LINCOLNSHIRE OCTOBER 2020

Aslackby, Walcot, Silk Willoughby & Howell 

This is being typed up in late December; two days before the year of 2020 is ended. A memorable year; for all the wrong reasons! My village is back in tier 4, along with most of the rest of the south and east of England and after todays announcement large parts of the north and midlands. The new variant of Covid is causing great concern. It is freezing cold and dark at four in the afternoon! Time, I think, to look back at a gloriously warm sunny, Sunday afternoon in September.

After taking in a Salvation Army service in the morning; a nourishing and wholesome lunch of a sausage roll and sour cream and chive Pringles was had in the van as we headed off to Aslackby.

This is a small village just off the A15, north of Bourne, heading towards Sleaford. For reasons that I have never been able to figure out it is pronounced Azelby by the locals, The church of St James dates from the 13th century, but before that there was a Knight Templar preceptor here; the headquarters for an order of monastic knights.  This dates back to 1194, with the tower being demolished in the 1890’s.

The church here is a favourite of mine. This was a regular stopping off point when I was cycling the villages in this glorious part of Lincolnshire a few years ago. Working for myself now and the passage of time has meant that these cycling trips out are few and far between now. It was good to see it again.

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The church of St James, Aslackby.

Pre covid, the church here would have been open to visitors. On that day there was a note up apologising that the church was closed; but if anyone wanted to enter to pray then phone the contact number and they would be let in.

This is a pleasing perpendicular church, set on slightly high ground; with square pinnacled, buttressed tower. The nave is clerestoried and battlemented and a frieze runs the length of the south aisle. The chancel dates from a period of Victorian restoration. A grotesque with incredibly large rears; mouth agape, looks down from the tower.

The porch was open, and there is a fine selection of graffiti inside the porch.  A mass dial is on a stone that has obviously been re-set at some point in time as it needed sunlight to be able to work. At the side of this is one of two pieces of ship graffiti.  This is a large ship, but a smaller one a short distance away has initials on the hull. Great to see these!

Several animals are carved, including a fish, a bird and a deer with antlers. The latter is dated 1765, and it is fascinating to think that this might have been carved by someone, recording what they had seen in the area. For whatever reason, this area has a great deal of graffiti and I was to come across some of the finest in the area a little later in the day.

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The church of St Nicholas, Walcot.

We moved on, heading through Folkingham and aiming for Walcot. This was another re-visit for me; my previous time here falling foul of some very dull lighting. The fine spire of the church of St Nicholas can be seen in the distance from the high ground as you approach Folkingham.

Walcot is a small farming village, less than 20 houses, with the church being far grander than you would expect for a village of this size. The road leading to the village is narrow and hilly, with the church immediately in front of you, surrounded by a scattering of houses and barns.

The church here dates back as far as the 12th century, and has a tall, octagonal crocketed broache spire, with many carvings around the windows. These carvings are of some age, with one in particular catching the eye. A beast of some sorts, with talons and possibly furled wings, grimaces and shows a set of ferocious but weathered teeth as it looks out.

Another; with an impressive amount of hair, both on head and body, holds chin and seems to be laughing! A beast crouches against the spire ready to spring out, its head weathered away almost to nothing.

As mentioned, the church was closed due to covid. On my previous visit here, I can remember admiring an ornate and impressively carved  13th century tub font, which had beautifully carved human heads around it. One of these was of what I took to be a monk, with pudding basin haircut, with damage to his nose, which may have been deliberate during the reformation.

The church porch was open, and there was a little graffiti to be seen. As with Aslackby, there was a mass dial here and most of the graffiti was initials, dating mainly to the mid 18th century. One stone had obviously been re-set at some point in time as all of the graffiti on it was upside down!

A pleasant church grounds, particularly on a warm later summer afternoon with the birds singing. The east end of the grounds is dominated by a massive weeping beech tree; reputed to be over 250 years old. I photographed this church five years previously in the winter and again on this day. A nice little touch was a grave close to the weeping beech, which had flowers on it then and still had flowers on it now!  An ongoing show of love from someone!

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Above and below, the church of St Denis, Silk Willoughby.

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And so, we headed a little further up the A15 towards Sleaford, and on to the church of St Denis, Silk Willoughby. It had been a pretty barren time with regards churches being open. I have my own feelings on this but; open or not, we have to respect the decision made. Here though; not only was the church open but there was a heritage open weekend going on! A very pleasant lady sat outside in the sun and was pleased to see some visitors. They had been open for over an hour at this point and we were the first to visit!

This beautiful church, with elegant octagonal spire and many very weathered carvings, is difficult to photograph from the south due to the tight nature of the church grounds. The north side is more spacious and easier to shoot from.. Carvings cover the tower and spire, with a mixture of fabulous beast and human figures at prayer. One figure with talons crawls down the side of a buttress, looking down at the onlooker, mouth open in a scream!

There was hand sanitiser on entry and unrestricted movement throughout the church. The rood scree has some wonderful carvings up in the tracery, with a cat eating a rabbit and, two dogs fighting and a lion like creature with one head and two bodies all catching the eye.

The tub font here is of great age, being thought to date from the early 12th century. The church itself dates from the 12th century, so it is more than possible that this was a feature of the church when it was first built.

There is lots of stained glass here, but nothing of any great age. The focal point of the fine east window is the risen Christ holding a globe. Christ is flanked by several characters, one of which is St George, the slain dragon laying at the foot of the window.

The interior of the south porch here is a delight! Masses of graffiti; with much of it being names or initials, with several dated to the mid 18th century. In among these though are some gems. A couple of hexfoil designs were originally carved to help protect the church from evil; evil spirits being enticed in to the design and being unable to find their way out again!  There is more than one pentagon, now seen as a symbol of black magic but which, in the past, was a Christian symbol.

There was a hangman’s gibbet, with hanging victim still on the end of a noose.  There was the traced outline of two shoes,  deer galloping; with the lead deer having no front legs,  a house with the name Robert Evering and a date of 1710 carved in to it. A snarling face with a pointed bearded chin and what appeared to be an outline of a three light church window, complete with tracery.

This was lovely! In among the closed churches this was great to see. A little slice of near normality when we could wander around a church, enjoy it; buy some tiffin (which was very nice) and go home with some lovely memories. Hopefully, those days will not be too long in returning.

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The church of St Oswald, Howell.

We moved a couple of miles north to Howell; a delightful old church which was open to visitors. Hand sanitiser on entry and no restriction on movement throughout the church.  A family of four were out on their cycles and were watching what I was doing as I worked around the exterior of the church. The man came over and said hi, he said that his daughter, who was about ten, wanted to know what I was doing. My answer was that I thought that the church was beautiful and I wanted to show other people how beautiful it was!

This pretty much sums up what my mindset has been in the 15 years or so that I have been doing this. The enthusiasm is the same now as it was on the first day that I picked my camera up and photographed my first church. On days like this; escaping from the world when it becomes a frightening place; enjoying the sun on my back and meeting lovely people; seeing beautiful things, that enthusiasm is not liable to wane any time soon.

The church of St Oswald, Howell, held six or seven services a year pre covid and is a chapel of ease to Heckington. Dating from the 12th century, this is a basic structure of nave and chancel; the two nearly flowing seamlessly in to one another, with a west bellcote.

Inside, there is a north aisle with north chapel. A wall monument on the south wall of the chapel shows to figures, 16th century I think, who would have been at prayer if they had hands! At the foot of this monument are crossed bones; a symbol of the mortality of Man.

 A remarkable 14th century coffin slab has a cut out at the top, showing a head and shoulders carving of a female at prayer, a smaller cut out depicting a child. Possibly this is symbolic of a child who predeceased their mother.

A two light east window depicted Jesus being baptised and the Last Supper; Judas, clutching his money bag, is as always being depicted looking away from Jesus as all others look towards Him.

An outline of a shoe is carved in to the stone bench in the south porch; not the first of these that I had seen that day, and JWR had visited here and left his or her initials in 1804.  A splendid little church and a good day to bring the curtain down on a good Lincolnshire churchcrawl!