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St James, Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire

(52°19′12″N, 0°6′15″W)
Hemingford Grey
TL 293 708
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Huntingdonshire
now Cambridgeshire
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

St James's has a nave with three-bay N and S aisles and a modern S porch, an aisleless chancel, lengthened in the 13thc., with a N vestry, and a W tower added c.1400. Its octagonal spire was blown down by a gale in 1741 (as was that of All Saints in St Ives, nearby), and what was left was levelled off and decorated with ball finials at the angles. The piers and the central bay of the N arcade are 12thc. and described below. The W bay arch is stylistically later, and could have been rebuilt when the tower was added. At this time the W bay of the nave was shortened, so that the W arches of both arcades die into the wall without responds or capitals. The N arcade, E bay also looks to have been rebuilt, but rather earlier, by fitting a new E respond capital and half of the pier 1 capital along with a new arch. Something similar happened on the S side, which has round arches in the two W bays, but a pointed arch in the E bay. Both piers and the E respond are original, and all capitals are moulded, suggesting an original construction date for the S arcade in the 13thc.

The bizarre arrangement of the arcades is perhaps most satisfactorily explained by the hypothesis that the church originally had a central tower, which was removed in the 13thc. but not replaced with a west tower until c. 1400. There is no very obvious evidence for this. Locally, the replacement of a central tower with one at the west is known from Soham and Great Wilbraham (both Cambs). On the N wall of the chancel is a 12thc. double aumbry. It is completely plain, so not described here, but a photograph is included.


The two Hemingfords, Grey and Abbots, were originally part of one estate. In the 9thc. the estate was split into two and the Danes built a new settlement at the Thorpe in the eastern part of the old estate. By 1066 Little Hemingford, or Hemingford by St Ives, was acquired by Ramsey Abbey, the major landowner in the area. It is recorded in Domesday, but there is no mention of a church. It became Hemingford Grey in 1276, taking its name from the de Grey family, owners of Hemingford Grey Manor.


Interior Features



Victoria County History: Huntingdonshire. II (1932).
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Bedfordshire and the County of Huntingdon and Peterborough, Harmondsworth 1968, 261-62.
RCHM(E), An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Huntingdonshire. London 1926, 133-35.