Nottinghamshire July 2020

Hawksworth  St Mary & All Saints  Closed
Shelton  St Mary   -   Open
Sibthorpe  St Peter  - Open

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The church of St Mary & All Saints, Hawksworth.

It was mid July 2020, and a Saturday out with the camera, attempting to photograph every church in a triangle formed by the A52, A1 and A46; roughly 20 or so churches. It was early afternoon and, surprisingly we were on schedule, thanks in part to just about each church visited thus far being closed.

We arrived at Hawksworth, a lovely little village of just over a hundred people. My goodness it was quiet. Occasionally, something really brought home how the pandemic had affected things, and this was the case here. We hadn’t seen a soul for quite a while and there was literally no one around here! No one on foot, not a single car on the road! We had been out of lockdown for three weeks or so, and the virus was, at that time, on the back foot, But still, not a sole around.

The church here is set in the centre of the village; St Mary and All Saints is Norman in origin and consists of west tower, nave with north aisle and chancel. The church has been dated back to the 12th century, with a repositioned tympanum, now attached to the south wall of the tower, celebrating the building of the church.

Built in sandstone, with a semi circular decorated arch above, there is a carving of two figures standing alongside a large cross. Latin text is off to one side; translated it reads "Walter and his wife Cecelina caused this church to be made in honour of Our Lord and of Saint Mary the Virgin and of all God's Saints likewise".

The west tower, apart from the bottom, is a substantial red bricked affair; built during the 17th century, heavily buttressed, battlemented and pinnacled. The main entrance is via a door in the west face of the tower. Sadly, the church was locked. The church clock in black and gold looks out from the south face. The flat roofed nave and the chancel were both rebuilt during the 19th century.

It would have been good to have seen inside, as I believe that there is a large fragment of an Anglo Saxon cross shaft in there. Perhaps that will keep for another day when all of this has blown over!

The church grounds are of interest.  As one would expect from this part of the country, there are lots of slate gravestones here. One mid 18th century grave has the following inscription on it “When I was living as you are, I had my part of worldly care, and now my body sleeps in dust, in hopes of rising with the just”.  Off to the east, the church grounds end in some beautiful Georgian buildings. A delightful scene! I can imagine how lovely a place this would be to sit and rest for a while on a glorious summer evening, thunder rumbling off in the distance. As it was, it was dull and there were a few spots of rain in the air at times, but it was still a delight!

Going back to the van there was movement… people! Two people actually, with a large grey wolfhound off its lead; all three walking down the middle of the road. The dog saw me and there was a brief tail wag. ‘Come on then’ I shouted and she was off!  This may have been a mistake; I though as the dog covered 80 yards or so in a few seconds. Tongue hanging out and ears flying, like a Hercule Van Wolfwinkle drawing it was evident that there wasn’t a nasty bone in her and it was good to have some company for a while! And yes, it was good to see the humans as well!

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The church of St Mary & All Saints, Hawksworth.

We moved a couple of miles to the north east, to Shelton, another small tranquil village, eight miles south of Newark and five miles east of Bottesford. The church of St Mary dates back to the 11th century, but most of the structure that we see today is from the 13th century. There was a tower here until 1837, when it was taken down and the bellcote put in its place.

It consists of nave with bellcote, south aisle, south porch, chancel and north vestry.  There is no clerestory here; a pleasant looking church with steeply sloping tile roofs to nave and south aisle. It was lovely to find the church open when so many were closed to visitors.

The nave is plain, with just a few wall mounted tablets. A wooden screen and arch separates the nave from chancel. The chancel itself, again, is plain, with Victorian stained glass in the east window and Victorian floor tiling. The alter has just a single vase of flowers on it. There is no reredos.  As I said on another page, less is more! A place to sit and be still!

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There is stained glass here, all Victorian by the looks of it, and of good quality. The east window has two panels; the upper depicts Jesus accepting the cup that he had to drink from, from an angel in the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to His arrest. The lower panel has a scene from after the crucifixion, with Jesus eating with the two men that He met on the road to Emmaus.

Further stained glass includes a depiction from Mark Chapter 2, which tells the story of four men who were unable to get their paralysed friend to Jesus due to the large crowds. Therefore, they went up on the roof, dug a hole, and lowered him down to Jesus on a mat. I had trouble identifying this one; thanks to my friend Lora who identified it!

The east window of the south aisle shows a woman offering a cloak to a lady with baby, a basket of bread tucked under her arm. I think that this is Dorcas, a character from Acts, who made clothes for the poor and who was full of good works and acts of charity. She became ill and was raised from the dead by Peter.

Just a small note on one other stained glass panel. A lady is show looking upwards towards Heaven with one hand outstretched. By her are two columns, both of which are broken. Column’s that have been broken, and which are not their full height were used as a symbol of a life lost and a life cut short. Perhaps this is a memorial to someone who died before reaching old age.

Out in the church grounds is a stone medieval coffin, with a cut out area for the head to rest. These are pleasant, well maintained grounds; but little else of note in there to be honest.

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The church of St Peter, Sibthorpe.

The final of the three churches mentioned here is the church of St Peter, Sibthorpe.  To be honest, not knowing the area at all and being guilty of lack of research prior to setting off, I wasn’t even sure that there was a church here. It turns out that there was, and it turned out to be one of the most interesting churches that I have seen in some time.

To be fair though, not from the outside! We have a fairly basic structure of west tower, nave, south porch, chancel and vestry.  There are no aisles and no clerestory, but the ghosted outlines of arches on the north side indicate that there was once a north chapel here. There was also a south chapel here but there is no evidence of that simply by looking at it.

There is a great deal of historic interest with regards churches in Sibthorpe. There was a church listed here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086. Nothing of that early church remains, but interestingly the Knights Templars, the military wing of the early church so to speak, had an interest in that early building.

The church that we see today dates from the 13th century. In 1320, Thomas De Sibthorpe, the rector of Beckingham, Lincolnshire built a north chapel at his own expense. In the years after that he also paid for the church to be reconstructed, and added a south chapel. In 1341 a charter was obtained for the building of a college, which would have had a staff of eight priests and two clerks. This was a village of some spiritual importance. Sadly for Thomas De Sibthorpe, he was murdered in 1351 with the provision made for him to be buried between the great alter and the vestry. There was some 18th century restoration to the south side of the nave and general restoration during Victorian times.

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Looking around the exterior, there is some interesting graffiti to be seen here, in and around the area of the south porch. IH had visited here in 1809 and drawn around the outline of his hand. A rather large hand as well! Close by, another IH, I daresay not the same one as this was in 1778, had reversed the sevens so that they were both the wrong way around.

WM had carved his initials in 1776. What a year that was! That being the year that America declared independence from Great Britain. I thought back to Imogen, who had simply written her Christian name and the date of 2020 at Temple Bruer. In the same way that WM carved his name in a momentous year, so did Imogen.  If her name is still there in a hundred years’ time, which I doubt actually as it was written in chalk!! People will look at it and say the same; that was written in a momentous, and tragic, year.

The church was open, which was a real bonus. It was good to see people out and about as well, with a family just leaving the church as we arrived. Pleasantries exchanged in a socially distanced very English fashion we entered inside.

There was hand sanitiser on entry and unrestricted movement throughout the church. There was a notice up giving a list of dos and don’ts, all of which were pretty obvious and sensible and could be paraphrased as ‘look, there are no stewards on duty, come in and keep your distance and respect others, be careful’. To be fair, if everyone had done this during the calendar year of 2020, this wouldn’t be being typed up in the middle of a third national lockdown!

The nave is curious to be honest. The pews/benches are set along the walls giving a large central space in the nave, which I am sure could be well used by the community in general as well as the church. The Victorian font, traditionally to be found at the west end of the church, is at the chancel entrance. A few pews are in the chancel facing east; with some of these have a socially distanced ‘sit here’ sign on them. I did wonder if the church services are held these days solely in the chancel.

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This church has an Easter Sepulchre, surviving examples of which are quite rare. In pre Reformation days the religion of this country was Catholic. They believe that Jesus is physically present within the communion bread, the host. On Good Friday, the host was wrapped in cloth and placed in to the Easter Sepulchre, a recess cut in to the north wall of the chancel. Candles were lit around it and parishioners stood guard over it until the first mass of Easter morning, at which point it was taken out in imitation of Jesus rising from the tomb.

These were absolutely hated by the reformers and the vast majority were destroyed as being idolatrous. It was lovely to see this surviving example, the most complete that I have seen.

It consists of a depiction of Jesus at the top, holding a staff with a cross at the top in one hand, giving a blessing with the other. Jesus is shown looking out to His right. Below Jesus, two angels wield censers. At the foot of the Easter Sepulchre four soldiers are asleep. Curiously, they are portrayed not as Roman soldiers but as English knights, dressed in armour and carrying shields.

Why do this, why change toe Roman soldiers for English knights? The reasons will have been lost in time but it is no worse that stained glass windows and statues the length and breadth of the country, and abroad, showing Jesus as blonde, blue eyed and looking anything but a Jew.

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We come to a monument against the north wall of the chancel, this being to Edward Burnell, who died in 1589. There is nothing hugely unusual about the monument; Brunel, recumbent with head resting on a Bible and hands raised in prayer, wears a long flowing robe. Nothing remarkable here, as interesting as it obviously is! However, it gets bizarre when we reach the foot of the monument. The deceased’s feet are resting on a carved human skull.

 Again, nothing unusual in that either, skull were trodden on, leaned down upon and sat on to symbolise that death has been beaten.  This skull though has had eyeballs inserted instead of just having the empty eye cavities, with what appears to be the glue still around the eye sockets! This is just bizarre; one of the most peculiar things that I have ever seen in a parish church!

Just one other point of interest here; a short distance away from the church is a huge dovecote, built by monks in 1360 after a famine. This was built to help ensure a plentiful supply of meat and eggs should this happen again. This had a Grade I listing.

An interesting church, which I have given more space to than others; and more than I intended to when I started to write it up!

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