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Church of St Martin, Stamford

Description: Church of St Martin

Grade: I
Date Listed: 22 May 1954
English Heritage Building ID: 193673

OS Grid Reference: TF0311206788
OS Grid Coordinates: 503112, 306788
Latitude/Longitude: 52.6490, -0.4773

Location: High Street St Martin's, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 2LJ

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

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Listing Text

836/1/202 ST MARTIN'S
22-MAY-54 (East side)


Rebuilt c.1482-85 on an earlier site; some fabric in the tower is earlier. Re-ordering in 1845 by Edward Browning; Cecil Chapel extended to N in 1865.

Limestone ashlar and lead roofs.

Chancel with N and S chapels, nave with N and S aisles clasping the W tower, and S porch.

The exterior is wholly of the later C15. The nave, aisles and chancel have embattled parapets. The windows are typically late Perpendicular with vertical tracery. Those on the S have embattled transoms. There is a polygonal rood stair turret with a spire in the angle between the N chapel and the N aisle.

The two storied S porch has embattled parapets and an outer opening with many tiny mouldings, each with its own respond. The ground floor has a shallow tierceron star vault with intermediate ribs carried by demi-angels holding shields with the arms of the see of Lincoln. There is an external stone stair turret with a conical roof to the upper floor. The S door has wave moulded jambs and a four-centred head.

The four stage tower stands over the W bay of the nave and has an ornate, embattled parapet with tall pinnacles. There are squinches for an intended spire, but it was never built. The W door has wave mouldings and the three light W window has a label continuing into a string course, motifs widely used on the interior. The belfry windows have two pairs of openings separated by a tall central mullion, a motif also used on other Stamford churches.

The interior is of a consistent late C15 design, but weather courses from an earlier church, which had much lower and more steeply pitched roofs, survive internally on the E, N and S faces of the tower. A small opening in the tower above the former nave gable was originally an external window.

The chancel arch, the two bay arcade to the N (Burghley) chapel, the single opening to the S chapel and the four bay nave arcades are of a similar design, with lofty arches of two wave moulded orders with labels continuing into string courses. The half-round responds have polygonal capitals and bases, and in the arcades form quatrefoil piers. The nave arcades have angel corbels in the spandrels holding shields with the arms of C15 bishops of Lincoln, apparently inserted after the completion of the arcades, and probably originally intended to hold statues. The S chapel is continuous with the S aisle, but an arch between the N aisle and chapel was inserted in the C19 when the N chapel extended, and there is a steeply pitched two bay arcade dividing the chapel from E to W. The arcade between the Burghley chapel and the chancel is blocked in the E bay by Lord Burghley's tomb, and in the W bay by the Burghley pews, and access is mainly through a NE door.

The tower stands over the W bay of the nave and is enclosed by the aisles. The tall, narrow tower arches to N, S and E are similar in design to the rest of the building. The lower part of the tower is vaulted.

The church was refurnished in 1844-5 to designs by Edward Browning and retains an excellent, and very complete, suite of fittings of this date. Low box pews in the nave have the ends, doors and fronts decorated with richly carved, Early Decorated-style trefoiled arches. The choir stalls, reading desk and pulpit have Perpendicular style blind tracery and carved figures. The Marquess of Exeter¿s pew, which, unusually, remains facing S into the chancel, comprises three box pews larger than those in the nave with strapwork designs to compliment the adjacent Cecil tombs. The pews entirely block the western arch of the chapel arcade, but access between chapel and chancel is provided by a clever, hinged section in the front pew. The unusual chancel tiles in geometric patterns, which have bands of fine brass tracery panels inset in areas more prone to wear, are contemporary. Delicate early C20 screen with figures including St George under the tower arch.

Some medieval furnishings survive. A re-cut medieval stone altar slab is re-used in the C19 high altar. An octagonal early C14 font with traceried sides stands on a C19 carved base. There are C15 piscinas in both the chancel and the S chapel, with a further recess, possibly a former sedilia in the chancel. A small amount of C15 painting in a damask pattern survives on the chancel arch. The S aisle roof is C15 and has a moulded ridge and principals. The other roofs were redone in the C19. There are several medieval doors, including those to the tower and porch vices and to the chamber over the porch. Royal arms of 1758, over-painted in 1808.

There are five windows of fine late C15 glass, reset in 1759-60 by the noted glazier Peckitt of York. That in the E window may be partly original to St Martin's, but most of the glass was removed from Tattershall church in 1757 and given to the Earl of Exeter. It was installed in St Martin's in 1759-60 and combines figural and heraldic panels with elegant marquetry-style geometric panels made up of quatries.

There is a very fine group of monuments to the Cecil family, Lords Burghley and later Earls of Exeter, of nearby Burghley house in the N (Burghley) chapel. They include Richard Cecil, d.1552 and Jane, his wife, d. 1578, kneeling figures under an elaborate cornice; William Cecil, first Lord Burghley, d.1598, a large free-standing monument under the N chapel arch, in coloured marbles with a figure on tomb chest under an arched canopy supported on paired columns; both are attributed to Cornelius Cure. The latter is among the most imposing of all Elizabethan funerary monuments, as befits Burghley's historical stature. and John Cecil, fifth Earl of Exeter and Anne (Cavendish) his wife, dated 1704, a neo-classical statuary group by Pierre-Étienne Monnot, a French sculptor working in Rome who also designed statuary for Burghley House: this is one of the finest tombs of its day in the country, displaying strong antique tendencies as befits its Roman creation. There are also a number of good C18 and C19 wall tablets including a provincial tablet to the Dutch portrait William Wissing d. 1687; there is also an unusual ceramic panel in the N wall to Thomas Goodrich d.1885, 'a rare cricketer', some C18 and early C19 floor slabs, and a group of C19 hatchments.

St Martin's may have been among the buildings damaged in the sack of Stamford by the Lancastrian forces in 1461, as it was said to be ruinous in 1473. Rebuilding was started in 1482, and completed in 1485. The heraldry in the nave corbels relates to Chedworth, Bishop of Lincoln (1452-71), Russell, Bishop of Lincoln ((1480-94), Rotherham (Scott), Archbishop of York (1480-1500), and probably Shirwood, Bishop of Durham (1485-94), probably indicating patronage of the rebuilding work. The glass also has heraldry for Russell, Rotherham and Chedworth as well as Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln 1421-31. The church was closely associated with the Cecil family of nearby Burghley House, and the Marquess of Exeter was the patron of the mid C19 restorations by Stamford architect Edward Browning.

RCHME Stamford (1977), 18-23
Pevsner, N and Harris, J., Buildings of England: Lincolnshire (2002), 691-3

The church of St Martin, Stamford is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Church with outstanding fabric of the late C15, in a unified design.
* Fine C15 glass from Tattershall church, moved to St Martin's in the mid C18 and re-set in typically C18 geometric patterns by Peckitt of York.
* Excellent monuments of the C16-C19, especially those of the Cecil family in the Burghley chapel, of high artistic and historical importance.
* Excellent and very complete mid C19 fittings designed by local architect Edward Browning and paid for by the Marquess of Exeter.

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.