Everyone has heard of Lincoln Minster, but few know about Stow Minster, a few miles from Lincoln, which is even older and was the first Cathedral Church in the area.
Husband has a new digital camera and was wanting to try it out. We decided to spend the day visiting some of the churches in the depths of Lincolnshire. Stow Minster was top of the list.
This is the heartland of Saxon England and the estates belonging to the Saxon Bishops. There has been a church here since the 7thC. The present building dates from the middle of the 11thC, although the bases of some of the walls are older and from an earlier church. The original Saxon tower can be seen outside the north wall of the nave. The chancel and nave are Norman. The tower was added in the 15thC.
It is a huge cruciform building and can be seen looming over the village as you drive along the country roads to it. The nave and chancel are very tall with a very steep roof suggesting that this was originally thatched. There is a short, square tower above the transept which has pinnacles round the top of the roof. The corner stones and flat supporting wall buttresses are made of beautifully shaped stones. The infill is rougher stone. Along the base of the walls are large round topped Norman windows with side pillars and decoratively carved tops. Above these are very narrow, thin windows. The windows in the tower are Perpendicular as are some in the side transepts.
Entry is through the massive south door. This has highly carved pillars on the sides and a series of dog-toothed arches above. The west door, which is permanently locked, has similar decoration.
Inside is a large and very plain nave with whitewashed walls and a wooden ceiling. The pews on the left side are 15thC and have beautifully carved pew ends. Those of the right are 19thC copies.
At the back of the church is the 13thC stone font standing on a raised stone slab. This has pillars supporting the octagonal bowl which has a series of carvings round it, including a green man.
Inside your eyes are immediately drawn to the chancel with its stone roof. Around the walls is arcading with round pillars supporting dog-tooth carved arches. There is a similar pattern round the top of the windows. Even the ribs of the ceiling are carved. The area between the ribs is made up of small carefully carved bricks of stone all carefully laid out in a regular pattern. At the far end is the wood altar with painted carved badges on the front.
On the right hand side of the chancel just after the chancel arch is a small carving of a Viking ship on the wall. This is thought to date from the 9/10thC and is thought to be one of the earliest representations of a Viking ship in England.
The original round topped arches are dwarfed by later pointed arches added to support the weight of the tower added in the 15thC.
On the north side of the transept is a large Victorian organ. Look for the framed copy of the Bell Ringers rules from 1770 hanging on the back of the organ beneath a protective curtain.
Behind the organ is a disused Chapel which was dedicated to St Thomas Becket. In a corner is a narrow round topped doorway which gave access to the Saxon tower. In another corner is a spiral stairway in the transept tower which would have given access to a long gone rood screen.
On the east wall is a small altar. Above it in a recess are the remains of a wall painting. All you can see is the body of a person in ecclesiastical robes. To the right on the wall is a stone shelf supported by two carved stone figures. One is playing two pipes. In a corner is a very old wooden chest.
The transept chapel on the south side has another three carved heads on the east wall. There is a small altar with 19thC carved wood figures of the Virgin Mary and St John. More 15thC wooden pews and carved choir stalls are in here.
This is a delightful church and well worth a visit. It is open daily from 8.30 -7pm (or dusk, if earlier). There is a slight step into the church and down into the Chapel of Thomas Beckett, otherwise the rest of the building is easily accessible to those with mobility problems. There is parking in the side road opposite the south side of the church.
Don’t miss the whipping post in the village….and do go and find St Edith’s Church at Coates, St Lawrence’s Church at Snarford, and St Michael’s Church at Glentworth too (see reviews).
There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/lincolnshire/lincolnshire_five/stow/index.html