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History of Cowbit

Cowbit was, in ancient times, a hamlet of Spalding and so had to contribute to the upkeep of the Priory. In fact, it was about a quarter of the parish of Spalding, having to provide a quarter of the whole rate. However, it was not a good agricultural proposition since much of the land was bog or liable to flooding.

Cowbit, before the Roman invasion, is said to have held a conspicuous, if not important position, while during the progress of the drainage and reclaiming work, which the Romans began, Cowbit was an important centre for operations. There was a Roman road leading to Cowbit which joined the Welland and Nene rivers.

In later years Cowbit grew gradually and over two centuries ago a school was founded which has since grown with the increase in population. Nowadays, there are no buildings of age apart from the Church. Not far up the road from Cowbit however, at Brotherhouse, is St. Guthlac’s Cross which marked the boundary between Spalding and CrowĮand monasteries and still stands today.

In about 1360, a Chantry chapel and cemetery were provided for the inhabitants of Cowbit and Peakhill, the roads to Spalding being very bad in winter. The chapel covered the area of the present Church extending from the chancel to within about ten feet of the tower. The north and south walls of this chapel form a part of the present church.

In 1481-3, the chancel was added and the tower erected, the whole building except the chancel still being thatched, and the church being re-consecrated by the Right Rev. John Russel, Bishop of Lincoln, in 1486. The porch was added some time later, probably after the Reformation. In 1540.

The thatch lasted until just over one hundred years ago. In 1880, the church was in very bad condition, but the vicar of that time, the Rev. J. T. Dove, at an expense of over £1150, restored it. The building was entirely overhauled, a new roof constructed, new stonework put in the north window, the west window opened up, the bells re-hung, the walls in part demolished and rebuilt with the old material, the floor lowered and paved with wood tiles, the old pews replaced, the churchyard improved and the old oak beams from the roof worked into steps and dais for the altar table. On top of this, expenditure, the Dove family provided stained glass windows.

The Church is dedicated to St. Mary and built in the Perpendicular style. A band of quatrefoils adorns the tower and a turret climbs to its parapet. The walls of the chancel are of rougher stone and its roof rests on corbels carved with grotesques and foliage. The font and piscina are old and above one of the doors of the nave is an upturned frog carved in stone, and said to have come from Spalding Priory. In the window by the pulpit, is the swan mark of the vicars of Cowbit, a mark which used to be branded on the mandibłes of the swans to proclaim ownership. The reopening of the church after the Restoration was performed by Dr. Wordsworth, Bishop of Lincoln, in the spring of 1884.


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5 Responses

  1. The Rev J T Dove referred to in the above article was the father of Jane Frances Dove who became Dame Frances Dove in recognition of her services to education. She was the founder and first headmistress of Wycombe Abbey school for girls. She also later donated a stained glass window to All Saints church in High Wycombe dedicated to the ministry of women, commonly called the Dove window. I am not local to Lincolnshire but would be very interested to know more about the stained glass that the Dove family donated to the church in Cowbit and whether it provides any insight into the other family members who are not as well-known as Dame Frances.

      1. Thank you for your offer to photograph the stained glass at Cowbit church and investigate further. I am considering visiting Lincolnshire during 2024 (probably in the spring) and was wondering if you had any more information that would help me plan my trip. I know more about the Dove family and the stained glass now than when I posted my original comment and am keen to establish which of the (up to 4 relevant) windows are still extant and whether it is possible to visit the church to view them.

          1. Thanks for your response and helpful pointer – my apologies for not checking for your response until now. I will send something shortly to the email you have provided.

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