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St John the Baptist, Wakerley, Northamptonshire

(52°34′55″N, 0°35′20″W)
SP 957 992
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Northamptonshire
now Northamptonshire
  • Ron Baxter

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St John's has a clerestoreyed nave with N and S aisles or chapels, just two bays long and situated at the E end, in what Pevsner calls a transeptal position. The arcades are 14thc.-15thc., and they have been pierced through 12thc. walls; on the S side a 12thc. window can be seen above the arcade pier. The chancel arch is now pointed, its arch decorated with chevron, but presumably it was originally round. The figural and foliage capitals are important sculptures by the Castor workshop. There are 12thc. blind arches to either side of the chancel arch, probably, according to Pevsner, originally reredoses for side altars. The chancel has been rebuilt, perhaps in the 15thc. At the west, the tower is 14thc. in its lower parts and 15thc. above, with a crocketed spire rising behind a battlemented parapet. Romanesque sculpture is found on the chancel arch; in the corbels now in the S aisle and more re-set outside in the E wall of the S aisle; and in sections of string course set in the interior of the S aisle and the exterior E walls of both aisles.


Wakerley was held by Eudo the Steward in 1086, and a priest associated with his holding implies the presence of a church at that date. William, persona (i.e. priest) of Wakerley witnessed the foundation charter of Fineshade (founded before 1208), and R, capellanus of Wakerley, witnessed a charter referring to Laxton (also before 1208). Richard Engayne was both founder of Fineshade and the author of the charter. The first institution to be recorded was in 1220 when the advowson was in the hands of the lord of Wakerley, where it remained throughout the Middle Ages.

The church is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

String courses
Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Interior Decoration

Blind arcades
String courses

The chancel arch capitals are among the highlights of Northamptonshire Romanesque. The presence of the Castor (Hunts) workshop is indicated by the Winchester acanthus designs and the characteristic sawtooth bases, but the relief is much deeper at Wakerley than at Castor or at Sutton and Maxey, by the same carvers. This might point to a later stage in the development of the workshop, perhaps in the 1130s.

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, 343-44.
Redundant Churches Fund, St John the Baptist Wakerley, London 1985.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. B. Cherry 1973, 440.
RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northampton, VI. Architectural monuments in North Northamptonshire, London 1986, 151-54.
RCHME Report, uncatalogued.