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Church Post Code PE10 0UJ

Normally closed to visitors


It was mid May 2022 and a return visit to see the church of St Andrew, Haconby. Haconby is a small, very pleasant village which can be found on the western edge of the Lincolnshire fens, three miles north of Bourne.

I have spent a fair bit of time here over the years; being based a short distance away during several Lincolnshire churchcrawls. The Hare and Hounds was a regular visit for me and I have less than fond memories of sitting in the church grounds at neighbouring Morton, one glorious Friday evening, a little worse for wear on cider; attempting to sober up before heading back to my digs.

The Roman Carr Dyke runs to the east of the village, and the village was mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086, with a church and a priest mentioned in land owned by Heppo the Bowman.

There was a Baptist church here, which is now a private house, which has an unusual story. It was built in the 1860’s and the builders read the plans wrong. It turned out smaller than required; and unable to seat the intended 100 persons. To counter this they incorporated a balcony on three sides, with people being able to shake hands across the gap between the two side balconies! It is said that this is the smallest chapel in England to have balconies such as this.


The church here is normally closed to visitors, but I had arranged to have the church opened, for which I was really grateful. This was my first trip out since getting over covid. It was good to be out and about again. This was very much a mini crawl, which started off with a look around St John the Baptist at Morton, before walking the mile or so north to Haconby.

The church of St Andrew sits right on the western edge of Haconby fen, with the tower of Morton church visible off to the south across the flat Lincolnshire landscape. The church that we see today dates from the late 12th, into the early 13th centuries, and consists of west tower, with recessed octagonal spire, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, north porch and chancel with north chapel.

St Andrew suffered structural damage during the 2008 Lincolnshire earthquake, which had its epicentre close to Market Rasen. Along with Haconby, the churches at Witham on the Hill and Caythorpe all had their spires damaged and I can remember visiting here a few weeks later and seeing the church covered in scaffolding.

The tower dates from around 1300 and is most attractive, with bands of alternating ironstone and limestone. There are pinnacles on each corner of the tower, with a recessed octagonal spire, with three tiers of ornate lucarne windows.

A frieze across the top of the tower features a repeated design of a diamond within a circle, below which, surrounding the tower, are rows of heads. Most are human with several appearing to be in distress. One headless figure appears to be at prayer and off to the north west corner is a dog. Perhaps this might have been a beloved pet of a stonemason a few hundred years ago.


The north porch is battlemented, as is the nave. On the north side, nave flows seamlessly in to north chapel, which dates from the late 15th century, with this chapel having three impressive three light windows and its own entrance.

The church was struck by lightning and damaged in 1877 and the church was restored at the end of the 19th century.

There is a ring of four bells here, with all dating from the 16th century. The first three of the ring were cast by Henry Oldfield II of Nottingham. The first is inscribed ‘Feare God and Keepe His Lawe’. The second reads ‘God Save Our Quene’ with the Queen here being Elizabeth I. The third is inscribed ‘God Save His Church’

The fourth of the ring is a little older, and is attributed to Mellours of Nottingham. This has inscribed on it ‘Ihesus’ (Jesus). This is liable to be the work of Richard Mellours who was a founder between 1507 and 1523. I would think that there are very few churches which have bells that have rings that have been unchanged for this many years.


Entrance is through the south door. The interior is bright and welcoming, with clear glass throughout the nave and the only stained glass to be found on the east window. There are three bay arcades to the north and south with the pointed chancel arch dating from the 13th century. A red carpet runs throughout the nave and up to the altar.

The church organ is housed at the east end of the south aisle; a window of clear glass at the east end of the north aisle allows views in to the north chapel. The pulpit is charming, rustic in design with painted panels. This is said to date back to the 14th century.

 Standing at the chancel arch and looking west, the late 12th century drum font sits central at the west end, in front of the pointed tower arch, which dates to around 1300.

The chancel shows the work on the Victorian restorers, but there is a pre reformation piscina on the south wall of the chancel with an aumbry, which held the sacred vessels, used in communion, on the north wall. The piscina was used to wash the holy vessels, and there is also one to be found in the south aisle, showing that communion was given here as well.

There is an empty 15th century tomb recess on the north wall of the chancel, which is curtained, with a door leading in to the north chapel close by.


The east window of the chancel is of stained glass and is on two levels. Central on the top level is Jesus with four disciples. One of the disciples is John but there are no identifying symbols to identify the others. I can only think that this is Jesus talking to and instructing the writers of the Gospels. Flanking this depiction is St Guthlac to the left as we look at it and St Gilbert of Sempringham to the right; the latter carries a depiction of his monastery there, which stood six miles to the north of Haconby. The monastery is long since gone but a church still stands there and is well worth a look if you get the chance.

Below that is a depiction of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, with part of Psalm 23 written underneath. To the left of this depiction is the crucified Christ, wounds visible, sowing seeds. Script above reads ‘He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man’, this coming from Matthew Chapter 13 verse 37. To the right is an angel in the process of reaping ripened corn.

There is some graffiti here throughout the church, but especially in the north wall of the north chapel. This is mainly initials and dates but I could see what looks to be a woman wearing a pleated skirt. Several made their mark in 1711, which made me wonder whether there was some building work ongoing at that time with those involved signing their work.

It is suggested that the initials and dates are not from those visiting but rather commemorating those who had passed away; their mark being made by loved ones.  Some of the graffiti here is quite elaborate and well carved, with one early nineteenth century entry being framed with laurel leaves. Laurel was often used as a symbol of victory so possibly this adds credence to the suggestion that these were commemorating those who had died!

Certainly several of these do not give the impression that they were knocked up in a couple of minutes with an anxious eye cast around to ensure that they were not caught in the act!


The church grounds here are of great interest, with three table tombs to the south of the church having a Grade II listing. A few things are worth noting; starting off with two epitaphs on slate gravestones, reminding the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die.

George Eldret died suddenly in 1823 aged 31 years. His epitaph reads ‘A sudden change I in a moment fell and had not the time to bid my friends farewell. Think nothing strange death happens to us all. My lots today tomorrow thine may fall”

Nearby is the gravestone to Charlotte Dring who died, aged 27 years in 1837. Hers reads ‘From off my bed of pain and grief the Lord has set me free. So don’t lament but in due time prepare to follow me’

The message to the onlooker is clear. Death can call suddenly, particularly in days of low life expectancy so be prepared, and be right with God, as you do not know when your own time might come! It may be later than you think! In the past, this same message would have been conveyed by the use of memento mori symbols of human skull, crossed bones or hourglass. With more people being able to read and write the way that this message was passed over changed, with text used more than symbols.

Close by is a masonic carving on top of one stone, the All Seeing Eye of Providence, with an eye looking out from a triangle with the sun rays shining down. Masonic yes, but also a Christian symbol with the triangle said to symbolise the Holy Trinity.


 Elsewhere, also in slate is a small intricate carving of an angel in flight blowing a trumpet. The trumpet was an often used symbol of the resurrection. The angel holds a scroll in one hand which reads ‘the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible’ which is part of I Corinthians Chapter 15 verse 52.

Another slate gravestone, close to the east wall of the chancel is to one Elizabeth Dale, who passed away in April 1786 aged 75 years. The interesting epitaph reads ‘Farewell vain world I’ve had enough of thee and careless am what thou canst say of me. Thy smiles I court not nor thy frowns do fear. Tis equal now any head dies quiet here. What faults you saw in me take care to shun your business mind enough there’s to be done’.

A parting gesture at the world! This inscription was often used throughout the country, with minor variants in script.

This is a delightful church in pleasant settings. I appreciated very much being able to see inside and spend a little time with the warden. All photographs used on this page are from the May 2022 visit, with the exception of the two at the top of the page which are from a previous visit in the winter of 2011.

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