BARHOLM : CHURCH OF ST MARTIN OF TOURS

Church Post Code PE9 4RE

The church here is normally closed to visitors

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I revisited the church of St Martin at Barholm, on a beautifully sunny late January day in 2022. There was not a cloud in the sky and the early morning frost had just about burned off. I had made several visits to the church here over the years, and it had become a favourite of mine.

Fond memories of arriving here on the first day of a week long cycling churchcrawl in 2009; just sitting in the church grounds and watching approaching storm clouds roll in, just enjoying the peace and the calm before I headed over to my digs for the week on the other side of Bourne.

Barholm can be found a little way to the west of the busy A15, which connects Bourne to Peterborough. West Deeping is a little way off to the south, with Bourne six miles or so off to the north. There was a village here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, but there doesn’t appear to be any mention of a church; which may be a little odd given that the blocked, round headed, south door to the east of the south porch appears to date from the 11th century. The south wall of the nave and possibly the lower stages of the tower also date from that period.

The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north aisle, south porch, north vestry and chancel. The tower is square and is of three stages. It is buttressed up to the top of the second stage, with the top battlemented and pinnacled; sunlight reflecting off of the golden cockerel on the top.

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The tower had an interesting inscription on it. In between a date stamp, which reads 1648, and the church clock on the south face of the tower, a plaque reads ‘Was ever such a thing since the creation a new steeple built in the time of vexation’.

That year England experienced a further eruption of violence known as the Second Civil War, with rebellions in favour of the king breaking out in many parts of England and Wales. Whilst things were being destroyed in many other parts of the country; in sleepy Barholm they were having their tower rebuilt!  Another date stamp of 1855 can be seen on the parapet at the top of the tower, this being the date of further rebuilding.

Three bells hang in the ring here, with each being of great age and interest. The church bell database for the Diocese of Lincoln states that the first bell here comes from an unknown founder and dates to the 14th century. The second and third of the ring are from Robert Newcombe of Leicester, with both being dated to around 1550. This would be Robert Newcombe I who was a founder between 1520 and 1561.

It is worth pointing out that some bell founders were itinerant, setting up a small foundry in the church grounds that they were casting for. It may be that the bells here could have actually been cast in the church grounds.

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The church here is part of the friendly and welcoming Uffington Group of Churches; and was not due to be open that day. I had arranged to have a key available but in the end when I arrived on the day, the church was open for cleaning. It was good to be able to see inside again. The only time that I had been inside this church previously was late on in the day, on a beautiful summer evening, several years before. The light was fading and I was surprised to see the church still open. The photographs on the day suffered due to the light and it was good to be able to see it in decent daylight.

The south porch dates to the late 13th century, which leads in to the south doorway, which is mid 12th century. This has scalloped capitals and three orders of chevron moulding. The tympanum below features a repeated zig zag pattern.

Moving inside, the visitors’ attention is immediately caught by the late 12th century, three bay north arcades; which have round piers with square capitals with scallop design. The arches themselves are beautifully carved with zig zag patterns. A small, stern looking face looks down from one capital at those in the nave.

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An oak screen separates nave from chancel, this dating from 1913. Over the top of this screen, just under the chancel arch, is a carving of the crucifixion. Looking at this from a certain angle the onlooker can see a couple of the angels on the chancel roof overseeing the scene!

On the east wall of the north aisle, a wall monument depicts three human skull and assorted bones, reminding the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. A brass plaque from 1641, to one Francis Fordham passes on the same message ‘Reader heare underlies my friend Who as he lived so did he end His dayes in peace expecting then A blessed resurrection when His God should please so let us all From earth we came to earth we shall’

The font here is of great interest, dating back to the 12th century, with decoration of circles and flowers, with other decoration including dogtooth pattern at the top. This is thought to have come from the church at neighbouring Stowe, which was demolished in the late 1700’s.

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There is some interesting stained glass to be seen here.  The east window depicts Jesus, with hand raised in blessing, surrounded by flaming aureole, with chalice and host below, which are again framed with fire. Some script reads ‘Salutaris Hostia ’which are words from a hymn by Thomas Aquinas.

There are figures to left and right. The figure to the right as we look at it is easy enough, with St Peter holding the key to the Kingdom of Heaven. However, the figure on the left has me puzzled. There is a sword at the top of this panel, to give a clue but there are several saints that have this symbol. Perhaps, logically, it could be St Martin of Tours, after who this church is dedicated, who cut his cloak, sharing it with a beggar!

Elsewhere, the risen Christ, again ringed with fire, emerges from the tomb on Easter morning; Roman soldiers all asleep, with a series of crosses silhouetted in the pre dawn sky off in the background.

One other thing of note is a panel which shows a Bishop carrying a depiction of Lincoln Cathedral. This is St Hugh, who helped to start off the rebuilding work on the cathedral, which had been badly damaged by an earthquake in 1185. He is shown with a swan leaning up against him. Legend states that Hugh made a friendship with a swan, which protected him and attacked anyone else who went near him.

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The chancel shows much Victorian restoration, with an angel roof dating from that period. A series of angels line the north and south walls of the chancel; wings spread wide, but truncated where there is a wall in the way. They carry shields, on which are symbols of the crucifixion.

On one shield is a spear, torch, hyssop stick and sword, the latter possibly referring to where Peter cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant Malchus. One has Jesus’ tunic and a dice; one further has a ladder and crown of thorns. Another has the cross, hammer, nails and pliers; with a whip and cockerel on another, the latter referring to Jesus predicting that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed twice. I think that the final one is a money bag, which would certainly fit; referring to the 30 pieces of silver that Judas was paid to betray Jesus.

One final shield carries a crown, along with the Chi Rho symbol. This looks like a large X with a P going through it; chi and rho being the first two letters of the Greek word Christos.

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In the church grounds, a churchyard cross dates from 1915, in memory of a fallen soldier. This has Christ at the top and a depiction of a First World War soldier a little further down. The church grounds are well maintained and looked at their best in what was fabulous light quality.

Pre covid, the church here was open to visitors. I am not sure that this is the case at the time of putting this page together at the end of January 2022. This is a lovely church, and well worth taking a look at if you are in the area.

If you would like to see the page detailing my visit to the church of St Lawrence of Rome, Tallington please click on the photograph immediately above on the left To visit the page for the church of St Thomas of Canterbury, Greatford please click on the photograph above centre. To visit the page for  the church of St Margaret on Antioch, Braceborough please click on the photograph above right. These pages will each open up in a different window.