BRACEBOROUGH : CHURCH OF ST MARGARET
Church Post Code PE9 4NT
The church is normally open to visitors
It was a beautifully sunny, frosty Saturday morning in late January 2022, and it was time to revisit a few churches in the Uffington Group of churches benefice. I had started off at Carlby, before crossing the county line in to Rutland, taking in Essendine, before re-entering Lincolnshire, and starting on the Uffington benefice churches, with Braceborough the destination.
The plan here was to get dropped off at Carlby; my cycle being in the back of Gary’s van, and head off through this little cluster of churches which can be found at the southern end of the rough triangle formed by Stamford, Market Deeping and Bourne. As it turned out, the cycle was still in Gary’s van as we reached Braceborough, and was to still there until we reached Tallington an hour or so later.
Braceborough is a small, very pleasant village which can be found just to the east of the main road which links Stamford to Bourne. The population is included with that of neighbouring Wilsthorpe; the church spire of which is visible a short distance away across the fields, with 305 people being recorded at the time of the 2011 census.
There is plenty of history here. A stone Roman coffin was found here, which now sits close to the porch at Greatford church. Braceborough was mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The village here was popular in Victorian times for a healing spa, which closed down in 1939. There was also a railway station here, known as Braceborough Spa Halt, which closed in 1951, along with the rest of the Bourne to Essendine line.
The church of St Margaret consists of western tower, nave, chancel and south porch. There are no aisles or clerestories here, although a little background research before putting this page live does suggest that there may have been aisles and chapels here in the past.
Before I start on the church, note should be made that there were pigeons perched on just about every suitable surface on the broach spire. This is obviously the place to be on a Saturday morning. This was like a pacifist remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s’ ‘The Birds!’
The church here dates back to the 14th century, with additions during the 15th century. The chancel was rebuilt in 1859. The west tower is of two stages, with buttressing up to the top of the lower stage. There is a clock to the west face, which appears to be missing a hand, unless it was one handed to start with, which read the same time as when I was here in 2013! An octagonal broach spire rises up from the tower, with a single tier of lucarne windows.
This is not the easiest church to photograph from the south due to trees. The south porch has a small date stamp of 1662 on it, although the arch at the top of the door pre dates that. There are four large three light windows running the length of the nave; the labels stops on these are in the form of creatures with tongues hanging out. The chancel has a date of 1859 on it and is in the shape of an apse, being built, very tastefully by Kirk of Sleaford.
There are five bells in the ring here, with all five cast by Taylor of Loughborough. North, in his Victorian study of the church bells in Lincolnshire noted that there were three here, all cast by Taylor and dated 1845. He also noted that there were only two bells here prior to that date.
It looks as if the two existing bells were melted down and recast in to a ring of three; two more being added to the ring in 1896 from the same founder. I have checked the internet and not found any details as to who cast the original bells, with North not mentioning it in his notes.
The church here was open to visitors. Moving inside, the nave is very long and I noticed that the kneelers are only set out on the first three rows of pews to north and south. Perhaps this indicates that the congregation only used these three rows for Sunday worship.
It appears as if just about all of the fitting and fixtures here are Victorian or more recent, with the possible exception of the font, which is very crisply carved and almost certainly not as ancient as it would appear at first glance.
The Victorian chancel is exquisite! There are three, two light windows, which arc around with the curve of the apse. The reredos is of three boards, which also allows it to cure around. Commandment boards are at either ends of the windows. A plaque to the south of the chancel arch reminds those entering that ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them’.
There is stained glass in all three windows. In the north window are depictions of the Annunciation and the nativity. Central left is Jesus with the communion bread and wafer, ‘I am the bread of life’ written below. The right hand panel shows Jesus cradling a sheep around His shoulders ‘Feed my sheep’ is the wording below.
To the south are the crucifixion and the ascension. For whatever reason, my camera played up whilst shooting this panel and the result was not useable; so in the finest tradition of sole traders blaming their tools, I blame my camera (even though I am sure I was to blame).
A three light window on the south wall of the nave was created by Kempe, and features St Luke, St Paul and St Mark. St Luke writes in a book using a quill. St Mark holds open a book and shows us the Latin which I think reads ‘a voice calling in the wilderness’. St Paul holds a sword by the hilt, point down, and not missing his toes by much to be honest. He also holds open a book; showing us the script that I just cannot decipher!
I know that I am probably looking at things with a modern eye, so to speak, but I get very frustrated when struggling to read the Latin. It is fine it being in Latin; it can be translated, but when it is hard to even sometimes to tell what the letters are then we risk missing out on the message. Paul is obviously showing and telling us something, but sadly I couldn’t tell you what it is!
Below this are three scenes detailing events in the few days after the crucifixion, with all three detailing moments of realisation for Jesus’ followers that He had indeed risen from the dead, and that He was what He claimed to be! We start off with the angel appearing to the women outside Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning; ‘He is not here He is risen’.
Central is Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene ‘Rabboni’ says the script above her as she recognises for the first time that Christ has risen. The third panel details Jesus sat with the two followers at the road to Emmaus. The bread and wine are on the table and the followers eyes are about to be opened!
The church grounds are interesting, and there are a few gravestones here which date back to the late 17th century, with stones to two members of the Spiser family coming from the latter years of that century, with each of these having its own Grade II listing. Also worth noting is a cloud with rays coming out of it and an eye in the midst of the cloud. I think that this is the all seeing eye and could well be Masonic. I have only ever seen two or three of these, and none other within the catchment area of this site.
A font can be seen in the church grounds, which was filled with daffodils on a previous visit. If this was the original font from this church then it gives credence to the thought that the font currently inside the church is a more modern one!
The church of St Margaret was open to visitors and is well worth a look at. There are several other churches close by and this is, by and large, an area of open and welcoming churches.
If you would like to see the page detailing my visit to the church of St Faith, Wilsthorpe, the neighbouring village, please click on the photograph immediately above right to be directed there. This page will open up in another window.