The most glorious Saturday in the summer of 2013. The sun was beating down all day as I tourned a few South Lincolnshire churches, The Priory church at Deeping St James was to be the penultimate church of seven visited that day. I had visited this church before, a few years previously, but took the opportunity to re-visit and re-shoot with my Nikon.
It is obvious by the size of this church that it was more than the parish church of a small village.The church is 180 feet long, and the spire can be seen up to ten miles away! It was, in fact, founded as part of a Benedictine Priory. In common with other monastic buildings, Deeping Priory was dissolved in 1539. The church was retained for parish worship, whilst the Priory buildings fell in to ruin, until the stone was used to build a manor house in the seventeenth century. During the dissolution of the priory, the rood screen was taken down and burned on the village green, with the burning supervised by the church warderns.
The tower on the west end is more modern than the rest of the building. When I saw it I thought that the tower looked 18th Century, and a little research indicates that the original tower collapsed in 1717, as a result of years of flooding.
Six bells hang here, with four of these being cast by the Stamford bellfoundry, with three courtesy of Tobias Norris I, including an extremely early bell of his dated 1608. Two of the other bells were from the mid 1620's towards the end of his career with the inscription on one from 1624 reading "NON SONO ANNIMABVS MORTVORVM SED AVRIBVS" My Latin is apalling but I think that this translates as something like I do not sound for the dead but for the living! The other was from Alexander Rigby in 1704, just a few years before the foundry closed. Three of the bells here were re-cast by Taylor's of Loughborough, including one attributed to Richard Selyoake of Nottingham Circa 1500
The porch dates from the thirteenth century, whilst the font is even older, dating from the 12th century. Either side of the chancel are two stone effegies, which are thought to be the final resting place of benefactors of the priory. The effigy on the north wall of the chancel is very worn and has hands raised up in prayer. The effigy to the south wall of the chancel is very worn but appears to have hands raised in prayer again, with each having their head resting on a pillow. This one also has his feet resting on an animal of some kind, which is liable to be a dog.
Also in the chancel is what appears to be a fragment of a gravestone with unusual symbols on it. Obviously, someone has thought this unusual enough to be brought inside to protect it, which is good. The images on this stone appear to show carts lined up and I would imagine that this refers to the trade of the deceased.
Lots of stained glass here, mostly Victorian buth with a modern window featuring a representation of the Priory Church. Despite all of the stained glass, the church is bright inside and there was a very pleasing effect with the sun flooding in through the stained glass on the south side. This gave a very warm feeling inside.
The chancel is long, and resembles neighbouring Market Deeping. A modern stained glass window sits at the east end of the chancel. The window itself dates from the nineteenth century, but the stained glass is as recent as 1955. With the sun blazing in through the south windows the nave was bathed in golden sunlight. It was quite beautiful. Other stained glass includes a depiction of the crucifiction and a further windows depicts the infant Jesus being presented to Simeon in the tmple and, alongside that, the adult Jesus surrounded by children. More modern glass includes an almost abstract depiction of the steeple of the Priory Church.
The church grounds here are well worth a look at. The grounds are spacious with many Georgian graves to the south, with a particularly fine batch to be found close to the porch. The grounds continue to the west with these containing more recent burials with the most modern of all being buried in a new cemetary close by. The weather was just stunning by now. It was a delight to be out and about. Many of the older graves here are covered in a beautiful golden brown lichen, which looked even more attractive in the sunlight.
A little to the south of the church is the Deeping St James cross. This ancient monument was once used as a one man jail, the luckless miscreant being held overnight before going to court. The inside of the jail is pretty much as it would have been all those years ago.
It was lovely to be here. The church was open and welcoming and it is well worth a visit should you be in the area. Several churches nearby are also open so the route heading out of Peterborough to Morton the other side of Bourne can be a good one for those wanting to explore.