A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1930.
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The church of ST. PETER stands on the south side of Marefair, near the west end of the town, close to the site of the castle. The building is chiefly of late 12th century date, but two fragments of preConquest cross-shafts (fn. 1) found in 1850 point to an earlier church having occupied the site. No part of the present building, however, is older than c.1150– 75, to which period the chancel and nave arcades, the tower arch and part of the clearstory walls belong; the arcades are very perfect examples of the highly decorated work of the time, and have frequently been noticed and illustrated. (fn. 2)
The church consists of a continuous clearstoried chancel and nave under one roof about 93 ft. long (fn. 3) by 18 ft. wide, continuous north and south aisles 6 ft. 6 in. wide, north porch, and west tower 12 ft. 4 in. by 12 ft. 8 in., all these measurements being internal. The width across nave and aisles is 35 ft., and the total internal length of the church is 108 ft. 6 in.
Except at the west end the plan is substantially the same as when first set out, though the walls of both aisles and the east end of the chancel have been rebuilt at different times. Originally the nave extended about 10 ft. further west, with tower beyond, but was shortened and the tower rebuilt in its present position probably in the early years of the 17th century. (fn. 4) The aisle walls were rebuilt in the 14th century, the old doorways being retained, and some alterations were afterwards made at the east end of the north aisle, where a 15th century window still remains. (fn. 5) Square-headed windows were inserted in the aisles in the 17th century, and the east end of the building seems to have been reconstructed about the same time, (fn. 6) the projecting square end of the chancel being removed and the aisles shortened.
After long years of neglect, the building was restored in 1850–51 by Sir Gilbert Scott, (fn. 7) when the east end was rebuilt in its present form, (fn. 8) the clearstory (which had been mutilated and modernised) (fn. 9) restored to its original character, and the nave and chancel new roofed. The aisle roofs were renewed in 1882. The tower was further restored externally in 1901, and 1912–13.
The walling is generally of ironstone rubble and the main roof is covered with stone slates with slightly projecting eaves; the aisle roofs are leaded, behind plain parapets. Internally the walls are plastered.
The chancel is structurally an eastward extension of the nave, the dividing piers of the arcades being common to both. There is no chancel arch, and the design of the arcades precludes there having been one. The nave originally consisted of three double bays, with arches arranged in pairs, supported alternately by slender cylindrical pillars and by more massive compound piers, but the western double bay was cut in halves at the time of the alterations recorded above, and only its eastern portion remains. The rebuilt tower thus encroaches on the clearstory and arcades, the present west responds of which are in reality whole pillars partly built into the wall. (fn. 10) The chancel arcades consist of three single bays, with cylindrical pillars on each side.
The arches throughout are semicircular, and of about 7 ft. span, of a single order, with bold chevron ornament on each side and plain soffits, but without hood moulds. The compound piers are of quatrefoil section, consisting of four clustered shafts, those facing east and west forming responds to the intermediate pillars. The shafts on the side towards the nave are continued up to the top of the clearstory as supports for the roof principals, and have scalloped capitals, while those towards the aisles formed springers for transverse arches now destroyed. The diameter of the compound piers is considerably greater than the thickness of the wall above them, while that of the intermediate pillars, which are banded at rather more than half their height, is something less. In the ornamentation of the bands the cable moulding predominates, and it occurs also in great variety in the necks of the capitals throughout. The moulded bases stand on square plinths and some of them have acutely pointed foot ornaments. The whole of the capitals and their square abaci in both nave and chancel are most elaborately sculptured, the deep, intricate chiselling on the former contrasting strongly with the comparatively rough axe work on the arches. (fn. 11) The capitals are all different, and their beautiful and delicate sculpture, which includes interlacing foliage and some animal and figure subjects, is of its kind unsurpassed in the kingdom. (fn. 12)
In the chancel the two pairs of pillars differ in size and design; the eastern pair is similar to those in the nave, while the western pillars are of greater diameter, without bands, and built of ironstone. The eastern responds correspond with the western pillars, the idea of alternation being thus in some measure carried out. (fn. 13) Elsewhere in the interior free-stone is used.
The modern east end of the chancel is in the style of the 12th century, with round-headed windows disposed in a somewhat unusual manner. (fn. 14) No ancient ritual arrangements remain either in the chancel or aisles, having no doubt perished at the time of the destruction of the original east end.
The clearstory consists externally of a shallow arcading of semicircular unmoulded arches on detached shafts with scalloped capitals and moulded bases running the whole length of chancel and nave. Every seventh space is pierced for a window, and above the arcades is a contemporary corbel table of heads and grotesques. Internally the windows are perfectly plain and widely splayed, but do not correspond with the arches below, the clearstory having been designed with a single window immediately over the pillars in the eastern and western double bays of the nave, and with two windows in the middle double bay. Of the two western windows, one was pushed out of shape and the other actually cut in halves when the tower was re-erected further east.
The east end of both aisles was rebuilt at the same time as the chancel, but the outer walls elsewhere appear to be of the 14th century. In the north wall a re-used 12th century stringcourse is continued round the westernmost buttress, and the original roundheaded doorway is of two square orders and plain hoodmould, the outer order resting on mutilated scalloped capitals. (fn. 15) The contemporary south doorway is also of two plain orders, the outer on shafts with divided capitals and moulded bases. One 14th century square-headed window of two trefoiled lights remains on the north side, and in the south aisle, near the east end of the nave portion, is a moulded segmental tomb recess of the same period, the arch supported by small attached shafts with capitals and bases. The 15th century window in the north aisle is of three cinquefoiled lights with Perpendicular tracery, but all the other windows are late, square-headed, and of three unfoliated lights.
The tower is of three unequal and irregular stages, and offers many evidences of reconstruction. The lowest stage, which has a boldly moulded plinth, (fn. 16) is faced with alternate courses of ironstone and freestone forming broad bands of contrasting colour, and inserted in the west wall is a remarkable and beautiful arch of three delicately carved orders all flush with the wall plane, with hoodmould and imposts similarly carved, but no jambs. Set within this arch, above the plinth, is a much restored square-headed window of three trefoiled lights, but there can be little doubt that the arch belonged originally to a 12th century west doorway of three or more (fn. 17) recessed orders the jambs of which were removed when the tower was rebuilt. On the north and south sides of the lowest stage, above the plain masonry, are two courses of fine carving, and over these an arcade of blind arches ranging with those of the clearstory. The middle stage is separated from the lower by a string course of trowel point ornament supported by a corbel table of heads and grotesques, and has an arcade of round arches on each of its three sides, the arches being moulded and supported by octagonal detached shafts with scalloped capitals and moulded bases. Above these is another corbel table and stringcourse with double roll-moulding.
The two western angles are covered, to the top of the middle stage, by large buttresses of unusual design, consisting of triple clustered freestone shafts, perhaps fashioned from 12th century columns or jambshafts, (fn. 18) and at the north-east angle is a massive four-stage buttress, of alternate courses of ironstone and freestone, projecting in its lower stages beyond the width of the aisle. At the south-east angle a large square staircase turret serves as a corresponding buttress.
To the top of the middle stage, after the cessation of the alternate bands, the tower is mainly of freestone, but above the arcades ironstone is used. The upper stage is later in character, with battlemented parapet, pyramidal stone slated roof, and transomed bell-chamber windows of two trefoiled lights with separate hoodmoulds. The triple-shafted buttresses are continued as single shafts, in two stages to the underside of the parapet. The walls of the upper part of the tower are said to be largely built of moulded and wrought stones of 13th century date, (fn. 19) which may have been brought from one or other of the destroyed monastic buildings in the neighbourhood, (fn. 20) and there is reason to believe that the whole of this work in its existing form dates only from the early 17th century rebuilding.
The reconstructed late 12th century tower arch occupies the whole width of the west end of the nave, and consists of three orders all richly decorated with cheveron moulding, (fn. 21) and a bold square-edged hoodmould ornamented with fine chiselled work. The orders spring from half-round responds and detached jamb-shafts with elaborately carved capitals (fn. 22) and moulded bases. Three of the shafts are enriched, one on the north side with a spiral pattern, while two on the south are ornamented respectively with interlaced work and with studded cheverons. (fn. 23)
The unmounted octagonal font is of late 14th century date, the sides panelled with cusped tracery under straight-sided crocketed canopies which spring from dwarf buttresses at the angles and terminate in floriated finials. In the upper part, between the canopies, the angles are ornamented with crocketed attached pinnacles.
The stone pulpit, low chancel wall, and all the roofs and fittings are modern. The carved oak reredos, first erected in 1878, was completed in 1914, as a memorial to Edward Nichols Tom, rector 1873– 1905. There are modern screens north and south of the chancel. (fn. 24)
In addition to the high altar, mention is made in the 15th and 16th centuries of the high rood loft, the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the altars of St. Nicholas, St. John Baptist and St. Katharine, and to St. Eregaiar's altar (1535). (fn. 25)
There are monuments to John Smith of London (d. 1742), 'the most eminent Engraver in MezzoTinto in his time'; William Smith LL.D. (d. 1839), the 'father of British geology,' with white marble bust; George Baker (fn. 26) (d. 1851), historian of the county, and his sister, Ann Eliza (d. 1861); Edward Lockwood (d. 1802), rector for 52 years; John Stoddart (d. 1827), headmaster of Northampton Grammar School; and a brass plate in the chancel in memory of Robert Meyricke Serjeantson, rector and historian of the Northampton churches (d. 1916). In the churchyard is a memorial cross to the men of the parish who fell in the Great War (1914–18).
There is a ring of eight bells by Abraham Rudhall, 1734. (fn. 27)
The plate consists of a paten of 1709, a cup and paten of 1711, a flagon of 1715, and a breadholder of 1713. (fn. 28)
The registers before 1812 are as follows : (1) baptisms, marriages, and burials, 1578–1737; (2) baptisms and burials, 1737–1797, marriages, 1737–1754; (3) marriages, 1756–1794; (4) baptisms and burials, 1797– 1812. The earliest vestry book begins in April 1736.
The church of THE HOLY SEPULCHRE, (fn. 29) one of the four (fn. 30) remaining round churches in England, dates from the early 12th century, and probably owed its origin to Simon de Senlis earl of Northampton, by whom it was granted c. 1111 to the monastery of St. Andrew. (fn. 31) Like other churches of this type, it was built in imitation of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and consisted originally of a circular nave and small oblong chancel, which probably ended in an apse. About 1180 the north wall of the chancel was pierced by arches to form a chapel, and towards the close of the 13th century a second aisle was thrown out on the same side. The present south aisle dates from the first half of the 14th century, and about 1400 the whole of the upper part of the circular nave was taken down, pointed arches placed upon the Norman columns, the triforium destroyed, and a new clearstory built. At the same time a massive west tower, surmounted by a spire, was added, and the present south porch built, the fabric then assuming more or less the aspect it retained till the 19th century. The original chancel had, however, been lengthened some time during the medieval period, (fn. 32) but towards the close of the 16th, or beginning of the 17th century, when the fabric was much neglected, the extended east end was demolished, and the outer north aisle was removed. (fn. 33)
In 1860–64 a new chancel with north and south aisles, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, was added to the east of the old one, which then became the nave, and the outer north aisle was rebuilt. (fn. 34) The Round was restored in 1868–73, but the general work of restoration was not concluded till 1879, when the chancel was consecrated. In 1887 a vestry and organ chamber were built at the east end of the outer north aisle. The church, therefore, now consists of a modern chancel with north and south aisles, or chapels, (fn. 35) nave 46 ft. by 18 ft. 6 in., with north and south aisles respectively 17 ft. 6 in. and 16 ft. 6 in. wide, outer north aisle 17 ft. 10 in. wide, the old circular nave, or 'Round,' now used as a baptistery, south porch, and west tower 11 ft. 10 in. by 14 ft. (fn. 36) all these measurements being internal.
The church is built throughout of ironstone, and all the roofs east of the Round are covered with modern slates; the nave and aisles are under separate high-pitched roofs. Before 1860 the old chancel and its aisles extended about 40 ft. east of the Round, with three flush end gables separated by buttresses; the south aisle had been modernised and the tracery of its south windows removed. (fn. 37) All the roofs are modern.
Though the Round has suffered many changes, and some of its original features have been destroyed, it remains in plan substantially unaltered and its general proportions can be readily detected. It consisted of two stories, the upper, or clearstory, supported on an octagonal arcade of eight massive cylindrical piers which divided the central space from a circular groined aisle or ambulatory 10 ft. 6 in. wide. The internal diameter of the Round is 58 ft. 10 in. (fn. 38) and the outer wall, which is about 25 ft. high and 4 ft. 4 in. thick above the plinth, was pierced by two tiers of round-headed windows, the lower lighting the ambulatory and the upper opening into a triforium above its groined roof. In all probability there were smaller round-headed windows in the circumference of the original clearstory, which would be covered with a conical roof. Of the lower tier of windows only one, on the south side to the west of the present porch, is still in use, but there are remains of three others, two on the north side, and one to the east of the porch. The perfect window is about 9 ft. above the present ground level, its sill resting on a simple stringcourse which ran all round the building. The opening is 4 ft. in height and 15 in. wide, with plain jambs, hoodmould, and wide internal splay, the head of which has a band of cheveron ornament on the edge of the plaster soffit. Of the upper windows two remain on the north side, immediately over a second stringcourse 10 ft. 4 in. above the first. These windows are without hoodmoulds and differ in proportion from those below, being 3 ft. 9 in. high by 20½ in. in breadth. Above them a third stringcourse forms the base of a plain parapet. The wall was strengthened by a series of wide shallow buttresses of which seven still remain, three on the north and two on the south being in an almost perfect condition, while two others on the south are cut away below for the porch walls. These buttresses are from 4 ft. to 4 ft. 6 in. in width, with a projection of 8 in. and die into the wall just below the topmost stringcourse, the two lower strings being carried round them. The main story of the Round was thus divided horizontally into three stages and vertically into a series of bays, that facing west being probably occupied by a doorway and shallow porch. During the restoration the foundations of a south porch were found, slightly exceeding the present porch in dimensions, which may have been a later 12th century addition covering a doorway then inserted. (fn. 39)
The piers of the arcade are plain masonry cylinders averaging 3 ft. 9 in. in diameter, but their capitals and bases differ. The four western piers have circular scalloped capitals, with plain circular chamfered abaci and moulded bases on low square plinths. In the two easternmost piers the abaci are square, the capitals merely shaped, with plain angle ornaments, and the high square plinths are of two stages, while the intermediate piers (at the north-east and south-east angles of the octagon) have divided square abaci and capitals with scalloping on each face. Nearly all traces of the groined roof of the aisle were removed during the alterations at the end of the 14th century, but there is evidence of the general direction of the sustaining ribs, whilst a single Norman wallshaft, with capital, still remains to the north of the west entrance. (fn. 40) Of the original round arches of the arcade and the triforium above them, nothing is left, the present acutely pointed arches of a single chamfered order and the wall above them being part of the late 14th century reconstruction. A stone bench originally ran all round the circumference of the Round, but, save for a small portion to the north of the entrance to the chancel, it has now disappeared.
The 12th century chancel was placed somewhat irregularly with its axis about 2 ft. to the north of that of the circular nave, and inclining slightly to the south. Considerable portions of its north and south (fn. 41) walls, about 36 ft. in length, through which the later arcades have been cut, have been retained, and in the north wall over the later arches, are the remains of three original round-headed windows, uncovered during the restoration. Of these the westernmost is the least injured, its west jamb being still in position as well as eight of the voussoirs, (fn. 42) but of the others only portions of the heads remain. The chancel, therefore, appears to have been lighted by three windows on each side placed high in the wall in the usual way, and there was probably a small doorway in the south wall. (fn. 43) Considerable portions of the original external corbel tables still remain at the top of the walls facing the aisles, consisting of moulded stones and grotesque heads, though that on the south side has been raised and the position of the heads changed. (fn. 44) Sufficient evidence came to light during the restoration to prove that the 12th century chancel was not square ended, though the exact position of the apse could not be definitely traced. (fn. 45) At the west end the walls are built up against the Round without bonding. (fn. 46)
About 1180–90 a pointed (fn. 47) doorway of two unmoulded orders and hoodmould, on single nook-shafts with water-leaf capitals and moulded bases, was inserted in the north wall of the Round, necessitating the removal of one of the windows, and a lancet was substituted for the one next to it on the west, the splay of which is directed obliquely to the east in order to light the doorway. The addition of an aisle, or chapel, to the chancel was effected about the same time by the piercing of its north wall (fn. 48) with two pointed arches of two chamfered orders, which spring from a cylindrical middle pier to which is attached on each of its cardinal faces a cluster of small circular shafts, and from half-round responds, with small flanking shafts to the outer orders. The arches have hoodmoulds on both sides, and the character of the pier and its moulded capital and base is fairly well advanced, but the separate carved capitals of the responds are of earlier transitional type with incurved volutes and foliation. The chapel was dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury (fn. 49) and St. John Baptist, and on each side of its east window was a carved image bracket supported respectively by the heads of a bearded king and a bishop with low mitre. These, in a more or less mutilated state, are now at the east end of the north chancel aisle, to where also the window has been moved. It consists of three plain graded lancets beneath a containing hoodmould and appears to be rather later in date than the arcade; in the same wall, south of the altar, is built a 13th century round-headed piscina, which no doubt formerly belonged to the original north chapel. (fn. 50)
The outer north aisle appears to have been added about 1275, the new arcade consisting of three arches of two chamfered orders with hoodmould on each side, on clustered piers and half-round responds with moulded capitals and bases. (fn. 51) Attached to the eastern respond is a pillar piscina the marble shaft and basin of which are copied from 13th century fragments found during the restoration.
It has been suggested that the nearness of occupied secular buildings on the south side of the 12th century chancel was the reason of the addition of the outer north aisle, (fn. 52) but however that may be a south aisle was thrown out in the 14th century, when an arcade of two pointed arches of two orders was made, the inner order with a half-round moulding and the outer chamfered, springing from a square pier chamfered at the angles and from responds of similar type with moulded capitals and high chamfered plinths. Eighteenth century repairs and modern restoration have left little original work in the south aisle, (fn. 53) but a piscina niche with plain pointed head remains in the usual position at the east end of the south wall, and an image bracket supported by a human head is now built into the east wall of the new south chancel chapel.
The late 14th century alterations to the Round included not only the rebuilding of its upper part, but the destruction of the original west doorway and the wall on either side consequent on the erection of the tower, the insertion of three large three-light pointed windows, two on the south side and one on the north, (fn. 54) the strengthening of the north wall by two large buttresses, the rebuilding of the south porch and insertion of a new doorway, and the reconstruction (fn. 55) of the arches from the Round into the eastern part of the church. The main structural change, however, was the rebuilding of the clearstory in its present octagonal form, the disappearance of the triforium, and the removal of the groined roof of the ambulatory and of the round arches of the arcade. The clearstory has a square-headed two-light window on each of its cardinal faces, plain parapet and pyramidal leaded roof.
There is an ascent of five steps (fn. 56) from the Round to the present nave, the arch to which consists of two chamfered orders, the inner springing from half-round responds with moulded capitals and bases, the outer continuous. The arches opening to the aisles are of three chamfered orders, with half-octagonal responds, the two outer orders being continuous. The nave appears to have been re-roofed at this time (fn. 57) and a small three-light square-headed window (fn. 58) placed in the west gable over the entrance to the Round. Six wooden corbels supporting the new roof principals have survived, three on each side, carved with figures playing musical instruments—on the north rebec, bagpipe, and portative organ, on the south hurdy-gurdy, kettle-drums, and panpipes. Another with harp player is now above the chancel arch on the south side. (fn. 59)
The south doorway of the Round is sharply pointed and of three continuous unmoulded orders, with plain segmental rear-arch, and the outer doorway of the porch of two continuous chamfered orders with hoodmould. There is a descent of three steps from the porch to the floor of the Round, and of two steps from the Round to the tower. The tower arch is of four chamfered orders, the inner on half-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases, the others continued or dying into the wall.
Cut into the wall on the south-east of the Round and probably contemporary with the late 14th century alterations, is a banner-stave locker nearly 11 ft. in height, (fn. 60) the upper part of which, with pointed head, is carried on through one of the blocked triforium windows. On the outside of the wall, to the west of the porch, is an arched sepulchral recess 8 ft. 5 in. wide, probably constructed for some benefactor at the time of the erection of the tower. The twocentred arch is without hoodmould and consists of a single ornamented chamfered order. (fn. 61)
The tower is divided externally into six stages by stringcourses which run round and mark the beginning of each set-off of the diagonal buttresses. Owing to the fall of the ground the western buttresses are of unusual size, having a projection of 10 ft. and a width of over 3 ft. At the south east angle is a vice turret, which is carried up to the level of the base of the bellchamber windows where it slopes back behind an embattled parapet. The west doorway is of four continuous moulded orders, with hoodmould, and above it is a two-light window. The deeply-recessed bell-chamber windows are of two trefoiled lights with quatrefoil in the head, round which the upper stringcourse is taken as a hoodmould. The tower finishes with a battlemented parapet and had originally pinnacles at the angles: on the north and south sides respectively are two gargoyles. The octagonal spire has plain angles and three tiers of pointed lights in the cardinal faces. (fn. 62)
At the enlargement in 1860–64 the nave and aisles were increased in length some 6 ft. and an additional arch added at the east end of the main arcades. The new chancel is of two bays, with projecting semicircular east end and moulded arches on shafted piers to the side chapels, (fn. 63) all the work internally being of a rather elaborate character in the style of the late 13th century. There is a turret at the junction of the south chapel and aisle with a stair leading on to the roof. A new altar was erected in 1882. (fn. 64)
The font is modern and stands on three circular steps in the middle of the Round; it is a memorial to Canon James, who took an active part in the restoration, and is copied from the 13th century font in the cathedral of Hildesheim, save that the figures supporting the bowl are knights in mail. The font replaced a small circular stone basin, probably dating from 1660, the shaft of which is preserved in the churchyard. (fn. 65) The wooden pulpit is modern, on a stone base.
A number of fragments of 12th and 13th century ornamented coffin lids have been preserved; four of these are in the Round, and others are built into the walls at the west end of the outer north aisle and in the east wall of the north chancel chapel.
In the Round, now against the north wall, is a floor slab (fn. 66) with five quadrangular brass plates and border inscription, (fn. 67) in memory of George Coles (d. 1640) and his two wives. In the upper plate he is represented standing between them giving a hand to each, and is bareheaded, with falling collar, doublet and hose, and a short cloak; the wives are in bodiced gowns and wear wide neck ruffs and high crowned hats. Below are smaller plates with two groups of children, three by the first wife and nine by the second, and under these again an emblem of clasped hands, explained in eight lines of verse below.
Amongst a large number of mural monuments (fn. 68) are memorials to members of the families of Fleetwood (1676–1747), Churchill (1750–1803), Woolston (1705– 1775), Thompson (1786–1893), and others.
A wall painting in the Round exposed in 1843 has since disappeared, the walls having been stripped, but there are traces of another on the splay of the blocked westernmost window of the 12th century chancel. (fn. 69)
There is a scratch dial built bottom upwards into the south-east angle of the porch about 7 ft. from the ground. (fn. 70)
There is a ring of eight bells, seven of which were recast in 1927 by Gillett and Johnson, of Croydon; the old bell (now seventh) was cast by Henry Bagley of Chacomb in 1681. (fn. 71) A clock is first mentioned in 1634; the present clock was erected in 1882.
The plate is all modern with the exception of a 17th century pewter flagon, and four pewter plates made by Thomas King of London in 1675. (fn. 72)
The earliest registers are as follows: (i) baptisms 1571–1574, 1577–1600, 1606–1722, marriages 1566– 1722, (fn. 73) burials 1571–1722, (fn. 74) (ii) baptisms and burials 1723–1778, marriages 1723–1754. The churchwardens' accounts and vestry books begin in 1634.
Built into the wall of a house (fn. 75) at the south-west corner of the churchyard is a stone of cruciform shape, with a rudely carved figure of our Lord on the Cross, probably a gable termination on some part of the church at the time of the building of the tower. (fn. 76)
The church of ALL SAINTS stands in the centre of the town on an island site bounded on the north by Mercers' Row, on the south by George Row, on the west by the Drapery, and on the east by Wood Hill. It was originally a cruciform structure consisting of aisled chancel, central tower, north and south transepts, and clearstoried nave with north and south aisles, the oldest parts of which appear to have dated from the 12th century. The destruction of the medieval fabric in the fire of 1675 was so complete that only the tower and a small crypt below the chancel were preserved. These are incorporated in the present building, erected in 1676–80 in the Renaissance style of the day, which consists of chancel, rectangular nave, and west tower flanked by north and south transepts. It stands on the site of the chancel of the medieval church, the whole of which west of the tower was destroyed, a small churchyard being there formed and the rest of the space thrown into the roadway.
There is no authentic drawing of the church as it was before 1675, but Speed's map (1610) shows a cruciform building with central tower, and a picture made in 1669 by one of the artists accompanying Duke Cosmo III of Tuscany indicates a long nave of seven bays with west gable flanked by turrets or pinnacles. (fn. 77) In a description of the old and new churches by Henry Lee, town clerk in 1675, the writer states that the old chancel was 'very large with great stalls and large desks before them on the north and south sides, and on the west side very gentile pews with desks before them to lean upon,' and he quotes a saying that the church was 'as large as some cathedrals.' At its west end were 'very stately gates at the entrance and a very high and large window.' There were 'three aisles,' and in 26 Henry VIII (1534–5) 'the middle roof was made and raised very high and lofty.' On the middle of the church wall was a chapel erected by Mr. Neale (mayor in 1539), 'very finely built with white stone,' and there was 'a south porch very great and large and over it was a large room in which the spiritual court was held.' There is also mention of a tomb and vault built in 1585 'in the place called the Lady Chapel in the chancel,' and of 'an old strong building adjoining to the south side of the chancel reported to be formerly a chapel,' in which were the stairs to the crypt. (fn. 78)
No evidence has been found of pre-Conquest work, and though no architectural remains or fragments of 12th century date have come to light, there seems some reason to believe that the core of the pillars supporting the tower is of that period. (fn. 79) From the Bishop of Lincoln's grant in 1232 of an indulgence of twenty days to contributors to the work of All Saints (fn. 80) it may be assumed that a considerable amount of building was at that time in progress, perhaps the reconstruction of the Norman church; but whatever the nature of the work then done it probably continued for many years after Bishop Wells's death in 1235, though no remains of distinctly 13th century masonry have been found. The church, however, appears to have undergone a variety of alterations and adaptations during the 14th and two succeeding centuries. (fn. 81) The existing crypt, below the western part of the chancel, is of the early 14th century, and the upper part of the tower seems to be very little later. Pieces of jamb and mullion stones recovered from crypt excavations (fn. 82) were all of the 14th century, and it is not unlikely that at the time of its destruction the building was mainly of this period, (fn. 83) the changes in the 15th century being those already mentioned, together with the introduction of pointed arches below the original tower openings. The church was 'greatly in decay' in January 1594–5, and in the following March much damage was done by a storm, 'many large stones being blown on to the leads' and through the roof 'just over the mayor's seat.' (fn. 84) In 1617 considerable repairs were done to the tower, (fn. 85) and either then or a few years later the 15th century arches were built up and the existing narrow arches on the north, east and south sides constructed. (fn. 86) There were repairs at the west end in 1624, in the chancel in 1632, and of a more general character in 1633–5 (fn. 87); in 1667 the roof of the south aisle of the chancel was 'very ruinous and out of repair.'
The new church was opened in September 1680, but was not completed in its present form till the beginning of the 18th century. (fn. 88) The great west portico was erected in 1701, and the cupola and vane added to the tower in 1704. A gallery was erected on the north side of the nave in 1714, but it was not until 1815 that the south gallery was set up. (fn. 89) The church was partially restored in 1840, (fn. 90) and more extensively in 1865–6 when the galleries were reduced in width, (fn. 91) the seating cut down 15 in. in height, and made to face wholly east, the chancel screen removed and the position of the pulpit altered. (fn. 92) In 1883 an organ chamber was built on the north side of the chancel, (fn. 93) and in 1920 a War Memorial Chapel (fn. 94) was erected on the south side. The tower was restored and refaced in 1928.
Of the older parts of the fabric something has already been said about the tower, the lower part of which appears to incorporate much 12th century masonry, though no architectural features of that period are now visible. Internally, the tower is 12 ft. 11 in. square on the ground floor, with walls 5 ft. 6 in. thick, except on the west side where the thickness is increased by the 17th century facing. There is a vice in the north-west angle. The original openings appear to have been 11 ft. 3 in. wide, and there is some reason to believe that the four lofty semicircular arches in the upper part of the ringing chamber are ancient. (fn. 95) The inserted 15th century arches spring from half-octagonal responds with moulded capitals at a height of about 24 ft. above the floor, (fn. 96) but in their turn are filled on three sides by the existing low and narrow 17th century arches of four orders. The levels of the different floors have been altered from time to time. The vice projects as a half-octagonal turret to the level of the bell-chamber stage, and has a pointed doorway now giving on to the roof of the transept. (fn. 97) The bell-chamber has on each side a pointed window of two trefoiled lights with elongated quatrefoil in the head (fn. 98) and low transom, the windows being recessed within wide twocentred moulded arches. The top of the tower with its balustraded parapet belongs to the 17th century rebuilding.
The crypt is under the western part of the present chancel and extends about 4 ft. below the nave. It was originally 22 ft. 10 in. square internally, covered with a vault of four quadripartite compartments, with longitudinal and transverse chamfered ribs forming pointed arches, springing from a central octagonal pier and responds with moulded capitals and bases. The ribs spring at a height of about 6 ft. above the floor, the total height of the crypt having been about 14 ft., but the floor is now considerably raised. In the east wall are two small rectangular windows, now blocked, and the diagonal angle buttresses show that the medieval chancel ended here, the 17th century chancel being erected about 16 ft. eastward. The crypt has undergone considerable alteration and has long housed the heating apparatus. Many of its original features are mutilated or destroyed, and its size is reduced to about 18 ft. by 19 ft. (fn. 99)
As rebuilt in 1676–80 (fn. 100) the church may be said to follow the Greek cross plan used by Wren at St. Maryat-Hill, the area enclosed being here a rectangle 72 ft. 2 in. long by 68 ft. 9 in. in width, the superstructure of which is formed into a cross by the grouping of vaulted ceilings round a central dome. Four tall stone columns with enriched Ionic capitals, (fn. 101) standing on high pedestals, carry a dentilled cornice, above which spring segmental plaster vaults spanning the four arms of the cross, but, instead of intersecting in a groin, they are treated as arches and carry a cupola or dome resting on pendentives. The four compartments at the angles of the building have flat ceilings, which form abutments to the arched roofs, or vaults, covering the arms of the cross. The dome is lighted by a lantern. Above the capitals of the pillars the whole construction is of wood, with elaborate plaster ceilings, the general effect being of much dignity and beauty.
The chancel measures internally 33 ft. by 24 ft., and was lighted by a large five-light east window and by two windows in the side walls. The east window is now blocked by a classic reredos erected in 1888, occupying the whole of the end wall, the principal feature of which is a large painted panel of the Crucifixion (fn. 102) flanked by coupled Corinthian columns supporting an entablature and lofty semicircular canopy. One of the windows on the north side has been displaced by the organ chamber, and those on the south have been shortened so as to clear the roof of the War Memorial Chapel. The elaborate moulded plaster ceiling of the chancel is contemporary with the rebuilding, but the ornament on the walls dates only from 1888, in which year also the arch to the nave was remodelled, its curve improved, and supporting Ionic columns and entablature introduced. (fn. 103)
Externally, the 17th century work is faced with ironstone ashlar, with plinth and cornice, and the windows are all round-headed, with pseudo-Gothic tracery. The north and south arms of the cross and the east end of the chancel are slightly advanced and have large five-light windows and curved pedi- ments, the other windows in nave and chancel being of three lights. There are elliptical windows in the nave pediments, and the roofs are leaded. The dome sits on a square base.
The transepts are internally about 31 ft. long by 20 ft. in width, and have straight dentilled pediments and five-light end windows. They contain the gallery staircases and vestries, (fn. 104) and in the south transept the Consistory Court: they also form vestibules, with lofty round-headed outer doorways opening on to the portico. The smaller west doorway of the tower is flanked externally by semicircular wall recesses. The great octastyle portico covers the west end of the building to within about 8 ft. of the ends of the transepts: it is two columns deep and the Ionic order is used. The entablature is surmounted by a balustrade with urn ornaments, in the centre of which are the Royal Arms and a statue of Charles II in Roman costume and long flowing wig, added in 1712. Along the frieze is the inscription: 'This statue was erected in memory of King Charles II, who gave a thousand tons of timber towards the rebuilding of this church, and to this town seven years' chimney money collected in it. John Agutter, mayor, 1712.'
The white marble chalice font was the gift in 1680 of Thomas Willoughby. (fn. 105)
The carved 17th century pulpit stood from 1815 till 1866 in front of the altar below the chancel arch, but was then removed to its present position on the north side: it was altered in 1888 and a new base provided. (fn. 106) The removal of the 17th century chancel screen is to be deplored: its carved pilasters, pediment and Royal Arms have been worked up in the three western doorways of the nave. (fn. 107) The mayor's seat has a carved and panelled back surmounted by the arms of the town and is inscribed 'Anno Majoratus 20 Ricard White. Anno Dom. 1680.'
The only monument apparently (fn. 108) older than 1675 is a marble tablet at the west end of the south aisle in memory of John Travell (d. 1669). The later monuments include tablets to Dr. John Conant, vicar (d. 1693); Dr. Daniel Danvers (d. 1699); John Bailes (d. 1706), who 'was above 126 years old and had his hearing, sight, and memory to the last'; Isabella Stewart, daughter of John Haldane of Lanrick and widow of the Jacobite leader Charles Stewart of Ardsheal, who died at the Peacock Inn, Northampton, 8 April 1782; Sir John Stonhouse, bart., founder of the County Infirmary (d. 1795), and others. (fn. 109) A record of the monument of Francis Samwell, erected in 1585, has been preserved, and also of upwards of a hundred coats of arms taken from stained glass or from monuments in the church at the beginning of the 17th century. (fn. 110)
The plate consists of a set of two cups and cover patens, two breadholders, two flagons and two alms dishes of 1677, given in that year by 'Mrs. Mary Reynolds, relict of Edward, late Lord Bishop of Norwich'; a cup and strainer spoon of 1718; a cup of 1740; two cups of 1888, and a small plain paten. There is also a plated set of seven pieces. (fn. 113)
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1560–1722, marriages 1559–1721, burials 1559–1722, (ii) baptisms and burials 1721–1812, marriages 1721–1754, (iii) marriages 1754–1812. There is also a series of Vestry Books from 1620.
Interments in the churchyard west of the portico were prohibited in 1857, and in 1871, with a view to widening the lower end of The Drapery a portion of the yard was cut off. Originally enclosed by low fence walls on the north and south and by an iron grille on the west, the churchyard was afterwards bounded by a low wall and chains; these remained until 1926, when the whole space was added to the roadway and the existing steps to the portico formed. An octagonal conduit, which stood at the south-west angle of the churchyard, was taken down in 1831; it is said to have been of 14th century date. (fn. 114) A war memorial in the churchyard, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, was unveiled by Gen. Lord Horne on 11 Nov. 1926.
The church of ST. GILES consists of chancel 42 ft. by 25 ft. 6 in. with north and south chapels, central tower 17 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 6 in., clearstoried nave of five bays 68 ft. 6 in. by 21 ft., north and south aisles respectively 14 ft. 6 in. and 15 ft. 8 in. wide, outer north aisle of four bays 14 ft. 9 in. wide, and north and south porches, all these measurements being internal. The tower is flanked on the north and south by continuations of the aisles representing former transepts. Including the outer north aisle the total internal width of this building is 74 ft. 6 in. The south chancel chapel is now the organ chamber, and the vestry is in the space south of the tower.
The architectural history of the building may be briefly summarized as follows: as originally built early in the 12th century it was an aisleless cross church with central tower, the lower part of which remains. Early in the 13th century the chancel was rebuilt, lengthened and increased in width on the north side, and later in the same century the south arcade of the nave was begun, with the intention of adding aisles, but was temporarily abandoned. The tower was strengthened at the same time by blocking up its four arches and building narrower arches within, of which those on the north and south still remain. In the first half of the 14th century the chancel was repaired, its east wall rebuilt, a chapel added on the north side, and the aisles and arcades of the nave (of three bays) completed; the aisles were afterwards continued eastward on the site of the transepts, (fn. 115) the work being finished about 1350–60. The chapel south of the chancel was finished in its present form later in the century, the church then assuming the plan it retained till the middle of the 19th century. In 1613 the tower fell, demolishing or seriously injuring the north arcade of the nave, but both were rebuilt three years later. (fn. 116) In 1853–5 the nave and aisles were restored and extended westward two bays, (fn. 117) an extra north aisle added, the 13th century fillings removed from the east and west tower arches, the whole of the church west of the tower re-roofed, its windows renewed and the porches rebuilt. (fn. 118) The chancel was restored in 1876. (fn. 119)
Of the 12th century church little remains but the lower part of the tower and the west and north doorways, both very much restored, which were re-erected in their present positions at the time of the extension. In the west doorway some stones in the outer order, the greater part of the hoodmould, and the moulded bases of the shafts only are original, the rest being a modern reconstruction. The doorway is of three orders all with cheveron ornament, the two outer on shafts with enriched cushion and scalloped capitals, the inner continuous: the hoodmould is enriched with a reticulated pattern. The smaller round-headed north doorway is of two unmoulded orders, but the jambs and imposts are modern. The new east and west arches of the tower represent the original openings in dimensions if not in details, (fn. 120) but several voussoirs and the line of the eastern jamb of the blocked 12th century north arch have been exposed towards the aisle.
The projecting staircase turret at the north-east angle of the tower, entrance to which was from the transept, appears to have been added later in the century, (fn. 121) after the completion of the cross-plan and may at first have been intended to be external. On its east face are three narrow windows, the lowest round-headed, now overlooking the chancel, and the stairway is vaulted with a winding barrel vault of plastered rubble. The round-headed doorway on the west side is of a single square order with quirked hoodmould, moulded imposts (fn. 122) and slightly chamfered jambs. The 12th century chancel appears to have been little shorter than at present, as traces of a blocked doorway of that period occur in situ in the south wall some 12 ft. from the east end. (fn. 123) There is also a small round-headed doorway, also blocked, at the eastern extremity of the wall, which if of 12th century date must have been originally elsewhere.
In the 13th century rebuilding of the chancel the north wall was advanced 4 ft. and built as a continuation of the north face of the staircase turret, (fn. 124) but the line of the south wall was retained. The new chancel appears to have consisted of three bays divided by buttresses, with a lancet window in each, and probably three lancets in the east wall. Of these windows two remain entire: one in the south wall still lights the chancel, but the other immediately opposite is now covered by the north chapel. West of this, also in the north wall, is the upper part of a third lancet, the lower portion of which was cut away when the arch between the chancel and chapel was pierced. These windows have rather broad external chamfers, and hoodmoulds which are continued along the walls and round the buttresses as strings; there is also a string at sill level. Internally the openings are widely splayed and moulded all round.
The addition of aisles to the nave towards the close of the 13th century was begun on the south side, the first arch being cut through the wall and its eastern respond built about 2 ft. 6 in. west of the tower. The intention evidently was to proceed westward with an arcade of pointed arches of two chamfered orders on octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases. Only one arch, with the pier west of it, was, however, completed, probably on account of fears for the safety of the tower, the tall round-headed openings of which were therefore filled with masonry. The existing filling on the north and south sides is pierced by narrow acutely pointed arches of three chamfered orders, the outer chamfer in each case being continued down the jambs and the middle order dying out. On the north side the inner order also dies out, but on the south it springs from moulded corbels supported by sculptured human heads, (fn. 125) the south arch has also a fourth order towards the aisle where the wall is thickened, (fn. 126) and strengthened at its east end by a massive buttress of uncertain date, (fn. 127) which blocks the north jamb of the arch between the aisle and the south chancel chapel.
The 14th century repair of the chancel included the rebuilding of the east wall in its present form with diagonal angle buttresses of two stages and two dwarf buttresses below the window, and of about 3 ft. of the east ends of the north and south walls. (fn. 128) The east window is of five trefoiled lights with reticulated quatrefoil tracery, double chamfered jambs, and hoodmould ending in head-stops. A new stringcourse was taken round the whole chancel below the sills of the side windows and continued round the 13th century buttresses, which were perhaps rebuilt, (fn. 129) though a keel-shaped string forming a continuation of the hoodmoulds of the lancets and taken round the upper part of the old buttresses was retained as far as the old material would go, and re-used on the east wall, until broken by the hoodmould of the window. During these alterations the gable and roof of the chancel were reduced to their present pitch and the parapet erected. With the refashioning of the chancel went the building of the north and south chapels, though the latter seems only to have been begun. The north chapel (28 ft. by 14 ft.) opens from the chancel by a wide arch of three continuous chamfered orders with hoodmould, which has the appearance of having been rebuilt or completely finished at a later period, (fn. 130) and from the transept by a lesser arch of two continuous chamfered orders the inner of which is stopped near the ground by mouldings, while the outer, dying into the wall on the north side, is stopped on the south by a small broach. (fn. 131) The windows of the chapel are later insertions: (fn. 132) that at the east end is four-centred, of four cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery, and in the north wall are three closely-placed windows, one of two lights and the others of three lights each, the sill of the two-light easternmost window being raised considerably in order to clear a 14th century triangular headed aumbry, opposite to which, in the usual position in the south wall, is a restored trefoiled piscina, with modern canopy. The north chapel appears to have been the Lady Chapel, and was planned simply as a north aisle to the chancel, (fn. 133) but the plan of a corresponding chapel, which was begun on the south side, seems to have been modified, and the work of completing the arcades and aisles of the nave proceeded with. The south arcade was first continued two bays westward, after which the north arcade was begun from the east end, starting about 4 ft. 6 in. from the west face of the tower. The eastern respond is thus some 2 ft. further west than that on the south side, with the consequence that the positions of the piers of the two arcades do not exactly correspond. Both western responds were removed when the nave was lengthened, but the octagonal 14th century pier on the south side, dividing the two original western bays, remains. It differs from the earlier eastern pier, and from the evidence of its masonry appears to have been heightened or repaired at some subsequent date. (fn. 134) The capital is moulded with an ogee and a swelled chamfer, (fn. 135) and the base is of ogee section projecting from a high plinth of two plain chamfers.
The north arcade is all of one build and is contemporary with the additions on the south side, but its octagonal piers are lower and the arches do not reach a corresponding height. Like those opposite, they are of two chamfered orders and the hoods are connected by horizontal mouldings. In its present form the arcade is as rebuilt in 1616, with high chamfered plinths to the piers, but the mouldings of the capitals suggest a conservative reconstruction or copy of the old work.
After the completion of the nave aisles the transepts (fn. 136) seem to have been taken in hand and rebuilt in their present form as eastward extensions of the aisles, engaging the tower. The spaces thus formed are divided from the aisles and chancel chapels by pointed arches, and on the south side the outer wall is a continuation of that of the aisle and contemporary with it. East of the porch the wall is of 14th century date, but the windows have been renewed and their tracery is modern: they are of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in the head. On the north side the aisle wall west of the transept was removed when the outer aisle was built, but the portion immediately north of the tower remains and contains a 14th century window of three trefoiled lights with elongated quatrefoil tracery.
The south chapel of the chancel appears to have been first planned as an aisle like that opposite and of somewhat similar dimensions, but when the walls reached a certain height and its western arch was pierced in the then existing transept wall fears for the stability of the tower seem to have arisen, and as the nave aisles approached completion a newer and stronger arch was substituted for the earlier one, slightly to the east of it, affording direct abutment to the tower and itself abutted by a strong buttress on the outside. (fn. 137) At the same time the plan and elevation of the chapel were altered and it became a kind of transept (24 ft. by 20 ft.), with a lofty arch of three chamfered orders (fn. 138) opening to the chancel and occupying the whole height of the wall. The chapel roof is at right angles to that of the chancel, with a plain gable at the south end, below which is a large pointed window of five cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery. (fn. 139) The chapel is also lighted on the east side by a square-headed window of four trefoiled lights with quatrefoil tracery. In the usual position in the south wall is a piscina with trefoiled ogee head and fluted bowl, and west of it a plain rectangular aumbry. In the east wall, north of the window, is an image bracket supported by a carved head, and at the west end of the south wall is a blocked low side window with ogee head and hoodmould terminating in a finial. (fn. 140)
Above the roof the tower is of two stages and finishes with a battlemented parapet and angle pinnacles. No portion of a 12th century superstructure remains, but the square turret at the north-east angle and a large portion of the masonry on the east and south sides of the lower stage are old. A large part of the north and almost all the west side fell in 1613 and at the rebuilding the new work was bonded into the old masonry. In this stage there is a doorway on the east side to the roof, and a window of two trefoiled lights on the north and south. (fn. 141) The whole of the upper stage belongs to the 17th century rebuilding, and the nave clearstory of two-light four-centred windows was either rebuilt or added. The bellchamber is lighted by double two-light pointed windows on each side, with transoms, cinquefoiled heads to each light and quatrefoil above, the hoodmoulds of which are joined by strings, and there is also a stringcourse at sill level and another some 5 ft. below, where the walls are slightly gathered in.
Set in the wall of the north arcade of the nave are three inscriptions (fn. 142) on framed panels, recording the 17th century reconstruction in these terms: (1) 'Rob. Sibthorpe's care to God's true feare, This downefalne church got helpe to reare 1616. Will. Dawes, mason'; (2) 'Bp., Chanclor and Clergie, nobles knights & gent: the countrie parishes, All Sts. Northton. St. Sepulchers gave . . . without breefes'; (3) '1616 John Pattison, Humf: Hopkyns, churchward when this buil[ding] began.'
The octagonal stone font is said to be partly of 15th century date, (fn. 143) but nearly all the carving is modern.
The oak pulpit belongs probably to the second quarter of the 17th century. It is hexagonal in shape, with carved upper and moulded lower panels. The balustraded stair appears to be an early 18th century addition and the stem is modern.
There is no ancient glass, (fn. 144) but two chained books have been preserved: (1) Calvin's Commentary on Isaiah, 1609, and (2) The Second Book of Homilies, 1676.
The only medieval monument that has survived is a beautiful 15th century table tomb, 'said to have been erected for one of the Gobion family,' (fn. 145) now against the east wall of the new north aisle. (fn. 146) It is of white alabaster, with six canopied niches on the long side and two at the south end containing shieldbearing angels and weepers. There is no effigy, and the brass inscription round the verge has disappeared.
The 18th century mural monuments include those of James Keill, M.D. (d. 1719), who 'opened by the surgeon's knife a path for the physician's skill'; Edmund Bateman (d. 1731), Town Attorney of Northampton, 1689–1700; Edward Watkin, vicar 1735–86, and his son John Watkin, D.D., vicar 1786–95. There are also monuments to members of the families of Goodday (1683–1797) and Woolston (1717–1778). (fn. 147)
There are ten bells, two trebles having been added in 1895 to a ring of eight cast in 1783 by Edward Arnold, of St. Neots. (fn. 148)
The plate is all modern and consists of a set of eight pieces, all silver-gilt, presented in 1883 by Benjamin Vialls: it comprises a cup, two patens and a strainer spoon of 1876, a cup, flagon, and breadholder of 1882 and an alms dish of 1881. (fn. 149) There are also a plated cup and five plates. Four pewter basins are exhibited in the church.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (1) bapisms, marriages, and burials 1559–1747, with gaps 1584–87 and 1613–16; (fn. 150) (ii) baptisms and burials 1748–1812, marriages 1748–1766; (iii) marriages 1754–1789; (iv) marriages 1789–1812. There are churchwardens' accounts 1628–39, 1653–70, 1683– 1709 and others till 1855.
The churches of St. Peter, the Holy Sepulchre and All Saints are all, as we have seen, probably as old as the Norman Conquest. The Priory of St. Andrew, by the charter of Earl Simon I, (fn. 151) confirmed by Henry I and Henry II, (fn. 152) had the presentation of all the churches in Northampton, and Bishop Hugh of Lincoln's charter (fn. 153) specifies nine by name: All Saints', St. Giles', St. Michael's, Holy Sepulchre, St. Mary's (by the Castle), St. Gregory's, (fn. 154) St. Peter's, St. Edmund's and St. Bartholomew's, as well as the chapel of St. Thomas. All these churches then were in existence by 1200, and we have records of presentations to all of them by St. Andrew's priory between 1219 and 1247. (fn. 155) Other churches mentioned in the records or by Henry Lee are St. George's in the Castle, (fn. 156) St. Lawrence's outside the North gate, St. Catharine's in College Lane, (fn. 157) St. Martin's in the North quarter, (fn. 158) and, outside the liberties, St. Leonard's in Cotton End (fn. 159) and St. Margaret's in St. James' End, but it is not likely that all or most of these were parish churches. The inquest for the taxation of parish churches in 1428 (fn. 160) gives the number of parishes as eight, naming all those of 1200 with the exception of St. Bartholomew's. The Valor Ecclesiasticus (fn. 161) also omits St. Bartholomew's as well as St. Peter's, which was not in the gift of St. Andrew's, but St. Lawrence's is described as a chapel attached to the parsonage or rectory of St. Andrew's. (fn. 162) Leland says that there were seven parish churches, two being in the suburb. It would appear therefore that the number of parishes was constant from 1200 to the Reformation, though other churches may have been used for parochial purposes.
After the Reformation the ecclesiastical parishes of Northampton were reduced to four. St. Sepulchre's absorbed the parishes of St. Bartholomew's and St. Michael's; St. Giles' that of St. Edmund's; and All Saints' that of St. Mary's by the Castle (fn. 163) and St. Gregory's, the latter by the authority of Cardinal Pole, when the site of St. Gregory's was converted to the use of a free school. (fn. 164) In a suit as to tithes due to the vicar of St. Giles' in 1598 it was deposed that the parish of St. Edmund's had been deceased for about 60 years. (fn. 165) The same record gives the bounds of St. Giles' parish at the same date. (fn. 166)
The four ecclesiastical parishes of Northampton remained unaltered till the 19th century. The smallest, St. Peter's, remains unaltered still: but as the vacant spaces within the old walls filled with houses, and the open fields were first enclosed and then built over, the others had to be subdivided. (fn. 167) From All Saints' parish, lying within the old walls, was formed St. Katharine's parish in 1839, subsequently enlarged by an addition from St. Andrew's parish. From St. Sepulchre's, which extended north of the old walls, was formed St. Andrew's parish in 1842, with a church designed by Mr. E. F. Law, architect. From St. Giles' parish, which extended east of the old walls, was formed in 1846 St. Edmund's parish, the church of which, consecrated in 1852, was built from plans by Mr. Matthew Holding and enlarged in 1891. In 1879 St. Lawrence's parish was formed from part of St. Edmund's and part of St. Sepulchre's; the church, built of red brick, was consecrated in 1878. In 1882 St. Michael's and All Angels was also formed from a part of St. Edmund's, a church of red brick being built from designs by Mr. George Vials. The district of Christ Church was formed in 1899, from parts of St. Edmund's, St. Michael's and Abington parishes, and was made a parish in 1907. The transepts and part of the nave of the church were consecrated in 1906, the chancel was subsequently built but the nave has yet to be completed. The architect was Mr. Matthew Holding.
The enlargement of the municipal boundary in 1901 meant the inclusion of the district parish of St. James, formed in 1872 out of parts of Duston and Dallington; the church, of red brick, was consecrated in 1871, enlarged in 1900 with a tower, subsequently completed. St. Mary's (an ecclesiastical district), formed in 1885 out of Hardingstone parish, for Cotton End and Far Cotton, has a church designed by Mr. Matthew Holding. St. Paul's (an ecclesiastical district), formed in 1877 out of the parishes of Kingsthorpe and St. Sepulchre's, the church of which was designed by Mr. Matthew Holding. St. Matthew's, an ecclesiastical parish formed in 1893 out of Kingsthorpe parish; the church built from plans by Mr. Matthew Holding, has a north-west tower with a spire, 170 ft. high. Holy Trinity, an ecclesiastical district, was formed in 1899 (parish 1908) out of Kingsthorpe parish. Northampton thus consists to-day of 15 ecclesiastical parishes.
St. Andrew's priory presented to the church of ALL SAINTS down to the Dissolution. From 1539 to 1616 the Crown had the patronage, after which date it came into the hands of Sir Thomas and Dame Katherine Littleton, who sold the advowson and rectory to the mayor and corporation of Northampton on 24 May 1619. The patronage remained in their hands till 1835, being exercised by such members of the corporation as were parishioners of All Saints'. (fn. 168) In 1835 the advowson was sold to Lewis Loyd, from whom it descended to Lord Overstone, whose daughter, Lady Wantage, made it over to the Bishop of Peterborough, the present patron.
The church of All Saints, first mentioned in 1108, (fn. 169) stands to the south of the market place, at the centre of the modern as of the medieval town. The congestion of traffic owing to the convergence of main roads and tramways at this point has been relieved by the town's acquiring in 1871 and more recently the land west of the church, formerly the churchyard and before 1675 the site of the nave. The church has been the scene of many events of national importance. Ecclesiastical courts have been held here (fn. 170); the convocation of the province of Canterbury sat here in 1380 (fn. 171); 'prophesyings' originated here, and it was the centre of the opposition to Laudian reform, as described in the previous volume. (fn. 172) Two political sermons of some interest were preached here in the 17th century, one by Robert Wilkinson on the anti-enclosure riots on 21 June 1607, given before the Lord Lieutenant of the county and the Commissioners (fn. 173); the other—Sibthorpe's Assize sermon on Apostolic obedience—given on 22 Feb. 1626–7. (fn. 174) It was the town church in an especial sense. Mass was celebrated here before the elections of town officials under the Act of 1489 (fn. 175); from 1553 the town records were kept in the vestry, in a special chest (fn. 176); and special seats were assigned for the mayor and bailiffs both before and after the fire, (fn. 177) which is recorded in the register for marriages by the sentence, 'While the world lasts, remember September the 20th, a dreadfull Fire, it consumed to ashes in a few hours 3-parts of our Town and Chief Church.' The Justices of Assize attend service here before the Assizes.
ST. PETER'S church is first mentioned about 1200. (fn. 178) Down to 1266 the patronage was in dispute between the priory of St. Andrew's and the Crown. Henry III presented in 1222. (fn. 179) The jurors in the eyre of 1253 presented that the Church of St. Peter's had been in the gift of the Kings of England down to Henry II, but was now in the possession of St. Andrew's priory. (fn. 180) In 1266 Henry III recovered the advowson from the priory, allowing the prior an annual pension of 15 marks in compensation, which, however, was not being paid in 1334. (fn. 181) In 1329 Edward III granted the advowson to the hospital of St. Katharine, near the Tower of London, (fn. 182) in whose hands it remained till the middle of the 19th century, though leased out from 1550–1640 to the Morgan family. (fn. 183) The last appointment by the hospital was made in 1873; the patronage has since been exercised by the Queen Consort, the patron of St. Katharine's.
From time immemorial the chapel of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, Kingsthorpe, was attached to St. Peter's as a chapel of ease. (fn. 184) It only became an independent parish church in 1850. (fn. 185) The chapel of St. Michael at Upton has also continued to be appurtenant to St. Peter's as a chapel of ease from the earliest recorded times. (fn. 186)
St. Andrew's priory presented to ST. SEPULCHRE'S until the Dissolution. The advowson then passed to the Crown, and was in the royal hands till 1615, when James I sold it to Edmund Duffield and John Babington of London. (fn. 187) From them it passed a month later to Sir John Lambe. (fn. 188) His executors sold it in 1653 to Peter Whalley, twice mayor of Northampton, and Ferdinando Archer, headmaster of the grammar school, 1646–96. It passed from the Whalley family to the Watkins, (fn. 189) and was sold early in the 19th century to Thomas Butcher and by him to W. Butlin, (fn. 190) who sold it to Lord Overstone, whose daughter, Lady Wantage, made it over to the present patron, the Bishop of Peterborough.
ST. GILES' church is first mentioned about 1120. (fn. 191) It served as the meeting place of the town assembly down to the time of the Act of 1489, possibly, it has been suggested, because it was equally remote from the Castle and the Priory of St. Andrew's. (fn. 192)
St. Andrew's presented to St. Giles' church down to the Dissolution. From that time the advowson went with that of St. Sepulchre's until 1833, when the Rev. Edward Watkin sold it to the Simeon trustees, the present patrons.
Of the eleven newer churches of Northampton, the advowsons of St. Katharine's and St. Andrew's belong to Hyndman's trustees, and that of St. Matthew's, Kingsthorpe, to Pickering Phipps, Esq.; the other eight are in the gift of the Bishop of Peterborough.