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St James the Great, Gretton, Northamptonshire

(52°32′27″N, 0°40′33″W)
SP 899 945
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Northamptonshire
now Northamptonshire
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

Gretton is a village in NW Northamptonshire, on high ground overlooking the river Welland that flows a mile to the W and forms the border with Rutland. It is a substantial village in the Rockingham forest, a royal hunting ground created by William I, but by no means entirely wooded even then. The church is on its northern edge. St James's has a 12thc. nave (one original window visible in each side wall), with aisles added later in the century - the N earlier than the S but not by much. The arcades are two bays long, but the arches to the N and S transepts, dating from the 13thc., add an extra bay at the E, and a narrow W bay with steeply pointed arches connects the nave to the Perpendicular W tower. The clerestorey is a later addition (RCHME suggests that much of it dates from the 1893 restoration). The N doorway is blocked; the S is under a porch. The 14thc. chancel is distinguished by a four-light E window with reticulated tracery, reset at some stage with its sill shortened, so that the lights are distorted. The chancel was raised on four steps in the 18thc. to provide a vault for the Hatton family. The exterior is faced with grey rubble laid in courses, except the tower, which is of ironstone ashlar. Romanesque sculpture is found in the nave arcades.


Gretton was a royal manor with a priest in 1086. Following RCHME, it seems likely that Gretton, Corby and Brigstock were the three major churches in the hundred of Corby in the 11thc. In the early 12thc. it became a prebend of Lincoln cathedral, and was confirmed as a possession of Lincoln in 1146.


Interior Features



RCHME postulates a 12thc. tower, further E than the present tower and clasped by the aisles. Pevsner dates the N arcade c.1130 and the S a little later, by comparison with Peterborough cathedral.

RCHME Report, uncatalogued.
J. Bridges, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, (Compiled from the manuscript collections of the late learned antiquary J.Bridges, Esq., by the Rev. Peter Whalley), Oxford 1791, II, 312-14.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire, Harmondsworth 1961, rev. B. Cherry 1973, 241-42.