Posted on 24 December 2020
St Wulfram’s Church in Grantham is more a mini cathedral than parish church.
In his popular book, England’s Thousand Best Churches author Simon Jenkins awards St Wulfram’s Church in Grantham, Lincolnshire a five-star rating, marking it as it one of the very best historical churches in the country.
It is easy to see why Jenkins was so impressed when you visit this delightful historical building. The glory of St Wulfram’s is the soaring spire that rises 283 feet above the ground. It was the tallest spire in the country at the time it was built.
The earliest church on this site was built in the early Saxon period and a church was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. You can still see Saxon herringbone stonework near the organ.
The Saxon church was rebuilt in the Norman period and again in following a fire in 1222 to give us the core of the building we see today. It is constructed of limestone quarried at nearby Ancaster.
The church has been a Grade I listed building, since 8 May 1950.
Francis Trigge Chained Library
Arguably Britain’s first public library, the Francis Trigge Chained Library is located in the upper south porch of St Wulfram’s Church accessed via a steep twisting staircase. The library was created in 1598 when Francis Trigge, the rector at nearby Leadenham, donated ‘one hundred poundes or thereaboutes’ for:
“The better encreasinge of learnings and knowledge in divinitie & other liberall sciences & learning by such of the cleargie & others as well as beinge inhabitantes in or near Grantham & the soake thereof as in other places in the said Countie.”
Purchased mainly from Cambridge, because books were such a precious commodity at the time, they were chained together to prevent theft. An inventory dating from 1608 lists 228 titles – the majority of which are based on religious topics, but also natural history and medicine. As of today there are 338 books catalogued in the library.
The library’s earliest book was published in Venice in 1472 – just a couple of decades after Gutenberg had invented the printing press. There’s also a miniature (literally an inch long) book of the Life of Christ.
Although the library was not open to the general public, it was freely accessible to The King’s School, Grantham and other interested groups. Therefore, because of its usage in the local community, the library is classed not as a private collection but a public library that may well be Britain’s first.
Images from Rod Collins and mrphoebus.wordpress.com