ST NICHOLAS' CHURCH, GROSMONT
Map Reference SO42SW
Grid Reference SO4047424302
Unitary (Local) Authority Monmouthshire
Old County Monmouthshire
Type of Site CHURCH
Broad Class Religious, Ritual and Funerary
Site Description St Nicholas' Church in Grosmont is a thirteenth century parish church with a fifteenth century tower. It is constructed in red sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings and slate roofs and consists of an aisled nave, transepts, crossing-tower, chancel, a chapel on the southern side and a porch on the northern side.
The chancel and transepts were virtually rebuilt between 1869 and 1879 during restoration and reconstruction work, although the nave escaped much of this work. The reconstructed chancel and transepts are separated from the largely unrestored nave by a nineteenth century glazed screen. The five-bay nave has a thirteenth century arcade and a crown post rafter roof. There are few original features in the chancel, although the southern chancel wall has a thirteenth double piscina. The church houses a number of well-preserved memorials and chest tombs.
J Hill, RCAHMW, 17 September 2003.
ADDITIONAL: tree-ring dating has been successfully commissioned by RCAHMW and published in Vernacular Architecture, vol. 41 (2010), p.117. A felling date range of 1214-44 was obtained for the nave roof. This is the oldest securely dated roof in Wales.
St Nicholas, Grosmont, is a large church with a strong thirteenth-century character more or less contemporary with the castle which was the centre of Grosmont lordship. The church served both the castle garrison and a new borough. The church has an ambitious cruciform plan with a central tower. Much of the church was rebuilt in the C19th but the long, aisled nave was spared reconstruction. The roof has an archaic character quite unlike any other surviving late-medieval roof in Wales although there is a clutch of comparable roofs in southern England. The bays are defined by plain trusses of heavy scantling. Posts rise from the tie-beam to the notch-lapped collar and from collar to ridge; the trusses are impressively braced laterally to a collar-purlin to prevent racking. This type of crown-strut roof is rare and difficult to date with precision.
Sampling provided good independent dating evidence and initially gave a likely felling-date range of 1214-1244, though later sampling of an ex situ diagonal tie (apparently removed from the NE corner of the nave) suggested a felling date after 1232, towards the end of the 1214-44 date range. The felling-date range is consistent with the thirteenth-century character of the nave and shows that the roof has survived from the first phase of building, probably when Hubert de Burgh was lord of Grosmont in 1219–32 or shortly after. In 1227 the king granted de Burgh fifty oaks for his new buildings at Grosmont and further timber to the parishioners, presumably for repairs to the church, in 1240. Grosmont has the earliest scientifically dated roof in Wales, and is one of few dated thirteenth-century church roofs. Its survival can be attributed to both the substantial nature of the roof and to the later medieval decay of the borough. The early character of the roof was noted by C.R.J. Currie in Medieval Archaeology XVI (1972), 179, and there are further observations by Julian Munby et al. in Medieval Archaeology XXVII (1983), 130.
GROSMONT, parish church of St Nicholas (SO 404 243) Nave roof Felling date range: 1214-44; after 1232
Collar 1221; Ashlar pieces 1202(h/s), 1203(h/s); Tie beam 1205(h/s). Site Master: 1112-1221 GROSMONT (t = 9.9 GTOXNBLD; 9.3 WALES97; 9.0 GLOUCBLF).