St James, Waterfall, Staffordshire

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Feature Sets (3)


Waterfall is a moorland village, on a hill above the River Hamps. There is no waterfall here; the village taking its name from the behaviour of the River Hamps, which abruptly disappears underground among the limestone rocks nearby, re-emerging near Ilam. The church has a blocky nave and W tower, both dating from 1792 and typical of their date with round-headed windows and heavy ashlar facings. The chancel was rebuilt in the 1890s, using old masonry, and the chancel arch is 12thc., if restored. To the N of the chancel is a chapel, also of the 1890s, now used as a vestry. The only other 12thc. feature is the arch now set above the 18thc. S nave doorway under a porch dated 1894. It looks, says Pevsner, 'curious'.


Waterfall is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey. It was held by Earl Ranulph of Chester, and passed to his nephew, Richard Bacon, who founded the house of Augustinian canons at Rocester in Dovedale some time between 1141 and 1146. Land and a chapel of St Michael's, Rocester at Waterfall were part of the foundation gift from Richard to the first abbot, Thurstan, and the duties previously owed by the men of Waterfall to Ranulph and his nephew passed to the abbey. These possessions and privileges were confirmed in 1300 by Pope Boniface VIII, and at that time the Waterfall holdings comprised the chapel and four bovates of land. Rocester's possessions passed to the crown at the Dissolution.

Benefice of Calton, Cauldon, Grindon, Waterfall and Blore Ray with Okeover.


Exterior Features


S nave doorway

Segmental headed. The doorway itself is a square-headed neoclassical one, dating from 1792. Above it is a segmental-headed arch of one order, supported on plain chamfered corbels and enclosing a plain tympanum in red sandstone to which a marble slab commemorating the erection of the porch has been fixed. The arch has a plain angle roll, and outside this, on the face, a row of lateral chevron, centrifugally carved consisting of a fat roll with a thin roll inside it. There is no label.

h. of tympanum 0.57 m
w. of arch (between lowest voussoirs) 1.45 m

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

Depressed, two orders to W, one to E.

First order

Plain square jambs with quirked chamfered impost blocks. The N jamb and impost are modern replacements; the S side is original. The arch is carved on the W face with lateral, centrifugal chevron, consisting of two rolls, both quirked towards the extrados, with a cogwheel edge. The E face and soffit are plain.

Second order (W face)

En-delit nook-shafts carrying triple scallop capitals, the cones stepped into two registers. The abaci are tall and square, and the imposts are as the first order. The N side shaft, capital and impost are replacements. On the S side the capital and impost are original, and the upper part of the shaft. There are no bases on either embrasure. The arch has a fat angle roll and a face roll with a quirk between them. Outside it is a chamfered impost with a row of chip-carved saltires in squares on the face.


The church appears in 19thc. views in the William Salt Library, mostly by J. C. Buckler and done in 1847. I know of no views of the earlier church or chapel. The chancel arch and doorway are contemporary work, the chip-carving, capital forms and chevron ornament combing to suggest a date in the 1120s or '30s.


  • Victoria County History: Staffordshire. III (1970), 247-51.
  • Drawings in William Salt Library, Stafford, nos. SV XI 142a; 143; 145a and 145b, mostly by J. Buckler of 1847. Available online via the Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Views Collection webpages at Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Views Collection. Available online at http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/portal/page?_pageid=47,71124and_dad=portaland_schema=PORTAL
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 298.
Exterior from SW.
Interior to E.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SK 082 516 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Staffordshire
now: Staffordshire
medieval: Lichfield (to 1075); Chester (to c.1086); Coventry and Lichfield (to 1541)
now: Lichfield
now: St James and St Bartholomew
medieval: St Nicholas (1521)
Type of building/monument
Parish church, formerly chapel  
Report authors
Ron Baxter