BAINTON : CHURCH OF ST MARY.

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Church Post Code  PE9 3AQ

usually open to visitors

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I have visited the church of St Mary, Bainton a few times over the years; always popping in when visiting its illustrious neighbour at Barnack. There is no wow factor here; just a fairly basic structure which, in pre covid days, was always open friendly and welcoming.

The odd person or two connected with the church here that I saw over the years when visiting were proud of their church, and proud of the fact that it was open. It must have hit the church here and others like them, very hard when the doors had to be closed.

Photographs included on this page, are from a sunny January day in 2022, but I am going to start off with an Easter Saturday 2021 visit; when I was dropped off with the cycle at Uffington and took in around 10 churches on a very circuitous ride home.

The church was open, with half a dozen ladies inside, cleaning in readiness for the following day’s service. This was a special weekend for them, as this was to be their first in person service for around 14 months. A sign up on the door stated ‘Yes, we’re back!’ I have travelled when possible through the pandemic and it has been interesting to watch things gradually start to open up again.

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Bainton can be found some seven and a half miles north west of Peterborough, and four miles east of Stamford. The church is set alongside the main road which runs from Helpston to the east, through to Stamford, tucked behind trees which make getting a clear shot of the whole of the exterior a challenging task.

It is always good to pay a visit here, but possibly the best time is early spring, when the leaves are not yet on the trees and the grounds themselves are a mass of colour with the spring bulbs.

Close to the church, to the south west, is the village butter cross.  This medieval cross is mounted on top of four large steps, with just a base and a small section of shaft left; this being capped by a stone ball. The church and the butter cross are each depicted on the village sign, which is dated 2000.

The church here dates back to the early 13th century. The structure that we see today consists of west tower with spire, nave with north aisle, south porch and chancel.

The west tower is square and heavily buttressed, with an octagonal broach spire rising up from it with two tiers of lucarne windows. A frieze of a repeated ball flower design separates tower from spire. The church clock is attached to the south face of the tower. Some good shots of the tower are to be had from outside the church grounds, on the road that leads north to neighbouring Tallington; the spire of St Mary visible above the Old School House, which dates from the 18th century and which has a Grade II Listing in its own right.

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There are four bells in the ring here, with the first three all being cast locally, by the Stamford bellfoundry. The first of the ring was cast by Tobias Norris I in 1604; this being before the Stamford foundry was set up in 1617. This is one of the earliest bells cast by Tobias I, and he would have been approximately 18 years old when he cast this.

Part of the inscription on this reads ‘Cun Voco Ad Ecclesiam Venite’ which translates as ‘Come to the church when I call’.  The second of the ring is dated 1702 and was cast by Alexander Rigby. This one is right at the end of the Stamford Bell foundry’s history, with Rigby taking over for a few years after Tobias Norris III had passed away.  This bell is inscribed with the names T Beaver and P Nottingham, the church wardens of the day.

The third is from Thomas Norris and is dated 1652. This has the initials FH and PF, who again would have been the church wardens of the day.

There is real age to the fourth, this being cast by William Chamberlain of Aldgate, London who was an active founder between 1426 and 1456. It is thought that this bell dates to circa 1440. Obviously, in those days it was a considerable journey from London and there were founders much closer, such as at Leicester and Nottingham. Some founders were itinerant and set up foundries within the grounds of the churches that they were casting for. I am not saying that is the case here, but it might have been that this bell was cast on site, as many were.

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The wide south porch dates from the 15th century, leading to the inner door, above which is an image niche, in which can be seen the head and shoulders of a female figure wearing what appears to be a crown. I daresay that this would be Mary, crowned as the Queen of Heaven; especially as this church is dedicated to her.

The nave is long and low, no clerestories here, and the same can be said for the chancel. A single gargoyle, with bulging eyes and weathered ears, looks shocked; possibly owing to the more modern spout which emerges from its stomach.

Moving inside, there was no one around on this January revisit and it was good to take a look around without getting in anyone’s way; and being able to photograph the chancel without the Henry being there!

The visitor to this church is greeted by a board, on which is words from the book of John, Chapter 13 verses 35 -35, which reads ‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’

The north aisle and arcades date from the early 13th century.  The arcade is of four bays, but a little closer look shows that the western day has a pointed arch rather than the more rounded arch of the other three; this western bay dating from the 14th century. The font here is octagonal and plain and of great age; dating back to the 13th century. For those interested, the blue cover in the north aisle is covering the nativity scene, which I assume was waiting to be put back in to storage following epiphany.

The 15th century chancel is long and brightly lit; with two perpendicular three light windows in the east and south walls, each containing clear glass. There is a small image niche at the northern end of the east wall which contains a small, modern statue of the Virgin Mary.  The reredos consists of three commandment boards.

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There is a couple of interesting wall monuments worth noting. One is to Robert Henson, who was the Returning Officer for the Burrough of Stamford in 1734. He died in 1755, aged 69 years and was described as obtaining the ‘Applause of all fine and honest men : Bribes not being able to corrupt, promises seduce nor threats deter him from doing his duty’.

Close by, is a memorial to one Mary Henson. She died in 1805 aged 49 years. The sculpture depicts a male figure in mourning, head in hand, leaning against a funeral urn, dressed in Roman toga. This was carved by Sir Richard Westmacott, a prominent sculptor of the day.

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This is a really nice church, open and welcoming and perhaps a little in the shadow of its illustrious neighbour, Barnack. Both are usually open to visitors so why not visit both if you are in the area, and don’t forget that Helpston is also close by and was another to be regularly open; at least pre covid!