top of page


The church of All Saints' is of great antiquity, and consists of a chancel, nave, north chapel, north aisle, vestry, west tower and south porch.

The nave is that of a little late Saxon and early Norman church, built with large irregular stones, some of which are parts of early carved slabs and cross shafts of Saxon origin. The partial West Tower, before its recent past rebuilding in 1870, was of slightly later date; late 11th century. The original chancel of this church has been destroyed, except, perhaps, a little of its North Wall. A North aisle was added about 1160 and, in the late 13th century, a North Chapel. In the 15th century, the chancel was lengthened and widened southwards to the line of the south wall of the nave, and in 1870 the North aisle was rebuilt. The porch is also of this date.

The site of the church at Kirby Hill is significant. It is on the highest point of the village, and in line with Aldborough (the Roman civil capital Isurium Brigantum) and other probable sites of the Roman crossings of the River Ure. It may be that the present church is on the site of a much earlier, sacred shrine, dating back to Roman or even Celtic times.

Domesday Survey

At the time of the Domesday survey, a 'manor' and six carucates at Kirby Hill belonged to Gospatric. The overlordship was held by the Mowbrays, who probably acquired it from Henry I. The church and one carucate of land were included in their foundation charter to Newburgh Priory 1170.


The wood door is very old and of plain detail, but has been carefully restored, it has fine wrought iron hinges which must be of considerable age. The iron work with its threefold markings might indicate the Trinity. The centre portion of this could date from the 12th century. This ironwork compares with that on the door at Stillingfleet church.


South Porch Doorway

The south porch doorway is Norman and has a plain round head. It occupies the position of a larger and earlier doorway, of which the east jamb, and a few stones of the outer arch remain. In this jamb is a large stone (or impost), carved in a low relief with circular interlacing of Anglian work AD 750 -- 800. This is a very fine example and was possibly brought from Ripon in the 11th century when the doorway was altered. A pre-conquest south doorway shows three arches. The earliest arch represents an entrance of "some dignity."


South Porch

The South porch was rebuilt in 1870 and has a pointed outer archway and two side lights. It contains several ancient worked stones in its walling, one is part of a small octagonal shaft, and another is a small early moulded capital, a third is a base, a fourth a piece of edge roll mould and a fifth a Saxon stone with interlacing pattern, while the sixth and largest is a 13th century coffin slab.



The font is thought to date from the 11th century, and the cover from the 18th century. We can attribute the present state of the font to the 13th and 14th centuries. It appears as if the upper part had been worked into a tub shape of the Norman style rather irregularly from an earlier design and mounted upon a new pedestal. The rough markings and irregular proportions of the interior were left as before, most probably because of its previous sacramental use in pre-conquest days.


West Tower

The tower was most probably built in the late 11th century or early part of the 12th century, just after the nave was built, and was re-constructed in 1870, but the old stones were reused and the lower part remained undisturbed. The window is late 19th century. Inside the tower and base are displayed four Anglo Saxon carved stones. The arch from the nave into the tower is a plain round one with chamfered abaci.


Norman Arcade

The Norman Arcade, which divided the nave from the North aisle was restored in 1870. This Arcade is of two bays, and from the appearance of the stones is an insertion into the Saxon wall. The middle pier is of unusual section, being of a round column with engaged semi-octagonal shafts on its east and west faces. The base moulds are modern, but the capitals are original, though heavily restored in parts.


The Nave

The nave is that of a small early church, built with large irregular stones and it probably dates from the latter part of the 11th century. Note parts of early carved slabs and cross shafts. One of the largest stones in the body looks like the inverted head of a small round-headed light. The South window is mainly of 14th century origin. The first part had two lancets to which a third was added later (more noticeable from outside).
There are two blocked windows at a high-level, which possibly lighted the gallery, which was taken down in 1870.The arch into the chancel is a copy of the archway into the chapel. Built into the arch are a few old stones.


The Chancel

The chancel was originally late 11th and early 12th century work. In the 13th century, the chancel was enlarged. In the 15th century it was widened on the south side so as to bring it in line with the nave walls. A new window was inserted here, the lower part of which formed a wide sedilia (seat). The former small window in this position was rebuilt beyond it so as to give more light to the altar. A hagioscope (squint) was made in the North of the chancel to give a view of the altar from the side chapel. West of it, near the floor, is a socket stone of a cross and built into the wall.


The Chancel (cont.)

The archway into the chapel is of good late 13th century detail, the jambs and being of three engaged shafts with a fillet in the middle shaft. The bases are of two rounds, the capitals moulded, and the arch pointed of two chamfered orders. The stonework of the archway is reddened as if by fire.

The first window on the southside is flush with the east wall and is a plain rectangular light, its stonework is old, but is of uncertain date. The east window is 15th century of three cinquefoiled lights under a three-centred arch.


The Chancel (cont.)

The Priest's doorway (seen more clearly from the outside) is of the 15th century and has a four-centred external head with a flat internal lintel. The window west of the doorway is an old rectangular light, like the former and set low.
The south wall consists of coursed square rubble, in the east wall it is more rectangular and has large quoins at the angles.
Note the corbel to the left of the arch into the nave, it is of the original Norman chancel and has been carefully preserved.
Possibly, only a little of the North Wall of the original 13th century chancel remains.


North Aisle

The North aisle (not in its present state) was originally added about 1160. The aisle is separated from the nave by an arcade of three arches, two of which are Norman, and one Gothic. In 1870, in pulling down the walls of the former aisle, a fragment of tracery was found belonging to a decorated window. The design was traced and has been carried out in the new Windows. Most of the windows are square-headed. Five have been fitted with memorial stained glass in the late 1800's by Hardmans.

North Chapel

In the 13th century, a North Chapel was added, and this was heavily restored in 1870.
The modern east window is of 14th century character; the North window is similar in type, but retains an old stone or two in the inner jambs.
A 'modern' arch spans the West End of the chapel, but its South jamb is a carved 12th century impost with hatched and sunk star ornament, and with a cable mould in the hollow chamfer of its underside. It is perhaps taken from the former Norman chancel arch in the 14 century.


The vestry was moved from the East End of the present chapel in 1974 to the west end of the North aisle. Standing against the south wall is an interesting cupboard, made up of 17th century paneling. On its door are the initials E C/W C 1699. The initials W C could stand for William Clarke of Boroughbridge, who died in 1707. He had close connections with the church at this time. The cupboard was, in fact, formed at a much later date than 1699, from portions of one of the box pews. Quote from parish register "whereas William Clark of Borrowbridge left 40s for the poor of Kirby-Hill to be paid by 10/- at a time, every Christmas till the said sum of 40s be wholly pay'd". (This cupboard is now in the North Chapel).


All the seats are of oak, made from the original design, with carved poppy head finials. When they were restored in 1870, the 15th century seats were reused, wherever possible. Poppy heads have the lily, symbol of the Virgin Mary, and underneath the cross.
The pew ends were a bequest of Lady Jean Warde of Givendale in 1473.
In 1870, the box pews were turned back into bench pews.
In the 16th century carved wooden altar rails were erected across the chancel for the use of kneeling communicants.
The Church chest, now in the base of the tower, is late 16th century or early 17th century and it has three clasps for locks. The vicar and two churchwardens would each have kept a key.
The altar table is probably 18th-century. The altar rails in the North Chapel were erected in 1974 and carved by a local craftsmen.
It has been suggested that the Altar rails originally formed a banister with two newel posts – possibly taken from Newborough Priory at the dissolution. It is most rare – possibly unique – to have such posts along the length of a communion rail.


Do try to walk around the outside of the church when visiting. Start in the porch, notice the Anglo-Saxon stone remains and the doorway showing three arches.
The walling to the east of the porch (nave), contains very large stones, and one that looks like the inverted head of a small round headed window. The window, has an extra lancet added.
An obvious dividing line is seen where the chapel was widened in the 15th century, to be in line with a wall of the nave. The 15th century priests door is very obvious, blocked up from the inside. The walling here is of more coursed, squared rubble. Note the large quoins at the angles. Walk around the East End of the church, the walling of the chancel is more a regular here. The window is 15th century, the next window (North Chapel) is Victorian.
Walk along and round to the tower. Many of the old stones were reused in the reconstruction of the tower in 1870. No external break or string course defines the lowest storey from the second, which is lighted by small lancets, but a moulded string defines the second from the third or bell chamber. The plain projecting parapet, carried on a corbel table, is Victorian. The plinth on the west side of the tower is of unusually large projection, and there are some large stones in the lower walling; one of these at the South West angle is clearly Roman and has a sunk panel, which once contained a 13 line inscription. Unfortunately, it is now very badly weathered. It was a posthumous dedication to either Antonins Pius or Caracalla, the first such recorded from Roman Britain. There are more details on a leaflet in church.

bottom of page