Whaplode St Mary's Church - Points of Interest




The South Door ENTRANCE and EXIT

An outer bird-cage door gains access to the main inner South Door. Much of the surrounding framework of the doors was added to the church in Tudor times when the church was widened to incorporate both south and north nave aisles between 1470 and 1530, however, the inside wooden parts of the doors, together with some of the metalwork, are original 12th-13th century, and were retained within the newly re-constructed doors. More recently, with alterations to the inside of the south porch to provide a sloping floor, accessibility has been made easier for persons with disabilities, and parents with small children and babies. As you walk through this doorway you will enter into the WEST END of the church, and be immediately struck by the enormity of this magical building.


The Piers at the division of WEST END / NAVE

At time of the build of the WEST END extension - 1130 onwards - the resultant transitional mix of the capital designs appearing on the pillars - being those of the Norman square capital design and the Early English floriated approach - leaves a rather ungainly result. However, given that both the Norman pillars at this junction of the NAVE and the WEST END would have not only been sitting at the end of the original Norman build, but would have exhibited an outside terminal design, it is perhaps not surprising that the integration of the resulting external/internal capital designs lacked precision. From here there are a number of Assets to be seen by walking around the West End, however, take a moment to study the arches & Pillars abreast of the NAVE looking down towards the CHANCEL.


The Four pairs of Early Norman Arches

These four pairs of symmetrical and finely proportioned Norman Arches extending from the beginning of the West End extension down the Nave are most unusual in their arrangement. The unique design feature being the alternate pairing of the supporting circular and octagonal - shafted pillars abreast of the Nave aisle. The sheer enormity of these pillars sustains the belief that the original structural design was intended to carry a much heavier load and make St. Mary's Church a much larger building - that of a triforium. At this vantage point look upwards to take in the magnificence of the Hammerbeam roof above the Nave.


The Oak Hammerbeam Roof

The original Norman roof was taken down on the occasion of the current roof replacing it, post 1450. This 15th century OAK HAMMERBEAM ROOF was once a magnificent architectural feature of the church, with splendid intricate carvings, and possibly some applications of gold leaf or similar decoration, to be found within the brace supports, and on the terminals of the hammerbeams. Sadly, few of these carvings and decorations have survived the alterations that the roof has undergone in the intervening 500 years. Traditionally, the roof terminals would also have displayed carved flying angels, however, unfortunately, there now only remain three religious artisans, or Knights within the roof framework. Take a moment to appreciate the length of the roof as it bestrides both the Norman / Transitional Nave (110 feet), and the West End (25 feet). Notably, from here, at the junction with the Nave, the church's West End pillar architecture displays Early English (Transitional) design.


Early English Capital Decoration

As you study the capitals on the three pairs of pillars in the West End extension you will notice that they display an Early English 'directional foliage' or 'stiff leaf ' foliage design, being post 1130. This is in contrast to the pre 1100 Norman Square capital design of the Nave Pillars. The next asset occupies the centre position here in the West End.


The Font

Perfectly positioned, the FONT is described as a creditable imitation of the original Norman font. Whilst its orgins are not known, notably, it has a central cylinder of black stone surrounded by octagonal panelled and fluted stonework, together with barley-twist legs, which may suggest that it reflects a degree of Jacobean / Charles I period influences, and it stands 7 feet from base to top. This central positon provides you with the best view of another unique architectural asset in the West End.


The Spandrels between the Arches in West End Extension

Look upwards on either side of the font, and you will see both an intriguing and anomalous feature of the architecture that is the West End extension. This is evident in the contrasting decoration within the Spandrels between the arches, above the pillars, on the South and North aisles. Here it can be seen that while the South side exhibits sunken quatrefoil shapes, the North side displays an absence of any decorative feature. The reason for this noticeable difference is unknown. Turn now to the range of assets that can be seen assembled in front of the Heraldic Suite.


The Chalices

As you look at the Heraldic Suite, outside in the right hand display cabinet to the left of the entrance can be seen the remnants of two Early English Pewter 12th - 13th century chalices, together with a copy of the Lincoln University report on their authenticity. The sketches provide a representation of both original chalices as they would otherwise have appeared in earlier life. Also, in the base of the cabinet there is an ancient Bible - dated xxxx. From here cast your eyes to the right towards the base of the pillar, where you will see a photograph of our next asset.


The Six-Keyed Double Reed Bassoon

Here, resting against the base of the pillar outside the Heraldic Suite, is a framed photograph of a replica of our large 6 keyed Double Reed Bassoon. The Bassoon, which is dated 1790-1815, is the only remaining evidence of the Whaplode St. Mary's Church band's existence in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it used to hang in the South Aisle for many years. However, the instrument is now stored in the Vestry, for safekeeping. Looking to your left you will see the large finely carved coffin cover.


The Stone Coffins - No. 1

Located here beneath the central windows of the Heraldic Suite is this magnificent coffin cover. This coffin cover was found upon the occasion of the re-flooring of the South Aisle in 1855. The fine detail that can be seen on this coffin cover was identified in 2006 as being an example of exceptionally fine and elaborate high relief carving work of the 13th century, by Dr Aleksander McClain, a lecturer of the Department of Church Archaeology at York University. Specifically, that of the beautiful carved English Cross, a floriated design also known as the Tree of Life. Move to your left and view the remaining cabinet containing further assets.


Chantry Tile Fragments

To be seen within the left hand display cabinet , outside the Heraldic Suite, are two exquisite artistic tile fragments, which are regarded as further evidence of the second of the four lost Chapels in St. Mary's. The fragments were discovered during the building preparations being made for the construction of the Heraldic Suite in 2006. One tile has a fleur-de-lis in a corner, together with the design of a key above it, with a further piece of another design. The fleur de lis plus key design thereon was subsequently authenticated as being that of a Nottingham Tile design, as discovered in the village of Talbert in Nottinghamshire in 1917 at the site of a ruined monastery. Further examples of the Nottingham Tile design can be found within the British Museum records in a book compiled by Professor Elizabeth S. Eames (1980). Information therewithin would appear confirm the date of the St. Mary’s tiles from the period 1325-1365. Indicative confirmation of a chantry chapel in this position is provided by a map of St. Mary’s Church to be found in the Lincolnshire Archives, siting the chapel at the north-west corner of the church, and, notably, distinct notches made in the original plaster dado appear in this vicinity. Also within this section of the cabinet is a family Bible from 1870 incuding births, marriages and deaths  (as donated by the Wright family).


The Principal piece of Anglo-Saxon Burial Stonework

In the lower section of this same display cabinet is the principal piece of burial stonework discovered around St Mary's which has been confirmed as being of Anglo-Saxon origin (10th-11th century), following examination by the Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture Project carried out by Durham University, which began in 1977, and has documented all manner of early Christian burial monuments found across all counties in England. This authentication added credence to the view that there was, indeed, a Saxon Church here in Whaplode, whether in wood or stone, circa mid -late 11th century. Turn to your left, adjacent to this cabinet against the back wall of the West End, you will see our next asset.


The Churchwardens' Chest

This is an original late 16th century Churchwardens' Chest, and is a prized possession of St. Mary's. From here in the West End, now take the walk down the 110 foot that is the NAVE [ including both Norman and Transitional-Early English) and embrace the full majesty of architecture that is before you.


View of Clerestory Windows on either side of the Nave

Proceeding down the NAVE towards the Chancel, look upwards at the Clerestory windows above the North and South aisles, and you will notice that the North Aisle ( on your left) shows the original NORMAN clerestory windows and below plain aisle windows, whereas the South Aisle ( on your right) displays the reconstructed 15th century clerestory windows, beneath which sit the three comparatively ornate aisle windows. As you take in this splendour, you will become aware of size and style of the Church's Norman Arches - our next asset.


Early Norman Arches

The architectural design of the early NORMAN arches (11th - 12th century) was such that their construction incorporated spandrels ( the space between tops of two adjacent arches) to strengthen the open arches. These spandrels were often decorated with paintings, sculptures, or other types of ornament, and in St. Mary's case, down either side of the Nave, the decoration can be seen as plain sunk circlets. Continue down the Nave towards the Chancel and take note of the assets on your right.


The Brass Eagle Ecclesiastical Lectern

As you approach the Chancel, on your right you will see our Brass Eagle Ecclesiastical Lectern. This splendid Lectern was gifted to St.Mary's in 1918 by Isabellina Wright, in memory of her husband, Carden Wright, who was a former Churchwarden at St. Mary's. Pause here to study the next asset - the capitals of the Pillar immediately behind the Lectern.


Norman Capital Decoration

You may recall that the West End of the church is architecturally Early English - Transitional period, whereas here at the East End the time zone is NORMAN, and you will be struck by the pre 1100 early Norman architectural use of scalloped square capitals that are evident on the pillars. The total construction to be seen here incorporates the flute designs at the capitals, together with scallops (virtually semi-circular in form), and completing the inner part of the arch with a round. Now, as you approach the Chancel, the next asset on your right, is our splendid Organ.


The Church Organ

The original Church Organ was installed between 1854-1864, and whilst it was replaced in 1949 by the present one, a record of it can still be found in The National Pipe Organ Register [ REF: N14428]. The current organ, built in 1949, and gifted to the Church by the widow of William Kilham Wright, a former churchwarden, as denoted by the memorial plaque on the adjacent wall, is a Compton Miniatura Model No. 3 rank extension organ: diapason, Flute, Gemshorn, built by John Compton Ltd. Again, further details can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register [ REF: K01296]. Turning towards the Chancel, look above your head at the painting affixed to the wall above the Chancel Arch.


Royal Coat of Arms - George III

The Royal Coat of Arms - George III, on the Chancel wall, was painted in 1773 by Bullard, and has the names of the artist, and the Churchwardens of the day thereon. It was likely commissioned by the Governors of Uppingham School, who became the patrons of St. Mary's in 1625, following the death of Robert Johnson, Archdeacon of Leicester, who was the prior benefice of the Chancel at the behest of Queen Elizabeth I. The Governors ceded ultimate responsibility for the Chancel back to the Diocese and the Crown - in the early 20th century - following heated disputes with numerous Vicars, over many, many years, regarding the absence of tithe monies being spent on the maintenance of the Chancel. Subsequently, rent charges in lieu of abolished English tithes paid by landowners were converted by a public outlay of money under the Tithe Act 1936 into annuities paid to the state through the Tithe Redemption Commission. Such payments were transferred in 1960 to the Board of Inland Revenue, and those remaining were terminated by the Finance Act 1977. Notably, however, whilst responsibility for the Chancel now rests with the Diocese, the responsibility for the appointment and/or removal of any Vicar of St. Mary's remains under the direct patronage of the Lord Chancellor, on behalf of the King. A process which is aligned with those churches denoted as being of  Royal Peculiar status. To see the next asset you need to look further upwards, above the Royal Coat of Arms.


The blocked-up opening - above Chancel

Loacated near the top of the Chancel wall, below a round topped Norman window, can be seen a blocked-up opening. When the Stone Rood screen was in place the congregation could not see the Clergy, so, this opening served as the point through which the clergy’s singing, chanting and benedictions would have been heard by the congregation. Before moving on to enter the Chancel, turn to your right to view the turret staircase.


The Turret Staircase

Here, adjacent to the entrance to the Chancel, this turret staircase was built into the stone fabric of the south side, circa 1320, and in 1376 provided access to the now demolished 1st floor dormitory, which connected the north side of the Bell Tower to the Nave and served to house the Clergy. After the dormitory was demolished circa 1420, the staircase was used to reach the Rood Loft, which was constructed during the Tudor era. Following the destruction of any Rood paintings/carvings during the Reformation the loft was subsequently re-utilised as a Singing Loft, circa 1748, from where the Church Band used to play. The Singing Loft was subsequently demolished in 1844 - however, the staircase remains intact. Now, as you begin to enter the Chancel, pause to view the next asset - the Transitional corbels.


The Chancel Transitional Corbels

On either side of the Chancel archway can be seen the two Transitional - late 12th century - Corbels. Sadly, the former finely decorated Norman Pillars which stood on either side of the Chancel Arch were cut away at an earlier unknown date and replaced with Transitional Corbels to make the Chancel opening wider, and unfortunately, when the Chancel was re-built, yet again in 1818, the patrons decided to remove the two elaborately carved support columns beneath the Chancel Arch - our next asset.


The Beautiful Norman Chancel Arch

This beautifully decorated Norman Chancel Arch of circa 1120 -1125 is finely ornamented with a double row of zig-zag mouldings and is one of the glories of St. Mary's, although, regrettably, it has suffered mutilation over the centuries. An early sketch of its original finery captures the intricacy of the Arch. Normally, the zig-zag formation would be continued right through the whole of the supporting pillars, however, sadly, these original decorated Norman pillars are no longer with us in the Church, having been replaced during the Transitional Period (1145-1190). Now move into the Chancel to embrace more historic assets.


Altar Chair

To your right, within the Chancel, can be seen this modestly carved Altar chair of the Elizabethan/ Jacobean era ( date unknown). Now approach the High Altar and the Reredos.


The Mensa Tablet (High Altar stone]

Without doubt one feature that excels all other of this magnificent church, is that of the consecrated Altar stone table. The Mensa Tablet is a large piece of limestone rock [Dimensions - Length- 7 feet 6 inches: Width- 2 feet 10 inches: Depth- 6 inches] inscribed with five consecration crosses, one at the centre and one at each corner, symbolising the five wounds of Christ, which would have been anointed with holy oil, and it sits beneath a solid oak framework and glass cover to protect it from light and damage. At the time of the initial construction of St. Mary’s, circa early 12th century, the Abbey at Croyland (later Crowland), which was seen as the mother church, was served directly by monks from Peterborough Abbey, and it is therefore possible that the Mensa Tablet was brought to the original church by the settling monks from Peterborough Abbey, which leads us to believe that the Mensa Tablet predates any of St Mary’s original Norman buildings. Latterly, the Mensa Tablet survived the Reformation and the subsequent Puritanical actions, which served to destroy many church altars and artefacts across the country in the 16th and 17th centuries, since it had been removed earlier from the Church, either by the Vicar or townspeople, and it was found, by accident, circa 1780, by the incumbent Vicar who was out walking. Thankfully, in the 19th century, the Mensa Tablet was re-housed in the robust oak framework that you see before you, and officially re-consecrated. Immediately, behind the Altar you will see our next asset - the Reredos.


The Reredos

The Reredos -the name given to the Altar Screen - was erected in the early 18th century, and is believed to be from the Flemish region of the Low Countries ( historically, this is generally understood to be territories that are today the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg). It has a typical centre piece directly in line with the High Altar, bearing an image of a flagon in the centre, which is representative of the concentrated wine, and on the left are sheaves of wheat and a loaf of bread, whilst on the right is depicted the chalice and grape vines with fruit. As you view the Reredos, now turn to your right and look at the panelling on the south wall.


Former Priest's Door in Chancel

Here, on the south side wall of the Chancel immediately behind the present Reredos panelling, was discovered the presence of a priests bricked up doorway, [ this is best seen from outside ] which leads us to the supposition that the original Norman chancel was a much larger building, but it was subsequently rebuilt on a much smaller scale. The fact that when the stone Rood Screen was in situ (prior to its destruction in the 16th century) it sealed off the congregation from the Chancel, consequently, the Clergy would have needed their own access to the Chancel, serves to reinforce this point. Now look through the adjacent window on this south wall to view the former site of the 14th century dormitory.


View of Inverted V Roof Line of Former Dormitory

From this window you can see the inverted 'V' roof-line of the former dormitory, which housed the clergy in the 14th century - 10 priests, 1 Deacon and 2 sub-Deacons were in situ in 1376. It would have been accessed by the spiral turret staircase, which you will have seen earlier, that was cut into the Norman piers of the southern Nave arcade and the Chancel arch. It is likely that the staircase was constructed sometime following the destruction of the original Norman Chancel, which was circa 1320. Now, turn to the opposite wall within the Chancel.


Commemorative plaques for two former Vicars

Here you will see two commemorative plaques which are associated with former Vicars of St. Mary’s, namely Revd. John Fairfax Francklin, M.A. (1859-1883) and Revd. Lancelot H.N. Carter (1977-1985). The plaques sit on the Chancel north wall occupying the space of a 13th century archway. This former archway led to a medieval side chapel which was demolished in 1818/19 - more of this later. Now as you leave the Chancel turn to your right to view the remnant of our stone Rood Screen.


The remnant of The Stone Rood screen

You will see this piece of stone projecting from behind the choir stalls on the north side of the transept (crossing), just to the left of another asset - a memorial plaque to a former Churchwarden, Frank Dring, who served the church, remarkably, for over 50 years. This piece of stone is the only remnant of the original St. Mary's Rood Screen. The Stone Rood screen prevented the congregation from accessing the Chancel, however, the clergy had their own door in the south wall, as previously indicated, where they could exit the building when needed. The Rood Screen was also designed to show an image of Christ crucified on the top, flanked by images of the Virgin Mary on his right and John the Evangelist on his left. However, in England all such screens and/or associated images and frescoes were generally destroyed post the Reformation. As you leave the Chancel and approach alongside the North Transept, look upwards, to your right, towards the clerestory windows for another remnant of pre-Reformation artistic adornment.


The Painted Clerestory Window

Look at the second Clerestory window ( above Lady Chapel / North Transept Arch) from the Chancel end, on the north side. Apart from the remaining Rood-Loft woodwork (to be seen in the Lady Chapel, shortly), the only other fragment of pre-Reformation artistic work that survived the subsequent period of destruction is the fleur-de-lys design in red surrounding the upper edges of this window, which is, sadly, slowly disintegrating over time. From here approach our next asset - the gravestone beneath the Pulpit.


The Grave beneath the Pulpit

In the floor, partially obscured by the Pulpit, you will see what is described as a fine 13th century gravestone with a leafy cross, however, the origin and identity of the person buried hereunder has defied time and research to date. Originally, it was thought to have been associated with a Crusader, but, subsequently, this has been discounted, and therefore it remains a mystery. Now observe the Pulpit, itself.


The Jacobean Pulpit & The Sounding Board

This a fine example of a sensitively restored 17th century Jacobean Pulpit, which embodies all the finery of the reclaimed original panels. The main panels reflect the shape of the Norman Chancel Arch. The unusual feature that sits directly above the pulpit, is that of a sounding board - known as the Tester - which was designed to project the celebrant’s voice to all parts of the church. However, with the onset of modern technology, radio microphones, amplified speakers, etc., this apparatus has become redundant, but for historical context, it is retained in its rightful place. Now, before you step into the Lady Chapel and North Transept take a short detour across to the SOUTH AISLE to view the Stained-Glass windows.


The Stained-Glass Memorial Window & Memorial Plaque

The first window in view to the right of the Vestry, on the South Aisle wall, is the exquiste early 20th century memorial stained-glass window, which was funded by public subscription. This window is dedicated to the men and women of Whaplode who gave their lives during the First World War of 1914-18, and it also provides the focal point for the remembrance of those local people who lost their lives in the Second World War of 1939-45, with a plaque beneath the window dedicated thereto. Moving to your right you will approach two consecutive windows with stained-glass crests therein.


The Stained Glass Windows

Regrettably, following either centuries of unattended dilapidation, or the forceful and wanton destruction, of all traces of St. Mary's original stained-glass windows, which depicted the insignia of the many families that supported the Church in medieval times, only these two windows ( together with the plain gold-coloured stained-glass window behind the Altar) remain that exhibit any evidence of pre-20th century stained-glass ornamentation. Within these two can be seen, respectively, the crests of Crowland and Lincoln, followed by Irby amd Whaplode. As for those that are no longer in evidence today, fortunately, Colonel Gervase Holles, a renowned antiquarian of the 17th century, visited St. Mary's in 1655, and recorded in his manuscript (which is held in the British Museum) all the family insignia that were represented in either stained-glass and /or stone crests throughout the church. Of those that have been identified, sixteen framed photographs of family Coats of Arms can be seen on the wooden panelling within the Heraldic Suite. Now - returning back to the Lady Chapel and the North Transept will enable you to experience the artwork of the assets contained therein.


The Tudor Rood Loft Remnant & Whaplode's Green Man

Firstly, on entering the Lady Chapel, look up to your right to view the remnant of our Tudor Rood Loft. Built circa 1500, St. Mary's early Tudor Rood Loft and balcony traditionally displayed a painting of the crucifiction of Christ, with figures of the Virgin Mary and St. John, the Evangelist, flanked on either side. Following the destruction of Roods in England, this piece of woodwork is all that remains of St. Marys decorative Rood Loft, and it was authenticated in 2009 after inspection by Nigel Leaney, an expert in Medieval Paint from Lincoln Diocese. As you can see this remnant is pinned to the east wall of the Lady Chapel above the small window, which occupies the space of a former arched opening leading to one of the four known Chantry Chapels of St. Marys. The remnant has several images carved therein, and those most identifiable are to be seen on the right hand side - three carvings - left to right: a Tudor Rose, a Royal Oak Leaf and The Whaplode Green Man. Whaplode's Green Man is one of the many Lincoln Green Men, and bears all the hallmarks associated with these pagan images which are to be found in numerous churches throughout the country. A further Green Man -carved in stone- can be seen on the west tracery around the upper parts of the Bell Tower. For our next asset turn to your left and approach the North window of the North Transept.


Madonna &Child (Wooden Sculpture)

Look up to the right-hand side of the north window and view this modern sculpture, by John Grimble, a local man who was Chairman of the Lincolnshire Artists's Asssociation 1962/63. The Madonna and Child was carved from a solid piece of African mahogany, and was commissioned by the wife of William K. Wright (a former Churchwarden) and donated to the Church in 1967. For our next asset, please focus on the main large window facing you.


The North Transept Window

This restored window within the North Transept is quite unique, since it is one partially made of oak and masonry. The upper half of the window is made completely of wood; whilst the lower part (from below the arched top) is masonry. The restorative work was done by Ernest Grimson in 1909/10 on the recommendation from the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings. He adhered to the strict principles of the Society refusing to restore missing medieval features, but create masterful copies. Still facing the window, look up to the left for our next asset - the stone family crest.


The Stone Family Crest

This stone family crest (possibly 17th century), which, incidentally, can also be seen on Irby House on Millgate, Whaplode, is believed to be a representation of the families of Welby, Walpole, Apreece, Haultoft , all of whom were connected with the Irby family via marriage in the 15th and 16th centuries, and associated with Whaplode. Now, turning to your left, your attention will be focused on a most unusual but symbolic painting.


Christ in Glory - Oil Painting on Canvas & Tinplate

This unique oil painting Christ in Glory by Miss Mary Henrietta Dering Curtois (1854-1928) hangs here on the west wall of the North Transept of the Church, and was presented by the Artist to St. Mary's in 1907. Mary Henrietta Dering Curtois was an active member of the Forum Club, London, who gained considerable reputation as a speaker and lecturer but was principally known for her work as an artist. One of her most notable works - that of the painting of a ward in Lincoln Hospital - which was exhibited in 1882 in the Royal Academy, and Paris Salon - was given to the Usher Gallery in Lincoln. The oil painting is unusual in two aspects, one of which is that it is an early form of a montage, being a combination of sheet metal (tinplate) and canvas. The second is that it depicts children of Whaplode, at the time of the painting, who formed the supporting figures surrounding the figure of Christ, and of personal interest to the Artist was the fact that the face of the central angel, with distinct black hair, in the foreground, represents an early portrait of her mother. From here, continue left to see our final asset within the Noth Transept - the Dan Hagen Table.


The Dan Hagen Oak Table

Situate here, beneath the leather cover, is a fine ten-foot-long Oak table, used on occasions for Holy Communion. It was made by Dan Hagen of Ingham, Norfolk in 1972. Employing a pre-1700s early English construction technique of using pegs and wedges, the craftsman has made a table worthy of St. Mary's Church. From viewing this table, turn and proceed under the archway, adjacent to the table, and once through turn around and look up towards the right hand junction of the two arches - a little above the speaker that adorns the base of the arch.


The Face

Here you will see a stone carving of a man's face. This remains an enigma. Whether, upon construction, this is representative of the chief mason of the day (often a tradition for the image of certain masons to be recorded within religious buildings), or whether it is an effigy of the principal monk, or even the Abbot of Crowland at that time, one can only guess. However, it is most intriguing, since these types of carvings, in wood or stone, are readily found outside churches, Abbeys and Minsters, not normally inside. Any ideas? From here proceed down the North Aisle to our next asset on the wall between the second and third window - the memorial plaque..


Henry Churchill McNeil-Smith Memorial Plaque

This memorial plaque is dedicated to Henry Churchill McNeil-Smith who died whilst on active duty - April 27 1916. He was the son of Revd. H.B. McNeil-Smith and his wife Mary St. Barbe, and a further dedication thereon is that of his mother, who died at Whaplode Vicarage on November 19 1916. From here continue down the North Aisle until you reach the next asset - our Charity Boards sitting above the unused North Porch.


The Three Charity Boards

There are now only three Charity Boards remaining which display charitable bequests by families. They had hung over the North Porch for many centuries, and in 2005/6 were restored by a group of students at Lincoln University Department of Conservation and Restoration, as part of their final year project – a joint project between St. Mary’s and the University. The tablets are now housed in protective illuminated glass frames, above the North Porch Heating system, and are a worthy testament to the memory of the benefactors to the Parish of Whaplode and embrace bequest dates from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Look up in the aisle roof, above your head, for our next asset.


Stove Chimney Holes

During the 18th and 19th centuries the church was heated by a series of pot-bellied stoves (these were at one time used to reduce the number of bats, and on one occasion three large stoves were used to burn sulphur to eradicate them, which resulted in the demise of over 500 bats). The only evidence we have today of this heating system is a circular hole for the stove’s chimney in the panelling of the North Aisle roof ( above your head) near to the present-day heating system , together with one in the Lady Chapel ( this is in the roof panelling above the Rood-Loft remnant - you may wish to go back and have a look) -these to funnel the fumes out of the church. The stoves were finally removed form the church in 1976. From here, now proceed across to the South Aisle to view the magnificent Irby Tomb, its associated artefacts, and the remaining assets INSIDE the Church.



This magnificent canopied ten poster tomb of Sir Anthony Irby (1577 -1610), built circa 1625, would not look out of place in a Cathedral. Herewithin, are the remains of Sir Anthony and Lady Elizabeth Irby. Surrounding their effigies, on either side are the five children of their marriage, three boys beside their father on his left, and two girls alongside their mother, on her right. Sir Anthony and his wife have their heads resting on pillows and their feet braced against their respective family mementoes; a collared hound for him, and a griffin for her, which are incorporated in their family crests. Their eldest son, also Sir Anthony (1605-1682) who is depicted as the largest of the children, married Francis Wray - daughter of Sir William Wray, whose tomb, a replica of the Irby Tomb, can be found in the Church of St. Peter at Ashby-Cum-Fenby, Lindsey. As you walk around the tomb, step back a little to view their respective family crests, which sit on the top of the canopy roof.


The family Crests of IRBY & Peyton

To be seen on the roof of the Irby Tomb are the family crests of the IRBY and PEYTON families. Sir Anthony Irby, (b. 9 January 1577: d. 1610), who was MP for Boston, and High Sheriff of the County of Lincoln in the reign of Charles I, married Elizabeth Peyton in February 1602/3, daughter of Sir John Peyton, M.P. 1st Baronet Peyton of Isleham, co. Cambridge. To see the next IRBY asset look for the photograph of the beautiful IRBY Helmet, which hangs on the railings surrounding the Tomb.


The Irby Helmet

This rare exquisite helmet (Sallet), belonging to the Irby family, is described as a popular 14th/15th century form of head armour. A fine example of North Italian (probably Milanese) work, the skull is beaten out of a single piece of steel, and the whole decorated with strips of gilt copper, and the original main surfaces would have been coloured blue. It was authenticated by Sir James Mann, the Master of the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London, in 1957. The Helmet had hung for years on the railings which surround the Irby Tomb, however, only a picture of this helmet can now be seen, since the helmet is kept for safe keeping at the Gentlemen's Society, Spalding, Lincolnshire, together with what remains of the family Tabard, clearly displaying the Irby family insignia, although the frontispiece of the garment is all that remains. Move around to the west end of the Tomb to view the other two stone coffins found in the Church (You will have seen the fine detail of the first coffin outside the Heraldic Suite - earlier).


The Stone Coffins - No. 2

Here at the base of the west end railings surrounding the Irby Tomb, is the second of the two coffins and their lids which were unearthed from the south side of the Nave in 1855. A skeleton, together with a soft Early English pewter chalice and paten on the breast, was found within, suggesting that it was of a priest. The burial of a chalice and a paten with a skeleton is particularly interesting since they are seen as common secondary emblems on cross slabs. Such emblems are found most often on slabs in northern England, and are thought to stand for the rank, trade, or occupation of the commemorated person, and in this case a priest. Immediately, across from this coffin, beneath the window, is the third coffin, found at a later date.


The Stone Coffins - No. 3

During the excavations for the Heraldic Suite in 2006, the builders came across yet another decorated English Cross stone coffin. This latest example is much smaller than the first two, and was found broken in two pieces, lying at a curious angle in the ground, giving the impression that, perhaps, it had been deliberately damaged. Now, please return to the East end of The Irby Tomb to view various wooden and stone artefacts.


Wooden Cross Beam & Village Cross Stone…........."

Here at the eastern base of the railings surrounding The Irby Tomb is a collection of wooden and stone artefacts preserved from the fabric of the Church, together with the stone Cross beam which used to sit atop the Village Cross which is situated in the Churchyard. A piece of a wooden crossbeam with the date of 1655 carved thereon can also be seen. From here, for our next asset, look to your left and beneath the window to view the Chantry Chapel Piscina.


The Chantry Chapel Piscina

Here, under the window ledge, is a Chapel Piscina, distinguishable from a holy water stoop as it contains a drain for a Priest to ensure the remains of the sacrament are untouched by human hands. This is the remnant of a 12th century Chantry Chapel which was built in the vicinity of where the 17th century Irby Tomb is now situated. This Chantry Chapel, one of four that were known to have existed in St. Mary's, would have been dedicated to a specific family who would have been not only responsible for its upkeep, but would also have paid for the privilege of a Priest to administer the sacrements to them in private. It is known that when both the south and north aisles were extended by several feet in width, during the latter part of the 15th, and early 16th century, much of the existing materials within the walls were transferred complete and reconfigured, and this explains why a Piscina from a 12th century chapel sits alongside a 17th century Tomb. Immediately above this Piscina, to the right , on the window ledge, can be seen a collection of artefacts.


Chantry Chapel Screen Remnants

Amongst the collection of various stone artefacts to be found on the window ledge adjacent to the Irby Tomb are the fragments of decorated terra cotta screens that were identified by a group of historians from the Morley College Group in London. They advised that the remnants were in fact from Chantry Chapel Screens, circa 15th and 16th centuries, in a style attributed to that of the school the Florentine sculptor, Pietro Torrigiano (1472-1522), who, according to Vasari, was one of a group of talented youths who studied under the patronage of Lorenzo the Magnificent in Florence. Finally, move across the West End to the Heraldic Suite to catch sight of the various Coats of Arms that can be seen on the panelling therewithin.


The Heraldic Suite

Built in 2006 at a cost of almost £150,000, with grants from various providers, it was hailed as a tremendous success. The new facilities incorporate a meeting room, toilets, and work area to provide teas and sandwiches for both the congregation and visitors. The name given to the rooms - THE HERALDIC SUITE - was in recognition of the many wealthy families that have supported the church over the centuries, and to be found therein are sixteen family crests that had hitherto been formerly represented in either stained- glass or stone crests within the church, as recorded by Colonel Gervase Holles in his report on St. Mary's Church (now kept in the British Museum) following his visit in 1655. Now, you should proceed back to the SOUTH PORCH ENTRANCE [ Asset no. 1 -which, upon entrance, you may not have fully reviewed its architectural splendour ], and EXIT to view and learn about the remaining assets of this noble church of St. Mary's, with a walk around the perimeter of the Church, and within the Churchyard.



The West End Door & Window

Turn right out of the SOUTH PORCH Entrance [ EXIT] and proceed around to the splendid door at the West End of the Church, which exhibits interesting architectural features. On each side of the door are apses for what might have been figures of saints or something similar. The framework of the architrave around the west entrance doorway is significant and has been recorded as dating from 1180. In this doorway can be seen a good example of the indicative style in use in this period reflecting five mouldings and a double row of eight detached shafts on each side. Sadly, the window above was reduced by approximately one third of its original size, and probably given its present lacklustre tracery, when the nave roof was lowered in 1718. Continuing right around to the north side of the Chuurch you will approach the North Transept.


The North Transept Window ( Exterior)

Here at the North Transept, when the school room was initially established circa early 19th century, it was not connected to the Church. However, when the subsequent re-connection with the Church took place in the early 20th century, the original old masonry arched around the top of the north window was regrettably removed so that the window looked more fitting for a schoolroom. Fortunately, the north transept window did undergo restoration in an unusual way with the emphasis on preserving the fine tracery, and the upper half of the window was made completely of wood whilst the lower half was masonry, however, in the process, which was particularly regrettable, all traces of any remaining stained-glass were sacrificed. As you walk around the North Transept to its East side you will be able to appreciate the former site of the side chapel, which served the Medieval Chancel - pre 1800.


he Medieval Chancel ( and its Former Chapel)

The early illustration - circa 1800 - shows the medieval Chancel - before it was demolished and rebuilt in 1818 at a cost of £400 - and its side chapel still standing, and the nave roof as lowered in 1718. The nave roof was subsequently restored to its proper pitch in 1909. Take one or two steps back, and therefrom take in the view of the original Chancel Roof-Line.


Closer view of Original Chancel Roof-Line

The original Norman Chancel had a high pitched roof and was destroyed about 1320, following which a new one was built; however, little remains of this since it was demolished and replaced with the present Chancel in 1818. The only remaining evidence of the original chancel roof is the outline of the roof which can be clearly seen on the outside of the church at the east end, beneath which is the now blocked up opening that would have provided an outlet for the sounds from within the chancel as the monks performed their rites, including plain chants ( when inside the church, you may recall a closer view from above the Chancel Arch). From here move over to your left to view the Village Cross, the crossbeam of which you will have seen inside the church, at the eastern base of the Irby Tomb.


The Village Cross

Herewith, in the churchyard, can be seen the remains of a 14th century Village Cross. The Cross beam from this monument is on display within the West End of the Church. This monument is recorded in Historic England Listings, under reference 1010673, as being scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaelogical Areas Act of 1979, as amended, as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. As you approach the concluding part of your tour, turn towards the church path and proceed to the East face of the Bell Tower to view and learn about its collection of assets.


The Church Bells

Within the Bell Tower, St. Mary's has six bells. The original five Bells, made by Henry Penn of Peteborough, were purchased in 1718, and the Treble bell, made by J. Taylor of Loughborough, was commissioned and gifted to St. Mary's in 1933. The earliest record of a peal is dated 24.02.1775 with a ring of 10,080 changes, or 84 peals, over 7 hrs and 2 mins. Five of the six bells are inscribed in Latin, and, together with the bell frame, all the bells are listed as being of historical importance with Historic England under CHR references 30150 & 30152. In considering the Tower itself do take time to study its architecture.


The Bell Tower

To reach the top of this magnificent Bell Tower requires a climb of 108 steps via the narrow spiral staircase. The last stage of the ascent, beyond the third storey Bell room, necessitates the climb of the final 41 + 2 steps, exiting (on hands and knees) through a very narrow stone doorway (23 inches x 32 inches) on to the top viewing area, which incorporates the battlement parapets, from which there are tremendous views of the surrounding countryside. Rising to a height of 78 feet the foundation for this Campanile was laid circa 1190, with its five stages being built over a number of years concluding in the early 14th century. Beautifully arcaded in three of the stages, in the 13th and 14th centuries, with the fourth stage indicative of the decorated gothic period, it is believed that the markings displayed underneath the roof of exit doorway on the top indicate that the stonework is comprised of ancient burial stones. Be sure not to overlook our next asset which can be seen on outside of the second floor of the Tower.


Niche on Second Storey of Bell Tower

Look at the niche with a trefoil head included within a pediment situate in the centre of the second storey of the Bell Tower. This is important since it supports earlier church records of a chapel existing on the ground floor of Tower in the 14th century for the clergy, as indicated earlier, who lived in the dormitory which was a 1st floor building connected to the Nave, accessed by the spiral turret staircase adjacent to the Chancel, which you will have seen earlier. The final asset to be seen here on the east face is our magnificent Clock.


The Clock

The church clock stands on an elevated platform at the 2nd floor level of the Bell Tower. There are 41 +2 stone steps up the spiral staircase to the clock room, plus a further 12 narrow steps on a ladder, with one hand rail, leading up to the wooden encased 300 year old clock mechanism. The clock dates from 1718, and in 2012 it was converted from a manual re-wind to an automated, electronic re-wind & strike. Leaving the Tower you will either turn left towards the Robert Collins Monument, and conclude your Tour, or turn right to continue down the path to the South Porch entrance, and cover off anything that you may have missed.


The Robert Collins Monument

Here, just inside the Churchyard, you are able to see the Robert Collins monument. Robert Collins, who had been Curate at St. Mary's between 1802- 1811, died 25th January 1812, aged 51, had this 12 feet high, stone pyramid monument, adorned with emblems of freemasonry, erected in his lifetime dedicated to himself and his family. If you have just entered the Churchyard, welcome to St. Mary's Church, Whaplode. Please do enjoy your Tour. On the otherhand, if you are concluding your Tour, thank you for visiting St. Mary's Church. we trust that you have enjoyed your visit today. Please go safely.