St James, Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire

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Feature Sets (2)


St James's has a nave with three-bay N and S aisles, the N arcade late 12thc., the S c.1200. The chancel and its arch are 13thc. and there is a N chapel. The E end of the chancel is all 14thc., so it may have been extended. At the W end is a 13thc. tower with a recessed Perpendicular spire with two rows of lucarnes. A stained glass window at the E end of the S aisle was dedicated in 1983 to the 384th(H) Bombardment Group of the 8th US Airforce, which was stationed at Grafton Airfield during World War II. The nave arcades are the only Romanesque features.


In 1086 Robert Blund held three hides in Grafton Underwood, and a further half-hide was held by Reginald of Eustace, who was said to occupy the land by force to the detriment of the Church of Ramsey.

Benefice of Cranford with Grafton Underwood and Twywell.


Interior Features



N arcade

Three bays, round headed. The arches are of two plain orders to N and S with a double-chamfered label towards the central vessel. Piers are cylindrical and responds attached half-columns for the first order with attached nook-shafts without capitals but with imposts for the second order N and S. Bases have a low roll with a roll necking above.

E respond: The base has been replaced. The first order capital has a roll necking, heavy angle volutes, and a mirror pair of scrolls terminating in trilobed leaves at the top of the main face. There is a flat abacus, then a hollow chamfered impost with a groove halfway up the face. In the second order the change from round to square section at impost level has been managed with pyramidal stops at the tops of the shafts.

Pier 1: The capital and impost are square in plan. The capital has a roll necking and angle volutes, with a pair of similar volutes at the top of each face. Abacus and impost are as the E respond capital.

Pier 2: Capital and impost as pier 1.

W respond: The first order capital follows the design of the pier capitals rather than the E respond. The nave-side nook-shaft has been removed, while that on the aisle side has an impost treated as a capital (i.e. round at the neck and square at the top). This seems preferable to the arrangement at the E end.

S arcade

Three bays, round headed. The arches are of two orders the N and S; the inner heavily chamfered, the outer square in section. There is a chamfered label with label stops in the form of human heads above the two piers. Piers are cylindrical and responds have a pilaster for the outer order with an attached half-column for the inner. Respond bases are chamfered and pier bases water-holding.

E respond: The first order capital has a roll necking and heavy angle volutes, with three stems rising from the necking on the main face, the central one terminating in a vertical leaf and those to either side in symmetrical spirals. On each side face is a diagonally-placed lily. There is a tall abacus and a moulded impost with a roll, then a hollow and a flat face. The same impost design continues to either side on the pilaster of the second order.

Pier 1: The capital is circular with a roll necking and a multi-leaf decoration on the bell, consisting of alternate spatulate leaves with a spinal row of nailhead rising from the necking, and trilobed lily-like leaves, also rising from the necking. There is no separate impost, but the tall abacus is moulded with a roll, hollow and a row of nailhead on a flat roll. Label stop above pier 1. The head is long with a squared-off chin. Eyes are bulging and almond-shaped, surrounded by heavy lids. The nose is short and straight and the mouth oval with indications of teeth including two drill-holes. The hair is a tangle of shirt heavy locks above a narrow chaplet decorated with a row of drill-holes.

Pier 2: As pier 1, but the tips of the trilobed leaves are bent to the L, as if windblown. Label stop above pier 2. Beardless human head with a simple crown, possibly a queen. It is long and narrow with a tapering rounded jaw. Eyes and noses as the pier 1 label stop, but the mouth is a short, straight horizontal groove.

W respond: Demi-octagonal capital, i.e. with five faces, carved alternately with the same two motifs that appear on pier 1. The impost is also demi-octagonal and moulded, with a roll, a hollow, and a flat face with the upper edge roll-chamfered. This impost design continues to either side on the pilaster of the second order.


The later S arcade has round-headed arches with a very pronounced chamfer on the inner order. It should be noted that the use of capitals with circular abaci like this would be impossible without such a deep chamfer.


  • Victoria County History: Northamptonshire. III (1930)
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. B. Cherry 1973, 226-27.
Exterior from SE.
Interior to E.


Site Location
Grafton Underwood
National Grid Reference
SP 922 802 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Northamptonshire
now: Northamptonshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Peterborough
medieval: not confirmed
now: St James
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter