St James the Greater, Barlborough

History
Our church of St James the Greater is an ancient place of worship. Although it is difficult to validate without archaeological exploration, there is good reason to think that St James has been a place of worship for at least 1000 years.

Church History and Guide, now available in church. The booklet has been updated and expanded to provide a brief history of our church, describing architectural features and items of interest.


Recent discovery
Coffin discovery

Angela Madin and Teresa Bak have been researching the history of St James. Around 1700 a stone coffin was discovered by the Tower of St James Church. This was later moved and documented as being on the East side of the Church. All trace of the coffin disappeared until Verger Gordon Bradbury was clearing some land when he came across what he thought was a stone trough. Barlborough Heritage Manager Tony Bak was called upon to identify the find. The measurements matched exactly to those documented by Dr Pegge in 1700. We are now waiting for the archaeologists to help date the coffin.

HISTORY OF THE CHURCH

Barlborough stands on what was, and remains, an important crossroads for travelling, and there is evidence that a settlement existed here in the 5th century. Early Christian churches were built from the 7th century onwards, usually of wood, to be replaced later by stone buildings. The date of the earliest church on this site is not known.

In the Domesday Book (1086) there is mention of a priest and a church at Barlborough and Whitwell, which leads us to believe there was a church in one of the two villages. As there is no evidence of a church dating from the 11th century in either village, we cannot say for certain which one, but it is thought that Barlborough was then the principal manor, with Whitwell the subsidiary, or "berewick". The gift of the manor of Barlborough to the monks of Burton Abbey, recorded in 1002, suggests that there might have been a significant religious centre here at that time, supporting the idea that this was the location of the church.

It is thought that the church has always been dedicated to the apostle St James the Greater, a fisherman from Galilee and brother of St John. However, there have been references to it being called St Margaret's, or St Matthew's.

 


St. James’ Church was not all built at the same time. The arcade of Norman pillars, dating from 1160-1170, that separates the nave from the north aisle, is the oldest part of the church. Faint traces of Norman painting can be seen on some of the carved capitals. The other side of the nave and the south aisle were rebuilt in 1899, when the church porch was added. An earlier rebuild had taken place in 1754.

The main part of the church tower dates from c.1270, with the upper third possibly built c. 1500, and the battlements and pinnacles added in 1776. The tower arch is a fine example of 13th century Early English Gothic architecture, supporting an estimated 410-420 tons of masonry. Three of the church bells date from c.1610, one is dated 1725, one is undated, and one is from 1912.

Items of historical interest inside the church include a medieval font (in the porch), a stone effigy of Lady Joan Neville dating from 1395, a stone heraldic shield of 1743, a painting of "The Last Supper", a small 14th century Italian painting of the crucifixion, 19th century funeral hatchments, and various other monuments and commemorative items. Full details and descriptions can be found in guide leaflets available in the church.