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St James' Church, Louth

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Reference Name MLI41404

St James' Church, Louth

St James' Church, Louth


The present church of St James is mainly Perpendicular in style, and is thought to have been built in approximately 1430. The tower dates to 1440-45 and the tall spire to 1501-1515. Restoration took place throughout the nineteenth century, beginning in 1805, with the main restorations done by Fowler in 1860 and 1868-69. The spire was struck by lightning in 1843 and raised by seven feet when restoration took place in 1844. Twentieth century restoration took place post-1950. The spire was partly restored in 1936-37. For the full description and the legal address of this listed building please refer to the appropriate List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. {1}{2}{3}{4}
The site of the church of St James has also revealed traces of an earlier church, dating to 1170. The chapel on the north side of the chancel contains two angels in wood and some renovated medieval stalls. During restoration work in 1868, the architect found walls under the existing church, believed to be the remains of the earlier church. Stones with Norman mouldings were also found. Mee believes the earlier church to be transitional and dedicated to St Herefrith, but the first reference to the church of St Herefrith occurs in 1257, some time after St James came into use, casting doubt on Mee's interpretation. {5}{6}{7}

A. Owen in his article on Herefrith of Louth also suggests St James's as the site of St. Herefrith/Herifrid. He suggests a joint dedication of both saints in the same church, however the names have never been formally coupled together. He goes on to suggest that St. James gradually supplanted St. Herefrith as he became more popular. However there is no supportive evidence to A. Owens theories on the dedication of the church. {11}{12}{13}{14}

There is evidence of two prior churches on this site, little is known of the previous churches, although there is a mention in the charters of Lincolns Cathedral in the thirteenth century of a church in Louth, which was finished in 1247. This church was in use for approximately 180 years and was smaller than the present church. 1499 saw the preparations for building the spire, which was completed sixteen years later. The original weathercock was said to have been made out of a large copper basin in which was allegedly part of the booty taken at Flodden in 1513, when James IV of Scotland was slain. Since its erection, the tower of the church has sunk several inches into the ground. {10}

A watching brief in 1999 revealed several features relating to the church. Beneath quarry tiles in the north porch, construction layers were revealed and these are thought to relate to the nineteenth century rebuilding. Beneath these, another layer of construction debris was recorded, again either dating to the nineteenth century or perhaps to an earlier phase. An undated pit and two layers of construction debris beneath these construction layers were stratigraphically earlier than the above, possibly relating to an earlier north porch or a phase of church construction. {8}{9}

1 Index: SMR. Sites and Monuments Record Card Index. TF 38 NW: AA, 1977, TMA
2 Index: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Card Index. TF 38 NW: 17, 1963, Seaman, B.H.
3 Bibliographic Reference: Pevsner, N. and Harris, J., with Antram, N.. 1989. Buildings of England (Second Edition). Lincolnshire. pp.538-40
4 Index: Department of the Environment. 1974. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. 1/19 (283.001)
5 Article in Serial: CRESSWELL J J. 1898. Associated Architectural and Archaeological Societies’ Reports and Papers. vol.24, pp.57-62
6 Bibliographic Reference: MEE, A.. 1970. THE KING'S ENGLAND. p.258
7 Bibliographic Reference: FIELD, F.N.. 1978. LOUTH: THE HIDDEN TOWN. p.15
8 Intervention Report: Pre-Construct Archaeology. April 1999. St James' Church, Louth. SJL99
9 Excavation Archive: Pre-Construct Archaeology. April 1999. St James' Church, Louth. LCNCC 36.99
10 Bibliographic Reference: Burton, Humphrey W.. The Story of Louth Parish Church (St James). p.13
11 Bibliographic Reference: White, William. 1856. History, Gazetteer and Directory of Lincolnshire - Second Edition. p.248
12 Article in Serial: Owen, A.E.B.. 1980. 'Herefrith of Louth, Saint and Bishop: A Problem of Identities' in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology. vol.15, pp.15-9
13 Article in Serial: Owen, A.E.B.. 1997. 'Louth Before Domesday' in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology. vol.32, p.60
14 Intervention Report: QuBE Planning Ltd.. 2008. Louth Conservation Area Appraisal. Westgate character area

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8 Intervention Report: Pre-Construct Archaeology. April 1999. St James' Church, Louth. SJL99

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