St James' Church, Louth

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St James' Church, Louth
St.James tower and spire - - 860404.jpg
The church and spire
St James' Church, Louth is located in Lincolnshire
St James' Church, Louth
St James' Church, Louth
Location within Lincolnshire
53°22′00″N 0°00′29″W / 53.3666°N 0.0080°W / 53.3666; -0.0080Coordinates: 53°22′00″N 0°00′29″W / 53.3666°N 0.0080°W / 53.3666; -0.0080
Location Louth Lincolnshire
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Broad Church
Dedication James, son of Zebedee
Heritage designation Grade I listed[1]
Length 182 feet (55 m)
Spire height 293 feet 1 inch (89.33 m)
Parish Louth
Deanery Louthesk[2]
Archdeaconry Lincoln
Diocese Lincoln
Province Canterbury
Rector Nicholas Brown
Organist/Director of music Allan Smith

St. James' Church, Louth is a parish church in the Church of England in Louth, Lincolnshire, England. It is notable for its tall spire.


The church is a medieval building. It has the tallest steeple of any medieval parish church in Britain. A recent survey has confirmed the height of the stonework as 287 feet 6 inches (87.63 m) and to the top of the cockerel weather vane as 293 feet 1 inch (89.33 m). It also confirms it as one of the very finest medieval steeples in the country[3]

The chancel and nave were re-built between 1430 and 1440. The building of the tower probably commenced in the 1440s or 1450s and had been completed to its present height by 1499. Work began on the spire in 1501 and it was not finished until 1515. The weathercock was placed on the top of the spire amongst great rejoicing on the eve of Holy Cross day Thursday 13 September 1515. This 'wedercoke' had been made in Lincoln from a huge copper basin captured from the Scots at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and subsequently bought in York by Thomas Tayleyor one of the churchwardens. The total cost of the spire alone was £305 8s 4d, (equivalent to £207,700 in 2016).[4]

The church is mainly 15th century and is the third building on the site, replacing 11th- and 13th-century buildings. Originally the church had five subsidiary chapels and altars and a three-storey rood screen.

In October 1536, as a result of Henry VIII's ecclesiastical changes, people gathered in the church to start the Lincolnshire Rising, which was followed by the Pilgrimage of Grace. Neither succeeded and the church was stripped of its riches including the rood screen.

The nave roof was replaced in 1825.[5] The spire was restored between 1844 and 1845 by Lewis Nockalls Cottingham.[6] A further restoration took place between 1861 and 1869 by James Fowler, known as 'Fowler of Louth'.[7] The clerestories and arcades were cleaned and underpinned. A new south porch was erected. The church was refitted with open seats of oak, the Corporation stalls being of the same material. The floors were laid with Minton’s tiles, designed by the architect. A new heating system by Hayden and Son of Trowbridge was installed with the boiler in a newly constructed vault. A stained glass window, the gift of J. L. Fytche was fixed on the east end of the south aisle, and another window was to be placed at the west end of the north aisle, by Clayton and Bell, in memory of General Sir George Patey. The total cost of the works was around £6,000 (equivalent to £510,000 in 2016).[4] The church was re-opened on 5 August 1869 in the presence of the Bishop of Lincoln.[8]

In 1937, it flew the highest flag in Lincolnshire to mark the coronation of George VI.[9] Later that year, renovation work commenced on the spire, under the supervision of the architect, Mr. Goddard, who had previously worked on Lincoln Cathedral.[9]

In 2015 came a remarkable discovery from the adjoining Rectory garden in the form of two pieces of a pre-Conquest standing stone Cross dating to c950. In form the Cross is of the 'ring' or 'wheel head' type, the central design being of Christ crucified. The type is more commonly seen today in Ireland. The Cross and its implications for the archaeology, history and the early church in Louth are discussed in a major article by Everson and Stocker 'The Cros in the Markitte Stede'. The Louth Cross, its Monastery and its Town. (Medieval Archaeology Journal, vol. 61/2, 2017).[10] The Louth Cross is on display within the church and a small booklet is available from the gift shop.

In 2017 funding was raised to fit a viewing door to the cell just below the spire floor that holds the original medieval treadwheel that was used to haul up the stone and mortar for the building of the spire (1501-1515). Substantial records exist in the churchwardens' accounts from 1501 onward for the construction and use of the wheel which was to become known as The Wild Mare. A small booklet about this rare survival is available from the church gift shop.


The dedication of the church is to James, son of Zebedee, who was of significance in the Middle Ages as the focus of a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.



  • 1200 Jordan, Priest
  • 1247 Herueus (Harvey)
  • 1276 Gilbert de Tetilthorp
  • 1278 Master Richard de Welleton, Chaplain
  • 1294 William de Leycton
  • 1328 Robert de Foston, Deacon
  • 1345 John de Waynflet
  • 1349 Thomas de Kele
  • 1368 Robert de Bloxham
  • 1369 John de Harhill
  • Simon Waynflete (over 20 years)
  • 1421 Thomas Gedeney (Gednay) (20 years)
  • 1443–44 Master John Sudbury[11]
  • 1461–62 Dom. Thomas Sudbury
  • 1502 Master Richard Barnyngham (Bernyngham)
  • 1514 Master Thomas Egleston
  • 1527 Master George Thomson
  • 1534 Master Thomas Kendall
  • 1537 Geoffrey Baily (Baylie)
  • 1549 John Louth
  • 1558–59 Robert Doughty
  • 1600 James Calfhill
  • 1601 Alexander Cooke
  • 1604 John Melton (still signing registers in 1636)
  • Richard Smith
  • 1630 Paul Glisson
  • 1654 Henry Gray
  • 1656 Henry Daile
  • Francis Castillion
  • 1668 Samuel Adcock
  • 1671 William Wetherell
  • Samuel Nicholls (not instituted)
  • 1704 William Richardson
  • 1711 Charles L'Oste
  • 1730 Stephen Ashton
  • 1764 Stephen Fytche
  • 1780 Wolley Jolland
  • 1831 Edward Reginald Mantell


  • 1859 Albert Sydney Wilde
  • 1915 A.S. Duncan Jones
  • 1916 Charles Lenton
  • 1928 Humphrey Phillipps Walcot Burton
  • 1952 Aidan Crawley Pulleine Ward
  • 1969 Michael Edgar Adie
  • 1977 David William Owen
  • 1993 Stephen Douglas Holdaway
  • 2013 Nicholas James Watson Brown


There is a peal of eight bells. They were recast in 1726 by Daniel Hedderly. In 1798 the great bell was cracked when it was rung to celebrate Nelson's victory in the Battle of the Nile. They were rehung in 1957, and the treble and two were recast.

Tower clock

The clock in the tower was installed in 1846 and made by Benjamin Vulliamy.[12] It had a pin-wheel dead-beat escapement, with an eight-day movement. It was expected to last 200 years before needing replacement, and was set going on 25 July 1846.

It was replaced in August 1901 by a clock made by Leonard Hall of Louth. It contained a double three-legged gravity escapement as invented by Edmund Beckett, 1st Baron Grimthorpe, and chimed the Westminster chimes every 15 minutes. The hour hammer weighs 57 pounds (26 kg). The total weight of the clock is about 1 long ton (1.1 short tons) with driving weights of another 1 ton, suspended on steel wire ropes of 450 feet (140 m).[13]


An organ accompanied the singing of the Te Deum at the consecration of the church in 1515. This organ had been brought some years before from Flanders.[14] When this organ was worn out in 1531, it is recorded in the parish records That the honest men of this towne of Louthe deshirying to have a good payr of organs, to the laude, prayse and honour of God, and the Hole, Holy Co’pany of heffen, made an assemble together for this purpose on a certayne daye; at which type Mr. Richard Taylor, preste and bachelor of laws, then abydyng w’tin the dyocess of Norwiche being p’sent, herying the good devoute mynds, and vertuouse intent of the said townesmen, wherin he was borne and brought up, offred for to cause them have a payr made of a c’nnyng man in Lyn, that should be exampled by a payre of the same making at Ely, who was called Mr. Blyton, which then had a singular Prayse, for the sum of xxii powndes, whereof he pr’mysed to giff thereto xi powndes: upon whiche promesse they accorded, insomuch that the said Mr. Taylor covennantyd and bargaynyd the organ to be made and brought to this towne, and set upon the north syde in the hihhe quere, on St Barnabe Eve, in the yere of oure Lorde, M.V. xxxj., &c., &c.

A new organ by Gray & Davison costing £800 (equivalent to £70,000 in 2016)[4] was opened on 17 December 1857[15] by Henry Smart. This organ was altered by Forster and Andrews in 1868/9. After a rebuild in 1911 by Norman and Beard, it now has 37 stops and three manuals and pedals.


Assistant organists

  • Albert Sharman ca.1905[21]
  • Roger Harrison 1999 - 2011

Visiting and tourism

St James is nominated a "Cascade Church" within the Lincolnshire Church Tourism Network, an ecumenical scheme which promotes visits to and understanding of Lincolnshire's many churches. Like other Cascade churches it is stewarded on weekdays and there are guides available until 16:00. The western end of the church now has a tea shop, book shop and toilets, as well as information leading to other churches in the East Lindsey area.



  1. ^ Historic England, "Parish Church of St James (1063264)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 26 June 2017
  2. ^ "St James, Louth". A Church Near You. The Church of England. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  3. ^ "Thames & Hudson Publishers | Essential illustrated art books | Fifty English Steeples | The Finest Medieval Parish Church Towers and Spires in England". Archived from the original on 30 October 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  4. ^ a b c UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Louth Church". Stamford Mercury. England. 24 December 1824. Retrieved 22 August 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  6. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Harris, John (1974). The Buildings of England. Lincolnshire. Penguin Books. p. 300. ISBN 0140710272.
  7. ^ Historic England. "Parish Church of St James  (Grade I) (1063264)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Louth. Re-opening of the Parish Church". Stamford Mercury. England. 13 August 1869. Retrieved 22 August 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  9. ^ a b "LOUTH'S SPIRE". Geraldton Guardian and Express (WA : 1929 - 1947). WA: National Library of Australia. 28 August 1937. p. 1. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Louth". Stamford Mercury. England. 31 July 1846. Retrieved 21 August 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  13. ^ "Munificcent Gift to the Town". Stamford Mercury. England. 20 September 1901. Retrieved 21 August 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  14. ^ "Organs of St James". Lincolnshire Chronicle. England. 13 June 1857. Retrieved 22 August 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  15. ^ "Local Intelligence". Lincolnshire Chronicle. England. 25 December 1857. Retrieved 22 August 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  16. ^ Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 12 March 1819
  17. ^ Kelly's Directory of Lincolnshire, 1909, p.430
  18. ^ Kelly's Directory of Lincolnshire, 1919, p.420
  19. ^ Who's Who in Music. Shaw Publishing Co. Ltd. London. First Post-war Edition. 1949/50
  20. ^ "Obituary", The Times. Subscription required
  21. ^ Kelly's Directory of Lincolnshire, 1905, p.535
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