Willoughby Chapel

St. James church, Spilsby, Lincolnshire.


This is a small market town with the usual little shops and interesting buildings and associations for many years associated with sheep and wool production . The market place is a long drawn out rectangle with a bronze statue on a pedestal of John Franklin by Charles Bacon 1861.

St James’ church from the outside is very Victorian looking and really deceptive as a result of W. Bassett Smith’s rebuilding of the Chancel, the adding of a south aisle and scraping in 1879. The old chancel has been filled in at the church east end and is approached through the new chancel. The whole church inside looks reasonably modern and clean and gives no inkling of what is to be found when one gets right inside and begins to pick out the monuments and tablets on the walls to your right and especially in the blocked off area of the old chancel of which the blocking itself is an unusual form of memorial. In some peoples opinions the memorial is really a mock up from other monuments and the area of the old chancel now forms the Willoughby Chapel which contains monuments to both the Willoughbys and the Berties of which the earliest dates back to the mid 1300’s.

The monuments in the Willoughby Chapel are listed as follows:-

A cross legged knight and his lady lying on a restored tomb chest which is thought to have had a large canopy at one time and is thought to represent Robert the first Lord who deceased in 1348.

John the second Lord died in 1372. He lies on a tomb chest with small figures with shields and some monks. (The monks heads are all modern restorations)

John the third Lord died in 1396 and his wife, both of alabaster. The effigies have been much restored and it is said that the tomb chest is a complete reproduction.

There is a 4’1" figure brass of a female said to be Margaret Zouche, died 1391 and was the third wife of the third Lord above.

William the fifth Lord ( Died 1410 ) and his wife are portrayed as 3’ 10" brasses and each has a canopy engraved

The monument to the west of the mortuary chapel and which is in the place of the Chancel arch is to Richard Bertie who died in 1582, and his wife Baroness Willoughby de Eresby. She was a former Duchess of Suffolk and died in 1580.At the chapel side of this monument it comprises a screen like reredos with three fluted Ionic columns. There are 6 passages of text from the bible. 5 in Latin and one in English in panels decorated with strap work on the western side of the blocking wall. Below is an altar or tomb chest projecting into the chapel decorated with colonnettes and with shields and strap work. Above are carved a monk and two large Wild man or Woodwose.( The latter being the emblem of the Willoughby family.) Two quite tall niches contain two alabaster Busts which appear completely out of place and out of proportion against the size and decoration of the monument. These have probably been placed here rather than the place they were made for.

As one enters the iron gate into the Willoughby chapel in front of you is a very large monument which has on it the standing figure of Peregrine tenth Lord Bertie who died in 1601and his daughter who died in 1610. She is shown in a semi reclining position with a babe in a crib at her feet thus signifying that she and the babe died in childbirth.. At the west end of the church is a wall tablet, with a relief portrait of the great explorer, to Sir John Franklin who died in 1847.


This site is a work in progress. This page last updated 11th April 2000.

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