The Church


There are very few churches dedicated to St James the Less. His Feast day is May 3rd, which he shares with St. Philip.

Sulgrave Church was built between 1327 and 1377 during the reign of Edward III. The stone carvings high on the walls of the Chancel commemorate this fact. Edward looks across from the south side at his wife – Queen Phillipa on the north.

South Porch. Above the entrance is a stone, renewed in 1979, showing the initials E.R. (Elizabeth Regina) and the date 1564. The Queen was in Northampton that year, and it is possible that the porch was built to celebrate her visit, which may have included Sulgrave. 1564 was also the year in which Amee, the wife of Lawrence Washington died, so it is possible that the porch was built in her memory.

This Tudor porch is very interesting. The fleur-de-lys being a reminder of the link which existed between the Thrones of England and France. In the Spandrels of the arch are two circular figures which may have been taken to be the Tudor rose – although this usually has five petals. Beside these are the letters J.H.S. and X.R.S. to the left and right respectively. These are the Greek letters for “Jesus” and “Christ”, and it is extremely rare to find them on a church porch. On the sides of the entrance are carved I and R also very difficult to see – which may stand for “Jesus Rex”.

West Door

The other doors are also of interest. The West or “Tower door” is Saxon and could date from the 10th Century. The North Porch and door date from the 14th Century and are beautiful examples. The window embrasure is very old and is made from the lid of an ancient stone coffin.


Church Decorations

The octagonal font of local stone with lead lining and a deeply incised design of oak leaves dates from the 15th Century.

The font

The large oak chest is very old. Local tradition says it belonged to the Washington family. If so it may well have belonged to the Monastery which Lawrence Washington bought from Henry VIII in 1539. The chest would have been used for the safe keeping of the church valuables. It was also used by the “Culworth Gang” to hold their loot – when William Abbott was Church Warden and also a highwayman! In 1885 it was used for storing coal. Now it holds hymn books and sheet music.

The ancient oak chest

Near the hand-drawn hearse are the tapestries embroidered by the women of Sulgrave, and close by, a case which holds the Book of Remembrance.

The Tapestries

On the South side of the Chancel is a small perpendicular window dating form the reign of Edward III. Beneath this window is the Low-side door. Doors like this are very rare, and were used before the reformation for the ringing of the bell to announce the Elevation of the Host at Mass.

Near this door is a “Squint” or “Hagioscope”, which was blocked up in the post-reformation days, and only restored in 1885. In the early church an altar stood in the South Aisle. Originally the hagioscope enabled the priest at the altar in the South Aisle to see the High Altar. Later, when the Washington Pew replaced the South Aisle Altar, it enabled the occupants of the pew to see the High Altar.

The “Squint” or “Hagioscope”

The Medieval Piscina, used for the cleansing of the vessels at Mass can still be seen. Its bowl was probably broken off at the time of the Reformation. In the window above the Washington Pew are four panels of Elizabethan glass, depicting the Coat of Arms of the three generations of the Washington family. The lower right-hand side are those of Lawrence Washington and his wife Amee Pargiter.

The Washington Pew

To their left are those of his parents John Washington and his wife Margaret Kitson, and above those of their eldest son Robert and his wife Elizabeth Light. All show the mullets and bars, which inspired the Stars and Stripes of the United States of America.

Washington Family Coat of Arms

In front of the pew, under a large slab of Hornton stone, Lawrence Washington, his wife and their eldest son Robert are buried. Amee died in 1564 and memorial brasses were made for her and her husband. Spaces were left for the dates of Lawrence’s death. He outlived her by twenty-one years, but the spaces were never filled in and remain blank to this day. These brasses have been badly defaced and are now covered with a carpet. Replicas can be seen at Sulgrave Manor.

To mark the ‘Third Millenium’ a stained glass window was placed in the South Aisle. The top left roundel depicts the figure of St. James the Less surrounded by important articles inside the church. The roundel below shows aspects reflecting the rural background of the church. The top right roundel portrays the link between Sulgrave and the United States. The one below shows important landmarks around Sulgrave. The window was dedicated in 2001.

The Millenium Window Roundels

See here for full details of the Roundels.

At the back of the church is the little “Jesus window”, given in memory of five children who died of scarlet fever over five hundred years ago.

The Jesus window….

….and details of the dedication

The Tower is the oldest part of the church. It holds six inscribed bells and also a small Medieval Sanctus bell. The bells are rung regularly for services and special occasions.

In 1992 the church was renovated. New lighting and heating systems were installed and running water was brought into the church. The glass screen in the front of the bell chamber was inspired and designed by William Roberts, who was Master of the Bells at the time. The lantern in the porch, the book case, hymn boards and vestment cabinet were all donated, and the Processional Cross commemorating the Restoration Appeal was dedicated at the Easter Service in 1993.

See also:

“The Parish Church” – A Chapter from “The Chronicles of a Country Parish” – a village appraisal of Sulgrave published in 1995, to be included in this website later in the year.

“The Church War Memorial– Details of those from Sulgrave who lost their lives in two world wars.

Floral decorations from 1972 – Photographs of floral decorations illustrating biblical quotations set out in illuminated texts.


8 Responses to “The Church”

  1. david hansen says:

    hi there
    i am trying to track down some info regarding a distant ancestor how could i go about doing that
    her name was jane goldby, she was born in sulgrave on 7/4/1826 and her parents were john bishopand elizabeth jarvis. at least that is the info that i have. as i live in australia email would be the best contact for me
    tks dave

  2. kay bristow (nee Pettifer) says:


    I am doing something similar to the above man. My family, the Pettifers, come from Helmdon as far back as late 17th C but may have lived elsewhere prior to that date. I am doing a `trawl` of villages close by to see if the family name is recorded on old tombstones etc. I live in Northumberland but can be reached by e-mail. Does this name feature in any old documents? I would love to hear from anyone who can help.

  3. Thomas Christopher Fielding Whitton says:

    A relation of mine, and cousin of one John Gorell, who ‘went to a presentation at Sulgrave Manor as an an ambassador (sic) for the county’ has informed me that the Vicar is writing a book on the Northants/Washington connection.

    My great uncle Tom prepared a genealogy of the Whitton family who lived at Sulgrave, one of whom (also Thomas – died 1632) has a large ‘altar’ tomb in the churchyard along with all the other ‘Whittons’. My great uncle indicated that a Thomas Whitton owned one of the manors (Leeson Manor)in the parish of Sulgrave. There is I understand still a field called the Whitton Dairy Ground.

    The family joke is that the Whittons were fairly well-to do and Catholic and presumably royalist but within one generation were protestant and no longer classified as ‘gentlemen’! It took two more generations for that to be rectified! Probably all hearsay.

    I have the full genalogy plus some very interesting material from Mr Sirot-Smith who indicated that there is much more material probably available locally.

    If a message can be passed to the Vicar in case he is interested I would be very grateful. I am a direct descendant of the Thomas Whitton mentioned above.

    Christopher Whitton

  4. Chris Lucas says:

    Hi Chris,
    My maternal grand mother was a Whitton. I have been to Sulgrave several times during visits to the UK, and twice met Mr Sirot-Smith who has been very helpful. He has many Whitton documents stored at the manor, for example a rent agreement between Thomas Whitton and Margery Trist, Anthonie Wattes, John Watts for Sulgrave Manor (70 acres land, 6 acres meadow, 40 acres pasture, 4 acres wood and 10 acres furze and heath) for 23 s. If this sort of thing interests you I have it all digitaised. Let me know your address and I will send you a CD.
    My great cousin. Marget Hurren, has a family tree going back to 1462. Thomas Whitton, d1632, married Thomasina Dry. His descendents seem a bit confusing and uncertain to me – there are alot of Thomases! My descent is from Corbett Whitton, bap1671, d1729 Sulgrave.

    I have done quite alot on the Whitton connection with Leesons, and sent an email to Mr Sirot-Smith about this last month. No reply as yet.

    Skype: Lucas.Chris
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Skype: chris.lucas
    0064 9 445 0092

    PS: I am away on holiday for the next 10 days.

  5. John Munro McIntosh says:

    I have just had the privilege of reading the obituary to Alick “Sandy” Munro formerly of Glasgow Scotland. I think that his father was Alexander Munro of Portmahomack Rosshire. He was the nephew of my Grandfather Peter Simpson Munro. I am in contact with Sandys cousins Nicholas and Ian Munro who both reside in England. I am constructing a family tree which is available on as is Nicholas and Ian and we have just found each other in the last couple of weeks. We know Sandy had 2 brothers Ian and Eric (in California) but we are trying to fill in blank spaces in the tree. I am hoping that someone who sees this will bring it to the attention of Sandys family as we have family photographs they may be interested in as well as loads of relatives they may not know exist.
    I can be contacted at
    Thank You.

  6. Kate Garrett says:

    Dear Christopher Whitton and Chris Lucas, I am also tracing Whitton’s in Sulgrave and would be interested to know if Great Great Grandmother Elizabeth Whitton b.1822 Sulgrave who married William Eagles in 1846 appears on either of your Whitton trees? Elizabeth Whitton’s father was George Whitton (Farmer) born 1791 in Sulgrave. With many thanks, Kate Garrett

  7. Margaret Hurren says:

    Hi Kate, I am also descended from the same Whitton family as Chris Whitton & Chris Lucas. Your G-G Grandmother, Elizabeth Whitton appears on our tree as a daughter of George Whitton and Elizabeth Franklin. Apart from the fact that Elizabeth married William Eagles, we do not have any information about her descendants so it would be great to make contact with you, and exchange information. Chris Lucas and I live in New Zealand and have been sharing information for some time. I an be contacted at
    Regards, Margaret

  8. Kory Butler says:

    Dear Margaret Hurren, Chris Whitton and Chris Lucas. I’m a descendant of Corbett Whitton b. 1823 and Elizabeth Mary Roper b. 1820. I’ve traced back the Roper side but do not have any Whitton information prior to Corbett Whitton, my great-great-grandfather of Greens Norton Park, Northamptonshire, England. Does anyone know who Corbett Whitton’s mother and father were? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Best, Kory

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