St Mary-le-Wigford

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LARA ERA High Medieval
LARA Record Number 9.60.26


Along with St Peter-at-Gowts (RAZ 9.60.28), St Mary's is the best known of Lincoln's medieval parish churches and, like St Peter's it is a complex fabric which is only partly understood. Unlike St Peter's however, and like St Mark's, St Mary's retains an important collection of at least seven fragments of 10th- or 11th-century graveyard monument reused in its fabric (Everson and Stocker 1999, 211-7) and this 'exceptional' collection of material has been used as the basis of an argument, based on parallels elsewhere, that St Mary's (and St Mark's) belong to the earliest phases of the establishment of churches in Wigford (Stocker 2000). It is argued, not just that St Mary's was founded in the second half of the 10th century, but also that it was founded not by a local lordling, but by a larger group of members of the city's mercantile elite. This provocative theory, based on the detailed evidence from St Mark's and on the few facts known about St Mary's requires more rigorous testing. In particular any works inside the church need to be undertaken in controlled archaeological conditions, so that the sequence of development of St Mary's can be compared with St Mark's. Similarly it is clear that the fabric of St Mary's contains a great deal of information, and all repair and restoration works there must be accompanied by programmes of archaeological recording. In the graveyard, also, this question of the relative status of the interred in the 10th and 11th centuries can also be addressed, but only if a valid sample of the burial ground is excavated totally. It is important that the lesson is learnt from the St Mark's excavations and that the whole burial ground is eventually analysed as a single site. The architectural development of St Mary's, like that of St Benedict indicates a prosperous parish from the 11th through to the 14th century, and although the architectural structure and details of the church are worthy of study in their own right, they should also be seen against the wider economic, social and ritual background of churches in Lincolnshire and England. To the south of the modern church a portion of the graveyard has been adopted by the railway. This was an interesting area of the graveyard because it is another example (like those at St John Wigford - 9.60.23 and St Botolph - 9.60.21) of a rectory which may have been built within the churchyard. If it was constructed on the graveyard the prospect exists for an early sealed population below the rectory structure - which will be of interest in its own right in comparison with the church houses at St John's and St Botolph and with other secular buildings in the suburb and elsewhere (RAZ 9.33 and RAZ 9.34 etc).

LARA Boundaries

The boundary of the graveyard is known from early mapping and the RAZ includes its whole extent. Parts of the graveyard now lie under both St Mary's Street and the railway track and service work to either should not be undertaken without appropriate archaeological recording.