St Andrew’s is a large parish church on a rise to the north of the small market town of Epworth. It is similar to so many English parish churches but has a very singular claim to fame. Samuel Wesley, father of John and Charles was Rector here from 1695 to his death in 1735. Both children were christened in the church.
There is thought to have been a Saxon church on the site. The earliest parts of the church are the arcades which date from the early C13th. The tower is C15th. The chancel was damaged during the Civil War and had to be rebuilt. Even though the church was restored in the C19th by the end of the C20th the church was again in a very poor state of repair and in danger of falling down. The roof was leaking, masonry was eroded and the pinnacles on the tower in danger of falling off. There was a massive restoration programme funded by English heritage and the Lottery Fund. As part of this, the pews were removed from the church, being replaced by chairs. This now gives the church much greater flexibility when holding concerts. A new floor was laid with underfloor heating. A heritage room was built at the base of the tower with a new bell ringers gallery above.
It is a very long church with battlemented nave and side aisles. The south wall has very large brick buttresses and the square tower has heavy buttresses at the base. Samuel Wesley’s tomb is on the south side of the church by the chancel. This is where John preached when he was banned from preaching in the church.
Inside it is a big church with arcades of octagonal pillars with pointed arches separating the nave and side aisles. The pillars on the south side are bowing outwards, explaining the need for the massive buttresses on the external wall. The small square clerestory windows were added in the C15 or C16th to give extra light. The stained glass in the nave is C19th.
At the base of the tower is a small information room. Above is the bell ringers chamber with a rather elegant wooden balustrade. The west window has St Andrew in the centre with St Peter and St Paul.
The simple octagonal stone font at the back of the nave is thought to be the original font and is where John and Charles were baptised.
The chancel altar and reredos are modern and commemorate the dead of both World Wars. The original wooden table altar is now in the “Epworth Wesley Memorial Chapel.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/lincolnshire/lincolnshire_two/epworth_methodist/index.html The reredos has Christ in the centre, with the four evangelists on either side. The east window has scenes from the life of Christ.
To the left of the altar are two old wooden chairs. At the front is a chair given to the church by Susanna Wesley after the death of her husband. Behind it is a Tudor chair dated 1590. This has been described as the earliest dated example of a priest’s chair. It would originally have been made for domestic use and it is unknown when it came into the church.
At the end of the north aisle on the outside wall is a rather nice memorial to Thomas Cutforth. Despite the inscription “Honesty is best” Thomas was a notorious highwayman who robbed farmers returning home from market. He was hanged in Lincoln prison in 1720.
The series of decorative ceramic tiles on the north wall display images of the local area and history. These were made by schoolchildren. local organisations and individuals to celebrate the restoration of the church.
The church is only open between March to October from 2-4pm every day. There is a large car park on Church Street. The church is reached either up the steep and narrow Church Walk or by following the paved path up from the car park which leads into the churchyard. The post code is DN9 1ES and the grid reference is SE 783 038.
“The Old Rectory”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review?id=162996 where John and Charles grew up is also open.
There are more pictures of St Andrew’s Church “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/lincolnshire/lincolnshire_two/epworth_andrew/index.html