pennine’s and the North) were dominated by several military garrison towns and forts which reflected the demands to keep the peace. As a consequence, the development of early Christianity in Britain remains remarkably obscure so that very little is known about the impact of Christianity in Britain pre 4th century but there are signs to show that Christianity existed at this time.

So to York then in 306 where Constantine was first acclaimed as Augustus as his lengthy campaign to bring Christianity to Britain would ultimately see him enthroned as the first Christian Emperor. There is documented evidence to support this claim i.e. 4th century Christian practice was not confined to just the rich or culturally sophisticated as very large numbers of Christian burials have been discovered at Poundbury in Dorset which highlights the suggestion that Christianity had a stronger foothold that previously imagined. It is important to note that prior to churches being built, Christian worship took place in large houses or homes in urban areas and Roman villas were instigated into providing these religious centres where religion must have been taught to society as a whole rather than in total isolation.

The Endurance of Paganism

It appears that as pagan shrines fell into disuse during the 4th century despite imperial orders, paganism endured with remarkable tenacity according to Davidson (2005:349). He goes on to state that these influences remained the strongest in rural areas but that establishments including the first places of worship kept hold of the pagan traditions and symbols associated with the practice and while this was considered to be the ‘norm’ in parts of England, Ireland’s trade roots shows that influences from the Roman world and its customs reflected in Roman Christian traditions.

By 6th century Britain, the majority of Christians were practicing in the western and northern areas but not in great numbers. The evangelization of the English people advanced more through the energies of missionaries that had arrived from Ireland and the North as Christianity was first brought to Northumberland through the efforts of monks from Iona.

From Celtic Monasticism to the Evangelising of the English

As previously mentioned, Monasticism established Christian traditions in the late 5th and 6th century Britain. The structure of society was different to Rome and in the north of England the political map of independent tribal kingdoms and family hierarchies dominated the rural landscape. Christianity was an imported phenomenon so the development of Christianity reflected the Celtic sociological traditions, cultural concerns and spiritual ideals of a nation that had been influenced by Saxon tradition. As gifts of money, lands and resources came to be handed over to the church, traditional patterns of kingship favoured the development of monastic foundations as they formed a nucleus to the rest of society and as a consequence significant communities were established which involved education, working the land, keeping sheep as well as tending to their religious duties. Some monasteries were established on remote island sites to encourage a detachment from worldly distractions and spiritual devotion.

Gaining insight into the actual lives of the monastic orders is a mixture of hagiographical elaboration and legend which have pagan connotations as well as Christian tradition mixed in with mythical stories of their achievements. Celtic spirituality is often hailed as being creation-centred and holistic that has artistic and musical traditions. Liturgies, prayers, retreats and pilgrimages were all ways to get in touch with God. The Celtic Knot, in its more liberal tradition is associated with the symbolic concept of nature and faith over formality (Roman tradition). An argument that creates a notion of romanticism and religious idealism should not deter from the fact that the nature of their existence was and still is connected to pagan idealism rather than roman authoritarianism.

The Synod of Whitby

The Synod of Whitby is considered to be the most important of religious conventions in its time. There were disputes about knowing when to convene Easter where some argued that the ancient English tradition should be followed (i.e. Celtic) which was well documented by St Bede. The Roman calendar became the established norm and the Celtic traditions began to wane in popularity.


In order to be able to define and identify what to photograph within any particular century I must have an understanding of the separate and distinctive periods which have been established with the church to discover interesting facts and relevant details crucial to knowing what to photograph, where and when.

I have therefore compiled a synopsis of styles dating from the 11th century to the late 16th century and beyond. A discussion of these periods will ensue to highlight what forms of architecture and archeology informs my photographic practice.

Anglo Saxon Architecture: (up to the late 11th century)

‘’The earliest purpose built Christian churches in Britain to survive, date mostly within the 6th century but for the next two hundred years such buildings are rare in the extreme’’

Anglo Saxon architecture is difficult to identify and limited due to the reconstruction of Medieval Churches over centuries of their existence. Porch designs and the reconstruction of towers that have been built on top of the architectural period (i.e. porticus) are signs of Anglo Saxon architecture. I have examined several academic publications that give an outline of what to expect with descriptions where possible. This chapter will focus on establishing an overall view of what to expect and then I will highlight at the end of the report features that reveal Anglo Saxon characteristics alongside other identified periods of architecture. I will also examine archaeological evidence to obtain further information and proof of identification within each genre.

What did the Anglo Saxons do for us?

Cannon describes the different variants in porch design that identifies Anglo Saxon architecture as being ‘’semicircular in design – which were thin and narrow and more like a doorway with a distinctive diagnostic that was a triangular headed arc, the windows were small but sometimes arranged in pairs or rows of stumpy columns.’’ (Cannon et al).

St Peter, Barton on Humber in Lincolnshire is one such example. (see research folder for more information). I have identified through my research that there are three churches in the West Yorkshire region that are Anglo Saxon in date. Ledsham is the best preserved of these and almost certainly the earliest as it includes nave walls, a west porch and south facing porticus (dated around AD700). Quite a number of these features (the plan of the nave with an early west porch and the construction of the windows) all show similarities to the early churches of Northumberland region (i.e. St Peters at Monkwearmouth). The simple round headed Anglo Saxon chancel arch survives where there is a carved ornament of four petalled flower like motifs where there is enough of the original to show that Curzon’s later restoration was being followed correctly.

The very term ‘porticus’ can date an Anglo Saxon church the functions of which are still a mystery. Bardsey is another example of Anglo Saxon architecture as it has a striking feature in the tall and narrow west tower with a double belfry window which is characteristic of late Saxon architecture. Anglo Saxon fabric can now be shown to survive at Bramham with its huge oval churchyard and the recent discovery of an Anglo-Scandinavian bone pin in the churchyard adds weight to the theory. Dewsbury Parish Church is another case where the development of evidence of angle quoins have been discovered. Additionally, it is recorded that St Paulinus preached here in 627 thus demonstrating that the Anglo Saxon’s were present despite the many alterations of the church since.

The Domesday Book, compiled in 1086 refers to two churches in the manor of Wakefield, presumably argued that this church is indeed Wakefield Cathedral. The patchwork of differing stone types is a great indication that the site may well represent sandstone parts of an original pre conquest structure. (see figure 24, 25 and 28 in research folder).

According to Ryder, 1993: 15-24, a considerable number of West Yorkshire churches possess pre conquest sculpture. A collection of stones in Kirkheaton (now in the Tolsen Museum in Huddersfield) include a  decorated monolithic window head (see figure 31) which clearly demonstrates that there was a stone church on the site before the Norman Conquest.

Norman or Romanesque: 1070 to 1170-80

What did the Normans do for us?

According to Cannon, (2014: 19-25) by the 11th century a new revolutionary style in architecture was spreading across Europe. Bay windows were becoming increasingly complex and the ambition and scale using Roman techniques that the Anglo Saxons were also knowledgeable about was developing into what Cannon refers to as ‘’brutally, powerful buildings’’ an example of which is Durham Cathedral. The second phase of Norman architecture is where the ornate becomes more pronounced, more sophisticated and more playful. Most Norman architecture stems from an increase in rebuilding current structures which resulted in an overlap of Saxon and Norman styles where arcades, windows and fonts were very common and east ends of churches ended in an apse. Galleries and large vaulted crypts are examples of Norman architecture with the presence of a pulpitum screen or a circular church and/or the development of a rib vault (Durham being such an example). According to Cannon (2014:22-23) ‘’almost all the earliest true arcades in English churches are Norman.’’ The key to Norman mouldings is an attached shaft, a narrow column with a circular section, which has a mast like form that is semicircular in plan. The Norman era or Romanesque was a turning point in medieval architecture as a future aesthetic design was not as significant.

The Normans must have been a determined lot as their vigour and determination affected the Saxon landscape, with their love of geometric patterns, distinctive ornament and sheer scale of design outdid anything that had gone before. Unfortunately, West Yorkshire is not a great destination for Norman architecture apart from Adel Church, Pontefract (Priory), Nostell and the Cistercian abbey of Kirkstall.

Probably the earliest most recognizable group of Norman churches in the area are those characterized by herringbone fabric some of which are in York. It is very distinctive in design where small pieces of stone (which are limestone) are laid diagonally. The church that has such example of the region is Kippax which stands close to the earthworks of a castle dated from 1100. (see example 32). Barwick in Elmet is another example but has suffered more alteration than Kippax. The chancel still shows herringbone work but only one of the original window survives.

St John the Baptist at Adel was constructed with a charter of 1140 but most architectural historians place it around 1150-60. Its south door has the best known Yorkshire Norman doorway and inside the church are designs that further depict the period such as the golden candlestick and the tree of life. There are also carvings in the chancel arch that have radial and concentric rolls with a series of grotesque masks. On the chancel arch capitals the Baptism of Christ is shown and the Descent from the Cross (38 and 39 in my research folder).

Only three Norman arcades survive in west Yorkshire namely Bardsey, Bramham and Guiseley but apart from the occasional arcaded the principal surviving feature of a Norman church is that it provides an opportunity for the display of decorative carving (according to Cannon: 2014, 33). And if one is looking for features, doorways are especially interesting which are usually on the south of the nave as they are architecturally interesting features in themselves. The Norman font at White Chapel in Cleckheaton (Sheila-na-gig) is interesting in that it has a Celtic fertility figure.

The Birth of the Gothic Transitional 1160 to 1190-1200

What did the Gothic Tradition do for us?

Advances in the exploration of the aesthetic combined with engineering and geometric design during a fifty year period defines the period to that of the pointed arch. As the Norman’s discovered the ability to create a rib vault, the implications of creating it moved in a new direction, so simply by moving the older arches up or down a new more pointed arch was fairly straightforward to accomplish. It is said that pointed arches have a unique aesthetic quality in a building that is dominated by semicircular arches. Masons vied to explore these new interrelated structures and held them together with flying buttresses. Walls were replaced with enormous windows and arches – the feel of such a building was different from anything that had been seen before. People began to develop new motifs that complemented and thus a new style was born.

This period of experimentation is referred to as the transitional or early gothic and is not so much a style as an evolutionary phase and these styles of architectural change began to be reflected in the smaller churches as well as in the previously dominant monasteries.

The question of where the English Gothic style began has been the cause of much debate. It has been expressed in real terms with the change of the arches from round to pointed but additionally most churches in the late 12th and 13th century had their chancels extended to the east or as in some cases completely rebuilt. Churches in West Yorkshire and the other regions of Yorkshire are no exception to this but they have been masked by further remodeling which took place in the latter part of the medieval period. Bardsey (according to Ryder:1993, 37-38) is perhaps the earliest example of surviving signs of Gothic influence with Kirkburton being the most complete example of the Early English Building. In my research of Early English Churches I will be striving to identify unusual features of these church buildings. Kirkburton is a classic example in that the chancel is a screen wall behind the altar and the medieval doorway on the north side is of interest. (see image 62 and 63 in the research folder).

As I have stated earlier, the fact that many churches have been rebuilt adds to the problems of finding earlier influences in terms of structure and design. However, with great attention to detail, it is possible to ascertain by date where these structures tell us tales of the past. Wakefield Cathedral and Bradford are such examples which is why I have chosen to case study these churches in my proposal overall. The nave arcades in their present form is an indication of 14th century but there are 13th century quatrefoil piers which is indicative of an earlier period. As a consequence of these findings through my archeological and architectural research of the Early English churches I have been able to find and locate interesting early features of each church which either sets them apart or confirms similar characteristics which are characteristic of the area.

Ryder continues ‘’A handful of church towers in the Pennine West of the county are probably of 13th century origin, although they have a vernacular feel lacking detail which could be tied in with mainstream architectural developments in the lowland areas. (figure 71 and 72 demonstrate the roof line above the doorway and the extension levels of the tower from 13th century to late 15th century in the lower half of Hepstonstall tower which has been dated back to the 13th century). This has been established through the photograph and key drawing.

It must be surprising to note that the oldest surviving timberwork in any church in Yorkshire is that of Elland where the structure of the roof is simple in form and similar to other buildings since demolished in the area (i.e. Elland Hall). It is important to note that access to timberwork is not always possible, however structure of windows help to identify development of the church in that the smaller the breadth of the window and the more rounded at the top belies its history as belonging to the 13th century, whereas a more pointed arched window identifies the period of the window as belonging to the 14th century. There is also a clearly visible more complex structure to this window in comparison to the 13th century. (see examples 75 and 76). As in the case of Kippax, it is possible to see these changes in the same church!


Gothic I: Early English 1190 – 1200 to 1260

Towards the end of the 12th century a consensus developed regarding style with equilateral arches being the most common of the Gothic arch. Lincoln Cathedral is such an example with lavish use of nail head which is a series of small, sharp pyramids often running up the side of an arch or a column.

‘’Shafting is a diagnostic feature of the period where columns were much slimmer in the smaller parish churches. However, the capitals are the best place to see the early English style in the foliage known as stiff leaf. It is easy to recognize where the plant is supported on a long, tendril like swaying stalk that ends in a three lobed leaf’’

According to Cannon, 2014, 43)

An example of which can be found at Salisbury Cathedral.

Chevrons become rare that are replaced by nail heads and then the dogtooth design. Strong effects of light and shade play a key role in making early English a style with a linear quality. An example of linear motifs and stiff leaf foliage is in the south transept of York Minster.

Gothic II – Decorated 1260 to 1300 – 20 and 1300 – 20 to 1350 – 60.

The aim of this idea was to blur distinction between the wall and the window. Described by Cannon (2014, 47) as ‘’the great age of customized and fitting, architecture and decoration. Micro architecture was born with more elaborate fittings, sculpted niches, buttresses and vaults sprinkled with energetic crockets and finials.’’ Creating in the decorated age meant that plans could become more experimental and elaborate which was first expressed in Paris (1240: Sainte Chapelle, Ile de la Cite) and also at Westminster Abbey (1245). The two most immediately influential ideas to come out of this time was a kind of arch, the ogee and a type of vault rib, the lierne which results in a dominant style which continued until the mid 14th century, considered to be almost avant-garde. Lincoln Cathedral’s tierceron ribs built at the east end of the church are such examples (Wells and Exeter Cathedral included).

In the first decades of the 14th century the ogee starts to transform architectural style as masons began to explore ways that these curves could be applied to patterns, in particular window tracery and micro architecture.

Cannon (2014, 52) writes: ‘’In the Geometrical phase, the canonical patterns of early tracery breaks down and designers begin to explore a vast range of other patterns and in particular spherical triangles.’’

Late 13th century architecture of geometrical and intersecting tracery is visible at Howden Minster (1267-72) and is a feature of this period. Crinkly or seaweed foliage by 1300 becomes a prominent feature with carvings having the potential to create beasts, green men and other grotesques for which the Decorated era was well known.

What is worthy of note is that 14th century builders in West Yorkshire produced some original variants on the theme of building stairs and having access to towers. Robert Chantrell in 1831 (a Leeds architect) is such an example which is basically developed from a cruxiform design that incorporates a tower. Including a tower in the redesign of a church was a demonstration of wealth and prosperity.

One of the most medieval structures and the rarest in form has to be the Wakefield Bridge Chantry known to have been under construction since the 1340’s. It is quite a small building (12.80 x 5.10m internally according to Ryder, 1993: 54) but what is unusual about it is that it is attached to the medieval bridge on the River Calder at St. Mary on the Bridge with Scott entirely reconstructing the building which is the best example of only four in the whole country. The original façade was removed to the grounds of Kettlethorpe Hall in the 19th century (see figure 88).


Gothic III perpendicular 1150 known as rectilinear 1330-50 to the 16th century

It is said that perpendicular architecture sits in direct contrast to the decorated where curve gives way to the straight line and variety is replaced by repetition yet there are important similarities between the two. The ogee arch and the lierne vault the wave moulding and the crinkly foliage aftorementioned is replaced with a single defining motif. Panelling brings a visual unity from everything to the smallest fitting to the grandest church façade (see page 65 as example – the porch at Circenester 1490 – 1500). The ballflower becomes a motif that is highly diagnostic of the time which is a ball shaped fruit with a three lobed mouth which then disappears rapidly from the mid 14th century. Perpendicular is unique to English style as Scotland, Ireland were similar to French architecture into the 16th century. Historians think of the era as being ‘late medieval’ and the perpendicular style fits in with this important phase of social, political and cultural change. Cannon (2014, 62-63) writes: ‘’the perpendicular seems to have been consciously invented. This is a complex and fascinating story with its roots in the decorated experiments associated with the royal court in the 1290’s. For example, from this date there are occasional experiments with inserting short straight lines into the curves at window tracery patterns, and very occasional uses of new arch forms in addition to the ogee.’’

The fan vault is also a diagnostic feature of the perpendicular period and were located in aisles, cloisters and chantry chapels. The most spectacular of these reticulations can be found at York Minster which is almost like lace in the east windows bearing in mind that usually the perpendicular mindset are flat topped the foliage remains knobbly in character and the columns have exceptionally high bases often highly intricate in design. (see page 72). Incidentally York Minster is claimed to have among the largest medieval windows in Europe. A motif called the Tudor arch indicative of this period is quite different from the triangular arches of the Anglo Saxon era but the three centred arch that appears alongside the development of both these eras emphasis the arch’s curvature rather than the straight lines.

So we can conclude that at the end of the Gothic period establishes that Tudor arches, massive fan vaults and pendants are associated with the last phase of perpendicular architecture. An infusion of motifs from the continent are seen in timber fittings and flamboyant tracery forms appear making them hard to distinguish from earlier forms. Curvilinear era timber fittings are circulating in printed engravings led by Renaissance influence that leads to for the first time in a hundred years a slight return in semicircular arches which brings home to us how architecture would have continued to develop without the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 and 1539. The weight then of architectural investment and invention shifts rapidly from churches to country houses and nothing was built in England again until St Paul’s Cathedral in the 1660’s according to Cannon, 2014, 76.

A last point of note is that the Gothic Revival created a new interest that mixed up if you like architectural styles that were subsequently applied to everything from railway stations to the new churches of the industrial towns and suburbs. Style and refinement particularly in sculpture or stained glass is an accurate way of dating just by looking medieval architecture is a sure way of identifying its dating.

One striking feature of Yorkshire churches that has never been studied in any detail is the number of surviving late medieval roofs and ceilings, namely Methley, Ilkley, Addingham and Elland a recurring theme of which is the truss. (see Addingham example p63). Late medieval paneled ceilings are also surprisingly common in Yorkshire like the dramatic angels over the nave at Bradford Cathedral and Wakefield Cathedral where late 15th century ceilings are still present. The most impressive late medieval chantry chapel to survive in West Yorkshire is undoubtedly the Waterton Chapel on the south side of the chancel at Methley (figure 1130 and figure 117 depicting a drawing of the eastern parts of Bradford).

In the final chapter I examine the effect of how these buildings have become neglected and destroyed in the name of progress which is of grave sociological and historic concern. These buildings are a vital resource to tourism within the U.K as many countries visit this beautiful country of ours because they are fascinated with our culture and identity. If we continue to destroy, decimate and neglect these buildings then we run the very great risk of affecting our national income and we will subsequently destroy our cultural heritage. The early English Church is such a part of our landscape that to be without it would blight our landscape so much that England would not be recognized as such any longer. Institutions such as English Heritage and the National Trust work tirelessly to protect and preserve this heritage so I will be concluding this research and providing them with evidence to encourage to pick up on the churches that are still being neglected today. There is also information to suggest that the chance to gather vital archaeological records as evidence is being neglected, therefore I will identify the key issues that determine why this evidence is not being collated and will additionally provide the appropriate sources with that information.

Redundant Churches:

Rodwell argues that a (1980:38):

‘’Full archaeological record should be made before work to demolish a church building begins and that such destruction should additionally be controlled as careful dismantling will always lead to the recovery of significant historical data.’’

’A full record of demolition should be controlled to avoid the disturbance of a potential period structure.’’

There appears to be no continuity for this mass destruction of historically significant and religiously significant buildings. It seems very unfortunate that part of our cultural heritage is disappearing before our eyes in this way. Factors that precipitate a declaration of redundancy is often put down to the parishes inability to raise the necessary capital to restore it to good order and the processes involved do not recognize the building as having archaeological significance. But what of the responsibility of a nation to recognize the importance of these buildings as a historic landmark?

Some 8,500 churches in England are still wholly medieval in fabric and in the first ten years of operation of the Pastoral Measures taken in 1968 over 1,000 buildings were declared redundant. Half of which were considered to be of the medieval period. My research has revealed that a church is made redundant on pastoral grounds (i.e. that the church is no longer used for prayer and services), not on the basis of historic merit, thus, churches being made redundant that have Anglo Saxon roots in a 20th century building.

Advances have been made in recent years regarding Monastic archaeology of the Anglo Saxon period since the 1950’s there has been a resurgence of ecclesiastical architect and art. The most significant contribution has been made by Prof Rosemary Cramp (who excavated the Northumberland Monasteries of Jarrow (1963-71) and Monkwearmouth (1959-71). Also Dr. Taylor (who was responsible for compiling a detailed inventory of pre-Conquest and Saxon Norman churches (1965-1978).

However, as a nation we are still trailing behind compiling church archaeological and architectural evidence in comparison to Germany, Holland and Scandinavia. It is unfortunate that with the destructive urges of modern society and the dire need of repair and restoration, these historic landmarks have been neglected, deconsecrated, pulled down or reconstructed into commercial or domestic premises.

The Photographic Record

Rodwell (1993, 100 – 104) writes:

‘’it is evident that photography is an indispensable aid to almost every aspect of recording but it has been sadly abused and misunderstood. Photographs can be used as a means to support or introduce the drawing but seldom is suitable as the only form of record.’’

Rodwell goes on to discuss the benefits of setting up a light tubular steel tower with which to record tall subjects that is beyond the reach of most archaeologists so it will certainly be out of reach of a student photographer so I will have to consider carefully my approach of method when studying as clearly towers and their construct, arches and their shape and motifs and their character play an important part in identifying specific features of the churches in the Yorkshire region. The photograph no doubt as Rodwell states will convey the general feel of the subject and show its condition while a drawing will bring out details that the photo will find difficult to capture. Therefore I will be using the camera to record finely detailed sculpture where possible and flash will not provide the illumination I require in a vast space as it will flatten a lot of detail out of my subject. Tungsten lighting used with monochrome photography coupled with long exposure may produce a controlled result at a limited cost but in order to study a church at its greatest capacity I will need to know where I can photograph interesting findings and this is the reason behind researching my subject in such a comprehensive way as if I don’t I may miss something of fundamental value. I will also need to be aware of my restrictions in terms of time and movement on location and progress where possible with the best possible natural light if I am to take the best photographs.

As a basic rule of archaeological photography Rodwell advises that universally scale is normally observed on excavations. However, I will not be taking photographs from an archaeological perspective therefore scale will not be an issue necessarily as I am looking to examine the rarity of the objects from an architectural and aesthetic principle of viewing.

I am convinced that ecclesiastical study will be worthwhile and stimulating and I intend to share my results with my participating case studies so that they may pass on any information to their visitors who, like me share an interest in the medieval church which has played a vital role in determining the landscape of England from the earliest Anglo Saxon period right up to today.

Current information from the West Yorkshire Archaeological Service:

‘’In 1987 the West Yorkshire Archaeological Service began a major field survey of the medieval churches in the county. The investigation, carried out by Peter Ryder was intended to provide an archaeological perspective on buildings which had, by and large, escaped detailed study.’’ (See preface to Medieval Churches of West Yorkshire, 1993, Ryder). The publication was concerned with buildings that contain a substantial amount of medieval fabric, however, many other medieval churches in the county for example a chapel of ease which stood beside Bradford Beck (mid 15th century) or Baildon where a chapel has been documented before 1200 remain elusive. This alone points towards a lack of knowledge regarding older church buildings in the area where many are now known to be far more varied than first anticipated. Remnants of Anglo Saxon fabric and the varied geographical evidence in the region illustrates the diversity of stone type and date where buildings were often built on existing sites or adapted over time that overall cover up their true ancestry. Our own local area of Eccleshill in Bradford is old English ‘ecles’ translates as a site of a church in the then known British Kingdom of ‘Elmet’ (now known as West Yorkshire). In AD 627, Paulinus (a missionary from Rome) baptized King Edwim of Northumberia in a wooden church at York. A fusion of Christian teaching with non-Christian tradition is evident (see diagram 15 and 16 in my research folder that originally stood in Dewsbury). This information reveals two things to me as a researcher. That there was Roman presence during this time in Yorkshire and additionally that Celtic influences and teachings were in existence in the same area which must mean that saints like St. Aidan visited the area. Ryder (1993, 12) writes: ‘’While the Roman mission was aimed largely at the ruling classes, Aidan and his Celtic monks preached to the general population.’’ The Domesday Book is also confirmation that churches or other Christian symbols (i.e. preaching crosses) were in existence which give an overall view of the Anglo Saxon and pre-Conquest era. This determines that 42 out of 55 still remaining churches within the present county have a carbon dating of this time and that one can confidently conclude that a system of local churches were already well established.

My research will now turn several case studies of the area depicting those that sustain my interest as a photographer or that reveal through my research interesting facts looking at the separate periods of architecture by examining the archaeological records from the archaeological offices in the region alongside other appropriate information sources.

A conclusion will now be given highlighting the different periods by characteristics looking for points of interest in my case studies and key issues will be identified to look at why these buildings are being destroyed providing evidence where possible.


Bradford Cathedral

An overview:


Photographic Interest:


Fountains Abbey

An overview:


Photographic Interest:


Kirkstall Abbey

An overview:


Photographic Interest:


Rievaulx Abbey

An overview:


Photographic Interest:


Wakefield – Cathedral Church of All Saints

An overview:



Photographic Interest:


Wakefield – Chantry Chapel

An overview:


Photographic Interest:


Whitby Abbey

An overview:


Photographic Interest:


York Minster

An overview:


Photographic Interest:

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