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Church Post Code LE15 7NF

Open to visitors


It was a gloriously sunny afternoon in February 2023 and we had just arrived in Rutland, having spent the morning visiting churches in Lincolnshire, working from the Bourne area, gradually westerly towards the Rutland border. It had been a good churchcrawl thus far, with the church of St Mary at Greetham being the tenth church of the day visited, with nine of these being open; with a couple of friendly church wardens along the way opening up churches which would otherwise have been closed.

Greetham is a pleasant village, with a population of 683 at the time of the 2011 census. This makes it the 12th largest settlement in Rutland allowing that the Kendrew Barracks at Cottingham is treated as a separate settlement.  Rutland Water is five miles or so off to the south, with Oakham, the largest town in Rutland, a similar distance off to the south south west.

I have spent many afternoons visiting the churches in this area; an area of beautiful countryside, for the most part open churches and friendly people. It was good to be back in Greetham again, having visited with David back in 2015. Fond memories of chatting to a few locals coming out of the church as we arrived; and looking longingly at a tea room in the village close by which was closed on the day and which I never got to experience. One to add to the list of regrets!


A quick look at the Domesday Survey in 1086 shows that the land here was owned by King William and there was no church or priest mentioned here at that time.

The church of St Mary stands in the centre of the village, and consists of west tower with spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel. The church dates from the 13th to 15th centuries, being restored in the late 1850’s and 1897.

The square 13th to 14th century tower has a stair turret to the south west, and the church clock in the traditional colours of blue and gold is set in to the south face; a frieze of carved human heads runs across the top of the tower on all four sides.

A tall, impressive, octagonal broache spire rises up, with three tiers of lucarne windows set to the main compass points.  Moving around slightly, there is the evidence of a previous roof line from pre clerestory days on the east wall of the tower.

The south porch has a date stamp of 1673, with very faded sundial above the door. The clerestory is of three windows, which are irregularly spaced, with a string of very small, cartoonlike grotesque heads running in a string above.

An 18th century wall plaque on the east wall of the chance, with script long since weathered away, has what looks to be a lion standing in a scallop shell at the top. At the foot is a skeletal head, with sunken eyes and a mouth wide open which is devoid of teeth.


When Thomas North compiled his study of the church bells in Rutland, which was published in 1880, there were four bells in the ring here. All four were in a poor state of repair, with only the first of the ring useable; and that only due to the fact that a rope had been attached directly to the clapper.

The first of the ring was dated 1741, being cast by Joseph Eayre of St Neots. This one is inscribed ‘LABOR IPSE VOLUPTAS’ which translates as ‘the pleasure is in the work itself’. This also has on it the name Thomas Parker, the church warden of the day.

The second was cast by Alexander Rigby of the Stamford bellfoundry. Rigby took over the running of the foundry here from Tobias Norris III until this foundry closed in 1708.

The third of the ring is dated 1658, and has the initials IS and RC on it. North notes that this bell has a shield stamped on it used by the Stamford bellfoundry and this therefore is liable to be the work of Thomas Norris; as was the fourth which is inscribed ‘Thomas Norris Made Mee 1650’.

North completes his report by saying that the bell frames are several inched deep in dung, with the second and third of the ring being badly damaged for upwards of 40 years.

It is no surprise then to see that there was a complete recasting here, with the four bells melted down and recast, making for an increased of five bells with all being cast by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon in 1923; the new bells being cast as a memorial to the men of the parish who fell in the First World War.


The church here was open to visitors; moving inside, the light quality was excellent, with the sun streaming in through the south windows. There are pews to the eastern end of the nave, which I suspect date from the late Victorian restoration, with modern stacking chairs to the western end. On my previous visit here, back in 2015, the piers on both north and south aisles were draped in poppies, as the village remembered the fallen of 100 years ago.

The north aisle is of four bays, with slender octagonal piers and capitals. A small section of medieval wall painting is visible between two of the arches. The south aisle is of three bays, dating from around 1300, with again octagonal piers and capitals.

A painted hatchment from the early 19th century is set against the north wall of the nave, this telling those looking on to ‘Fear God and Honour the King’. An altar is set up at the east end of the north aisle, with the east window there being of clear glass.

A wall plaque close to the pulpit is a memorial to Robert Cumbrey, dated 1725, which has some fine artwork on it. A scallop shell, an often used Christian symbol, is central at the top. Below that are two angels, who pull apart a curtain so that we can see the details of the deceased.

The church organ is to be found at the eastern end of the south aisle. At the western end of the south aisle, some ancient stonework has been saved and built in to the wall; I daresay that this was done during one of the periods of Victorian restoration.


Moving in to the chancel; some finely carved 17th century screens can be seen on the three walls, forming a dado. There are Bible scenes carved on to these, including the Garden of Eden and Daniel in the Lions Den.

There is stained glass here, but not the in east window, which is of clear glass, but with a coloured band edging the panes.

On the north wall of the nave we have a depiction of the nativity. Mary the mother of Jesus is central, with the baby Jesus on her knee. Joseph is present but standing off to one side a little, holding a staff and carrying firewood. The wise men present their gifts with the scene covered with flowers and birds.

Elsewhere we have four panels depicting the Four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The depiction of St Luke is worth noting; as he is depicted with an artist’s palette. He is the Patron Saints of artists and Christian legend states that he once painted a picture of Mary with the Christ child.

The other stained glass here shows St Christopher carrying Jesus as a child across a river, with Jesus shown with blonde curly hair! The legend here states that St Christopher devoted his life carrying the weak across a river. One day he carried across a child who was unknown to him. St Christopher felt his burden grow with each step. When questioned, the child said that he was Jesus and that St Christopher was bearing the weight of the world. This panel is to be found in the south aisle; traditionally the normal place for a wall painting of St Christopher would be on the north wall of the nave, opposite the south porch.

The font is impressive, and very ancient, dating from around 1200. It was restored in the Victorian restoration and features heads carved at the corners. It is said that one of the heads on the font was carved by Rev. Henry. de Foe Baker, the great grandson of author Daniel Defoe.


Moving outside, there are some finely carved 18th century gravestones in the interesting church grounds, with the light conditions highlighting the orange lichen found on many of the stones. The grounds themselves were a mass of snowdrops!

On our previous visit here, an area of the grounds had been cordoned off with crosses erected, which had photographs on them of the local soldiers who fell in World War One; our visit being during that four year period when the country remembered the fallen a hundred years on.

I recall visiting Earls Barton church just as a service of remembrance was about to take place. This short service took place on the 100th anniversary of the death of each soldier, with a number of services scheduled to take place during that four year period!

 Just to pick out a few of the gravestones has an hourglass, reminding the onlooker of the passage of time and the inevitability of death. This gravestone also has a carving of a heart pierced by an arrow, this symbolising love and bereavement, a show of affection for a loved one lost more than 250 years ago.  A carving of a human skull has winds, this symbolising the mortality of Man and the inevitability of death, and the flight of the soul towards Heaven.

Close by, two angels hold aloft a crown. The crown is a symbol of victory, with the victory here being over death. This can be seen as a testimony as to the faith of the deceased.


It was good to spend a little time enjoying the sun and admiring what it a most impressive church. There are some good shots to be had from the west, from outside the grounds on an area of green. It was time to move on, in the direction of Wing, on the other side of Rutland Water. I was looking forward to the drive there to be honest, taking in some glorious scenery on the loveliest of afternoons! It was turning in to a lazy day. A day off of work and a time to enjoy the peace and solitude; and to my mind, there is nowhere better to do that than in Rutland.

The church here is open to visitors, as are the majority of churches in this area. A rewarding day’s churchcrawling can be had here should you wish! All photographs used on this page is from my February 2023 visit, with the exception of those taken in the church grounds, which were from a visit in October 2014. The photographs at the foot of the page shows what the church here did to remember those from the parish who fell a hundred years ago!

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