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Church of St Nicholas

A Grade I Listed Building in Grosmont, Monmouthshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.914 / 51°54'50"N

Longitude: -2.8668 / 2°52'0"W

OS Eastings: 340476

OS Northings: 224300

OS Grid: SO404243

Mapcode National: GBR FC.PRHD

Mapcode Global: VH78X.8591

Entry Name: Church of St Nicholas

Location: In the centre of Grosmont in a large, gently sloping churchyard which contains a range of well-preserved memorials and chest tombs.

County: Monmouthshire

Town: Abergavenny

Community: Grosmont

Traditional County: Monmouthshire

Listing Date: 9 January 1956

Last Amended: 19 October 2000

Grade: I

Source: Cadw

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Source ID: 1947

History

The great C13 cruciform church has been described as a miniature cathedral and its large size marks the important standing of Grosmont during the early medieval period. The tradition that Grosmont church was started by Brian de Wallingford in the C12 and was completed by a French architect employed by Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III, seems to have no documentary basis. The magnificent unrestored nave dating from the early C13 may once have had wider aisles, the aisle walls were possibly narrowed in the C15 when the tower and N porch were added. The medieval church at Grosmont survived largely unaltered until the mid C19, but by then had fallen into disrepair and the tower was in danger of collapse. Between 1869-79 J.P.Seddon almost entirely rebuilt the chancel and transepts and underpinned the crossing steeple, in a sweeping reconstruction financed by the Rolls family of The Hendre. No detailed plans of the original church seem to survive; it is thus difficult to unravel the extent of Seddon's changes. Although some of the C13 fabric appears to have been saved and reused, it is evident that Seddon did not carry out a strictly faithful reconstruction. The altar was raised, a new E window replaced the early C13 triple lancets, a larger window was installed in the NE transept; and a piscina taken out of the Eleanor Chapel and moved to the N transept. In 1888 Seddon began a restoration the nave, replacing two 'unsightly', square windows (presumably late C15 Perp) with triple lancets. But the nave itself escaped major C19 restoration so that today the contrast between the two different parts of the church is very remarkable.

Exterior

Red sandstone rubble with some ashlar dressings, slate roofs. Cruciform plan; aisled nave, transepts, crossing-tower, chancel, S chapel, N porch. Rectangular nave with N and S aisles enclosed by single roof with double slope. Nave N wall has centre porch; walls each side are blind. Gabled porch has corner buttresses with offsets and arch braced collar truss roof. To right is flat headed 2-light trefoil window; to left, a single light window with cinquefoil head. Moulded pointed arched inner doorway; hood mould with figural label-stops. Nave roof, N side has large gabled dormer next to crossing; 2-light pointed arched window with Y-tracery. N transept has 3-light pointed arched window; and transept E wall a C19 5-light window with three trefoils. Windows of chancel and S chapel all date from the C19 restoration. N chancel has seven lancets; S chancel seven smaller lancets. E End has 3-light pointed arched window with dripmould and geometrical tracery. Attached to the S of the chancel is the 'Eleanor' Chapel with smaller 3-light E window and trefoil to tracery. Eleanor chapel, S wall has (r to l) a blind rectangular panel to upper wall, a double lancet, a circular window with inset quatrefoil, another double lancet and finally a pair of pointed arched doorways with common dripmould. S Transept, a tall triple lancet, and a single lancet. Nave S wall, two smaller C19 triple lancet windows. W window is pointed-arched with reticulated tracery; ground floor entrance doorway has four-centred arch and with dripmould, and studded double-doors. The walls on each side are buttressed at the junction with the aisles, with a single small lancet windows to W walls of the aisles on each side. Octagonal C15 Tower is broached at base; each face of belfry has a louvred pointed arched opening with a 2-light trefoil and traceried quatrefoil. Plain coped parapet with rainwater spouts projecting at each corner; tall stone spire with small upper lucarnes capped by gablets and ornamental weathervane.

Interior

The interior is remarkable for the striking contrast between the great unrestored nave, with stripped walls and roughly paved floor, and the C19 reconstructed chancel and transepts, completely cut off from the nave by Seddon's glazed screen of 1888. Nave is of 5 bays. Early C13 arcades have pointed double-chamfered arches and rounded piers with moulded caps and bases with a waterholding moulding. Crown-post rafter roof, axial struts support crown plate which has traces of painted decoration on soffit. At the junction of nave aisles and N and S transepts the walls have large blind arches; to NW a great semi-circular arch and to SW a large pointed arch, suggesting that originally the aisles were either once wider or intended to be wider. Seddon's great glazed wooden screen encloses the W arch of the crossing and is set with small geometric panes of plain glass. The upper screen encloses the head of the crossing arch above impost level and has pointed arched panels with multifoil heads, below is a boarded rood canopy supported by compound curved consoles, the lower stage of the screen is formed by eight glazed panels with cinquefoil heads, the centre panels form glazed double-doors. Although Seddon underpinned the crossing arches, and replaced the crocket capitals, many of the stone voussoirs look older and are probably C13. Transept, N wall has C13 piscina with dog-tooth moulded basin (moved by Seddon from Eleanor Chapel); and SE wall a broad Tudor arched recess. The chancel is almost entirely a C19 reconstruction by Seddon. Few features from the C13 church have survived: the attenuated detached shafts of the lancets are probably C13, S Chancel wall has a fine C13 double piscina with dog-tooth moulded in a cinquefoil niche and the pointed arched dripmould above the door to the Eleanor Chapel is probably C13. However, what remains is strongly C19 in character. The altar was raised by Seddon and the stone flagged floor replaced by C19 encaustic tiles. To left and right of altar, aumbry and sedilia with shouldered arches are both C19, so too is the boarded wagon roof. C19 Italianate style pulpit, polygonal with shallow arcade of open trefoils carried on short marble shafts and with marble rail. Font, probably early C12: octagonal bowl with roundels on each face, single band of cable moulding and drum pedestal. Stained glass: E window of 1879 'feading of the five thousand' in style of Heaton, Butler & Bayne. Organ, 1845 Finger barrel organ by Joseph Walker of London. Seddon's Screen of 1888 by Robert Clark of Hereford. Furnishings: SE nave; large plank chest ('Grosmont Hutch'), top lid divided with strap hinges. Monuments: S chancel; Joseph Austin (died 1816) slate with white marble panel in relief, surmounted by sarcophagus. S transept, rectangular tomb slab (ex situ) with marginal inscription and effigies of Charles William of Goytre (Mayor of Grosmont and Deputy Steward of Duchy of Lancaster) and his wife Joan Baker, dated 1636. SE nave; large, possibly C13, tomb slab; crudely carved effigy of recumbent knight, shield at side, hands closed in prayer. Nave S aisle; John James of Kingsfield (died 1814), oval slate tablet with white marble urn in relief, and to Amey James (died 1771) rectangular stone tablet with broken pediment, curved apron with angel head and wings. Nave N aisle; wall tablets to Susannah Watkins (died 1761), Beatrix Prichard (died 1752), Elizabeth Gilbert (died 1772), and Judith Pomphrey Austin (died 1795); square tablet with fluted pilasters on each side supporting roundels at the angles. Nave floor incorporates a number of stone memorial slabs, mostly C19.

Reasons for Listing

Exceptionally fine C13 parish church of remarkable size (reflecting the former importance of Grosmont in the medieval period), retaining well-preserved interior with great unrestored nave and historically interesting C19 restoration by John Pollard Seddon.

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