St Martin's collegiate church and medieval standing cross, Lowthorpe
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1018404
Date first listed: 11-Dec-1951
Date of most recent amendment: 02-Dec-1998
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: TA 07914 60809
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
The term college is used to describe a variety of different types of
establishment whose communities of secular clergy shared a degree of common
life less strictly controlled than that within a monastic order. Although some
may date to as early as the tenth century, the majority of English colleges
were founded in the 14th or 15th centuries. Most were subsequently closed down
under the Chantries Act of 1547.
Colleges of the prebendal or portional type were set up as secular chapters,
both as an alternative to the structure of contemporary monastic houses and to
provide positions for clerics whose services the monastic establishment wished
to reward. Some barons followed suit by setting up colleges within their
castles, while others were founded by the Crown for the canons who served
royal free chapels. Foundations of this type were generally staffed by
prebends or portioners (priests taking their income from the tithes, or other
income deriving from a village or manor). After 1300, chantry colleges became
more common. These were establishments of priests, financed from a common
fund, whose prime concern was to offer masses for the souls of the patron and
the patron's family. They may also have housed bedesmen (deserving poor and
elderly) and provided an educational facility which in some cases eventually
came to dominate their other activities.
From historical sources it is known that approximately 300 separate colleges
existed during the early medieval and medieval period; of these, 167 were in
existence in 1509, made up of 71 prebendal or portional colleges, 64 chantry
colleges and 32 whose function was primarily academic.
In view of the importance of colleges in contributing to our understanding of
ecclesiastical history, and given the rarity of known surviving examples, all
identified colleges which retain surviving archaeological remains are
considered to be nationally important.
St Martin's collegiate church is well documented and retains significant upstanding medieval fabric which can be related to that documented history. Its importance is heightened by the survival of features that were often removed or covered over during 19th century restoration. This includes fragments of medieval wall plaster and mortar as well as architectural features such as the piscina. The monument's importance is heightened by the inclusion of a standing cross. These were mostly erected during the medieval period (mid-10th to mid-16th centuries) and served a variety of functions. In churchyards they acted as stations for outside processions, particularly in the observance of Palm Sunday. Elsewhere, standing crosses were used within settlements as places for preaching, public proclamation and penance, as well as defining the rights of sanctuary. They were also employed to mark boundaries between parishes, property or settlements. Crosses in market places may also have helped to validate transactions. Standing crosses were distributed throughout England and are thought to have numbered in excess of 12,000. However, their survival since the Reformation has been variable, being much affected by local conditions and attitudes. In particular many cross heads were destroyed by iconoclasts during the 16th and 17th centuries. Less than 2,000 medieval standing crosses, with or without heads, are thought to survive. The oldest and most basic form is the monolith, a stone shaft often set directly into the ground without a base. The most common form is the stepped cross in which the shaft is set into a socket stone and raised upon a flight of steps. Where the cross head survives it can take a variety of forms, the more elaborate examples dating to the 15th century. Standing crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval customs, both secular and religious, and to our knowledge of medieval parishes and settlement patterns. All crosses which survive as standing monuments, especially those which stand in of near their original location, are considered to be worthy of protection. The example within the easternmost bay of St Martin's Church is thought to be 14th century in date. Its carving is well preserved and it is a good example of its type.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the ruined and buried remains of the collegiate church
of St Martin, Lowthorpe, together with a stone cross identified as the Old
Market Cross from Kilham. The nave of the medieval church, restored in the
19th century, is still in ecclesiastical use and is excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. The church is a Grade II*
The earliest reference to a church in Lowthorpe is in the Domesday Book which
lists a church as part of one of the three manors with land in the village.
Its pre-conquest origins are further supported by the find in 1936 of part of
an early 11th century cross buried in the churchyard. The main part of the
surviving church has a 13th century four bayed nave, although this was
restored in the 19th century. By 1312, Lowthorpe had acquired a chapel at
Ruston and in 1333 the lord of the manor, Sir John de Heslerton, was granted
a licence to found a college with a master and six chantry priests. The
contemporary documentation details the regulations of the college and
specified that the priests' accommodation should include a hall, chambers,
kitchen, bakehouse, brewhouse and loft. In addition to the priests, the
college was also to include three clerks. The eastward extension of the
church, the building of a three bayed chancel, is thought to date to the
establishment of the college. In 1364 Thomas de Heslerton founded a seventh
chantry and gave his property in Lowthorpe to the college; eight years later
Simon de Heslerton gave a further grant of land. Several surviving deeds of
this time show that the college had become an important local landowner, with
the college's prosperity demonstrated by the addition of the tower at the west
end of the church in the late 14th or early 15th century. At the Dissolution
of the chantries in 1548, the fortunes of the college had declined, leaving a
master, four priests and two clerks, and it is considered that the chancel had
already been shortened by one bay by this time. St Martin's was converted into
a parish church with the master remaining as rector and the priests pensioned
off. In the 17th century a mullioned window was inserted into the east wall
and some time later the church was shortened further by the construction of a
brick wall behind the chancel arch, reducing the church to the medieval nave.
The part of the church that remains in use was restored in 1859, when the
south porch was added. The ruined part of the chancel was consolidated in the
The church is simple in form with no side chapels, aisles, or transepts. The
nave is of four narrow bays, in total about the same length as the two
standing bays of the chancel, and thus the nave would have been shorter than
the earlier three bayed chancel. The north and south walls of the shortened
two bayed chancel survive to eaves height along most of their length, with
the east gable wall surviving to a slightly higher level. The north wall
contains a pair of three light early 14th century windows with high quality
reticulated tracery, now blocked with brick. A third similar window is in the
western bay of the south wall, with a small priests' door occupying the east
side of the eastern bay. The east wall, which internally can be seen to have
been inserted, contains a large pointed Gothic window, blocked with stone with
an inserted mullioned window which in turn has been blocked. Internally there
is a reset trefoil headed piscina just inside from the priests' door on the
east wall. Also internally there is a small blocked window high up above the
priests' door which cannot be identified externally, implying that the outer
face of the south wall was rebuilt covering the window. At the base of the
south wall there is a plinth course which ends at the eastern end of the
westernmost chancel bay. This is believed to mark the extent of the chancel
before the early 14th century expansion of the church. The two angle
buttresses on the east wall retain part of the framing for another pair of
windows which would have been part of the easternmost bay of the chancel
which is considered to have become disused before the Dissolution. Internally
in the south buttress there is a large rectangular niche which is thought to
be the remains of a sedilia. The extent of the easternmost bay can be seen by
a platform that extends eastwards into the churchyard for 6m beyond the
standing east wall after which the ground surface drops away by about 0.2m.
Within this platform, which is now part of the churchyard, there are a number
of Victorian grave memorials, together with a carved sandstone medieval
standing cross set centrally next to the east wall. This stone cross, which is
also Listed Grade II*, stands 2m tall with a pillar tapering from 36cm by 24cm
to 25cm by 24cm capped with a Maltese cross head 48cm across. The cross
appears to be set directly into the ground with no socket stone or other base
visible. The cross head's central rosette is very similar in design to those
on the chancel arch within the church, although the cross is reputed to be the
resited market cross from Killham, the base for which is thought to lie on
Rudston village green. The cross is said to have been moved to stop people in
Kilham congregating during an outbreak of plague.
The church is now the only identifiable evidence for the medieval college.
Further college buildings are likely to have stood around it, but the ground
here remains in active use for burial and thus is not included in the
The above ground part of the church which is still roofed, being the medieval
nave with the later brick built sanctury at its east end, the tower and south
porch, are still in ecclesiastical use and are thus excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included. The
Victorian grave memorials are also excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 30143
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Mann, F, 'Guide to local studies in East Yorkshire' in Medieval Church History, (1985), 58-74
NB confuses 2 crosses, SMR, 3658,
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing