Theddlethorpe All Saints is a small settlement of a few large houses and farms off the A1031 Grimsby to Mablethorpe Road, near Theddlethorpe St Helen’s.
The church is a huge 14/15thC building set in a large graveyard with lots of snowdrops and primroses.
It has a massive tower with battlements and big buttresses. There are bands of brick and limestone on the east wall. The line of the original nave can be seen. There are several small slit windows on the south side of the tower and a small lancet window below the larger perpendicular bell windows. Above the tower is a thin modern pinnacle with a weathercock on the top. This looks incongruous and out of place.
The church was built in 1380 in the perpendicular style although there is evidence of earlier Norman work. Spilsby sandstone was used with Weldon limestone and 14thC brick. This is one of the earliest example of the use of brick. Hull was the centre of brick making in the 14thC and the builders made use of this. There is a large nave with a clerestory and low side aisles, both with battlements. The nave has a decorative carved end and there are carved heads at the corners of the nave and side aisles. There are splendid gargoyles and drain pipes.
Entry is through the large south porch. There is a huge nave with narrow octagonal pillars with pointed arches separating nave and side aisles. Above the arches on the north wall are stones reused from the earlier Norman church which have dog toothed carvings on them. There are also some reused stones with carved faces. The wooden roof has carved bosses with shields and floral designs.
The windows are plain glass although there are some fragments of medieval stained glass in the top of one of the south windows.
Inside are old oak pews. On the north wall are very narrow 14thC pews with carved ends which were reserved for the sick and poor. The octagonal font is 14thC has flower carvings on the sides and has a 17thC wooden, open arch cover. There is a 16thC carved wood pulpit and wood lectern with an old bible.
In the base of the tower are the remains of the woodwork from the bell chamber, left here when the belfry floor was replaced. On the wall to the north is a sheet of lead with carved graffiti of sailing ships and footprints.
At the east end of the side aisles are two chapels with screens with wood panelling at the bottom and an open fretwork at the top with intricately carved open fretwork at the top, dating from 1535. Look closely as the workmanship is superb with carved heads, shields, grotesque animals and flowers.
The north chapel is very plain with the remains of a stone slab altar. The south chapel has the remains of a 14thC carved stone reredos on the east wall with pinnacles and feathers above a stone altar. On the wall to the north is the remains of a wall painting. On the floor are old grave stones. Lift up the rug inside the door to see the brass memorial to Robert Hayton who died in 1424.
The 15thC rood screen separating nave and chancel is also beautifully carved and the remains of green, red and gilt paint can be seen on it.
The chancel is large with a red and black tile floor. There are monuments on the north walls including an impressive black marble slab with two white marble busts to Charles Bertie, who was a wealthy landowner who died in 1727. There are more 17/18thc gravestones in front of the wooden altar rail and beside the altar . This is a marble table with two large wooden candlesticks behind. On the south wall is a Norman sedilia with seats for the clergy and a piscina.
The church is no longer used and belongs to the Churches Conservation Trust. It is kept locked but the massive key can be obtained from Low Farm, Theddlethorpe which is a mile west of the church on the right. Alternatively a key is also available from Byways in Theddlethorpe St Helen’s which is almost opposite the Old Post Office.
There is no dedicated parking for the church and we had to pull off onto the verge isn’t very wide and leave the hazzard flashers on.
This isn’t called the Cathedral of the Marsh for nothing. It is a splendid church and well worth collecting the key to visit. In 1891 there were 261 residents in the parish. There were two shops, two carriers, a blacksmith, shoemaker, wheelwright, blacksmith, bricklayer and carpenter. There was a public house, two schools and coastguard station. It was on the Louth to Mablethorpe railway line with four trains a day. Things are very different now… Do go and search it out.