This May, 86 churches across Lincolnshire will be throwing open their doors as part of West Lindsey’s annual Churches Festival, inviting visitors to enjoy the rich heritage that each church offers alongside a host of activities including lunches, organ music, bell ringing, crafts, book sales, art displays and themed exhibitions, many marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War I.
Details of what’s happening at every church can be found on the festival blog at www.churchesfestival.info, or in the 48 page brochure which can be downloaded from the blog, or available by post (call 01673 842249 to be sent a copy). The festival spans two weekends (May 10-11 and May 17-18) with churches to the East of the district opening on the first weekend, and to the West opening on the second weekend.
For the first time this year the festival is also venturing into social media with Facebook and Twitter pages offering daily updates on what can be discovered at each of the 86 churches taking part. There is also a promise of stunning images from a professional photographer to show off these hidden gems of the Lincolnshire landscape.
“This is one of the biggest and best Churches Festivals in the country,” explained organiser Linda Patrick, “and I want to thank those that visit the festival, year after year, for making it so successful. Not only are you supporting our church heritage, you are also supporting many of our small villages. And this support will help ensure that the lovely community spirit that binds these rural Lincolnshire villages together, stays forever.
“With the help of social media we hope to bring in even more people this year, inspire them to visit the churches on their doorstep, or make a day of it and travel to a part of Lincolnshire that’s new to them.
“We also hope to inspire with professional photographs, and invite anyone to upload their photographs of the 86 churches in the festival to the hashtag #ChurchesFest, so we can share them too. These can be taken before the festival, or during.”
The hashtag can be used on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Hidden Histories and Architectural Gems
The churches in the festival represent all periods and styles from Anglo Saxon through to Victorian so visitors looking for historical gems at the festival will be spoilt for choice.
St Radegund at Grayingham boasts some very unusual gravestones ‘on legs’ whilst St Peter at Torksey has a ‘sheelagh-na-gig’ wall carving of a female figure in an alcove in the south wall, which may well have been used to teach young girls the facts of life before marriage!
St Paul’s in Morton offers 10 stunning Burne-Jones windows whilst St Laurence in Corringham claims a highly decorated ceiling in traditional Bodley colours.
St Botolph in Saxilby will be showing a rare music manuscript over 500 years old, All Saints at Snelland has an unusual ‘leper’s window’ whilst St Peter and St Lawrence in Wickenby offers a glimpse of some very rare 14th century stained glass.
Tucked away in St Lawrence church in Snarford are three 16th and early 17th century monuments to the St Paul family, fascinating for their sheer opulence and completely different styles.
Churches that are remarkable in themselves include St John the Divine in Southrey – a unique 115 year old temporary wooden church in the New England style – and All Saints in Pilham, one of the smallest complete churches in the country.
For an intense historical experience, guided tours from Brocklesby church to the Brocklesby Mausoleum can be taken at 2pm on the first weekend (10-11 May). The mausoleum was built between 1786 and 1794 by the First Baron Yarborough, as a memorial to his wife Sophia who died at the early age of 33 years. The Architect was James Wyatt and his classical design is based on the Temples of Vesta, Rome and Tivoli.
World War I Themed Exhibitions & The Biggest Loss by a British Family
Many churches have themed their exhibitions this year around the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. One Lincolnshire church in particular – St Peters at Friesthorpe – is linked to the British family that endured the biggest loss in the Great War. Amy Beechey (widow of Rev William Thomas Beechey of Friesthorpe) saw six sons leave to fight in the conflict, and only one return. A plaque dedicated to the five sons sits within the church, which is open on the first weekend (10-11 May), Saturday 11am-3pm, Sunday 11am-3pm.
[full details of the Beechey family can be found in this Mail Online article “The mother who lost five sons: On Armistice Day, the heart-breaking story of the biggest loss by a British family in the Great War” from 2011 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2060179/Armistice-Day-2011-The-mother-lost-sons-WW1.html]
Other war related exhibitions in the first weekend of the festival (10-11 May) include St Peter & St Paul’s church at Caistor – accounts of the conflict are being recollected through poetry, including contributions from local school children. Nettleton, Southrey and East Barkwith are also well worth a visit with their exhibitions on the Great War.
In the second weekend (17-18 May) Blyton will be featuring memorabilia connected to WWI casualties and veterans from the village and its surrounding area.
Grayingham, Hemswell, Owmby by Spital and the Gainsborough Cemeteries and Chapel also have exhibitions remembering Lincolnshire’s brave sons and daughters.
Other Exhibitions to Enjoy
Other themed exhibitions at the festival cover a host of activities for all the family.
In the first weekend (10-11 May) Holton cum Beckering will be showing off a collection of hats, whilst Middle Rasen are offering a weekend of ‘love’.
Searby cum Owmby are displaying books and jigsaw puzzles whilst at St Andrew, Stainfield, original textile works, both ancient (18th century) and modern, are displayed.
In the second weekend (17-18 May) St Margaret of Antioch in Marton has a sport theme for 2014. For a flower display with a difference the exhibition at All Saints in Hemswell will be centred around a maypole, whilst St Clement of Rome in Fiskerton will be home to Guerilla Knitting, and invites knitters to come and join in, or just enjoy the display!
Music and Concerts
With help from the Lincolnshire Organists’ Association, several churches in the festival will be filled with music.
In the first weekend there will be an organ trail on Saturday 10 May including Faldingworth All Saints, Brocklesby All Saints (on the antique chamber organ) Caistor Methodist and Grasby All Saints. On Saturday May 17 the trail will visit Newton on Trent St. Peter, SpridlingtonSt. Hilary, Owmby by Spital St.Peter & St. Paul and Hackthorn St. Michael & All Angels.
There will be a concert on Friday 16 May, at Grayingham St Radegund featuring music for organ, trumpet, clarinet and choir. There will also be organ recitals at Saxilby St Botolph on Saturday 17 May, 11am-12 noon and Sunday 18 May, 2.30pm-3.30pm.
Many churches also have organs available for visiting organists to play, full details of these on the festival blog.
Refreshing the Body
Most churches in the festival will be serving refreshments ranging from the rejuvenating cup of tea or coffee with biscuits to hearty ploughman’s lunches, mouth-watering bacon butties or traditional full cooked English Breakfasts.
Caistor Methodist Church will be serving Christian Aid lunches on Saturday 10 May, from 11.30am-1pm.
Refreshing the Soul
Visitors looking for sanctuary in a beautiful spiritual building can head for one of the self-nominated ‘quiet’ churches. Choose between Stainfield, Buslingthorpe, Clixby and Usselby in the first weekend (10-11 May), or Burton, Brattleby and Ingham in the second weekend (17-18 May).