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Church Post Code NG33 4JB

Open to visitors


This website picks up where the first site left of! The first site looked at churches within a (very) rough twenty miles radius of Peterborough. This second site extends the circle (not that it is a circle). This site will extend further out in to Lincolnshire and Rutland and less far in to Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire. The ‘circle’ will probably more resemble an octagon by the time that we are finished!

Irnham is as far away from Peterborough to the North West that my sites cover. I have visited the church here several times over the years; spending a few cycling holidays in this area, cycling the back roads, visiting churches between Bourne and Grantham. A succession of small, attractive and quiet villages with more often than not, open and welcoming churches!

Irnham was always a favourite place to stop and rest the legs for a while as I was heading back to digs near to Bourne. The village can be found some eight miles north west of Bourne. The photographs included hare are from a crisp and sunny revisit in early March 2022.


There was a church and a priest mentioned here at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, on lands which were owned by Ralph Paynell. It was the Paynell family who lived at the ancient seat of Irnham Hall, which can be found to the south of the church. This was long before the present structure was built in 1510.

 The earliest parts of this present structure dates back to the 12th century, with work ongoing during the 13th and 14th centuries. There was considerable restoration here in 1858.

Today, the church of St Andrew consists of west tower, nave with north aisle, north chapel, north and south clerestory, south porch and chancel.

The three stage tower dates from the 12th century, and is battlemented and pinnacled, with a 12th century door with rounded arch to the west.

There is a north aisle here, with substantial north chapel. It is obvious though that something bad as happened at some point to the south aisle. The outlines of three south bays can be seen, which have been bricked up, with a south door and two windows added, one on each bay.

The nave, clerestory, north chapel and chancel are all battlemented and the whole church is buttressed throughout. Entry is through the north porch.


There are gargoyles throughout the exterior with interesting designs. One of these appears to be wearing a very weathered crown; others are wearing chainmail and some of these have wings. Perhaps we have a king and his army warding off the evil that might attack the church and those inside it!

The east of this church is particularly impressive, with substantial chancel and north chapel. A bench is set against the north chapel looking out to the east to a delightfully rural scene. A perfect place to sit and enjoy the peace and calm.

When Thomas North was compiling his Victorian book detailing the church bells of Lincolnshire, he noted that there were four bells here. The first of the ring was dated 1670 and was cast by Thomas Norris of the Stamford bellfoundry and is inscribed ‘God Save the King’.

The remainder were all cast in 1620 by George Oldfield I, who operated out of Nottingham and who would have cast these bells when he was 19 years old. Each of the three has an inscription. The second of the ring reads ‘All men that heare my mournfull sound repent before you lye in ground’.

The third of the ring reads ‘I sweetly tolling men do call to taste on meats that feed the soule’. The fourth is puzzlingly inscribed ‘My roaring sounde doth warning give that men cannot heare always lyve’.

According to the National Church Bell Database, there is a ring of six here today but they go on to list seven bells! Two were added by Taylor since North’s time, in 1919 and 2005 and they also list another bell from Oldfield, dated 1677.


Entry is through the north porch; inside, the walls are whitewashed, with red carpet running the length of the nave and up to the altar. The north aisle is of three bays and dates from the 13th century, with octagonal piers and capitals.  The outlines of the three southern bays can still be seen on the inside as well.

The chancel arch is wide and pointed, dating from the early 13th century. The tower arch, with rounded arch., dates from the late 12th century. There is a hatchment and the Royal Coat of Arms, one on each side of the tower arch; and yes, when looking west from the chancel, it did resemble a face to me as well! The north aisle is narrow and there are commandment boards mounted on to the north wall.


Those entering the chancel will go past the Lord’s Prayer, mounted on to the south wall. The altar is plain and simple, with just two candlesticks and an offset Bible on it. The altar cloth is purple; this being the liturgical colour for advent and from Ash Wednesday to the day before Palm Sunday.

On the south wall is a fine medieval triple sedilia, the seating for the priests during the mass. There would often be a piscina, for the washing of the holy vessels used in the mass, immediately to the east of this, but there is not one here.

On the north wall there is an aumbry, with ogee headed canopy, in which the holy vessels would have been stored. This is one of the few times post covid that I have been in to a chancel and not seen a bottle of hand sanitiser.

The east window is of three lights and dates to 1859; depicting the crucifixion. Here Christ has just died, whilst those crucified on either side are still alive but, as you would expect, are both in extreme distress.  It is a busy scene around the cross. Christ’s side is about to be pierced to ensure that he was indeed dead. The Roman soldiers off to one side are already in the process of rolling dice to determined who get Jesus’ garment.

Mary the Mother of Jesus and John look on from their usual positions, with Mary Magdalene kneeling, wrapped around the foot of the cross, long hair spilling down, as is often the case portrayed as the most emotional ‘Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’ Luke Chapter 7 verse 47.  Angels in the tracery look down at the scene below.

For the standards of the day this is a fairly graphic depiction; unlike many sanitised versions which tended to hide away the more brutal aspects of what was a brutal form of execution.

In the same way, many windows depicting the risen Christ shy away from showing the wounds. These are sometimes either left out completely or tastefully hidden by clothing so that they do not upset those looking on. With my Christian head on for a second, it is the sheer brutal nature of what Christ went through for us which is important and wounds should not be hidden, they should be seen; ‘by His stripes we are healed’.


At the east end of the north chapel is an Easter Sepulchre, which is not in situ; standing now where there would almost certainly have been an altar in the past. Easter Sepulchres were always found against the north wall of the chancel and this may have been moved here, for whatever reason, during the restoration of 1858.

Surviving Easter Sepulchres are quite rare and this one is in good condition, but appears to have had some restoration work done on it.  In pre Reformation days the religion of this country was Catholic. The belief was that Jesus is physically present within the communion bread; the host. On Good Friday, the host was wrapped in cloth and placed in to the Easter Sepulchre; normally a recess cut in to the north wall of the chancel; or as in the case here an elaborately carved piece containing three niches with ogee canopies.

Candles were lit around this and parishioners stood guard over it until the first mass of Easter morning, at which point it was taken out in imitation of Jesus rising from the tomb. These were absolutely hated by the reformers and the vast majority were destroyed as being idolatrous.

It is always interesting to think back a few hundred years; as to what things were like inside our churches. I would have loved to have seen the scene in a pre-reformation church, with people huddled around their sepulchre; at night by candlelight, keeping vigil!


There is stained glass in the east window of the north chapel, in the form of a three light window extolling the virtues of Charity. I Corinthians Chapter 13 verse 13 reads in the King James version of the day that this was crafted ‘and now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity’. More modern translations have replaced the word ‘charity’ with ‘love’.

There is an impressive memorial brass on the floor of the north chapel; this being to Andrew Luttrell, the 5th Baron of Irnham, who died in 1390. He is shown under an ogee canopy, wearing armour and with hands raised in prayer. He has long legs and an incredibly small waist. He wears those long pointed shoes that were fashionable back in the day, with these resting on a lion.

One further memorial brass, this one a lot smaller, can be seen in the chancel. This is pretty much along the same lines with a knight dressed in armour with hands raised in prayer.


The church grounds are interesting without there being anything of any great importance or rarity. The grounds are a picture in the spring when the snowdrops are out.

The gateway, piers and railing, which date from 1866, which you enter through to get in to the church grounds have their own Grade II Listing.

 There is a single tomb which also has a Grade II Listing. This is to William Hervey Woodhouse of Irnham Hall; Captain of the Lincolnshire Militia. He died ‘deeply regretted’ in 1859 aged 36 years. The east window of the chancel detailing the crucifixion was erected in memorial to him.

This is a beautiful church, full of historic interest, in a picturesque setting. Open and welcoming and well worth taking a look at if you are around. A little gem!

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