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St James the Less, Tatham, Lancashire

(54°9′34″N, 2°35′33″W)
SD 614 739
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Lancashire
now Lancashire
medieval York
now Blackburn
  • James Cameron
30 July 2015

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Tatham is a village in the Lancaster district in NE Lancashire. A small church, no division between nave and chancel except for an external buttressing feature on the S wall which may represent the original rood staircase. Essentially the church appears to be a late medieval rebuild around a late C12 S door and N arcade piers, with subsequent tidying-up and heavy Victorian re-medievalisation. The tower, according to an inscribed stone in the N wall, was rebuilt in 1722, but probably incorporates medieval fabric.

The only Romanesque features now are the S door and possibly the piers, capitals and W respond of the arcade.


There were three churches in Tatham according to Domesday, with taxable value assessed at 13 geld units. There were chaplins recorded, suggesting the church was a chapel of Melling until a list of rectors begins c.1220. In 1246 the value of the rectory was estimated at £10 a year, but was assessed in the 1291 Taxatio as £6 13s. 4d., reduced by half after the Scottish invasion of 1322.

The church and surrounding settlement is sometimes called Lower Tatham, in order to distinguish it from its chapel at Tatham Fell (now an 1888 building by Paley, Austin and Paley).


Exterior Features


Interior Features



The tracery of the south wall is all the work of Austin and Paley in 1885, replacing Classical windows. Therefore it is difficult to date but its relative thinness, plus the clear resetting of the S doorway, implies that it is not Romanesque. The Y-tracery in the E window and vestry, while some very recent replacement work within contrasts with the whole, is also unreliable as genuine medieval fabric. A small one-light cusped Perp window in the W end of the N aisle is the only reliable window and suggests a C15 or C16 date for the outer walls.

The sedilia and piscina may represent discoveries that were made in the restoration of 1885, and while of the appearance of the late C13/early C14, they are now entirely Victorian and therefore not good evidence for dating the chancel.

The N arcade is problematic in how much it represents a C12 campaign. It consists of two octagonal piers and two responds carrying pointed arches. The E respond is a Perp compound pier, and on the N side of this can be seen the original buttress and plinth of the exterior N wall, inside the C19 aisle extension but too close to the respond to be the same campaign as it. It may be late C13/early C14, going with the sedilia and piscina, if their restored form is to be believed. The W respond and two octagonal piers are usually described as late C12, but some of the carving - such as the trefoil-type ornament on the N side of the W capital - is clearly later, perhaps marking the place of an image that was installed there.


F. Arnold-Foster, Studies in church dedications (London, 1899).

C. Hartwell and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Lancashire: North (London, 2009), pp.664-665.

N. Pevsner, North Lancashire (Harmondsworth, 1969), pp.245-255.

'The parish of Tatham', in William Farrer and J Brownbill (eds.) A History of the County of Lancaster, VIII, (London, 1914), pp. 217-225.