UFFINGTON : CHURCH OF ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS

Church Post Code PE9 4SN

The church is usually open to visitors.

My page for Uffington is being revised in January 2022; Covid has been an unwelcome guest for nearly two years. Sometimes, I think that we only really value something once it has been taken away from us. During lockdown those churches which would normally be open were closed. Our ability to look around our ancient churches was removed for a time.

Perhaps this should have given us a greater appreciation for those people throughout the country who open and close their churches daily; as without these people we would lose our hobby.

I say this because of an episode at the church of St Michael, which to me highlights what some of these people are prepared to do for those visiting their churches; and how we should appreciate what they do!

In 2014 David and I visited the church at Uffington before taking in an evening service at St George, Stamford. The church here was still open but just about to close. The man was there to lock up and he was very gracious in letting us look around, never hurrying us and giving us a history of the church. This was appreciated very much. He was with us for getting on for half an hour. His kindness remains in my memory, as did the obvious love he had for both church and village.

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Seven years later I returned, just before Easter, and with the grounds full of daffodils, and he was there again; again welcoming a visitor with a smile and a chat. Again, he spent time with me and I went away with some fond memories. I recall David and I visiting Geddington in Northamptonshire. A man who may have been Canadian saw us outside, unlocked, and gave us a guided tour. These people love their churches and are keen to show them off; enriching our travels as a result!

I have said before on other pages that the churches are important to us; this is why we do what we do. But also, the people and the animals that we meet along the way are also a big part of the experience.

Uffington is a village of some 500 people; and can be found some two miles east of Stamford, close to that confusing area where Lincolnshire, Rutland Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire all seem to join up together. The river Welland is off to the south and the site of the deserted medieval village at Casewick is off to the north east.

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The church is set amongst the trees, a long path leading up to the south porch, and is one of the most picturesque to be found within the catchment area of this site.  It is thought that there has been a church on this site since Norman times, although nothing remains of that original church. The oldest part of the present building is the north arcade, which was built in the last quarter of the 12th Century. There was work ongoing here over the centuries, with the church being fully restored in 1864.

The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel.  The magnificent west tower dates from 1480; a recessed octagonal, crocketed spire rises from the tower, gargoyles looking out from all four corners. A date of 1639 can be seen carved in to the south face of the tower, the time of restoration. The tower has a fine west doorway, with a carving of a peacock in one of the spandrels above the door.

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There are six bells in the tower, and four of these have the inscription "Thomas Norris Made Me 1640". The Norris family were bellfounders from Stamford. It is thought that Norris re-cast the existing bells the year after the restoration of the tower.

Despite it being late on in the day, the church was still open to visitors when we arrived. The north and south arcades are of three bays, these dating to around 1200. There are some beautiful carvings on the capitals to north and south with the annunciation, Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane and Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden, being easily identified amongst other that aren’t! One other could well be St George slaying the dragon, or St Michael, who slayed a dragon, the embodiment of evil, in Revelation. Given that the church here id dedicated to St Michael, I will go for the latter!

Much of the furnishing in the church are Victorian, dating from the 1864 restoration, the chancel arch also being restored during the 19th century. The tower arch is tall and dates from the 15th century, a more modern screen running up the full height of it.

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The chancel is long and elegant. An effigy of a Knight on the north wall of the chancel is said to be that of Richard De Schropschire, who bought the Manor of Casewick in 1392. This effigy has been vandalised over the years, with a figure "A" seeming to have been carved in to the knight's chest. It also appears that the knight’s facial features have been re-carved at some point.

   Opposite is a monument featuring two men kneeling towards each other. This commemorates the final resting place of Sir Roger Manners, esquire to Queen Mary and then Queen Elizabeth I. The inscription on the monument reads as follows...

'HERE LYES ROGER MANNERS,   ESQUIRE TO THE BODYE TO QUEENE MARYE, AND QUEEN ELIZABETHE, AND THERD SONNE TO THOMAS LATE ERLE OF RUTLAND: ANNO DOMINI  1587.

   Another monument in the chancel shows Laurence Staunton and his wife kneeling with two children behind them. Staunton became the Rector of Uffington in 1587. There is a skull with wings, wearing a crown at the foot of this monument. The skull is an often used symbol of the mortality of Man, with the wings symbolising the passing of time; Tempus Fugit, time flies and it may be later than you think. The crown is a symbol of victory, as is the laurel wreath; with the victory here being over death, this being a testament to the faith of the deceased, who are seen to have won the eternal victory!

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There is a fair amount of stained glass here. The fine east window depicts the crucifixion across the top five lights; Mary Magdalene, long hair flowing and tears running down her face, holding Christ’s feet in anguish.

 The lower five lights cover the Last Supper; a curiously formal portrayal, with everyone keeping their distance. Even John in this depiction is away from Jesus.  As always, I always find the depiction of Judas of interest; here her is without nimbus, looking at the onlooker, clutching a money bag with the figure 30 on it; this being the number of pieces of silver that he betrayed Jesus for.

One interesting window shows three different times that the Samaritans were mentioned. The Samaritans were the sworn enemies of the Jews. First up is the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan helping the stricken Jew who had been attacked. The second is the woman at the well; the third is the Samaritan who said thank you for being healed, the other nine failing to give thanks to God for their healing. I can’t recall seeing the latter in stained glass before. What an interesting window!

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Moving back outside the sun had dropped very low in the sky and the light quality was exceptional. Our friendly guide told us of a large building that had burned down in the early 1900’s. We wandered around, taking a look at some seventeenth century gravestones. All was well with the world. We headed off to Stamford in good spirits.

All was definitely not well with the world on my return; covid had seen to that. This Easter though the grounds were beautiful. Daffodils were in full bloom everywhere you looked, a welcome splash of colour on a drab day. The back end of two dogs stuck out from a clump of daffs; a trail had been put in to the church grounds for the children to follow, which I enjoyed doing very much! Lambs were in the field to the east of the church. All of the photographs below are from my Easter 2021 revisit.

 A church full of history with a big heart! One of my favourite churches within the catchment area of this site! Normally open to visitors.

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If you would like to see the page for my visit to the church of St Margaret, Braceborough, another church in the Uffington Group benefice, please click on the photograph above right. This page will open up in another window.