Grosmont – St Nicholas’ Church


   The church of St. Nicholas in Grosmont was built at the end of the 12th or at the beginning of the 13th century, and it was roofed with a truss to which the wood was cut in the years 1214-1244. The building survived despite the disappearance of the nearby settlement in the late Middle Ages. Previously, however, church served the local community, as well as the garrison of a nearby castle, as a parish temple. Its large size determines how important Grosmont was during the early Middle Ages.
   At the end of the nineteenth century, the building was close to collapse, but was saved by extensive renovation in 1869-1879. The work was largely financed by John Etherington Welch Rolls, local landowner and benefactor. During this works, mainly the chancel and transepts were rebuilt.


   The church was built of red sandstone, as an impressive pseudo-basilica structure on a Latin cross plan. It consisted of a five-bay nave, two aisles, a north and south transept, a tower above the crossing, a southern chapel, a four-sided chancel and a porch on the north side.
   The tower, like the porch, was added in the 13th or 14th century. It received an octagonal shape and a lofty spire, the inspiration for which is sought in France, where such a form was more common. The side aisles could have been originally a bit wider, they were probably narrowed after the addition of the tower. They were illuminated by small pointed windows, larger, three-light windows were installed in the transept and in the west facade, where between two buttresses there was a large four-light window with an elaborate tracery.
   The thirteenth-century truss of the nave was archaic in nature, completely unlike any other late-medieval roof in Wales, found only in southern England. The aisles were separated by two rows of pointed, moulded arcades, based on massive cylindrical pillars.

Current state

   The medieval church has survived only partially, because a large part of its chancel and fragments of the transept walls (enlarged by western bays) were rebuilt in the early modern period. The arcades under the tower had to be replaced, as there was a risk of the high spire and the tower collapsing. The sacristy on the south side is also a modern addition, but it was built on the site of a medieval chapel. The monument boasts a magnificent nave, still covered with the original roof truss, dendrochronologically dated to the first half of the 13th century, which makes it the oldest roof in Wales. The original medieval piscina has also been preserved in the chancel wall.

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Salter M., The old parish churches of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower, Malvern 2002.

Wooding J., Yates N., A Guide to the churches and chapels of Wales, Cardiff 2011.
Website, St Nicholas church, Grosmont.
Website, Church of St Nicholas, Grosmont.