HACEBY : CHURCH OF ST BARBARA
Church Post Code NG34 0EG
Open to visitors
Visited late June 2020
Redundant : Cared For By The Churches Conservation Trust
It was late June 2020, and a Lincolnshire churchcrawl on a dull, cloudy Sunday, finding ourselves at Haceby, our sixth church of the day. Haceby is some eight miles east of Grantham and a similar distance south of Sleaford. At that time no churches had opened back up for worship after the first UK national covid lockdown so it was pretty much a full day out with the camera, with no morning service. This was one of our first churchcrawls since churches were open for private prayer on June 15th, with public worship due to start on July 4th.
We had started off the day at Boothby Pagnell before moving on to Old Somerby to the east of Grantham, with each of these being closed; gradually working our way westwards for the rest of the day, heading towards the A15 which would take us back towards Peterborough.
We had moved on to Humby Chapel, Sapperton and Braceby and found each of the three open; with that run being extended with the church of St Margaret at Haceby also open to visitors. The church guide here has the church dedicated to St Margaret, but the church is also known as being dedicated to St Barbara.
This was a third visit to the church here, with the first two visits each being part of a cycling tour of the local churches. The first visit was back in 2007, armed with a basic digital camera and a total lack of any sort of knowledge about what I was doing or looking at; a return visit was made on a cloudy, windy and really cold Saturday in March 2015. I wasn’t feeling the love that day and gave up after visiting Haceby, cycling back to my digs near to Morton, questioning my life choices in the head wind on the way back, but warming up nicely in the Five Bells at Morton over a mixed grill later!
There is little to Haceby these days or possibly in the past to be honest; with just the church and a farm with a scattering of associated buildings. There is some history to this area though with an eight room Roman villa excavated here in the late 1920’s, which included a bath house with hypocaust, an underground heating system.
There was a priest mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086 but the church that we see today dates from the 12th century. The parish of Haceby was abolished in 1931 to form Newton and Haceby and the church was declared redundant in 1973; now being cared for by the Churches Conversation Trust.
The present church consists of west tower, nave with south aisle and clerestory, south porch and chancel. Tucked off the main road, and partially hidden by trees to the west, the church here stands gloriously isolated!
The substantial west tower dates back to the 12th century, and is of two stages with the belfry being added during the 14th century. The south porch dates from the 14th century, with inner door being 15th century. The clerestory to north and south takes the form of two three light windows. Both porch and chancel have tile roofs. There are no fancy carvings here, no gargoyles or grotesques; but this is a very beautiful church; a church of pleasing proportions.
There are two bells in the ring here. The first was cast at the Stamford Bellfoundry, being inscribed ‘Thomas Norris Cast Me 1628’. The second is just inscribed ‘S Barbara’ and has no founders name on it. It is attributed though to Leicester founder Thomas I Newcombe who was an active founder between 1506 and 1520.
The church here, as mentioned earlier, was open to visitors; moving inside there was a real sense of history on entering. The south arcade is of two bays, with octagonal piers and moulded capitals. Many of the fittings date from the 18th century. The chancel arch is ancient, with semi circular arch. Looking back to the west, there is evidence of the previous roofline over the tower arch before the clerestory was added. There is no stained glass here.
Over the top of the chancel arch is the very faded remains of a doom painting, thought to date from the 15th century. Doom paintings were often found over the chancel arch and it was a depiction of the day of judgement. The Risen Christ would have been shown central, along with Mary the Mother of Jesus and John, along with St Michael; holding the scales on which souls would be weighed on that final day. Bodies would be shown coming out of their graves, with those deemed righteous being taken in to Heaven, which was always on Jesus’ right hand side, the left as we look at it. Those judged to be condemned would be shown taken off to hell by demons and thrown naked in to the mouth of hell, which was often shown as a serpent mouth. This doom is virtually gone, with the only part remaining being a few condemned souls being herded by a demon towards their eternal fate! A reminder to those looking on, as to their reward would be of they were not at peace with God when their own time came!
This has been overpainted with the Royal Coat of arms for Queen Anne, which dates from the 18th century.
Moving up a couple of steps in to the chancel, there is a pre reformation altar stone, which has hand carved crosses on it. The reredos is in the form of a golden curtain which wraps around the altar on three sides. The east window is of three lights and clear glass, but with the glass edged in a red band. There is a 13th century piscina against the south wall of the chancel, which would have been used in the washing of the holy vessels used in the mass in pre reformation days. There would normally be a sedilia, the seating used by the priests alongside it to the west but there isn’t one here.
Against the north wall is an aumbry, a small cupboard in which the holy vessels would be stored. Opening the door and taking a look inside, I was delighted to see a Bible and Book of Common Prayer alongside a bottle of communion wine. This was a nice touch, whoever thought of doing this! Against the back wall of the aumbry is a carved quatrefoil design.
There is some interesting graffiti around the west window of the south porch, with this dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some is just initials and dates, with the initials TE carved in 1677, IR in 1770 and WH in 1766. Some are just scratches, whilst others are more substantial. The initials TBN are perfectly executed and would have taken some time to carve!
We also have two carvings of windmills, and the traced outlines of a pair of shoes, with very narrow fit! I always find it fascinating to think that people all those years ago, long since dead and possibly buried in the church grounds here, might be carving what they see. Perhaps there was a windmill here; perhaps the person carving the running deer at Silk Willoughby off to the north was carving what he or she had seen and perhaps, more darkly, the person carving the hanged body on a gibbet at neighbouring Pickworth to the south was doing the same! There is some graffiti on inside window sills but the main bulk is in the porch.
There is a scattering of gravestones to be found here, mostly clustered to the south of the church around the porch. As is the case in most of the church ground around here, some of the gravestones are slate; which weathers very well.
Just to mention a couple of stones. One in slate features symbols of the mortality of Man, namely a human skull and the gravedigger’s tools of pick and shovel. These are memento mori images, remember death; there to remind the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. Therefore live a good Christian life, trust in God and do not be caught short when your own time comes; and in those days of low life expectancy it could be later than you think! Close by is an hourglass, a symbol of the passing of time and another symbol which points to the fragility of human life and the inevitability of death. ‘Tempus Fugit’ time flies; the sands of time have run out for the deceased, and they will run out for the onlooker too! Sometimes the hourglass is depicted with wings, but this one isn’t.
These are all fairly common images but an arrow is seen less. The arrow here on this stone is quite damaged but I would think that it is piercing a human heart. The arrow is another memento mori symbol and the heart symbolises love; the two together is symbolising the mourning of a loved one.
Another finely carved slate gravestone has the cross and anchor, two often used Christian symbols, with text on a banner weaving between the two reading ‘In Hope of Salvation through Christ Our Redeemer’.
It was good to be back here again. This is a church that I have grown very fond of over the years. In fact the whole area is one that I have spent many pleasant hours cycling through. It was time to hit the road again; as we aimed in the direction of Pickworth a few miles away to the south. The church of St Barbara, or St Margaret, whichever dedication you prefer, is well worth taking a look at if you are in the area.