The mainly 15th century parish church of St James in Louth, the third building on the site succeeding 11th and 13th century structures, is widely recognised (e.g. Pevsner, Jenkins) as one of our finest late medieval churches.The chancel and nave were re-built 1430-40 but the tower/spire (the tallest medieval parish church spire in England) was not completed until 1515. Records show that the church was richly endowed with five subsidiary chapels and altars and a 3 storey rood screen.
The widespread national discontent resulting from Henry VIII’s taxation and ecclesiastical changes culminated in St James’ church in October 1536 when people mustered to start the Lincolnshire Rising, the first serious rebellion threatening the Crown, followed by the Pilgrimage of Grace. Both failed and serious repressions followed. Coupled with the puritan reformation, the church was swept clean of its riches, including the dismantling of the rood screen.
The evangelical changes of the late 18th century saw the church filled with seating and galleries to hear the preaching of the Word. The church roof had to be re-built in 1825. A major restoration was undertaken mid-19th century when the galleries were removed and the present pews, choir stalls, font and high altar were installed. The impressive stained glass is Victorian and Edwardian, the Nave windows illustrating Old Testament stories and the Chancel New Testament stories.
The church interior was cleaned and re-painted in the 1980s when the original 15th century font was recovered from the rectory garden and returned to its proper use.
The church organ, with thirty-seven speaking stops and three manuals and pedals, was re-built in 1911 by Norman and Beard revoicing original Gray and Davison work from 1857 and subsequent alterations by Forster and Andrews in 1868/9.
The church bells are a ring of eight recast in 1726 by Daniel and John Hedderley, bell founders of Derby. It is the heaviest eight-bell peal in Lincolnshire and the eighth heaviest in the country.
Church furnishings include the Sudbury Hutch presented to the church in 1503 with carved medallions showing Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
St James’s Church is a working church as well as serving the town for major occasions such as large scale concerts. Visitors may see the magnificent church spire as they cross the Wolds to reach Louth but nothing prepares them for the sight of the interior of the building with its soaring Baltic pine roof decorated with angels and bosses. The Angel chapel preserves two of the original medieval carved angels as evidence of the roof’s original splendour.