St James' Church, Gawsworth

St James' Church, Gawsworth, is in the village of Gawsworth, Cheshire, England, and is sited near Gawsworth Hall. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. It is an active Anglican parish church in the diocese of Chester, the archdeaconry of Macclesfield and the deanery of Macclesfield.Clifton-Taylor includes it in his list of 'best' English parish churches. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner described it a "very strange" church in that it has no aisles, a very wide nave and no structural separation of the chancel and nave.


There is a record of a chapel on the site in the 13th century but the present building dates from the 15th century.


The nave is the oldest part of the church dating from 1430 and is built from limestone. The tower and chancel were built some 40 years later in sandstone. The church is entirely Perpendicular in style. The plan of the church consists of a tower at the west end, a wide three-bay nave without aisles, a south porch and a chancel divided from the nave by a screen. The tower has angular buttresses with niches which used to contain statues. It also has gargoyles, the coats of arms of Cheshire families, and Tudor badges. The porch also has niches over the doorway. The nave is embattled with pinnacles.


The rafter beam ceiling of the nave dates from the 15th century and the camber beam chancel ceiling, which is panelled, dates from slightly later. The chancel screen is dated 1894. The octagonal 16th-century font sits on a 19th-century stem with a wooden cover. At the east end of the chancel is a sanctus cot and bell. In the 19th century most of the old stained glass was removed, although fragments remain in the chancel windows. The stained glass in the east window is by William Wailes.

In the chancel are four tombs of members of the Fitton (Fytton) family. The oldest is an altar tomb to Francis Fytton dated 1608. On the top of the tomb is his recumbent bearded effigy and beneath him is a skeleton. Opposite is the monument to Dame Alice Fitton who died around 1626. In front of her seated effigy are effigies of her two sons kneeling, and behind her are figures of her two daughters, also kneeling. Adjacent is the tomb of Sir Edward Fitton, 1st baronet, and his wife Anne, who died in 1619 and 1644 respectively. In front of the tomb are the keeling figures of their three sons and seven daughters. One of the daughters was Mary, a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I and a candidate for the "Dark Lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets. The fourth tomb is to the memory of Sir Edward Fitton, 2nd baronet, who died in 1643, and his first wife Jane.

The two-manual organ was built by Nicholson and Lord of Walsall in 1895, obscuring the southwest window. In 1917 it was enlarged by Hayter and Son of Letchworth, obscuring the west window. In 1961 the organ was rebuilt and divided by Cyril Wood of Ashton-under-Lyne to reveal the west window. The ring consists of eight bells. Six of there were cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, one by Charles and George Mears in 1856, the other five by Mears and Stainbank in 1890. The other two bells were cast by John Taylor and Company in 1907. The parish registers date from 1557.

External features

A pair of 18th-century gatepiers at the entrance of the churchyard are listed Grade II. On their fronts are carvings of skull and crossbones. In the churchyard is a 15th or 16th-century cross base in sandstone ashlar. It consists of a square cross base and an octagonal shaft on a stepped plinth. A 20th-century wooden circular cross has been set on the shaft.