Bulmer church appears in Domesday when it belong to Count Robert of Mortain, the lord of Berkhamsted, Launceston and Pevensey castles in the south of England.  The vill itself was held from Count Robert by Nigel Fossard.  In 1066 Bulmer had been held by Ligulf and Northmann, Luigulf being the purported ancestor of the Bulmer sheriffs of Yorkshire, Ansketil (d.bef.1129) and Bertram (d.1166).  It tends to be claimed that the family of Northmann or Luigulf had been responsible for building the structure which is mentioned with its priest under the Domesday heading of Bulmer and Stittenham.  As the latter is only a mile to the west and has no church, quite obviously it is Bulmer that had both church and priest and Stittenham which much later is recorded as having a hall with a chapel of St James, extant by 1273, but apparently obliterated not long after 1546.

The church is quite obviously a multi-phase structure.  The real question is, in what order did these phases occur and can any of them be dated.  The first thing to be noted is that the herringbone portion of the church walls is a secondary construct and not a primary one.  As herringbone is taken to be early work, this shows quite clearly that in this case at least, and it can be demonstrated at other sites in this list too, that it was not necessarily a primary feature of stone church building.

Bulmer church is of a standard plan, having chancel to the east and tower to the west, with a longer nave connecting the two.  The oldest part appears to be the nave which sports a confusing patchwork of masonry styles.  The north and south walls both contain much herringbone work, as well as deeply splayed Romanesque windows and a blocked Byzantine style north doorway.  The masonry around this door strongly suggests that the original work is a rougly coursed rubble of small, flattish slabs and the herringbone work has been added around this more as patching than original work.  The probably oldest work is said to also appear at the nearby churches of Crambe and Terrington - the latter also having herringbone work.  The north door gives the impression of possibly having be reset, the lintel being rather too short and the quality of the arch being superior to that of the jambs.  The Romanesque window beside it is of a similar build as to its jambs, but the
head, unlike the jambs, is moulded.  This too may suggest resetting.  The southern 2 windows have no moulding, but have chamfered jambs.  

A possibly fourteenth century chapel wall overlay the nave north window, but this has been demolished.  The remaining nave masonry above the 2 remaining arches of this again contains much herringbone work above and intermixed with coursed rubble, while at the apex of the arches are 2 rows of near ashlar quality limestone masonry which are penetrated by the arches.  Which of these features is primary is difficult to judge.  The walls of the nave were raised in a poor quality rubble at some point, while there is a fine, plain Romanesque south door of 2 limestone orders with a label.  This has a plain capital only under the outer order, which appears to have been once supported by a pillar, but this is now much damaged.  Traditionally this is dated to the late twelfth century.

The south and east sides of the chancel are rebuilt, but the lower half of the north wall appears to be original.  Perhaps the well coursed rubble build, set on a chamfered plinth of 1 course is twelfth century.  


Copyright©2021 Paul Martin Remfry

  • Index

  • Home