TINWELL : CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS

Church Post Code PE9 3UD

Church normally closed to visitors.

It was a sunny and warm Saturday in August 2022, and a return visit to the church of All Saints at Tinwell. Tinwell can be found just to the west of the A1, close to the Lincolnshire border, with Stamford a short walk away to the south. The river Welland runs to the south of the village as it wends its way towards Stamford; where I was to wend my way to that lunchtime in search of an all day breakfast!

Rutland Water is a few miles off to the west; the less picturesque Ketton Cement Works a short distance off to the south west. This is an area where the visitor can go through four counties in a very short while. A short distance to the south is Easton on the Hill in Northamptonshire with Wittering in Cambridgeshire a little further off to the south east.

  I had company whilst at the church, in the shape of an amiable pensioner who was cutting the church grass. As a gardener by trade it was good to see the mowers out and being used again, following a record breaking summer for heat. We had started the day with a visit to Great Casterton and the damage caused by field fires in the previous weeks still very much visible, including the loss of a combine harvester at one point by all accounts.

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The church here is normally closed to visitors and I was grateful for the help with regards obtaining the key; with an excitable border collie at the key holders meeting me at the door with a partially chewed slipper dangling from his mouth.

   Tinwell was the scene of a serious plane crash during the latter stages of World War II. On 8 July 1944, two C47s collided after taking-off from RAF Spanhoe for an exercise. One crew member managed to parachute safely but eight others and 26 Polish paratroopers of the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade died in the crash. All those killed are commemorated in the church.

  There was no mention of a church here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086; and it is suggested that the original structure was a basic aisleless structure dating from the 12th century. The church that we see today dates mainly from the 13th century, and consists of west tower, nave with south aisle and clerestories, south vestry, north porch and chancel.

 Work was completed here in the fifteenth century with the chancel being rebuilt, clerestory and north porch also being added at that time. The church was restored in 1849.

Evidence of the previous roofline, before the clerestory was added, can be seen on the east wall of the tower. The church clock, in the traditional colours of blue and gold is offset to the east on the north wall of the tower.

   The tower here does not have a spire but has a saddleback roof instead. I was to see another one of these at Eye a couple of weeks later. The latter had theirs built after the spire was taken down but I am not aware of there ever having been a spire here’ It is thought that the upper stages of the tower were added in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century. The chancel is long and low relative to the height of the nave.

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 Four bells hang here with three of the four being made locally, by two different generations of the Norris family from their premises in Stamford.

  The oldest bell is the fourth in the ring which was cast by Tobias Norris I in 1620. Tobias set up the bellfoundry in Stamford in the early 1600's, and it was to remain in business until 1707. The Latin inscription on this bell reads NON SONO ANIMABUS MORTUORUM SED AURIBUS VIVENTIUM. This translates as ‘I sound not for the souls of the dead, but for the ears of the living’.

   Thomas Norris cast two of the other bells here, in 1639 and 1654, with each being inscribed ‘Thomas Norris Made mee’. The remaining bell, the second in the ring, was cast by celebrated Peterborough founder Henry Penn in 1708. This bell is inscribed with the names of the church wardens of the day, Thomas Johnson, George Allen, John Sissen and Henry Goodlad. Penn the following year went on to cast a ring of ten bells for Peterborough cathedral.

   Two of the bells, the one from Tobias Norris I and the one by Henry Penn, were re-cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1883.

There are a series of grotesques against the windows on the south wall of the nave. Included among these is a figure; attractively coated in three different colours of lichen, who appears to be in distress; grimacing, with eyes closed and one hand on his head. Close by in another bizarre creature which resembles a glove puppet from a 1970’s children’s TV programme!

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Moving inside, there is much evidence of the Victorian restoration, with the pews and stained glass all being added during that period. The south arcade is of three bays; it is suggested that there may have been a north arcade here, which is likely to have been taken down in the 15th century. If that was the case, the north aisle would have been very narrow!

The chancel is plain and simple, with the altar having no ornamentation, with a cross and two candlesticks placed on a ledge at the east end, which I imagine would be placed on to the altar on service days. As is nearly always the case these post covid days, two bottle of hand sanitiser were also to be seen on this ledge. Good dating evidence for forthcoming generations!

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A fine monument on the south wall of the chancel is to Elizabeth, the daughter of Richard Cecil. She died aged either 75 or 76 and was buried here in December 1611. The symbolism at the foot of this monument is of interest, with a human skull and crossed bones reminding the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. This is a fairly common symbol, but here it is used in conjunction with a crop of ripened wheat. This was a symbol used to denote a life lived to a full age, which by the standards on those days, this was!

The east window is of three lights and contains Victorian stained glass. Three saints are depicted with these being from left to right, St James the Great, St Peter and St John. I was interested in the depiction of St Peter, who is shown carrying the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter is normally shown with a receding hairline, but here Peter is shown with a full head of hair!

The stained glass on the north wall of the chancel is by Gibbs of London and is beautifully worked but has left me confused. The left hand panel of three depicts a scene from 1 Samuel Chapter 30 verse 18 where David’s two wives are rescued from the Amalekites. The right hand panel shows a scene from Joshua Chapter 10 verses 24 & 25. Here, what appears to be Joshua, points upwards towards Heaven, soldiers in armour before him! Inbetween, soldiers are weeping with a quote from I Corinthians ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’.

I spent some time attempting to think what this window was trying to tell us. There is nearly always a theme of some sorts but this one I found difficult to fathom. The passage from 1 Samuel talks of David’s two wives being rescued from the Amalekites. In the passage from Joshua, the men of Israel were told to put their feet on the necks of five captured Kings who had fought against Israel. Verse 25 reads ‘And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight’.

A brief discussion on my Facebook page looked at this and the consensus was that we see fear and mourning in the central panel, but hope on the panels flanking this with God’s provision and protection shown on each.

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On the south wall of the nave is a representation of faith, hope and charity. Faith is shown holding an anchor; an often used symbol of Christian faith. Hope is shown carrying a Christian cross whilst Charity is shown embracing two children.
At the top of this window is the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God. At the bottom is a depiction of Pelican Piety; in which a pelican tears at its own breast, feeding its chicks with its own blood’ this alluding to Jesus who went to the cross and shed His blood for us.
At the west end of the nave, close to the north doorway, is a Tree of Jesse window; a quite abridged version with Jesse and his wife at the bottom; with King David with harp above. Immediately above this sits King Solomon, majestic on his throne; with Mary and the baby Jesus at the top. As I said, this is very much abridged as according to the genealogy of Jesus to be found in Matthew there were 29 generation between Jesse, the father of David and Joseph the father of Jesus.

At the east end of the south aisle there is a semi circular recess, which may have been connected with an altar which was here at one point; possibly a reredos. There is also a squint on this wall allowing someone at this side altar to be able to see in to the east end of the chancel.

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To be fair, there is little of interest or rarity in the church grounds; but there are some decent chest tombs close to the south wall of the nave and the chancel. No gravestones or tombs are listed but the churchyard wall on the south side, which incorporates a plaque commemorating the dead of both World Wars, does have a Grade II listing.

Typically Rutland; a lovely church in a beautiful village! It was great to have been able to visit. We headed off the short distance to Easton on the Hill, passports in hand as we crossed the Rutland border in to Northamptonshire, thought of lunch already starting to form…

Below I have included a couple of shots taken ten years or so before early om a gloriously bright winter morning.

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