St Edith’s Church

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This is a delightful small church tucked away among trees off the unclassified road between Stow and Ingham. It is signed from the crossroads in Stow and is set in trees off the road.

The Domesday Book records 6 families living in the village which is thought to have been to the south of the church. All that is left of the village now is the large farm next to the church.

From the outside, it is an unassuming low building with a small two bell cote at one end and surrounded by a small graveyard.

The building seems to date from the 11thC. There may have been a tower at the west end which fell down at some point and is now replaced by the bell cote. It is thought the saint in the name may have been St Edith of Tamworth as there were trade links between the wool farmers of Lincolnshire and the cloth makers of Tamworth in the 10thC.

The church survived damage by the Puritans during the reformation, possibly because the family living in the Grange walled off the chancel and rood screen and used this as their private chapel. This may explain the closed off doorway in the south of the chancel. The rest of the church was whitewashed and served as the parish church.

Entry is through the small south door which has dog tooth carving round the arch. Inside is a delightful unspoilt small church with the most amazing rood screen and the only one left in Lincolnshire.

The nave is very plain with uneven tiled floor and beautiful wooden roof. There are simple 15thC wooden pews with poppy head decorations, and 15thC wooden pulpit with carved panels. The font is late Saxon or early Norman and is carved from a circular slab of stone. On the wall opposite the door is a large panel with the Royal Coat of Arms of Charles the first dating from 1635. This is also unusual as few survived the Puritans.

The rood screen and loft are 15thC. Stone steps in the south wall lead up to the loft and the two tiny windows seen on the south wall provide the only light on the stairs. There is a sign asking people not to go up into the loft.

The base panels of the rood screen have tops carved in the shape of gothic windows. Above are slender pillars with openwork carving. The rood loft is supported by fan vaulting and has a narrow carved frieze with grapes and leaves. On the back wall of the loft is the tympanum ( stand back to see this). This originally had a painting of the crucifixion with Mary and St John on either side. This was probably destroyed during the Reformation when the painting of Christ removed and replaced by newer panels of wood. The outline of Mary with halo can just be made out.

Through the rood screen is the chancel with the original stone table altar which is covered by a cloth and has a brass crucifix on it. On the south wall is an alabaster monument to Brian Cooke of Doncaster listing his eight children.

Next to it, mounted in a frame are small brasses to William Butler, his wife and baby daughter who died in infancy and who is wrapped in her Chrysom robe. This was worn at baptism. If the child died within a month of being baptised, the robe was then used as a shroud. Above is a coat of arms and below an inscription.

On the south wall by the altar is an elaborate brass memorial to Charles Butler who died 1602. There are praying figures of Charles Butler and his wife with engravings of their five sons and three daughters, all with names, below them. On the top is a coat of arms, still with traces of paint.

On the north wall in an arched recess is a coat of arms and square brass memorial to Anthony Butler who died on 9th April, 1673 and was the last male heir of the family.

This is a delightful church. It is still has a service on the second Sunday of the month and also at Christmas and Easter. The church yard is still used for burials. It is open during daylight hours and there is a certain amount of parking in the lane outside.

It has few visitors and really is a hidden gem. Do search it out. Other churches in the area worth visiting are are Coates, Snarford and Glentworth (see separate reviews ).

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