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Church of St John the Baptist, Stamford

Description: Church of St John the Baptist

Grade: I
Date Listed: 22 May 1954
English Heritage Building ID: 193643

OS Grid Reference: TF0292607086
OS Grid Coordinates: 502926, 307086
Latitude/Longitude: 52.6517, -0.4800

Location: St John's Street, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 2DB

Locality: Stamford
Local Authority: South Kesteven District Council
County: Lincolnshire
Country: England
Postcode: PE9 2DB

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Listing Text

836/1/174 ST JOHN'S STREET

C12 in origin. Tower of uncertain, pre-C15 date. Otherwise, the church is wholly of the C15 and was apparently built in a single building campaign completed in 1451. Bellframe rebuilt c.1680-1710. There was internal refitting in the C18. The church was restored in 1856 by Edward Browning. There were further restorations in the late C19 and early C20, with major work in 1950-3 on the nave arcades. It became redundant in 2003 and was repaired after that date.

Limestone ashlar with lead roofs.

Chancel with N and S chapels and S vestry, nave with N and S aisles, tower over the W bay of the N aisle, and small S porch.

The exterior is wholly Perpendicular in appearance with a prominent tower without a spire. The chancel, clerestoried nave and aisles are embattled and have C15 windows, mostly with cusped lights and vertical tracery. The rood stair turret at the junction between the S aisle and S chapel is polygonal. It projects above the roof line and has a small, stone spire. The five stage tower pre-dates the rest of the present church, and stands over the W bay of the N aisle. There is evidence for it having been altered to match the mid C15 work. It has clasping buttresses and a rich, embattled parapet with tall pinnacles. The tall bell openings are of two, subdivided lights with a central super mullion, a Stamford characteristic subsequently used elsewhere in Lincolnshire. The very shallow S porch is richly decorated, and has a two-centred arch with many tiny orders under a crocketted ogee label and a small, embattled parapet with pinnacles and side gargoyles. Brick channelling around the whole church was added in 1897-9, and the SE vestry was built in 1906.

The spacious interior is also almost wholly of the C15, and only a small area of C12 stonework N of the chancel arch and weather courses for former nave and aisle roofs on the internal E and S faces of the tower remain from earlier churches. The N and S chapels open from the chancel through C15 single arches with two, wave moulded orders, and the chancel arch is similar. The arches from the chapels to the aisles die into the walls. The N and S nave arcades are of the same design and have two orders, the inner on polygonal attached shafts, the outer continuous. The S arcade is of four bays, and the N arcade has three bays, while the fourth bay forms the S tower arch. Both it and the E tower arch to the N aisle are similar in design to the nave arcades, but are taller, narrower and heavier. The easternmost pier of the N arcade was entirely rebuilt in 1950-3 following subsidence caused by burial vaults below it.

Excellent C15 and C19 fittings.

Very fine C15 octagonal font with quatrefoil panelling and a waisted stem. The octagonal font cover is C17, and has panelled sides and a conical spire with crockets. C15 chancel piscina has miniature vaulting inside the recess. There is another C15 piscina in the S aisle. Delicate, timber, wineglass pulpit of 1953, donated by E Bowman and Sons, who carried out the restoration work. Excellent nave benches of 1856 by Edward Browning, with openwork backs, poppyheads and carved ends. The choir stalls are also by Browning. Two early C18 altar frontals are framed and hang in the S aisle.

There are C15 screens at the E ends of the N and S aisles closing off the chapels. Both have cusped arcading on the dado below openings with elaborate dropped tracery and double doors with similar tracery. There are traces of a former coved cornice. The screen on the S side of the chancel is similar, and was formerly the chancel screen. The screens were re-set in their present positions during the 1856 restoration.

Excellent C15 glass, all of 1451, was cleaned and partly re-set in 1974, including chancel N window, and windows in both the N and S aisles. The other glass is C19 and C20, and includes the E and W windows of 1856 by Francis Wilson Oliphant, and windows by Heaton, Butler and Baynes, and Clayton and Bell.

The roofs are all mid C15 and were re-coloured in 1856. The chancel roof has cambered tie beams with short king posts, tracery infill above the beams and carved bosses. The curved braces have crude angel figures that may be an addition of 1623. The nave roof also has cambered tie beams with foliate bosses, with angels on the intermediate principals. The wall posts stand on figural corbels. The S aisle and S chapel roofs are lean to and also have angels on the wall posts, while the N aisle and N chapel roofs are simpler.

Brasses include Nicholas Byldyson and Kateryn, his wife, d. 1489; and William Gregory and Agnes, his wife, undated C15, and Henry Sargeaunt, rector, d. 1497. The slab for the latter was reused for Thomas Bright, d.1774. There are many good C18 and early C19 wall tablets, notably John Booth, d.1799, a Coade stone relief of a female figure leaning on an urn and signed Coade, London, 1800.

The small church yard contains a number of good C18 and C19 head stones, and several monuments are attached to the outside of the church.

St John the Baptist is not among the churches known to have existed in Stamford in the Anglo-Saxon period, and may be C12 in origin, the date of the earliest surviving fabric. Stamford was sacked and burned by the Lancastrian forces in 1461, but the newly rebuilt church apparently survived the destruction intact. Its wholescale rebuilding c.1450 reflected the prosperity of the town in this period, when it was made rich by the wool and cloth trade. It was the first of Stamford┬┐s churches to be influenced by the Tractarian movement and was refitted in High Church style in 1856 by local architect Edward Browning, who also worked on Stamford┬┐s other medieval churches. As well as restoration and re-seating, the work included extensive painted decoration in the chancel, but this was removed in 1878 when new furnishings including a Caen stone reredos and pulpit, both later removed, were installed. There were additional restorations in 1867, 1897-9 and 1906, when the vestry was added. The N arcade was partially rebuilt and the tower parapet renewed in 1950-3. There were proposals in the mid 1990s to remove many of the furnishings, but these were rejected, and the church became redundant in 2003. It then came into the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, who carried out repairs to the roofs and other works.

Pevsner, N and Harris, J., Buildings of England: Lincolnshire (2nd ed, 2002), 690-1
Smith, J F H, Church of St John the Baptist: Stamford, Lincolnshire, CCT Guidebook (2009)
RCHME Stamford (1977), 15-17

The church of St John the Baptist, Stamford is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Outstanding, and very complete, town church of the C15 including its C15 roofs and many C15 fittings including screens and some glass.
* Tower has important landmark value.
* Restored in 1856 by Edward Browning with excellent C19 fittings by Browning, including nave benches and choir stalls.
* Good C19 and C20 glass.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.