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St Wulfram, Grantham, Lincolnshire

(52°54′52″N, 0°38′31″W)
SK 914 361
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Lincolnshire
now Lincolnshire
  • Thomas E. Russo
  • Thomas E. Russo
22 November 2000

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Feature Sets

Grantham is a market town in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, 21 miles S of Lincoln and 5 miles E of the Leicestershire border. St Wulfram's faces the original market place in the town centre, and has bee described (by Simon Jenkins) as having the finest steeple in England.

At over 282 feet in height, its early 14thc. W tower is a beacon for miles around to the modern-day pilgrim. The tower is embraced by N and S aisles of the late 13thc. which terminate on the square E end in chapels, the mid-15thc. Corpus Christi chapel on the N and the 14thc. Lady Chapel on the S; below the Lady Chapel is a crypt chapel of the same date. The first two bays of the nave date from an early 13thc. westward extension of the 12thc. church. N and S nave porches are of the mid-14thc.; the S porch is of two storeys, the upper of which is home to a late 16thc. chained library. The St. Katherine/Thomas Hall family chapel, late 15thc., extends off the N wall of the 14thc. chancel. A small section of herringbone masonry, late 11th/early 12thc, survives on the wall above the N arcade of the chancel. Restoration by G. G. Scott was undertaken between 1866-1869 to which period the roof belongs, and later by his son, J. O. Scott, in the late 1870’s and 1880’s. At the heart of this church is a three-bay, 12thc. nave arcade whose pointed arches of circa 1300 project into the embedded round arches of the 12thc. clerestory.


Domesday Book documents St. Wulfram’s church in Grantham in 1086 on land owned by King William I. The wealth of the church at this time is evident from the multiple listings in Domesday Book of the land it owned: 15 bovates in Londonthorpe, ½ carucate in Nonegetune, and 1 carucate in Gonerby. In addition, Domesday Book records two “claims” in Kesteven which relate directly to the income of St. Wulfram’s: the tithes and customary church dues from the Winnibriggs and Threo wapentake (an ancient district within Kesteven), and the tithes and church dues from Westhorpe. Because this church in Grantham was on the royal desmesne, like those at Caistor, Horncastle, and that at Lincoln on the site on which the cathedral was subsequently built, it held a position of importance; both Owen and Sawyer suggest that it may have been one of the “old minsters” or “mother churches” of pre-Conquest Lincolnshire and point to the large size of its 12thc. parish as evidence. In the late 11thc. this church became part of the foundation endowment of the new cathedral at Salisbury, where Osmund, a former royal commissary for the Domesday survey in the midlands, was now bishop. It was due to Bishop Osmund’s claim that the income of the church at Westhorpe was granted by the Domesday commissioners to St. Wulfram’s.


Interior Features



The coursed, rather than en-delit shafts of the pier 4/responds on both the N and S arcades, and their lack of mid-shaft rings distinguish them from piers 1-3 of these arcades. The coursing of these shafts situates them with the western extension of the nave where all columns and shafts are coursed. It would seem that in the western expansion of the nave the W respond was rebuilt using the existing capitals but newly constructed coursed shafts.

In general, this is an interesting arcade in terms of stylistic transformation. The three piers of the S arcade with their bell capitals point clearly to the Gothic as does the proliferation of shafts on compound piers. The roll mould, rather than the keel mould, on the mid-shaft ring of pier 3 and the fillet band stack on the mid-shaft ring of pier 2, along with the variety of foliate capitals in the N arcade speak to the end of the 12th century. But this is not likely a case of “earlier” versus “later” construction. Given the commonality of design in the bases, piers and imposts of both arcades, this is almost certainly a single building campaign within which the tensions of competing, contemporaneous styles can be felt: the old style Romanesque reaching its culmination in the elaborate foliate capitals of the N arcade and the elegant simplicity and refinement of the new Gothic style finding its voice in the bell capitals of the S arcade.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, 3 vols, London 1899, v.3, 134.

S. Jenkins, England's Thousand Best Churches, London 2000, 376-78.

  1. M. Knapp, St. Wulfram’s Parish Church, Grantham, Grantham, 1999.
  1. D. Owen, Church and Society in Medieval Lincolnshire, History of Lincolnshire, vol. 5., Lincoln, 1971 (1990), 1-2.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire. London 1964 (2nd ed., reprt. 1990), 316-20.

  1. R. Pugh and E. Crittall (eds.). 'The cathedral of Salisbury: From the foundation to the fifteenth century', A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3 (1956), 56-URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=36531. Date accessed: 18 June 2008.
  1. P. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Lincolnshire. A History of Lincolnshire, vol. 3, Lincoln, 1998, 63, 154.