Architect Alan McCombie-Smith completed a detailed survey of the church in 2012. He has allowed us to use his notes and the drawings on the website. They document the building as it stands today and how it has evolved.

Notes on the survey of Greetham Church

By Alan McCombie Smith RIBA

28th March 2013


The architectural drawings on this site were a gift to the church. They were given to interpret the structure and are for illustration use only.

The drawings have the following reference numbers: 628/12/S1, 628/12/S2, 628/12/S3, 628/12/S4, 628/12/S5, 628/12/S6, 628/12/S7, 628/12/S8, 628/12/S9, 628/12/S10, 628/12/S11, 628/12/S12, 628/12/S13, 628/12/S14, 628/12/S15

All dimensions shall be checked by the user on site.

I decided to explore the history of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Greetham.

My curiosity was inspired by the church spire, which impressed me greatly as a work of very good design and construction, work of a quality which you would not expect to find in a remote village in the smallest county in the whole of England. The folly of that attitude was soon dispelled when I attempted to make a history of the church, for it became obvious that, to the invading Normans, Greetham, indeed the whole of Rutland, was a valued place, attracting the acquisitive interest of William the Conqueror himself, and of his lieutenants.

One of these was Henry de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Warwick, who was born in 1048, was part of the invading force of 1066, and was duely rewarded with the spoils of war, the Earldom of Warwick, and the Manorship of Oakham Castle and the lands which came with it.

From then until the end of the 15th century, Warwick had a hunting park at Greetham, and maintained an establishment, it is recorded, of the lands of Greetham, Cottesmore, and Barrow, as a hunting park with a hunting lodge at Greetham to oversee it. Warwick was the patron of the resultant Church.

Unfortunately any records of the works to the church during this period are either very difficult to find or non-existent, perhaps due to the fall of the First House of Warwick at the end of the 15th Century and a consequent destruction of records. Whatever the case, it became clear to me that the only way open to me to pursue my historical study of the church would be to carry out a measured survey of the building as it is today, and to use the information gathered in that way to learn more.

Measurement accuracy limitations

So, last October, I began. The biggest limitation was access to heights. I have not been able to employ scaffolding, nor hoists, and have, with one or two exceptions, worked alone.

The establishment of the plan is not yet complete to my satisfaction, due to the fact that many elements of the building are not square. Even minor variations in the plane of a wall face, or its incident angle to another, can produce accumulative mathematical errors which make accurate calculation difficult.

Buildings move during their lives, and this one has had over eight hundred years in which to move, and to be altered.

The establishment of the heights of the tower and spire have been limited to the figures which come from using a theodolite to measure the elevation of critical heights, and are not strictly accurate. They are as accurate as can be derived from the employment of the measuring device and the relevant mathematics.

However, the measure of widths at height has not been an option, and so the spire lights are estimated from drawings and photographs. Lower down, the belfry widows and lower openings have been measured from the inside, and estimated from the outside, while the ground floor windows and tower base, which can be accessed by a ladder from the ground, have been measured. Internally, sizes of existing roof timbers have been estimated, and heights measured by laser measure from the existing floor where ever possible.

Anything which can be reached from the ground or from a ladder or from the floor or a window cill has been measured using a tape or a rod.

One exception to this is the North Aisle roof and North wall of the Nave above it, to whose external face I gained access by virtue of the kind permission of the building contractors who carried out repairs to the North Aisle roof in late 2012. They built substantial scaffolding for their works, which enabled me to get up and measure the nave wall and North Aisle roof, picking up many crucial heights by direct measurement.

I have not yet gained access to the nave roof, nor to the South aisle roof, for which I await better weather. As a result, the nave roof which I have shown is estimated from information gathered elsewhere, and the three clerestory windows in the south wall of the nave above the South arcade are not yet measured.

History can be dated from style?

There is a theory amongst architectural historians that buildings can be dated from the style of their construction. For example, column or pier shapes, the detail of capitals and arches, and window traceries, are often made in the style which was fashionable at the time when they were made, and so enable the informed observer to assess their date, sometimes to within twenty years.

The Church at Greetham is a rich mixture of such stylistic indicators of age, for it has been altered so much, and in so many different centuries, that it can be said to reflect the changes in the societies which carried out those works of change. It is a huge jigsaw puzzle of clues, and as such, a quite fascinating case for study.

The Survey

My survey began with the tower/spire combination, as this was the first thing to attract me to the church. This then lead me on to the nave and the South Aisle, then the Chancel and Vestry and back to the North Aisle.

The drawings which show this record of the current building are as follows;

(nb. the plans are pdfs, you need a pdf reader to see them. If not already on your machine, Adobe reader can be downloaded free. File size is shown in brackets next to the file name.)

628S1 (545kb) - Tower - South Elevation & Ground Fl. Plan, West Elevation & Belfry Fl. Plan, Section B through Nave with East Elevation & Clock Room Fl. Plan. 1:100. 628S2 (621kb) - Long Sections A & D through the whole Church. 1:100. 628S3 (751kb) - Ground Floor and Roof Plan, Sections C, E, & F (Nave & Chancel), East Elevation & enlarged internal elevation of East Window. 1:100. 628S4 (424kb) - North & South Elevations. 1:100

The above drawings gave me enough information to derive details from them which I then gathered into the following drawings:

628S5 (347kb)- External Elevations of West Window in tower base, Belfry Windows, & Spire Lights, with plans of the same showing Jamb profiles, and the profile of the Tower Base. 1:10. 628S6 (298kb) - North Aisle windows, Internal Elevations, & Head, Cill and Jamb Sections. 1:10. 628S7 (376kb) - External Elevations of Lancet Window in Chancel, with head, Cill, & Jamb Sections, the 13th cent. North Door surround built into the 14th Century North wall in Elevation, the 19th Century Lancet Window in the East Elevation of the South Aisle, and External Elevations of the three 18th Century Windows built into the South wall of the South Aisle, with Head, Cill, & Jamb Sections. 1:10. 628S8 (353kb)- South Arcade Base, Pier, Capitals, and Responds, with Cross Sections through Piers, and Arch springing. 1:10. 628S9 (400kb) - North Arcade Base, Pier, & Capitals, and Responds, with cross sections through Piers and Arch springing. 1:10.

I intend to examine more elements in this way.

Norman Greetham

I became intrigued by the evolution of the building, and decided to undertake an exercise in which I attempted to illustrate how the building might have been at certain critical stages.

It appears that the earliest building was a small chapel, built in the 12th century, the footprint of which is the current chancel. This would have been built in the Norman Transitional style, similar to the nearby Tickencote Church. This was demolished as part of the works of the 13th century which were built in the Early English style (1200 to 1300). The chapel became the new chancel, containing the altar, a new nave was added, long and thin in the style of the time and with a North door, with a South aisle and a Porch. Of particular interest is the duo-pitched Nave roof. This form is indicated by evidence on the tower, which suggest a scissor roof structure popular at this time. This is illustrated in drawing 628/12/S10.

628S10 (1Mb) - This is an exercise sheet, examining what the Church might have been after the Normans had re-built it in, by my estimation, the first half of the 13th century, derived from the modern plan. 1:100.

13th or 14th Century tower added

At some time towards the end of the 13th century, and possibly the beginning of the 14th century, the tower was added. Opinions differ on timing, for some believe that the spire was added to the tower a few decades after the tower was built. The detailing of openings in the tower suggest that it is transitional in style between the early English and English Decorated styles, which could place it between 1280 and 1320. The effect of adding the tower is illustrated in drawings 628/12/S11 & S12.

628S11 (515kb) - This is an exercise sheet, examining the effect of adding the tower to the 13th century Church, at some time at the end of the 13th century, and/or the beginning of the 14th century. This first sheet of two shows the Ground Floor Plan, North, South And East Elevations, and Cross Section C through the Nave looking East. 628S12 (375kb) - To be read with drawing 628/12/11 above, this continues the examination with Long Section A through whole Church, Cross Section B through Nave looking West and showing the East Elevation of the Tower, and the West Elevation of the Church.

14th Century remodelling

A third excercise would be to illustrate the way it might have looked after the substantial remodelling of the 14th century, in English Decorated style (1300 to 1377), in which the North Aisle was added and the North Arcade and clerestory lights inserted, the roof changed to its existing form, the clerestory windows added to the South wall of the nave, the great Chancel Arch added (which resulted in the angled section of the South wall of the Chancel), and, I believe, the lowest window in the West Elevation of the Tower.

These works are set out in three drawings which, as before, are deduced from the survey of the building as it exists today. The effects of these works are shown on drawings 628/12/S13, S14, and S15.

628S13 - Ground Floor Plan, East and West Elevations, and Section C through the Nave looking East. 628S14 - North and South Elevations. 628S15 - Long Section A, through the Nave looking South, and Section B through the Nave looking West, showing the east Elevation of the Tower.

Later only minor works

After this there was no more substantial remodelling of the mass of the church, except for the relatively minor works to the South Aisle in the 18th century, and the addition of the Victorian vestry in 1858, although there were many changes in detail over the centuries.

Fittings, features and monuments

Returning to the present, I intend to record the location and style of the internal fittings, features and monuments which exist at the current time. I have not included them in the fore going drawings as they would obscure many of the main features of the building, and are, as an architectural term has it, omitted for clarity. There is more work to be done.

Historical research to be published

However, it is now some three years since I began to research the history of the church, and things that I have learned from the measure have lead me to review certain aspects of the written historical researches, which I intend to publish soon, and which I recommend be read for a fuller understanding.

Alan McCombie Smith RIBA