Seeking the Romanesque iii – North Grimston

Heading north out of Wolds I crossed into North Yorkshire and stopped to check out St Nicholas church at North Grimston. The church was built in the 12th century and has been remodelled over the years.

There are a number of corbels on the south wall, two of which are reputed to be of the exhibitionist type, one depicts a character gripping his ankles baring his backside and groin to the viewer, the other is a bloke in a similar position but with his penis in his hand. Sadly both are very worn and the detail is lost.

Rita Wood thinks that this carving of two animals may once have been from the original south doorway which was replaced in the 13th century. It reminded me of the small panel on the church at Newton under Roseberry.

I tried the church door, fully prepared to be disappointed, it opened, another jaw-dropping moment. I’d seen pictures of this stunning font but to have it there in front of me, to be able to put my hands on it, is an indescribable joy.

The font is one of the biggest in the country and depicts the the last supper and the crucifixion. There is a depiction of a bishop too, it seems to be the way of things that the bishop gets to feature on the font, I guess he commissioned this thing of beauty so pretty much deserves to be there.

The chancel arch, if I were to see this in any of our local churches I’d get quite excited but all I could think about was the magnificent font.

Back outside the church I took another wander around the walls. There are a number of small crosses scratched into the east and west walls, the crosses have been defined by four dots. I presume these are consecration crosses, places where the bishop anointed the original church with holy oil.


Etymology note

In old Norse Grimr is used as a byname for Óðinn. The name is identical with ON grimr ‘a person who conceals his name’, lit. ‘a masked person’, and related to OE grima ‘a mask’. It refers, like Grimnir to Óðinn‘s well known habit of appearing in disguise. No dout the Saxons used Grim in the same Way.

E. Ekwall


The Buildings of England Yorkshire: York and the East Riding – Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave. 1997

Romanesque Yorkshire. Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Occasional Paper No. 9 – Rita Wood. 2012

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names. Eilert Ekwall. 1974

5 thoughts on “Seeking the Romanesque iii – North Grimston

  1. Ironopolis,

    Great post again and more of the font too. Brilliant.

    By the way I bought a copy of ‘On Blackamoor’ and I’ve read it twle and ce. The book is superb, my choice reading time is when the house is quiet and I can sit with the book and malt and the woodturner going when everyone is in bed. I lived as a child with an Uncle and Aunt on a farm in Bilsdale that backed onto Coldmoor so it was more recent memory trip for me, however a brilliant book. Please pass on my thanks to friend a truly scholarly piece of research and writing.

    All the best, John

  2. What fantastic stonework…! A treat to see such amazing corbels – to have the font and arch inside too is great – especially in this time of closed churches…. I will put it on the ‘must visit’ list….
    Bishops on fonts reminds me of one of my favourite places – Lostwithiel in Cornwall – a ‘green man’ bishop adorns the font there – unique I believe… and on a node where the Michael and Mary lines cross – for those with ley leanings….. (Alfred Watkins anniversary of ‘leys’ this june…!!)

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