St.John the Baptist Church /About

Our History

The History of St. John the Baptist Church

 

The historic church, built between 1180 and 1190 and subsequently redeveloped is a grade II listed building. 

 

The church In Greatham, was totally dismantled and rebuilt during the episcopate of Bishop Pudsy (l180-1190) thus removing all traces of the earlier Saxon and Norman structures. In consequence the present building can only claim its ancestry to the l2th century.

 

A major restoration occurred in 1792 - the funds for which are said to have been raised from the sale of the lead on the roof. This work obliterated the Norman walls to within a few feet of their foundation.

Fortunately, in spite of these various restorations' all has not been lost of the earlier churches.   There are in the present church various pieces of masonry which have been discovered during the  periods of reconstruction and have later been authenticated which  give conclusive test to there having been an early Saxon church in Greatham on the site of the  present church.

The following fragments are evidence of the early church:

  • Two stone baluster shafts of late rather than early Saxon origin which are of rude and irregular size and bear indications of having been turned in a lathe.

 

  • These stone baluster shafts now support the Frosterley marble altar slab in the sanctuary   

 

  • Fragments of a Saxon cross bead being part of a stone circle that connected the four members of a Greek shaped or Maltese cross from a date earlier than A.D.901 .

 

  • Fragments of a cross shaft or tomb slab with early Norman carvings.

 

  • Fragment of another cross shaft which is dated about the time of Henry I. This fragment is thought to be of another cross shaft of the same period which was built into the north wall. of the church in 1860 and is well Preserved.

  • A Norman cross head which was found beneath the foundations of the west wall amongst stones calcined by fire, and some pieces of molten lead - possibly from the Danish raids of 901 – In Shape it is a Maltese or Greek cross. This is an excellent piece of Norman carving not later than the 11th century.

 

It is claimed that at the time of restoration of 1860, the foundations of a smaller church, probably of Saxon or Norman origin were found inside the shell of the existing building, and the substructure of the old chancel arch could be clearly traced. These early foundations remain buried beneath the flooring of the present church.

 

A Frosterley marble font, possibly from the 12th Century, completes the evidence of these early buildings for Christian  worship in Greatham from which it can be claimed with some certainty, that we have embodied in the present building a very ancient centre of worship over one thousand years old.

 

​Mezzanine meeting room and kitchen areas were added in 1991.

 

The inside of the church has recently been redecorated and a new boiler installed. We have one nearby cemetery still in use, with the churchyard and another local cemetery is now closed.