Adel Church remains one of the best examples of Norman architecture in Britain. The grade I listed 12th century building features a corbel table of 78 grotesque heads, an elaborately carved doorway and chancel arch. The sculptured stonework round the south door has deteriorated since a large stone porch was removed in 1816. On the Great Door is a copy of the original Adel Sanctuary Ring which was bronze cast in York in 1200. A man’s head protrudes from the mouth of a lion and the moveable decorated ring passes through the lion’s mouth. This closing ring or door knocker is similar to the sanctuary ring at All Saints’, Pavement, York.
The carvings on Chancel Arch remain almost as sharp as 850 years ago (1150-1160). There are 37 different grotesque beakheads around the arch. Carvings on the capitals of the supporting pillars, include a centaur with bow and arrow, a favoured device of King Stephen (1135-1154) who visited Leeds and whose Mother, Adela, was William the Conqueror’s daughter.
The vestry is lit by a large 3-light Armorial east window dated 1681. The stained and painted glass by Henry Giles of York depicts the Royal Arms of Charles II and also the Arms of the Arthington (Patron) family, the Arms of Rector Bearey and the Arms of Thomas Kirke. Two of the Hatchments that once hung in the chancel, are now in the vestry, one shows the Arthington Arms. In 1706, a small panel of coloured glass was painted and given by Henry Giles as a tribute to Thomas Kirke. This panel now forms part of the glass in 14th c. 2-light Lepers’ window in the Chancel.
The stained glass by F.C.Eden, in one of the 16th century windows in the Nave, was put in during 1933 as a memorial to Colonel Arthur Bray. It is known as the Norman History Window and shows, top centre, St Martin of Tours giving half his cloak to a beggar. St Martin founded a monastery at Marmoutier in Normandy.
Abbot Alan, centre, sent monks from this monastery to York. It was the monks from York who were endowed with the wooden Adel Church in 1089 by Ralph Paganel and they later rebuilt the church in stone from a local quarry. Ralph the Lord of Adel Manor is shown on the left and his Norman Overlord, Ilbert de Lacy is shown on the right. The York monks received an annual pension from Adel but they did not receive the tithes, hence Adel has always been served by a Rector. In 1152, the Cistercian Abbey at Kirkstall was founded. Some farm land in the old parish of Adel was given to the Kirkstall monks in the 12th and 13th centuries. The old parish included Adel, Arthington, Breary, Cookridge and Eccup. Adel Church is situated near the site of the Roman fort of Burgodunum on the ancient road from Ilkley to York via Tadcaster. Some Roman and Saxon stones and two Norman stone coffins can be seen near the churchyard gate.
The Font and Canopy
At the west end of the Nave is a medieval octagonal gritstone font with an amazing carved oak canopy.
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