WEST DEEPING : CHURCH OF ST ANDREW

Church Post Code PE6 9HU

The church is normally open to visitors

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The first time that I visited West Deeping was back in 2007, and I entered the village from the south from neighbouring Maxey. I stopped at the bridge at the entrance to the village; the church of St Andrew off to the west set back from the main road, the church reflecting in the nearby river Welland. It was a bright December morning. What a glorious sight!

I took an immediate liking to this church, and the village, and for several years, whenever I was in the area on the cycle, West Deeping was where I stopped off to rest. What few people I ever saw there were pleasant and the church was always open. These places are to be treasured.

West Deeping is one of four settlements which can be found clustered around the banks of the Welland. Market Deeping and Deeping St James will be covered on this site. Deeping St Nicholas is a way over to the east and is out of this site’s catchment area.

The village population was 277 at the time of the 2011 census. The main road through the village is King Street, the old Roman road, which ran from Castor to Ancaster.  Stamford is five miles or so off to the west; Market Deeping a couple of miles to the east. The beautiful Tallington Lakes are a short distance off to the north. A beautiful area!

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The church of St Andrew consists of west tower, with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel. The church grounds are quite tight and tree lined and, to be honest, some of the best views of the exterior are to be had from that vantage point on the bridge a few hundred yards away.

The west tower dates back to the 14th century; is perpendicular and of three stages. It is heavily buttressed. The top of the tower is battlemented, with crocketed pinnacles at all four corners. A recessed octagonal, crocketed broach spire rises up from the tower.  The tower is at its best from the west, but views here are restricted due to water which flows close to the west end.

Gargoyles, including the obligatory mouth puller, can be seen on the nave, the south wall of which is rendered. The earliest parts of the present structure date back to the early 13th century, and there was much building work ongoing here through the 13th and 14th centuries. The south doorway dates back to the 13th century.

Entry in to the church is through a south porch, which dates back to the 19th century. The church was open, that first day I visited, and in possibly eight visits since that time I have never found it closed. I did one cycle out at Easter 2021, and the church here was open when some others in the area were closed due to covid reasons. An open church can be a valuable Christian witness, especially in times of crisis, which this undoubtedly was.

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Moving inside, it was bright and welcoming, sunlight streaming in through the clerestory windows. There are three bay arcades to north and south, which date from the early 13th century. The chancel arch is also from the 13th century. It looks as if the vast majority of the fittings here are Victorian. Looking to the west, the tower arch is tall and elegant, dating from the 14th century. Several carved faces look out from the nave, including one impish figure with ferocious front teeth.

A glance upwards will show a couple of dates and some initials, these being from periods of restoration.  To the left is carved F Figg 1803, who was the church warden of the day. To the right, and of more historical interest possibly is CI RW CW (church warden) 1676. What times these latter would have lived through. If they were aged, say 40 years, they would have lived through the English Civil War, the execution of Charles I and the restoration of the monarchy. They would have been alive when the country was hit by the bubonic plague.

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There is lots of interesting stained glass here, of very good quality. The east window is of three lights, and the central panel depicts the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God.  The lamb wears a nimbus; with blood pouring from the lamb in to a chalice. The disciples can be seen to either side, mostly kneeling, some at prayer and others holding out crowns to the lamb.

Oddly, there are five disciples to either side. I could understand 11 disciples being depicted, if Judas had gone and before Matthias was elected in his place but I am not sure why there are only ten here.

On the north wall of the chancel there is a two light window; a depiction of St Peter shows him carrying a very large key to the Kingdom of Heaven. The other panel shows St James The Great, who is, amongst other things, the patron saint of Pilgrims. St James is normally depicted with scallop shell.  The scallop shell was used as a Christian symbol due to its structure. There are several lines on the shell which converge at a central point.  In the same way there are many paths in our lives but the central point for us all is Christ.

Personally, my favourite stained glass here is the annunciation. The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary, with long flowing golden hair and brilliant vibrant colours on his wings, contrasted with delicate pastel shades on his nimbus.  Mary receives the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, hands crossed over her chest.

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The chancel was restored in Victorian times. The altar itself is plain; with the eastern end of the chancel on all three sides being tiled. The reredos is quite tall, and partially obscures the bottom of the central panel of the east window.  It incorporates the cross at the centre. There are monuments to the Figg family, one member of that family being recorded on the wooden beam of the roof as mentioned earlier.

The chancel ceiling is Victorian and of great interest, with two rows of symbols connected with the crucifixion. There is the cross itself, nails, hammer and pliers. We have a cockerel (as Jesus predicted that before the cock crowed twice, Peter would deny Him three times). There is a torch, which I daresay records that Jesus’ arresting party was led by Judas at night. The sword would be there to remember that Peter fought back at the arrest, cutting off the ear of Malchus, the high priests servant. A hand basin records that Pilate symbolically washed his hands of Jesus fate.

The whip reminds the onlooker of the scourging before crucifixion. The crown of thorns records what Jesus was forced to wear. The sponge and hyssop stick were offered to Jesus shortly before death and Jesus’ garment is whole, this fulfilling the scripture which said that the soldiers would cast lots for his garment rather than tear it.

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There are some finely crafted gravestones in the church grounds, but to be fair nothing of any great rarity or interest. The stones are packed in tightly here, with all the available space being taken.  One table tomb, dated 1777, to the south of the nave has a Grade II listing.

 If you read through all of the pages on this site, you will rarely hear me say anything derogatory about any of the churches. I am here to appreciate them, and to attempt to pass on that love to others. I really do care for this church though. It is one of my favourites to be found in the catchment area of this site. Open, friendly, welcoming and full of interest. Well worth looking at if you are anywhere in the area.

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If you would like to see the page for my visit to the nearby church of St Thomas of Canterbury, Greatford, please click on the photograph immediately above left. To visit the page for the church of St Lawrence, Tallington, click on the photograph above right. These pages will open up in another window.