A History of
the Grade I listed
13th Century
Parish Church

St Peter's

East Yorkshire
St Peter's, Wawne, England, from the South
this lovely photo supplied by Ann Rogerson (copyright)

The background map is visible full screen if you
scroll to the very end of this page - and use F11

of the

by Merrill Rhodes

The first known reference to a church at Waghen was in 1115 when Stephen, Earl of Albemarle, granted it to the Abbey of St Martin, Aumale, in Normandy. William le Gros, his son, and founder of the Abbey of Meaux, also gave the church to Meaux Abbey c. 1150; and this confusion led to several lengthy disputes between the two abbeys, further complicated by the intervention of the archbishops of York.

In the time of Thomas, 3rd Abbot (1186-1197), it was resolved that Meaux Abbey was to pay yearly to the church of Waghen, 2lbs of wax, and that the Abbey should be free from the payment of tithes. Although the agreement concerning wax lapsed, the question of tithes paid by the monks came to litigation as late as 1822!

About 1160, William le Gros confirmed the gift by his father of the church of Waghen to the French Abbey, and mentioned the chapel of Sutton as being a dependant chapel, or Chapel of Ease, to the Mother Church of Waghen. On certain festivals, the worshippers of Sutton were forced to travel to the church of Waghen to hear Mass and pay their tithes and other financial dues to the Mother Church, moneys which frequently became a source of dispute between Mother Church and Chapel. Although Sutton villagers could attend daily worship in their own chapel and not make the long journey to Waghen, they had the expense of building and maintaining their chapel, as well as paying the rights and fees of baptism, marriage and burial, to the Mother Church. Poulson (published 1840) states that the chapel of Sutton was separated from the Mother Church of Waghen in 1223, but Sutton inhabitants were paying dues to Waghen until well after this date, and Waghen retained the right of burial until much later. However, the present font at Sutton church, of c.1200, was probably used for baptisms in Sutton.

In November 1230 the church of Waghen was acquired by the Chancellor of York Minster, who became the Rector of Waghen, the chancellors of York retaining jurisdiction over the church until the mid 19th century. The rectorial tithes then passed to the Archbishop of York.

In 1244 it is said that the Vicar of Waghen, Richard de Overton, had assigned to him ' the mansion house on the west side of the church, in which the chaplain of the church used to inhabit, and have the whole altarage of the church of Waghen and chapel of Sutton, excepting to the rector and his successors, the tithes of hay, wool and lamb of the said church and chapel, and the vicar shall bear all the burdens of the said church and chapel pertaining to the services thereof.' (Poulson)

By 1246 the advowson, or right of nominating the Incumbent, or Priest, of the Chapel of Sutton, had become independent of that of Waghen; and by 1291, although not formally independent of the Mother Church, Sutton was regarded as a Rectory, with the Rector receiving financial dues from the inhabitants. This resulted in continuing disputes between Sutton and Waghen, whose rector and vicar still claimed payment of burial fees and other moneys, sources of income they did not wish to lose, but which the inhabitants of Sutton, equally understandably, did not wish to pay.

Eventually, in 1447 the Archbishop of York, acting as arbitrator between Sutton and Rome, decreed that all mortuary rights were to belong to Waghen; the chapel and rectory of Sutton were still to remain in Waghen parish; and the parishioners of Sutton still had to pay mortuaries and other dues to contribute towards the repair of Waghen church. More disputes followed. By 1454, in return for a sum of money, Sutton received its own right of burial. Still, ' the inhabitants of Sutton do, over and above the other burdens to be borne, touching the repairs of the nave in the parish church of Waghen, pay into the hands of the parishioners 4, in part of the 6, towards the founding of the new bells thereof'. (Poulson)


Wawne church is built of stone, and repaired in brick. It consists of chancel, nave with north and south aisle, and the tower, which is built in an unusual position - at the West end of the North aisle of the nave. Of the original church existing in the 12th century nothing is visible except some square 'Norman' stones built into the west wall. The best features are Early English; the wide chancel and its simple Y-tracery; the austerely simple sedilia (the stone seats on the south side of the chancel for the celebrant at Mass and for his assistants) and the piscina (the drain for rinsing the holy vessels), confirming the date of the chancel as being late 13th century. The priest's doorway of the same period, or somewhat earlier, leading into the modern vestry, would formerly have led by a pathway to the priest's house at the west of the church. In the days when the chancel was the responsibility of the Rector, the Chancellor of York may well have directed its building, after the acquisition of 1230.

Also Early English is the wide nave, with both arcades of pointed arches, the south one of four bays, the north of three, so as to accommodate the tower. The 13th century north arcade with its water-holding bases is probably earlier than the south arcade, the bases of which lack this feature. The lower part of the tower, of the same period, has a small lancet window in the west face; the exterior wall suggests that it used to be larger, with an Early English corbel visible at some distance above the existing window. This window was blocked pre-1840, but opened up again in 1874. The north face has a square-headed window, of two trefoiled lights.

The tower was raised during the 15th century, the Perpendicular period, apparent in the lofty pointed belfry window in the upper stage, of two lights, with a transom; the lights cinquefoiled, and a quatrefoil in the arch. The tower has a plain square parapet. Bells were probably installed at the same time, for mention is made of them in 1454.

Talk of the bells landed a certain William Middleton in trouble in 1495. He had happened to say that it was better to have a service without ringing the bell than to have no service - 'it wer better unronge at ye saunt' tyme yan messe unsogne' . On 26 December he was pursued in Waghen Main Street by John of Cottingham and four other armed men, threatening to kill him with a pole-axe. He ran into the church, where a service was in progress. The congregation was terrified, and it was only after ten hours that William's assailants went away. ' For dred of dede' (dread of death), William left the country. Although the proceedings in Chancery are recorded, the outcome is not known.

Poulson notes that c.1837 there were four bells, but it is thought that during the 1874 restoration they were cast into a peal of three and re-hung. They had originally been cast in the 17th century, one by John Conyers, in 1632. The others were dated 1629 and 1638.

Before 1840 there was a bell-ringers' room opposite the south-west vestry, in which was painted on a pillar:

Ringers' Orders - If any ring with hat or spurs on, shall forfeit sixpence; if any ringer be wanting two peals, shall pay 6d; if swear in the church, shall pay one shilling; if any walk in the church with hat on, shall pay one pen.

The south doorway has a pointed 4-centred arch, with a dripstone terminating in heads, typical of the 15th century, as are the windows of the embattled aisles. The south aisle has angle buttresses at its corners; and three square-headed Perpendicular windows, each of two lights, cinquefoiled. At the east end of the aisle is a square-headed window of three lights, cinquefoiled; and another, at the west end, of two lights. The north aisle also has square-headed Perpendicular windows. Both aisles are battlemented.

There are three pointed Perpendicular clerestory windows on the south of the nave, and two on the north, each of two cinquefoiled lights.

The splendid west window dates from the mid 15th century, and is of five cinquefoiled lights. It is considered to be one of the finest of its type in the country, being large and pointed, with rich Perpendicular tracery.

The font, possibly dating from the Perpendicular period, is octagonal, with a blank quatrefoil in each face. In medieval times, it had been the custom for the holy water to remain in the font for long periods, but to prevent the water being used for black magic purposes, it was ordered that fonts should be locked. When the covers were ripped away after the Reformation, fonts were badly damaged, and still bear the marks around the rim of later repair work. Wawne font was moved in 1874 to the north-west corner of the nave, and then to its present position in the south-west corner in 1973.

The nave is divided from the aisles by three low circular piers on the south side, and two on the north, with plain pointed arches. Before the Dissolution (Meaux was dissolved in 1539), the interior walls of the church would have been decorated with religious paintings. Soon after the Reformation, the church fell into a state of disrepair; in 1567 the painted rood loft and the windows were in decay, and the ' Bible torn in certain places' . The porch, probably of the Perpendicular period, and then possibly on the south side, fell down in 1578 and had to be re-built. Four years later the vicarage house was being used as a barn for cattle; and by 1596 the chancel was in a state of decay (though it seems that pews were sited in the nave at this time).

The existing altar table, of solid oak, bears the date 1637. The initials of the two churchwardens, WA and TS, can be seen.

The Parish Registers date from 1653.

There must have been a clock by 1763, when 'clock-oil' is mentioned in the accounts.

By 1768 there existed a vestry, with a lock, probably at the west end of the south aisle.

Baines' Directory of 1822 states; 'The church is a small, ancient edifice, the seats of which have never been renewed, and are much corroded by time' . Two pews bore the date of 1590. Perhaps because of this indifferent description, St Peter's was 'thoroughly repaired and repewed' not long afterwards. Poulson's History of Holderness (c.1837-40) gives a picture of the interior at that time: 'The West end of the North aisle is concealed under the tower, but there has been a communication with this aisle and the nave by arches, now blocked up. The chancel arch is pointed and plain; an old screen is under, with the Royal Arms, dated 1739, the Lord's Prayer, and Belief. The chancel is open to the roof. On the South side, a water drain and three sedillias, also a square recess in the wall, and another of the same description, perhaps the ancient aumbries; the latter is furnished with a door. The Commandments on each side the East window; the floor brick, and three floor stones.'

The nave underwent a thorough restoration in 1874 when the church was closed for nearly three years. The walls and roofs were taken down, and new walls of large flat-bedded rubble stone faced with Tadcaster stone were erected. New parapets were built to the south aisle; the floor of the tower lowered; the floor of the nave taken up and re-concreted; and the north brick porch removed and the present one built. The existing vestry off the chancel was built, a vestry having previously been sited in the south-west corner. Inside this was a large table monument with a black marble slab for a top. The slab is now part of the table in the present vestry. The nave was again re-seated. The work cost about 1,500, and the villagers raised some of the money by concerts, etc. The bill of the architect, Mr JM Teale, came to 107. York builder and joiner, William Dennison, was paid 787.12s.0d. A fund-raising committee was set up. People who had been involved with the church were contacted One of the contributors was the previous incumbent, Canon Crossthwaite, then Bishop of Beverley, who sent 15.10s.Od.

Another fund-raising event occurred in July 1902, when the villagers raised 211.9s.7d. for a new organ, by running a Grand Bazaar. New lamps to improve the lighting were also installed at this time. Shortly afterwards, the Church Commissioners commenced a thorough restoration of the chancel, when the east window was re-constructed and enlarged. No doubt the wealthy landowning family, the Windhams of Wawne Hall, were heavily involved in these restorations. A memorial tablet and stained glass window were set up in 1887 in memory of William George Windham; and his father, Ashe, had the churchyard enlarged the following year.

After the Great War, a Celtic Cross was erected in the churchyard in memory of George Warner Brown. During the Second World War, the army erected a temporary shed on the tower for surveillance purposes, and the vicarage was requisitioned. Wawne again lost one of its young men – Arthur Bromby, in whose memory a plaque is mounted in the church.

Around 1930 the tower was re-pointed.

In January 1964, memorials to Alexander and Adelaide Alec-Smith, of Wawne Lodge, were dedicated. The crimson Dossal, or altar curtain, is of Venetian rayon and cotton, and the Pall is woven of Portuguese damask. The memorial tablet, of Portland stone, designed by Bridlington architect Francis Johnson, was made by York sculptor Richard Reid.

Repairs to the exterior fabric of the church were necessary in 1969. The weathered medieval brickwork of the north clerestory was replaced; most of the nave was re-pointed; the large, post-medieval buttress on the north side was rebuilt; the roof was repaired; and a new clock, with a lighter mechanism, was supplied at about the same time.

Wawne villagers have supported fund-raising events for the church during the present century, led by the late Mrs Muriel Rogerson in particular. Although electricity was introduced into the village just before the War, the church was still lit by paraffin lamps, and heated by an unreliable coke stove. Mrs Rogerson was instigative in the funding of electricity in the church. Later, she raised funds for a choir vestry to be installed under the tower in the north-west corner. In 1973 the font was moved to the south-west corner, and the screens forming the vestry were carved in the workshop of Mr Thompson of Kilburn. Two mice carved into the woodwork are indicative of this craftsmanship. The cost of the new vestry was 1,393, and the dedication took place in February, 1974.

In the north-east corner of the nave lie the broken tomb slabs of what was reputedly the monumental effigy of Thomas Burton, 21st abbot, the writer of the Chronicles of Meaux. Removed from the abbey ruins, the fragments remained in the garden of Mr Wise of Meaux until the last century, later being brought into the church.

In 1975, a service at St Peter's was recorded for Radio Humberside. Mrs Elizabeth (Tet) Swift initiated the task of carpeting the church at about that time. Sadly, she died before the completion of the work - in 1978 - and her husband, Bob, finished the project with a new green carpet, improving the warmth and appearance of the interior.

At present, the carpet is in store, for recently St Peter’s has had a gas central heating system installed.

During the 1980s, again under the leadership of Mrs Rogerson, the villagers raised the sum of 10,000 for the purpose of restoring the 17th century bells. In 1983 they were removed from the belfry, and subsequently were re-cast and tuned by John Taylor & Co. (Bellfounders) and restored, as pre-1874, to a peal of four. On 6 February, 1989, the bells were re-hung in a steel frame. This was made in Wawne by voluntary labour, under the direction of Mr Alan Turner. The bells were dedicated on 9 April 1989.

In 1993 a new Altar Book was presented to Wawne church in memory of Mr Fred Beaulah, whose family have lived in Wawne for more than a century.


Article written by Merrill Rhodes
with thanks to Mr Geoff Bell
for checking and revising the script.

Restorations and Alterations
together with other important dates

1115 . . First known mention of church at Waghen

c.1150 . . William le Gros gave church of Waghen to Meaux Abbey

1230 . . Church with chapels and other appurtenances annexed to Chancellorship of St Peter's, York

1230+ . . Chancel with sedilia and piscina; lower part of tower constructed; priest’s doorway; north arcade

1400s . . Clerestory of brick; tower raised, in Perpendicular style; windows of embattled aisles; West window constructed; font

1454 . . First mention of bells

1539 . . Dissolution of Meaux Abbey
Paintings decorating the walls removed (minute traces visible in North aisle above arcade)

1567 . . Painted rood loft and windows in decay

1578 . . Porch 'taken down' (it fell down)

1582 . . Vicarage house used as barn for cattle

1596 . . Chancel in state of decay

1629, 1632, 1638 New bells

1637 . . Oak altar table, with initials of incumbent and churchwardens inscribed

1653 . . First parish registers still in existence

1743 . . Archbishop Herring's Visitation

1763 . . First mention of clock

1768 . . First mention of vestry

1789 . . Singing master and instrumental group regularly performing in church

1793 . . Bass (base) for pulpit - cost 9d.

Strings for fiddles supplied and bows rehaired

c.1830 . . Church 'thoroughly repaired and repewed'

1847 . . New Parsonage built at cost of 390? (possibly only planned)

1850 . . New Parsonage built, or previous one re-built, cost 840.10s.

1866 . . Special Service of Prayer throughout Diocese on account of Cattle Plague

1872 . . St Mary's Chapel of Ease erected at Meaux by Ecclesiastical Commissioners

New Parsonage begun, to cost 1,800

1874 . . Extensive Restoration :

Roofs taken down, and entire building re-roofed (Chancel roof had been

raised in 1400s, but now lowered – marks can be seen at east end)

New walls of large flat-bedded rubble stone faced both sides with Tadcaster stone

New parapets south aisle

Porch removed and new one built

Present vestry erected off the chancel (unfortunately blocks nave window)

Floor of tower lowered

Clock raised to new floor

Archways under tower which were blocked with masonry, now opened up

Blocked window at west side of tower re-opened

Bells cast in peal of three, cost 106.19s.02d.

All windows except two re-glazed

New doors with wrought iron hooks (hinges)

Floor of nave taken up and re-concreted

New seats, of pitch pine, to replace those of c.1830 – providing 239 sittings

Old oak chancel screen removed

New oak pulpit, cost 35; now at east end, previously at south-west

New reading desk, cost 12

Font removed to north-west corner

1886 . . New organ erected at west end, cost 60. Sittings now 181

1887 . . Service of Thanksgiving throughout country for Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria

Wall tablet in memory of Wm George Windham

Stained glass window in memory of WGW, d. 26.12.1887, aged 59. Signed by glazier Charles Gibbs, London

1888 . . Churchyard enlarged by 1000 sq.yards of land, given by Mr Ashe Windham

1902/3 . . Chancel restored by Ecclesiastical Commissioners

East window re-constructed in geometric-style tracery, and enlarged

New organ, erected in present position at south-east of nave

1919 . . Faculty obtained for Celtic Cross to be erected in churchyard in memory of GW Brown

1930 . . Tower re-pointed

1940s . . Vicarage requisitioned by army

1964 . . Memorials to Alexander & Adelaide Smith dedicated - Dossal, Pall and Memorial Tablet

1969 . . North clerestory brickwork repaired

Nave re-pointed

Roof repaired

New clock

1973 . . Font moved to south-west corner

1974 . . New choir vestry dedicated in north-west corner, 3.2.1974 Cost 1,393 Joiner Thompson's workshops of Kilburn

1975 . . Radio Humberside Service

c.1979 . . Church carpeted

1989 . . Bells cast into peal of four and re-hung; dedication 9 April

1993 . . Gift of Altar Book in memory of Mr Fred Beaulah

2000 . . Gas central heating installed


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