TIXOVER : CHURCH OF ST LUKE

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Church Post Code  PE9 3QL

Key available in village

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    Isolated and beautiful, the church of St Luke at Tixover stands on its own, around three quarters of a mile from the rest of the village. Its closest neighbour is a farm and access to the church is through a field. I have seen a few villages like this and the first thought usually is usually that the village was decimated during a plague outbreak. Not so here though as a friendly local informed me that, at some point back in history, the river Welland altered its course and the rest of the village relocated accordingly.

    My first visit here was on a glorious late spring morning in 2007, on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, a heat haze already shimmering over the oilseed rape field. Even at a fairly early hour.. I was armed with a basic digital camera and always wanted to return one day to get some better photographs. The return visit was made in the summer of 2014. The church here is normally kept locked to visitors but a sign in the village saying 'church key' points towards a stone cottage, where the church key can be found hanging on a hook outside.

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The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel. Some attractive views of the church can be found from a minor road which runs to the south of the church, which heads towards neighbouring Wakerley. The church stands Isolated, the river Welland running close by, on its circuitous journey to Stamford. The church tower stands out from the trees; sheep dotted around the field between church and river. This is one of the most pleasant spots to be found within the catchment area of this site.

    The church is dedicated to St Luke, but was also known as the church of St Mary Magdalene in the past. The church here dates back to the early part of the 12th century.  The tower is three stage and battlemented and dates from the early 12th century. An offset window with semi circular arch on the second stage is made up with zig zag designs; a grotesque figure above is now badly weathered with no discernible features remaining.

 The nave and aisles are both short in length relative to the length of the chancel; each having steeply pitched roofs. There are three very small circular clerestory windows, each having a quatre foil design within the roundel. A gargoyle looking out from the east side of the tower pulls open its mouth in medieval gesture of insult; facial features almost entirely weathered away.

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  A single bell of real age hangs here. This was cast by Richard Hille of Aldgate, London in 1430. It is inscribed 'Sancta Fides Ora Pro Nobis' which translates as 'Holy Faith, pray for us'. Some bell founders were itinerant and set up small foundries where they were employed to cast bells for. It may be that the bell here was cast inside the church grounds here.

   The porch dates from the 15th century and a very ancient piece of worked stone is repositioned in to the porch, which may have come from a medieval coffin lid.

A very weathered scratch dial can be seen to the side of the south porch, close by a little graffiti. The initials are hard to read but whoever it was left his or her mark in 1728. I daresay what they saw back then was pretty much what I was seeing the best part of 300 years later. Little will have changed here over the years!

Moving inside, and as has already been said the nave is very short, the arcades to north and south consisting of just two bays. There was a brief, ultimately futile search for the light switch, which given how far the church is from the neighbours almost certainly didn’t exist!

   The chancel and nave both date to the early part of the 13th century. The south aisle dates from the late 12th century whilst the north aisle dates from the early 13th century. The tower arch capital are well carved and elaborately decorated, with different designs on the north and south sides. The font dates from the 13th century and has been defaced. The chancel is plain and simple, less is more, but it does have a large memorial to Roger Dale on the south wall.

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     Roger Dale, died in 1623, with the monument being erected by his wife Margaret. The monument shows Roger and Margaret kneeling on either side of a prayer desk, a cherub looking down over each character. Below this are figures of their two daughters. There is much damage to this monument sadly, with the hands on all of the figures being removed. The head of one of the daughters is also missing, but has been replaced by a roughly carved piece of stone.  An inscription over the top of the monument reads 'Here lies the body of Roger Dale,  a squire who married to his third wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir John Brocket, Kt, by whom he had issue of two daughters, Anne and Frances (here represented) which survived him and two sons and two daughters that died before. He died the 15th day of December 1623'. This is an interesting monument but it not a flattering representation of the deceased, who looks gaunt and drawn, staring out with sightless eyes.

Interesting also that the two sons and two daughters who predeceased Dale are not depicted on the monument. In many cases they are and sometimes a child who has pre deceased their parent or parents are shown carrying a skull.

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  There is not a great deal of stained glass here but what there is of interest. Two panels each have a heraldic lion at each of the four corners. One depicts a crowned female figure with nimbus. The other is interesting. It features a man in what appears to be seventeenth century costume, holding a crown, opposite is a figure at prayer. Both figures are with nimbus. Below this is a depiction of the annunciation. The Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove descends from heaven, to the Virgin Mary, whilst the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary dressed in a Roman toga.

The other panel shows a crowned female figure carrying a sword. This may be a representation of St Margaret.

   A bench is to be found to the south and there are few better places to rest on a warm summer afternoon. The only sound was from the birds, and the pleasant hum of bees. To visit places like this, on a day like this, is why we do what we do. Life is good. Parts of the church grounds are left to grow wild and there are a few nicely crafted gravestones dating from the early 18th century.

This is a lovely church in picturesque surroundings. This would probably go down as being the most isolated church to be found in the catchment area of this site. Best visited in the spring or summer months as I daresay the access gets a bit muddy during the winter. A must visit if you are in the area.

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If you would like to see the page detailing my visit to neighbouring Duddington, please click on the photograph immediately above right to be directed there. This page will open in a different window.