I sometimes think we do suffer from being ‘in-betweenies’, that is neither northern or southern. Well, the simple answer to that is that we are East Midlanders, of course.
I certainly don’t mind being called a ‘yellowbelly’ and, in all honesty, my part of the county in the south is admittedly extremely flat.
That said, I am very fond of the north of Lincolnshire; the Wolds are gorgeous, reaching as high as 500 feet around Normanby le Wold, and the coast has some of the finest beaches you will ever see.
But perhaps one of the greatest glories of Lincolnshire as a whole, is the quality and diversity of our ecclesiastical heritage. The range of churches is stunning and the county town of Lincoln has, in my opinion, the best cathedral in the whole of England.
Put simply, Peterborough Cathedral is one England’s best churches, though it is often not as well regarded as some others, like Lincoln, Ely and York.
This might be due in part to Lincoln’s prominent setting, Ely’s architectural distinctiveness and York’s admitted supreme grandeur.
Peterborough, by comparison, lies on the edge of the flat fens, yet in one of the primary areas of England for monastic development because of the remoteness of location. In its day, Peterborough Abbey was one of the most prominent in the whole of eastern England.
Originally the abbey church of Saint Peter’s Abbey, Peterborough, in the east of England, the present church was granted cathedral status (and thereby preserved) by Henry VIII, self appointed head of the Church of England, during the Reformation in the 1530s, which saw many former monastic buildings taken down and sold off. For this at least we should be grateful to England’s most notorious monarch.
words and photographs copyright Francis Barker 2019
Every May in north Lincolnshire in the east of England there is the West Lindsey Churches Festival, ‘A Celebration of Open Churches in West Lindsey’.
The idea is to raise interest and money for the upkeep of these historic buildings, icons of English cultural and Christian heritage.
To be honest, I’m not sure if we’d ever heard of it. The link only came up last week from the web, so I thought it would be worth a visit. We were very glad we came.
Our first stop was at the pretty village of Nettleham, at the Church of All Saints just a few miles north east of the magnificent city of Lincoln.
Nettleham is a large, seemingly thriving village of around three and half thousand souls with lots of local stores and some pubs, a heartening sight if there ever was. Inside the church we were greeted very courteously by the volunteers manning their stalls of old books, games, crafts, or selling food and drink. They were all very helpful, keen to tell us about the church and the village.
Sadly, in the 1960s there was a serious fire at All Saints, the result of arson. Since then the church has been restored very well, notable features being the new stained glass window at the east end and the roof.
Of course, there are no benefits from fires, but one of the things revealed by the tragedy was a series of medieval wall pattern illustrations, of the type which used to bedeck all churches before the Reformation, after which nearly all were whitewashed over.
Naturally, one of the benefits of going to these events is sampling the local cakes. We got a piece of carrot cake and apple cake, washed down by the proverbial cup of tea. The prices too, are very reasonable. We even took away a whole lemon drizzle cake!
Yes, it’s all very English and a jolly good thing to. I can’t speak highly enough of everyone inside, they made us very welcome.
The village of Nettleham is also very pretty and worth exploring, with a running stream making lovely feature.
And a little history
Incidentally, Lindsey, in which Nettleham lies, is not merely a division or riding of historic Lincolnshire, along with Kesteven and Holland; Lindsey was once a kingdom in its own right, ruled from Lincoln around thirteen hundred years ago, before it was swallowed up by the much larger Mercia.
After that there was a manor house here, called the Bishop’s Manor House, as it eventually became a possession of the Bishops of Lincoln. Sadly this is now demolished.
But it’s not all about the past. There is very much to see and enjoy here today, not just at the Churches Festival – it’s well worth a visit at any time if you’re nearby.
Mid May comes along and it’s time once again for the annual Lincolnshire Churches Festival in eastern England.
Taking place over two weekends in Lincolnshire’s ancient northern riding of Lindsey, the festival is split between the first weekend of the 11th and 12th and the second weekend of the 18th and 19th.
Nearly 100 churches are taking part and a very warm welcome will be had in each one, with food such as cake and scones, plus drinks and some stalls to browse. The proceeds go towards the upkeep of these wonderful buildings.
Over the next two weeks, I shall be writing several pieces about this wonderful event which celebrates Lincolnshire’s fine Christian heritage and the glory of its architectural variety.
One of my favourite places, Lincoln Cathedral, was consecrated this month way back in 1092.
To put that into perspective, King William (Rufus) the Second of that name, son of the mighty Conqueror, had been on the throne since 1087. It was only a quarter of a century after the Normans’ hostile (in fact rather brutal) take over of the board of the richest kingdom in western Europe, but already their introduction of Romanesque architecture was changing the landscape of the country for ever.
However Lincoln Cathedral’s early history was blighted by disasters. A fire destroyed the roof in 1124, an earthquake destroyed most of it in 1185.
Nevertheless despite this the structure was rebuilt in magnificent fashion to become effectively the tallest building in the world, thanks to its huge central spire. The triple spire configuration as it was during the late medieval and early modern period must have been an incredible sight. Then, tragically, in February 1549 the central spire collapsed during a storm. The two smaller spires remained for some time until they were taken down for safety reasons.
Even so, Lincoln Cathedral still remains high on its hill, and is at least to my mind, the best cathedral in England and therefore one of the best anywhere. If you are in the region it’s well worth a visit.
There is much more I could say about the cathedral and the city but I will leave that for future posts.