Early Autumn 2013 and the most gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon and a return visit to the church of St Faith at Wilsthorpe, South Lincs. Wilsthorpe is a tiny, picturesque village, some four miles south of Bourne. Lots of history here, with a major Roman road, King Street, runs close by and it is thought that there was a large Roman villa at one end of the village.
This is the only church dedicated to St Faith in the catchment area of this site. Faith's story is an interesting one. At the age of around 12, a young Christian girl named Foy refused to make a sacrifice to pagan gods and was put to death by the occupying Roman authorities on the orders of the Governor Dacien, who had her roasted and then beheaded. Other versions of the story record a miraculous shower of rain extinguishing the fire and necessitating the subsequent beheading.
This is not an old church, with the current structure being built in the early 18th Century, after an earlier building was pulled down in 1715. The church was altered in the 1860's with the work apparantly not going down too well with the locals! The work was undertaken by James Fowler, architect, and five times mayor of Louth, who did work on several churches in Lincolnshire.
The church here is kept open to visitors, as are several in this area. Inside, the church is simple bright and elegant, and is very attractive, especially with the sun streaming in through the south windows. There is a gallery built over the porch. Something that I did notice was some more ancient grafitti with many names carved in to the stonework on the inside, on either side of the main doorway. This follows on from seven days previously, when I saw exactly the same at Morton church just a few miles away. Just shows that vandalism is not a purely modern day problem!
In the chancel is a recumbant effigy of a knight in chain mail, whose feet rest on a dog. It is thought that dates from the late 13th century and might be to a member of the Wake family. This again has been defaced over the years by people carving their initials in to it. This looks to be the only item in the church that might have been rescued from the previous church at Wilsthorpe.
One very striking monument commemorates the Curtis family, who were Lords Of The Manor in the eighteenth century. This beautiful plaque, with three angels at the top probably symbolising the Holy Trinity. Piles of books can be seen just below the angels, and as members of the family were in the legal profession, I am assuming that these represent legal volumes. One of the Curtis family recorded here is Edward, who funded the building of the present structure.
Pinned up in the church is a poster with helpful hints to those who worship listed. Amongst the 'helpful hints' are 4.'Do not look around every times the door opens' 7.'Do not whisper to your neighbour' and 8.'Keep your thoughts fixed'. Well, as a practicing Christian I can tell you that I am certainly lacking in each of those commandments...and most of the others listed as well!
There is one bell hanging here, which was cast by Llewellin and James of Bristol in 1907. This is a founder that I have not come across before. When North compiled his Victorian study of Lincolnshire church bells, he noted that there used to be three bells hanging here. Of the three, one was still hanging, and was dated 1716 with the name Thomas Styles, the church warden of the day inscribed on it. I assume that this bell was recast by Llewellin and James in 1907. Of the other two, one had been broken up at some point and the other, which was damaged and without inscription, was in the coach house at Greatford Rectory.
Out in the church grounds it was all peace and quiet, with just the gentle buzzing of the bees and some birds off in the distance. There was no noise at all other than that. Whilst my friend was still inside the church I spent an enjoyable few minutes trying to photograph a dragonfly on one of the gravestones.
With the previous church here being situated on a different site, there is nothing in the church grounds that pre dates 1715. In fact, I would say that there has been a graveyard clearance at some point here as there appeared to be little from the first half of the 18th century at all. A little research shows that the parish registers only exist from 1754 and it is possible that there may have been no right of burial until a specific time such as there was at places such as Werrington. That is purely a guess on my part and have nothing to back that up.
The church grounds are well maintained. Nothing of great interest though, with the exception of one good example of a deaths head stone, the large human skull pictured designed to convay the message to the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die.
This is one of the smaller churches to be fo found within the catchment area of this site, and it is also one of my favourites. Always a delight to be here.