Sure all the Churches upon earth

He bore with tottering feet;

Rouen, Amiens, Bourges and Chartres,

Long Sutton, Gedney, Fleet.

So sweet, so terrible the load

It was as though he carried God.

From the Ballad of St. Christopher, by RICHARD LAWSON GALES, Vicar of Gedney 1909-1927.

Cover Photo. C. Wiseman

The History of Gedney.

  1. Land reclamation from Fen and Marsh

The Parish of Gedney, like other parishes in the Fens, is long and narrow, because new land has been reclaimed: to the S.W. from the Fen; to the N.E. from the sea or marsh. Until 1699, when Gedney Fen End or Gedney Hill to the S.W. became a separate parish, it stretched from the sea to Cambridgeshire.

With its situation, Gedney has been threatened by flooding not only from the sea, but also from freshwater brought down by rivers into the fen. Therefore fen-banks have been built to the S.W. and sea banks to the N.E.

The earliest discernible fen-bank protecting Gedney is Raven’s Dyke, 3 miles from the village, S.W. The second is Old Fen Dyke built about 1190. of Sutton St. James. This was built from about 1160 to 1170. The third is the New Fen Dyke of 1205. The fourth is Common Dyke of 1241. After the 1241 enclosure the fen-hamlet of Gedney Hill grew up.

The main seawall is the Roman” Bank which runs along the main road in Gedney Dyke.

The date of this wall is uncertain, but some historians place it as late as the 11th century, 600 year’s after the Romans left Britain.

A three-mile width of land from Roman” Bank at Gedney Dyke to Gedney Dawsmere

A half-mile width was added N.E. of Gedney Dawsmere in the 18th was reclaimed in the l7th Century. Century and a further half-mile width in the 19th Century.

  1. Medieval Salterns

Just beyond the seawall at Gedney Dyke, there are 14th and 15th centuries’ salterns. These are massive mounds of earth. In 1969 a similar saltern-mound was excavated near Sutterton. Four kilns were found in the centre of the mound. The process by which salt was believed to have been produced will explain why the mounds are there. The mud or silt over which spring tides had flowed would have a high salt content. After these tides the mud or silt would be raked up and stored under cover. It would then have water added and the brine separated from the silt. The strong brine would then be quickly evaporated overheat. The waste heaps of silt formed the basis of the mounds which survive to-day. The salters set up their dwellings and boiler-houses on these mounds. In the parish of Gedney, in 1460, there were 10 tenants who had 14 salterns between them. Four of these tenants held no land, so it seemed that they found salt-making lucrative enough on its own.

  1. Anglo-Saxon Times

The first authentic mention of Gedney is in A.D. 973. This is in a charter confirming estates and privileges to Thorney Abbey. Gedney Estate was bought by Bishop Aetholwold, Bishop of Winchester for Thorney Abbey from Ealdorman Aethelwine of East Anglia, for a great deal of gold, silver and land. Gedney was then written Giddanig.

  1. Gedney Manors.

Gedney is next mentioned in Domesday Book, 1086. The manor was stated to be 2 and half miles long by 1 and half miles wide. For purposes of taxation it is believed that Gedney’s assessment of 8 carucates was added to Lutton’s 4 carucates to make a Danelaw round total of 12. A half of Earl Algar’s 8 carucates was arable land. The King had 6 Oxen (in the demesne) and 18 villeins with 3 carucates, 30 acres of meadow, and a fishery worth 12d. yearly. The annual value of the whole manor was £8 in 1066, but had dropped to £6 in 1086. Gedney was written Gadenai in 1086.

In a 1294 Gedney document there were signs of the break-up of the feudal manorial system. Although freemen were not mentioned, and unfree villeins were still mentioned, molemen were in, evidence. It has been suggested that molemen originated in the early ending of week-work for the lord of the manor. Payments to the lord by molemen would probably be now in the form of money or in kind. This would give the molemen more time to work his own land.

Eventually the parish became vested in the respective lords of the manors of Gedney Burlion, Gedney Welby, alias Scrope, Gedney Pawlett and Gedney Abbot. In 1761 Gedney Burlion manor belonged to the Earl of Buckingham; in the early 19th Century to the Marquis of Lothian; and in 1834 to Lord Castlereagh. C. K. Tunnard of Boston, was lord of the manor of Gedney Welby in 1834. Both in 1834 and 1873 James Bellemy was mentioned as being lord of the manors of Gedney Abbot and Gedney Pawlett.

  1. 19th Century Gedney
  2. Farming.

The Acreage Returns for 1801 show that there were then 979 acres of wheat, no rye, 184 acres 3 roods of Barley 1,182 acres of oats, 20 acres of potatoes, no peas, 107 acres of beans, and 350 acres of turnips or rape used for the purpose of sheep feed generally.”

  1. Area and Population

The area of Gedney, with Gedney Hill, was 12,377 acres in the 19th century. The population of Gedney (excluding Gedney Hill) was 1042 in 1801, rising each succeeding decade to 2,017 in 1871 and falling each succeeding decade to 1,642 in 1901.

  1. Windmills

Windmills were numerous in the Fens in the 19th Century. There were at least two post-mills in the parish, one in Gedney itself and the other, Allen’s Mill, in Gedney Fen. (See the photograph). The six-sailed tower windmill at Gedney Dyke was built in 1836. It was working at the time of the 1923 survey of windmills, but was just a stump at the 1953 survey.

  1. The Railway

Gedney railway station was built on the second stretch of the railway line, on which eventually the trains of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway. Ran. The M. and G.N.J.R. eventually ran trains from Little Bytham, near Bourne, to Great Yarmouth on the East Norfolk coast. The first stretch of track from Spalding to Holbeach was opened on the 15th November, 1858. The track from Holbeach to Sutton Bridge, which passed through Gedney station, was opened on 3rd July, 1862. The 1951 survey showed that’s average number of passengers 12 passenger trains stopped at Gedney Station on average per weekday. per week-day was 13. Sadly, the line is now closed.

II The Rectors and Vicars of Gedney Church.

The first known rector of Gedney Church was Baldwin, grandson of Fulk d’ Oyry. Fulk d’ Oyry was lord of the manor. Baldwin became rector about 1150. Probably the most famous rector was Richard Hakluyt, author of Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries of the English Nation, who was rector from 1612. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. The last rector came to office in 1824; he was Clement Strong, LLB. The rectory is now held in perpetuity by the Dean and Chapter of Ely, who are still responsible to-day for the upkeep of the chancel.

The rector nominated, and the Abbot and Convent of Crowland Abbey instituted, the vicars of Gedney before the Reformation.

After the Reformation the monarch presented them. The first known vicar was Robert de Welldon who took office about 1250. The vicar is now appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day.

III The Architecture of the Church of St. Mary Magdalen, Gedney,

Although the church of St. Mary Magdalen was built in the the medieval styles of Early Decorated and Perpendicular, it has well balanced proportions. It belonged to Croyland Abbey. The length of the Church is 178 feet 6 inches. It is made of well-cut stone.

The first three stages of the west tower are of the Early English style, and were built about 1280. St Mary Magdalen, Gedney and St. Mary, Stamford churches have the finest Early English towers in Lincolnshire. Gedney tower has setback buttresses. The 27 feet 5 inches ground stage has two lancets, one to the west and one to the south. Both have dog-tooth ornamentation on the hood-mould. They are splayed. The arch to the nave has much dog-tooth.

The 9 feet 7inches next stage, like Long Sutton’s church. has blank arcading which is on the three exterior sides. The blank arcading in each case has five pointed arches with six shafts which have shaft-rings.

The next 18 feet 4 inches stage has the original two-twin bell openings on all four sides. Each side has twin-pointed arches with dog-toot hood-moulding and many shafts with shaft-rings. Two-thirds of the two-twin bell openings on the east side of the tower are enclosed within the church since the roof was raised. There are clocks on the south and north sides of this stage just above the bell-openings.

The 30 feet 8 inches last stage of the tower is Perpendicular in style. The tower is 86 feet high overall. This Stage also has two-twin bell openings on all four sides, but they are much taller than the Early English ones. They have transoms and twin ogee gables. Just below the parapet there is a frieze made up of a series of diamond shapes.

Above this there is a 3 feet high polygonal start to what could have been a spire. Instead there is a 20 feet high lead spike, half the height it should have been. This is surmounted by a 5 feet weathervane. From the ground to the top of the vane it is thus 94 feet.

As mentioned before the roof-level has been raised, in fact it has been raised twice.

This can be best seen on the east side of the tower, inside the church. The point of the earliest roof level is off-centre beneath the Early English bell-openings. Just beneath this there is a former opening now blocked in the point of the second roof-level, which is 14th century, is about halfway up the Early English bell-openings. The point of the present roof, probably Early Tudor, is two-thirds of the way up the Early English bell-openings.

The rest of the exterior is Decorated in style, except for the Perpendicular Clerestory. Gedney is one of the six finest Decorated Style churches in Lincolnshire. The corners of the nave have diagonal buttresses. Two corners of the chancel have angle-buttresses.

Nine of the nave windows have Decorated flowing tracery. Beneath the apex quatrefoils and daggers of these windows are two mouchettes, which look like curved daggers. The last two north-facing N.E. windows, and the last two south-facing S.E. windows of the nave and the three north-facing and the three south facing windows of the chancel are Decorated in style and have simple cusped intersecting tracery. The ten windows each have three lights. The attractive Decorated east window of five lights is reticulated. The interesting west window of the north aisle is 17th Century and has three lights.

The tall chancel is 39 feet 7 inches high. It has a raised cross at its east end.

The Decorated style south porch was two-storeyed. It has three niches on the outside south front which possibly once had statues in them. There is a sundial with Roman numerals on the south front. The doorway to the former upper floor has an ogee gable. “The outside doorway of the porch and the entrance door to the nave have pointed arches with hood-moulds. The step to the nave is worn to the right of the centre, this seems to show that the main wooden door was normally kept closed and the small wicket đoor which is also to the right of centre was used, although a partially opened main door may have the same effect.

The Perpendicular style clerestory, one of the finest in Lincolnshire, makes the interior very light. It has twelve windows on each of the two sides. Each window has three lights. There are thirteen, 6 feet pinnacles on both sides of the clerestory. The parapet is crenellated like medieval castles. there is a bellcote.

Inside, the base of the Clerestory has figures with shafts above them supporting the roof beams, are of two main types, with one example of a third. The odd example is a pair of hammer beams. The main types both have arched braces, but one of the main types also has tie-beams. The circular window at the east end of the nave is 19th century. The nave has six bays on either side, with octagonal pillars.

The vestry is to the north of the chancel. It has a squint window, through which the altar can be seen. There is an Early English pillar piscina to the south, just before one enters the chancel from the nave. Although the base of the font is dated 1664 the date of the rest of it is uncertain.

The south door is one of the three finest, examples of early church doors in Lincolnshire. It is Decorated in style. An inscription reads PAX CHRISTI SIT HUIC DOMUI ET OMNIBUS HABITANTIBUS IN EA HIC REQUIES NOSTRA, This translated reads “The peace of Christ be on this house and all dwelling in it. Here is our rest”. The inscription on the wicket door reads “in hope”and there is a small 14th century ivory Crucifixion scene.

The lock on the inside of the door reads. BEWARE BEFORE AUYSETH JOHAN NESPETE. The pulpit was made in about 1700.

There are only seven churches in Lincolnshire which have notable medieval coloured glass; Gedney church is one of them. At Gedney the coloured glass is in the east window of the north aisle. In the centre light there is a complete there are considerable remains of an early 14th century Jesse window: figure seated, and apparently holding a sword. “There are large parts of other figures as well. The colouring is mainly yellow, green, brown, blue and bright red. The tree of Jesse was often seen on medieval glass. It showed a vine stem, with the reclining figure of Jesse at the bottom, prophets and kings in the branches, and often the Virgin Mary and child at the top.

In the east end of the South aisle there is a part of an effigy of a 13th century knight. A few yards from this in the same aisle, there is a circa 1390, five feet long brass of a lady in a mantle, with a puppy at her feet. This formerly had more pieces depicting the annunciation, with additionally saints, shields, and an inscription.

On the south wall, between the effigy and the brass, is a magnificent tablet of alabaster with two praying figures facing one another. It has three Corinthian columns.

The figures are wearing Elizabethan costume, with ruffs at their necks. On this monument is written “Here under lyeth buried the Bodyes of Adlard Welby of Gedney, Esquier and Cassandra his wife. the daughter of William Apryce of Washingleys, in ye parish of Lutton in the Countie of Huntington esquier, by where he had issue, fower sonnes & one this life daughter, viz: William, Richard, Robert, John & Susan, being all living at his death who departed this life the X1 day of August ANO 1570, being of the age LXIII years, and Cassandra departed ye XXII of February ANO DNI 1590 being LX years of age. This monument was made at ye and charges of ye late husband cost Sr. Willia Welbie Knight of ye Honourable Order of ye Bath, together with. Robert Carr of Aswerbye, esquier, in ye month of May, 1605, being in ye Raigne of our Sovoraigne lord James by the grace of God of England Franunce and Ireland Kinge the third, & of Scotland the eight and thirtithe.”

Gedney has two chalices by T.1569, a paten by L.A, 1683, and a two-handled cup, by E. D. Pocock, 1731. There are some interesting tombstones in the churchyard.

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