St James' Church, Louth

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St James' Church, Louth
St James Louth tower and spire.JPG
The Church belfry and spire
53°22′00″N 0°00′29″W / 53.3666°N 0.0080°W / 53.3666; -0.0080Coordinates: 53°22′00″N 0°00′29″W / 53.3666°N 0.0080°W / 53.3666; -0.0080
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Broad Church
Dedication James, son of Zebedee
Parish Louth, Lincolnshire
Diocese Lincoln
Province Canterbury
Rector Nicholas Brown
Organist/Director of music Lisa Taylor

St. James' Church, Louth is a parish church in the Church of England in Louth, Lincolnshire, England. It is notable for its tall spire.


The church is a medieval building. It has the tallest steeple of any medieval parish church in Britain. A recent survey has confirmed the height of the stonework as 287 feet and 6 inches (87.63 metres) and to the top of the cockerel weather vane as 293 feet 1 inch (89.3 metres). It also confirms it as one of the very finest medieval steeples in the country[1]

The chancel and nave were re-built between 1430 and 1440. The building of the tower probably commenced in the 1440s or 1450s and had been completed to its present height by 1499. Work began on the spire in 1501 and it was not finished until 1515. The weathercock was placed on the top of the spire amongst great rejoicing on the eve of Holy Cross day Thursday 13th September 1515. This 'wedercoke' had been made in Lincoln from a huge copper basin captured from the Scots at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and subsequently bought in York by Thomas Tayleyor one of the churchwardens. The total cost of the spire alone was £305 8s 4d, a large amount of money for the time. The spire was restored in 1844 by Lewis Nockalls Cottingham.[2] A further restoration took place between 1861 and 1869 by James Fowler, known as 'Fowler of Louth'.[3]

The church is mainly 15th century and is the third building on the site, replacing 11th- and 13th-century buildings.

Originally the church had five subsidiary chapels and altars and a three-storey rood screen.

In October 1536, as a result of Henry VIII's ecclesiastical changes, people gathered in the church to start the Lincolnshire Rising, which was followed by the Pilgrimage of Grace. Neither succeeded and the church was stripped of its riches including the rood screen.

In 1937, it flew the highest flag in Lincolnshire to mark the coronation of George VI.[4] Later that year, renovation work commenced on the spire, under the supervision of the architect, Mr. Goddard, who had previously worked on Lincoln Cathedral.[4]

In 2015 came a remarkable discovery from the adjoining Rectory garden in the form of two pieces of a pre-Conquest standing stone Cross dating to c950. In form the Cross is of the 'ring' or 'wheel head' type, the central design being of Christ crucified. The type is more commonly seen today in Ireland. The Cross and its implications for the archaeology, history and the early church in Louth will be the subject of a major article by Everson and Stocker in the Journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology 'Medieval Archaeology' in 2017. [5]


The dedication of the church is to James, son of Zebedee, who was of significance in the Middle Ages as the focus of a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

List of rectors[edit]

  • 1200 Jordan, Priest
  • 1247 Herueus (Harvey)
  • 1276 Gilbert de Tetilthorp
  • 1278 Master Richard de Welleton, Chaplain
  • 1294 William de Leycton
  • 1328 Robert de Foston, Deacon
  • 1345 John de Waynflet
  • 1349 Thomas de Kele
  • 1368 Robert de Bloxham
  • 1369 John de Harhill
  • Simon Waynflete (over 20 years)
  • 1421 Thomas Gedeney (Gednay) (20 years)
  • 1443-4 Master John Sudbury [6]
  • 1461-2 Dom. Thomas Sudbury
  • 1502 Master Richard Barnyngham (Bernyngham)
  • 1514 Master Thomas Egleston
  • 1527 Master George Thomson
  • 1534 Master Thomas Kendall
  • 1537 Geoffrey Baily (Baylie)
  • 1549 John Louth
  • 1558-9 Robert Doughty
  • 1600 James Calfhill
  • 1601 Alexander Cooke
  • 1604 John Melton
  • Richard Smith
  • 1630 Paul Glisson
  • 1654 Henry Gray
  • 1656 Henry Daile
  • Francis Castillion
  • 1668 Samuel Adcock
  • 1671 William Wetherell
  • Samuel Nicholls (not instituted)
  • 1704 William Richardson
  • 1711 Charles L'Oste
  • 1730 Stephen Ashton
  • 1764 Stephen Fytche
  • 1780 Wolley Jolland
  • 1831 Edward Reginald Mantell
  • 1859 Albert Sydney Wilde
  • 1915 A.S. Duncan Jones
  • 1916 Charles Lenton
  • 1928 Humphrey Phillipps Walcot Burton
  • 1952 Aidan Crawley Pulleine Ward
  • 1969 Michael Edgar Adie
  • 1977 David William Owen
  • 1993 Stephen Douglas Holdaway
  • 2013 Nicholas James Watson Brown


There is a peal of 8 bells. They were recast in 1726 by Daniel Hedderly. In 1798 the great bell was cracked when it was rung to celebrate Nelson's victory in the Battle of the Nile. They were rehung in 1957, and the treble and two were recast.


The original Gray & Davison organ from 1857 was altered by Forster and Andrews in 1868/9. After a rebuild in 1911 by Norman and Beard, it now has 37 stops and three manuals and pedals.


Assistant organists[edit]

  • Albert Sharman ca.1905[12]
  • Roger Harrison 1999 - 2011

Visiting and tourism[edit]

St James is nominated a "Cascade Church" within the Lincolnshire Church Tourism Network, an ecumenical scheme which promotes visits to and understanding of Lincolnshire's many churches. Like other Cascade churches it is stewarded on weekdays and there are guides available until 16:00. The western end of the church now has a tea shop, book shop and toilets, as well as information leading to other churches in the East Lindsey area.



  1. ^ "Thames & Hudson Publishers | Essential illustrated art books | Fifty English Steeples | The Finest Medieval Parish Church Towers and Spires in England". Retrieved 2016-10-29. 
  2. ^ Pevsner, Nikolas; The Buildings of England, Lincolnshire[page needed]
  3. ^ Historic England. "Parish Church of St James  (Grade I) (1063264)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "LOUTH'S SPIRE.". Geraldton Guardian and Express (WA : 1929 - 1947). WA: National Library of Australia. 28 August 1937. p. 1. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 12 March 1819
  8. ^ Kelly's Directory of Lincolnshire, 1909, p.430
  9. ^ Kelly's Directory of Lincolnshire, 1919, p.420
  10. ^ Who's Who in Music. Shaw Publishing Co. Ltd. London. First Post-war Edition. 1949/50
  11. ^ "Obituary", The Times. Subscription required
  12. ^ Kelly's Directory of Lincolnshire, 1905, p.535