St Peter-at-Gowts

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LARA ERA High Medieval
LARA Record Number 9.60.28

Description

Along with St Mary's (RAZ 9.60.26), St Peter's is the best known of Lincoln's medieval parish churches and, like St Mary's, it is a complex fabric which is only partly understood. St Peter's is unlike St Mary's in that it has no important collection of fragments of 10th- or 11th-century graveyard monuments. The analysis of the distribution of such monuments in Lincoln suggested that the St Mary's (and the St Mark's) collections indicate that these foundations belong to the earliest phases of the establishment of churches in Wigford in the second half of the 10th century (Stocker 2000). This same analysis also argues that St Mary's was founded by a larger group of members of the city's mercantile elite and the question to be asked at St Peter's is whether the lack of large numbers of monuments here might indicate a more conventional foundation by a single elite family to serve their urban estate. We know that there was a pre-Conquest church on the site, as its west wall has survived (with its long-and-short quoins) below the east wall of the tower (Stocker and Everson forthcoming). It has also been suggested that the church was originally located with its west wall along the street frontage and that the late 11th-century tower was built out on to the street, using the solid Roman road as a foundation. The value of this suggestion should be examined in any works undertaken in the western part of the churchyard or in underpinning the tower as, if true, it would have considerable consequences for the layout of this part of the Wigford suburb. Any works inside the church need to be undertaken in controlled archaeological conditions, so that the sequence of development at St Peter's can be compared with St Mary's and St Mark's. Its fabric also 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 Peter's, like that of St Mary's and St Benedict's, 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 north of the modern church a portion of the graveyard has been adopted by the modern vicarage. We have no information about the location of the medieval clergy house, but it is possible that such a building may have occupied this large space north of the church. Works involving ground disturbance in this area should be monitored to see if information about earlier structures on this site can be recovered and, if it turns out that there were medieval structures here (like those at St John Wigford - 9.60.23- St Mary-le-Wigford and St Botolph 9.60.21), the prospect exists for an early sealed population beneath them - which will be of interest in comparison with these other Wigford graveyards.

LARA Boundaries

The boundary of the medieval graveyard is known from early mapping and the RAZ includes its whole extent. Parts of the graveyard now lie under the present vicarage.