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St John the Evangelist, Gressingham, Lancashire

(54°7′23″N, 2°39′28″W)
SD 571 699
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Lancashire
now Lancashire
medieval York
now Blackburn
  • James Cameron
30 July 2015

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Feature Sets

The church is of rubble walling, with a north aisle. The nave and chancel S wall appears to be of one build, the north arcade with clerestory is late Perp with rather crude capitals. There is a chapel in the angle between north aisle and chancel which appears to be of a later build.

A restoration of the church is documented in 1734 from when the W tower dates. In 1862 the church was re-medievalised through the reintroduction of Dec tracery into the S aisle, a three-light Perp E window, and cusped Perp tracery in N aisle. The only Romanesque feature is the S doorway.


Gressingham appears in Domesday, the lord in 1066 was Earl Tosti and by 1086 King William.

Gressingham's church was a chapel of Melling, until Roger de Montbegon, lord of Hornby (d. 1225/6), transfered it to the abbey of St Martin at Sees, and so became dependent on Lancaster Priory (then an alien priory of Sees). In 1230 a graveyard was consecrated. The church does not appear in the 1291-2 Taxatio as it probably valued less than two marks. In 1430 it became a vicarage.


Exterior Features



Like many churches in the area, restoration is extensive, so fabric is extremely difficult to date through stylistic analysis. Paley's tracery in the S wall implies his opinion that the nave and chancel were 14th century. The only clear diagnosis can be made on the N arcade which is late Perp. The suggestion by the Buildings of England that the church was "rebuilt" in 1734 is probably a little extreme: it is more likely the collection of money documented in 1734 was for the building of the tower (perhaps reconstruction, as Perp W towers are very common in Lancashire) and rewindowing, the latter of which was undone in the C19.

It is not implausible to suggest that the S doorway, obviously reset, may date from the transfer to Alien Priory before 1225/6, as it appears to be of the latest Romanesque, the mouldings being more of the appearance of Gothic dimensionality rather than frontality, with rolls and fillets.

Pevsner noted that the doorway's arch consists of "zigzags placed horizontally on top of the other". It may be better to describe this chevron as vertical, as runs across the path of the arch, rather than with it. Hartnell's 2009 revision adds that this may be the result of inept restoration in parentheses to Pevsner's text, evidentally entirely misunderstanding his description, as there is no possibility that the stones of the archway could be arranged differently.


Farrer, W. and J. Brownbill (ed.) 'Townships: Gressingham,' in Victoria County History: A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8, London, 1914, 85-89

Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc. iv (new ser. 1898), 258–66

Hartnell, C. and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Lancashire: North, New Haven and London, 2009, 313-314.

Pevsner, N., The Buildings of England: North Lancashire, Harmondsworth, 1969, 133-134.