St Helen’s Church

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This is a small unassuming Victorian church with a small bellcote above the west end surrounded by the old graveyard.

It is built of red brick with decorative bands of black brick along the walls and above the windows. There is a small porch on the south side leading into the nave.

At the back is a simple octagonal font with an elaborate brass memorial under the west window surrounded by a carved stone border. On the west wall is a Table of Kindred and Affinity listing all the people the bride or groom are not allowed to marry. It is the first time I’ve seen one of these in a church. It used to be printed in the 1662 prayer book and makes intriguing reading. 

The walls are red brick with a wooden ceiling. The chancel arch has slender marble pillars with carved capitals and a decorative pattern of dark and pale bricks.

The pulpit is stone with stone steps leading to it.

The stained glass windows have biblical scenes and cast colour shadows across the inside of the church.

The chancel is tiled with black, red and pale beige tiles. There are steps up to the chancel and carved wood altar rail. Behind the altar is a beautiful stone reredos with inset patterns of coloured tiles.

On the north wall of the chancel is a small vestry with the old cast iron stove used to heat the church. It would have kept the priest warm but probably no-one else. This is now used for storage and it seemed incongruous to see a painted statue of the Virgin Mary neglected in a corner.

There have been three churches on the site since the 12thC. The early church belonged to Alvingham Priory and the Vicar was canon at the priory until the Dissolution.

Money to build the present church was raised by Edward Huff who was vicar here from 1853-91. He believed in keeping ‘proper discipline’ and insisted that men should sit on the south side of the church and women on the north side, regardless of marital status.

No longer in use, the church is looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust. When we visited the church was locked and we got the key from the Old Rectory which is the first house on the right along Watery Lane on the south side of the church. There is an iron gate with a ‘Beware of the dog’ sign. Alternatively a key is available from Hillside Farm. Monkton Road which is up the hill from the church on the left.

There is no obvious parking for the church so we parked on the verge outside the cemetery beyond the church to the north.

This is a nice small Victorian Church with enough interest inside to make a visit worthwhile. The reredos is particularly fine.

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