A quite gorgeous sunny Saturday in April 2010 and for the third Saturday in a row I was on the cycle and off on a fairly long ride. I had started out with a re-visit to Glatton before heading to the church of St Giles at Holme.
This is a nice setting, with the church set just back from the small village green, which has the village sign on it. At the foot of the village sign is a representation of a man leading a horse, which is towing a boat, which has a cross on it and a flag flying. More of that later.
The modern church of St Giles was built as recently as 1862, replacing an earlier church with the same dedication.
The previous church of St. Giles consisted of a chancel, nave with side aisles, south porch and a bell-cote for two bells on the west end. Some of the piers were of the 12th century while others were of the 13th century; the bell-cote was of the later date. The windows were inserted in the 15th century and later, with the south porch being added after that date.
So, a "new build" and this church used to be very difficult to photograph, due to there being a large tree just inside the church gate. However, during the winter of 2013, the tree became unsafe and was taken down after a large branch fell off and damaged the church roof in the process. Sad to see a lovely old tree go, but a lot safer now and a lot easier to get a clear shot of the exterior!
Both of the bells here date from the time of the previous church. Starting with the oldest of the two, this comes from the Stamford bellfoundry, and was cast by Thomas Norris in 1670. The second bell is a curiousity! If you said to someone interested in church bells that it was cast in Peterborough then the name that would spring to mind would be Henry Penn. Not so here though as this one was cast in 1835 by a Mr Stanley, who had an ironmongers shop in Long Causeway in the city. He passed away in 1856, and the Stanley Recreation ground was named after him. North, in his superb series of books detailing church bells in the area, suggests that this bell might be unique to Stanley. Perhaps the quality might not have been too good as it was marked down as being cracked by the time that North's study was undertaken in the 1860's!
Okay, I mentioned earlier on about the boat being led by a man with a horse, which appears on the village sign. This is a depiction of the Floating Church of Holme, which was famous here in late Victorian and early Edwardian times.
The floating church was the idea of the Revd G Broke B A, who was the Rector of Holme and the idea of a floating church was supported by the Bishop of Ely. who sanctioned the idea in the 1890's. The idea was simple, to get a church in to areas of the fens which were difficult to reach, and where the people who lived were unable to worship.
The boat was dedicated in April 1897. The vessel had no bell but it used to display two flags, the flag of St George and the flag of St Andrew which could be seen at good distances across the Fens. Between April 1897 and October 1904 seventy-four baptisms took place, and a special card used to be issued to those who had been baptised on the floating church.
Apart from its altar, font and cross the floating church had a lectern also used as the pulpit, a harmonium, even a small vestry and, of course, a bilge pump. The vessel was 30 feet long and about 10 feet wide and could accommodate up to 50 worshippers. The congregations were usually very well attended.
It had several large windows which could be folded upwards to allow people on the bank to hear and take part in services. A Floating Church choir was made up from three families and bible classes were held on the vessel and needlework classes for girls......and for any animal lovers out there, the name of the horse that pulled the boat along was Boxer!
In 1897 this fascinating church featured in an article in the Strand magazine which stated "the Floating Church of the Fens is unique, being the only one in the world." Fascinating stuff.
The church here is usually to be found locked. The two photographs of the stained glass were taken at a candlemass service and it was at one of these, with the sun sinking fast, that the photograph of the exterior at the top of this page was taken. This is the first time that I had really been able to see the exterior properly, such was the size of the tree that previously covered it. Victorian churches are not really a great love of mine, to be trithful. But this is a very attractive building and is certainly worth looking at if you are in the vicinity.