Travel Through the Centuries

Start the tour
Start here and work your way through time and witness all the key changes in St James' church history.

690 AD Loud river
St. James’ Church stands on the site of an Anglo-Saxon monastery, dating back to circa 690. The monastery was known as the Hlude or Hludensis, meaning ‘loud river’ and was named after the River Lud which ran through the settlement at the time.
Did you know...
There are no archaeological remains of the the monastery "Hludensis" that we know of, only written evidence.

690 ADHow we came to have a market in Louth
The monastery used its monks to preach the Gospel to the villages around Louth. The monks also acted as businessmen, creating trade and, in time, a market was founded at the site near the monastery. This market settlement was later to be expanded by the invading and settling Danes.

873 Danes suspected of killing the Bishop
Records suggest that an early church once stood on the site of St James. This church was known as St. Herefrith’s, after the lost saint of Louth. Herefrith was the Bishop of Lindsey who died a martyr's death at the hands of the Danes, although why they killed him is unknown. Even to this day, little is known about Herefrith, but following his death a shrine was erected in Louth. This shrine later turned into St. Herefrith’s Church.
Did you know...
There are no archaeological remains of the the monastery "Hludensis" that we know of, only written evidence.

873 AD Herefrith, Bishop of Lindsey
At some point following St Herefrith's death, a small wooden church was built around the shrine in its place. This small church was known as St Herefrith's church. However, the later Louth Park Abbey held greater importance over the church of St Herefrith because of its size and greater influence in trade with other local settlements.

873 AD Herefrith Church
Did you know...
The image above shows what a typical Anglo Saxon building would have looked like. St Herefrith's church would have been originally built from wood. It would have been a very small construction and very simiple with a similar appearence to the building in the illustration. St Herefrith's church would have looked very different to the churches we know today.

963 AD Aethelwald, Bishop of Winchester
In 963, Aethelwald became the Bishop of Winchester. He was one of the leaders of the 10th century Monastic Reform Movement in Anglo-Saxon England. He later became an important key figure in the future of the church dedicated to St. Herefrith. Monastic life had declined to a real low in England in the ninth century due to the ravages caused by Viking attacks. One settlement that the raiding Vikings attacked was the site of Thorney Abbey in Cambridgeshire, which was at the time a small settlement on and island and home to a community of Anchorites. The settlement was raided and destroyed by the Vikings and left desolate and overgrown with thorn bushes, from which it derived the name of Thorney. Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, bought the island and its ruins from a woman called Ethelfled, and Aethelwold began to establish the site for his new plans to build a monastery there.

Did you know...
Monastic life had declined to a real low in England in the ninth century due to the ravages caused by Viking attacks.

984 AD Louth townsfolk drugged by monks
Aethelwold was actively seeking relics as a source of funding for his newly rebuilt Thorney Abbey in Cambridgeshire. He sent a raiding party of monks to Louth to plunder Herefrith’s shrine. The monks drugged the inhabitants of Louth so they could steal the body of Herefrith and return to Thorney Abbey with it.

1139 AD Louth Park Abbey
Bishop Alexander of Lincoln founded Louth Park Abbey as a daughter-house to Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire. Louth Park Abbey was grander and of greater importance to Louth than the monastery Hludensis had been. The abbey was situated on an elevated area of ground of about 23 acres just south of the River Lude. The river was used by the abbey to turn the wheel of the grain mill that had been given to them by the Bishop of Lincoln. However, the abbey was located too far away from the river for general water needs, or to supply their fishponds. To solve this, the monks dug a ditch to bring water from the springs of St. Helen’s in Louth to the abbey grounds. Only the monks occupied the abbey and its doors were closed off to the inhabitants of Louth.

Did you know...
It was the monks digging the ditch to bring water to Louth Park Abbey that brought about the name Monks Dyke in Louth.

Louth is listed in the 1086 Domesday Book as a town of 124 households and was also one of only 50 markets at this time in the country.

1349 AD The Black Death hits Louth
The Black Death was a bubonic plague pandemic which reached England in 1348. Originating from China and carried by flea infected rats, it wasn’t long before Louth was hit by the terrible disease, which most often resulted in death if infected. Modern historians estimate death rates from 25% to over 60% of the total population of England. In December 1349 the disease died down and Louth, like the rest of England, started to slowly recover. However, Louth Park Abbey had been hit particularly badly and many of the monks had died. This resulted in Louth Park Abbey's slow decline. The church of St Herefrith's / St James became the focal point of worship of Louth, giving it greater importance within the community and surrounding area..

1430 AD Building a stone church, where did the stone come from?
Very little is known about the original church, but what we do know is that the church was originally built out of timber. At some point St James' church was rebuilt in stone. The material used to rebuild St James' church in 1430, was rough-cut stone, sourced from Wilsford quarry near Grantham and sandstone from the Wolds. The stone was transported to Louth by boat on a network of rivers and old kart roads, which included the River Witham and the Kyme Eau. It took up to 6 months for the stone to be transported to Louth!
Did you know...
It could take up to six months for the stone to be transported by river from Ancaster to Louth and could only be transported during the dryer summer months when roads and cart tracks were not wet and muddy. This 17th century map gives an idea of the route taken.

The first stone church was built in in 1170. This was found to be too small and was rebuilt in 1247.

1430 - 1441 AD The Wild Mare
During the construction of the stone church, the large stones would have been raised from the ground and lifted into position at the top of the tower by the use of a medieval treadmill, known at the time as a 'Wild Mare'. It was given this name, it is thought, because if two or three people roped a wild horse and one of them slipped and let go of his rope, the others were usually dragged along the ground by the horse, and injured. Similarly, if one of the men on the tread-wheel at St James were to slip for any reason, when there was a heavy load being handled, the load would hurtle down to the ground, causing the wheel to rotate at a terrific rate, which threw the remaining workers about and caused terrible accidents.
Did you know...
Louth St James houses one of only four medieval Wild Mares left intact in England.

For hundreds of years St James was a wooden building: no tower, no spire. Imagine that!

1430 - 1441 AD Long wool sheep fund an ongoing expansion of St James
From 1450 to 1499, St James expanded in size to accommodate the growing population of Louth. Local merchants in the wool trade were becoming richer and money was donated by various guilds to the church to fund the building of a bell tower. Some of the money was funded by the long wool sheep trade which played a large role in the local economics at the time. To this day sheep can be seen carved into the stone inside at the top of the tower.
Did you know...
The sheep were reared on the hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds and it was the trade of wool from these sheep that drove prosperity in Louth and helped fund the construction of St James church.

1440 AD The Mason's marks
During the construction of the pillars, supporting walls and internal structures many stone masons were employed to work on the stones, either in the quarry or in the mason's yard rather than on site. Many of the stones were marked by the masons for various different reasons, one being that Masons paid by stone, so they would mark their own stones and each week the master mason would pay based on the number of stones. The second mark was usually a signature that pertained to the mason or workshop. The exact purpose of mason's marks is unclear. Some believe the marks were created in order to claim a payment. Others believe it indicates the origin of the stone or where it should be laid.
Did you know...
The interior of a medieval church would have been a place of vibrant colour and paintwork. In most medieval parish churches including St James it's likely you will find medieval graffitti. We know very little for the reason behind these marks. However, we do know that these inscriptions appear to deliberately avoid crossing over other inscriptions, even in very busy areas of the church, suggesting that they respected the earlier graffiti and were unwilling to destroy it.

1441 AD The church gets a new name
With the loss of St Herefrith’s relics, the church warden decided in 1441 to dedicate the Church to St James the patron saint of pilgrims, so the church became one of many stops for those on pilgrimage trails to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Did you know...
The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in Spain is the reputed burial-place of Saint James the Great, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. Many people to this day still take the pilgrimage to the cathedral.

1499 AD A new bell tower – ring out for the souls of the dead
The tower was built during the reign of King Edward IV In 1499. Shortly after its construction the church warden’s accounts state how the steeple roof was also strengthened in preperation for the construction of a spire.
Did you know...
The reason the bell tower was built on St James was so the bells could be rung so the souls of the dead could be called for, ready for the collection by St Michael and judgement by St Peter at the gates of heaven.

St James's tower was built seperately from the original church and later joined to the church after its completion. We know this due to the fact the tower was built with extra strengthened buttresses so the tower could support itsself. We allso know this because the last arch joining the tower to the church is wider and of a competely different style to the previous existing arches running along each side of the nave.

1501 AD The Catholic church of St James
You may not know that St James was once a Catholic church, and so would have looked very different inside to how we know it today. There would have been much more colour and decoration, as well as decorative paintings depicting images of the devil and the consequences of sinning, which were designed to encourage people to keep coming to the services. And, of course, the services would have been in Latin. The town guilds had their chapels in the side aisles of their parish church and the vicar of Louth would climb up the stairs to the top of the Rood Screen to preach to the people on one or two days each year.
Did you know...
Services in the Roman Catholic church would have been conducted in Latin, even though many that attended the services could not speak the language.

1501 AD A spire – the crowning glory
In 1501 construction on the spire began which lasted a full 15 years. In 1515 the spire was completed and the town celebrated with bell ringing and free bread and ale for all.

1501 AD A spire – The cost os the spire
Did you know...
The total cost of the spire was £308.8s.5d which is the equivilant of roughly £150,000 in todays money. Once completed the spire became the second largest medieval spire in England.

William Goulding's booklet "Building of Louth Spire" documented the cost of the construction of the spire between 1501 and 1515. The publication documents the finances of the build and states how some of the funds were donated from various Gild's such as St Mary's Gild, St Peter's Gild and the Holy Trinity Gild.

1501 AD The Louth Imps
Did you know...
In between the windows of the second storey of the tower, on each face, sits a Louth Imp - similar to the Lincoln Imp in Lincoln Cathedral, but Louth has four.

1501 AD St James' steeple
Did you know...
The steeple is hexagonal in shape and running up each edge from the base to the very top are decrative stone crockets that look evenly spaced between one another. However from the ground these crockets are an illusion as the distance between each crocket and the size varies as you go up the spire. This is to give the illusion that when looking up at the spire from the ground the crokets are evenly spaced up the spire. This process is known as Entasis. .

1534 AD Henry VIII defies the Pope
In the early 1500’s the Catholic Church went through some turbulent times during the Reformation, when the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church in Rome. It all started because in 1527 Henry VIII wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, but was refused permission by the Pope. In 1529, Henry summoned what came to be known as the Reformation Parliament. Five years later, in 1534, an official break from the Catholic Church eventually took place. The Act of Supremacy was announced, declaring Henry as the “Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England.” Despite this, Louth St James still remained a Catholic church.
Did you know...
Henry VIII had six wives in total, two of them he executed, two he divorced, one died and his last, he left widowed.

1536 AD The Lincolnshire Rising and the Pilgrimage of Grace
1st October 1536, as a result of Henry VIII’s ecclesiastical changes, people gathered in the church after evensong and so began the Lincolnshire Rising, as a reaction to rumours of monasteries being closed and wealth being confiscated. The uprising failed and on the 25 March 1537 Thomas Kendall, the vicar of Louth was hung drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
Did you know...
St James church in louth was the site and main gathering point of the Lincolnshire rising.

1547 AD ‘God’s Imp’ takes over
The Church of England became markedly Protestant when ‘God’s Imp’, Edward VI, became king in 1547, at the age of nine. Louth received a new Royal Charter under which the grammar school, alms houses for men and women, and markets were financed by monies from properties and land in and around Louth.
Did you know...
Edward VI only reigned for 6 years and died at the young age of 15.

1547 ADA Protestant church and removal of all colour
When King Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon in 1536, it was the recently appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer who convened his court and declared the king’s marriage void from the beginning. Under Henry's protection, Cranmer helped transform the church to the Church of England. After Henry's death and with the young Edward VI on the throne in 1547, Thomas Cranmer's time had come. He immediately began to transform the Church of England into a decidedly Protestant church.
Did you know...
It was Thomas Cranmer who gave the order for all Catholic paintings, colour and decoration to be removed from all churches across England as part of his plan to transform the Church of England into a Protestant church.

1553 St James once again a Catholic church
When Edward died, Mary I took England back into the Church of Rome. For five years the Catholic Mass was again celebrated in St James, and Protestants were persecuted, although there were no burnings in Louth.
Did you know...
Queen Mary I's attempt at reestablishing the Catholic Church by burning Protestants resulted in her being nicknamed 'Bloody Mary', hence where the term comes from.

1558 AD The Elizabethan Settlement
When Mary died in 1558, the Church of England broke once again from Rome, and this time the break with Rome was complete. The Elizabethan settlement of 1559 sought to see the future of the Church of England as both Catholic and Reformed.

1608 AD Captain John Smith establishes Jamestown, America
Captain John Smith born in Willoughby, sails to the New World and helps establish the first permament English settlement in North America, Jamestown. Smith trained the settlers to farm and work, thus saving the colony from early devastation. He publicly stated "he who shall not work, shall not eat". Smith was famously saved from execution by Native Americans by the daughter of the chief, Pocahontas who placed her head upon his own when her father raised his war club to execute him. In 1614, Smith returned to the Americas in a voyage to the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts Bay. He named the region "New England". In a second trip to 'New England', he was captured by French pirates but managed to escape and made his way back to England. He died in the year 1631 in London at the age of 51.

1608 AD Captain John Smith establishes Jamestown, America
An oil painting depicting the Baptism of Pocahontas by John Gadsby Chapman in 1840. It is said that Pocahontas befriended Captain John Smith and the Jamestown colony, and many stories were written and exaggerated about the relationship. However, Pocahontas did famously marry and English man called John Rolfe, which helped bring peace between the natives and the English. Pochahontas left for England with John Rolfe's return where she remained until she died in 1617 aged 22.
Did you know...
Captain John Smith was born in Willoughby, Lincolnshire and has a strong connection with Louth as he was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School in Louth from 1592 - 1595.

1632 AD The famous weathercock struck by lightning
In 1632 Louth was hit by strong storms and the church spire was damaged and left needing repair.
Did you know...
Lightning struck the church several times, and as a result a weathercock crafted from metal left on the battlefield of the battle of Flodden in 1513 was completely destroyed.

1632 AD The famous weathercock struck by lightning

An oil painting by Sir John Gilbert illustrating the battle of Flodden and an image of what the weathercock might have looked like.

1726 AD St Jamess' Church gets new bells
In 1726 the ring of eight bells is recast by Daniel and John Hedderley, bellfounders of Derby, and to this day they are hung in the magnificent frame in the Belfry in St Jamess'.
Did you know...
The bells to this day are the heaviest eight bell peal in Lincolnshire.

The great bell was cracked when it was over enthusiastically rung in 1798 to celebrate Nelson 's victory on the Nile.

1775 AD The Church gets new paintings
In 1775 William Williams paints the tall pictures of St Peter and St James that now hang in the nave of the church and Christ's Decent from the Cross which also hangs in St James'. In 1787 two new galleries were constructed over the north and south aisles where the paintings now hang.

The paintings of St Peter and St James can be seen hanging either side of the asile towards the tower end of the church.

1775 AD The Church gets new paintings
Did you know...
The paintings of St Peter and St James can be seen hanging either side of the asile towards the tower end of the church.

1798 AD The Bells are cracked
Did you know...
The great bell was cracked when it was over enthusiastically rung in 1798 to celebrate Nelson 's victory on the Nile.

1826 AD The church gets gas lighting
In 1826 gas lighting was installed in and around the church.

1844 AD Artist William Brown paints Louth from St James Spire
In 1844, once again St James' spire was struck by lightning and repairs needed to be made. The repairs resulted in the spire being further increased in height to 295ft. During the time the repairs were being made, local artist William Brown used it as an opportunity to create sketches of the view from the top of the spire, later to be used in his creation of the Louth Panorama painting, which was exhibited in 1848.
Did you know...
William Brown's panorama painting of Louth is still exhibited and can be see today hanging on the walls of Louth Town Council's, Session House.

1854 AD Tennyson writes The Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, famous English Poet Laureate, writes 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. He also wrote such works as Tears, Idle Tears and classical mythological themes such as Ulysses. Many of Tennyson's quotes became commonplace in the English language, such as "Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die" and "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers."
Did you know...
Tennyson was born in Somersby in Lincolnshire and attended King Edward VI Grammar School in Louth before entering Trinty College at Cambridge in 1827.

Alfred Tennyson's mother, Elizabeth Fytche, was the daughter of Stephen Fytche, the vicar of St James Church, Louth in 1764.

1857 ADThe church gets a new organ
In 1857 Gray & Davision install a new organ. Originally it was sited in what is now St Stephen's Chapel but was removed during James Fowler's restoration where it remains to this day. In 1911 the organ was completely rebuilt and ever since then the organ requires regular repairs, tuning and maintenance to ensure it's kept in mint condition.
Did you know...
The organ is made up of 37 stops, 2,057 pipes, 3 manuals and 3 pedals.

1860 AD TW Wallis, Angels and Demons
In 1829 TW Wallis carved the figures of the eleven disciples into the pulpit. This included St Peter with his keys and St Andrew with his cross, but only the face of Judas at the very bottom of the pulpit to represent his descent to Hell.

1860 AD Fowler draws up plans for his renovation of St James's
James Fowler, a well known Victorian architect known for his renovation and restoration of churches, begins to draw up plans for a major restoration project to replace some sections of the flooring, to remove the galleries, the present pews, and the choir stalls, and to install a new font and high altar.
Did you know...
James Fowler was the Diocesan Surveyor for Lincolnshire between 1871 and 1886, and was the mayor of Louth five times.

The image above shows the original plans that Fowler drew up in preparation for the renovation of the St James'. The orignal plans show how before the renovation the asile was much narrower than today's, due to an extra row of pews runing alongside the outer pews.

1860 AD Fowler's plans

The image above shows the original plans that Fowler drew up in preparation for the renovation of the St James'. The orignal plans show how before the renovation the asile was much narrower than today's, due to an extra row of pews runing alongside the outer pews.

1860 AD St James' Church gets stained glass windows
In 1861 St James' Church Chancel and stained glass window are refurbished all in the same year that Prince Albert dies, and Queen Victoria goes into mourning.
Did you know...
The impressive stained glass windows either side of the Nave illustrate Old Testament stories and the Chancel windows illustrate New Testament stories. .

1869 AD Fowler completes his renovation
Fowler completes his restoration of St James’, which to this day remains basically unchanged. Fowler undertook an enormous amount of work, designing or restoring more than two hundred buildings, mostly in Lincolnshire but several outside the county, including some in London. He was Diocesan Surveyor for Lincolnshire from 1871 to 1886. You can see several examples of Fowler’s work in Louth today, including St Michael’s Church in Church Street, Louth Grammar School (now the school studio) in Schoolhouse Lane, the Bedehouses in Gospelgate, Louth Hospital (now part of the grammar school) in Crowtree Lane, and the Orme Almshouses in Eastgate.
Did you know...
Folwers image can be seen carved into the wood work of the choir stalls. You can find his image carved into the wood work at the end of a pew.

1908 AD Story of the spire gets published
William Goulding of Louth, a libarian to the the Duke of Portland, gave a talk depicting the construction of the spire, detailing its costs, along with all the details of donations from all the various guilds of the time.

1937 AD St James' flies the highest flag in Lincolnshire
In 1937 St James’ church flew the highest flag in Lincolnshire to mark the coronation of King George VI. Later in the same year renovation work commenced on the spire, under the supervision of the architect, Mr. Goddard, who had previously worked on Lincoln Cathedral.

2015 AD Present day
2015 brings us to the end of the tour covering over a thousand years of history from the invading Danes through to the reformation of the church during the reign of Henry the VIII, to James Fowlers restoration, leaving us the Church we know so well today: A magnificent example of a medieval parish Church with the second tallest spire in England steeped in history. The spire will be 500 years old in September 2015.