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Church Post Code PE10 0JH

Open to visitors

It was a gloriously sunny afternoon in February 2023, and a visit to the church of St Andrew, Witham on the Hill. I had previously visited here back in 2015, on a sunny summer afternoon. I really enjoyed my time at this imposing church and took the opportunity to pop back as we were visiting several neighbouring Lincolnshire villages.

Witham on the Hill is a pleasant South Kesteven village, which had a population of 260 at the time of the 2011 census. It can be found some three miles to the south west of Bourne, set back a little from the A6121 which connects Bourne to Stamford. The Rutland border is a few miles off to the south and west.

The church of St Andrew sits centrally in the village, with the ancient village stocks off a little way to the North West, safely under a modern shelter. Both the stocks and the adjacent red phone box have their own Grade II Listing. Witham Hall School was built in the 18th century and was a private residence until the school was founded there in 1959.

The church here was the eighth of the day, with all eight being open; this in part was due to a couple of helpful church wardens opening up for me, which I appreciated. We were close to ending our time in Lincolnshire, with just Little and Castle Bytham to do before crossing the border and spending the rest of the day in to Rutland.


The church of St Andrew is a church of impressive dimensions; a real statement piece! If this was a church that was constructed not for the size of the village population but for the glory of God and to help reduce the time that the donor and their family spent in purgatory, then this demonstrates some serious wealth. Looking at the exterior from the west, with its huge west end, we could well imagine ourselves in Norfolk of Suffolk looking at one of the fabulous wool churches.

The church sits on raised ground, with the churchyard wall level with the ground, giving an uninterrupted view out across the spacious grounds. The church that we see today consists of nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, curiously placed south tower, north and south transepts and chancel.

The church here dates back to the late 12th century, with work ongoing during the next three centuries. The original tower fell and was rebuilt by Stamford architect George Portwood in 1738. Portwood did work on the bridges at Fotheringhay and Woodnewton; also taking down the ruinous steeple at Pickworth and rebuilding the tower at Braunstone, each being in Rutland. The church here was restored in 1874 and again in 1912.


The west front is impressive, with the west window of five lights dominating. Over the top of this window is the outline of the previous roofline; dating from pre clerestory days. Two substantial buttresses support at this end, each ending in a crocketed canopy with aged beast’s heads.

The clerestory windows are very large, with three windows each of three lights to north and south. The south porch has an elegant semi-circular arch, with image niche above, edged in dogtooth design, with a statue of St Andrew, holding a saltire cross, upon which he would be martyred.

The south tower is square and has the church clock in the traditional colours of blue and gold set in to the south face. A recessed octagonal spire rises up, with two tiers of lucarne windows.

North notes a story regarding the falling of the original tower here. Allegedly, one Christmas Eve, the bell ringers broke off to visit the local pub. They were going to return to the church but decided to have another drink. While they were having this extra drink the tower fell! Truth or not; possibly lost in the mists of time, but a good story nonetheless.

 What can’t be disputed though I daresay is the fact that the bell ringers were in the pub; this upholding a tradition of bell ringers throughout the country for many years! I have seen many church account books in which the bell ringers are recorded to have been paid in beer!


The church from the east is as impressive as it is from the west, but the east window is far smaller than that found at the west; this being of three lights.

There is a ring of six bells here, at least according to the National Church Bell Database. The village Wikipedia page suggests that there is eight! These six were all cast by William Dobson of Downham Market, Norfolk in 1831. Thomas North, in his late Victorian look at the church bells of Lincolnshire, notes that Dobson purchased five bells from Peterborough Cathedral and melted them down to form the present ring of six; albeit with five of these having been subsequently recast by Taylor of Loughborough.

North notes the remarkable inscription on the first of the ring, which reads ‘Twas not to prosper pride or hate that William Augustus Johnson gave me but peace and joy to celebrate and call to prayer to Heav’n to save ye. Then keep the terms and e’er remember May 29th ye must not ring nor yet the 5th of each November nor in the crowning of a King’.

Well, what to make of this! The terms were that the bells should not be rung on May 29th or on the anniversary of the Gunpowder plot, or on the crowning of a King.

I asked the question on my Facebook page with regards May 29th, what could this have marked. Looking back to that day in history, Charles II marched in to London and was crowned King in 1660 and back further, in 1453; Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire, this marking the end of the Eastern Christian Church, followed by almost 400 years of Ottoman rule. It could be either or none of these but perhaps the last line of the inscription regarding the crowning of a King suggests the former.

The sixth bell of the ring is inscribed with the name John Cheales the vicar of the day’ William Augustus Johnson of ‘Wytham’ Church Estate, William Ansell and John Gillad the Church Wardens and Parish Clerk Robert Smith


The church here was open to visitors, as it was on my previous visit. Moving inside, through the inner south doorway which dates from the late 12th century, the large clerestory windows were doing their job well and it was bright and welcoming inside. Again, the initial impression is of the sheer size of this interior.

There are four bay arcades to north and south. The south arcade is older, dating from the late 12th century, consisting of semi-circular arches and circular piers with waterleaf capitals.

The north arcade dates from the 13th century, and has pointed arches with octagonal piers and capitals.

Nave is separated from chancel by a fine rood screen, which dates from 1912; this has a fine depiction of the crucifixion; exquisite carvings of serene female figures holding a prayer or hymn book are included further down!

 Moving in to the chancel itself the altar has a green altar cloth, on which is the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God. The colour of the altar cloths change throughout the year, with six different colours in the liturgical year. Green is for ‘ordinary time’, the time between the major festivals, in this case the period between Christmas and Lent.

On the east wall of the chancel is a small niche in which is the almost obligatory bottle of hand sanitiser, dating this to the immediate covid years for future generation wishing to date the photo!


There is plenty of fine quality stained glass here. The east window is of three lights and has the crucifixion at the centre. Christ is crucified, ‘It is finished’; the sky is dark behind the cross. Mary the Mother of Jesus and John are in their usual positions on either side of the cross. Mary Magdalene, with long hair flowing, crouches at the foot of the cross and gazes up at her Lord. Unusually, there is another male figure, partially hidden, at the side of John.

Flanking this, to the left as we look at it is a depiction of the wise men arriving. It is suggested that they might have arrived anywhere up to two years after Jesus’ birth and certainly the depiction of the infant Jesus here reflects this.

To the right is the ascension. The risen Christ stands on a cloud, hands spread, with wounds visible. The disciples are gathered below, with Peter and John in the foreground, the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven attached to his belt.


In the south aisle we have an exquisite depiction of the nativity, with the shepherds having just arrived. The central panel here shows the baby Jesus in the manger, watched over intently by three golden haired angels. The angels are lit by the light radiating out from the baby. This panel is one of my favourites to be found in any of the churches covered by my sites.

There is also a depiction of the annunciation. The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary. A prayer desk stands between them, with a book open with text which reads ‘Ecce Virgo concipiet, et pariet filium’ which translates as’ Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son’.

In the north transept we have a window which details several of the parables. Three consecutive panels here illustrate the parable of the foolish and wise virgins; urging the listener, or in this case the viewer, to be prepared spiritually for when Christ returns in glory.

Those wise virgins, who had oil for their lamps, were prepared for when the bridegroom arrived, whilst the foolish virgins who had no oil were shut out in despair.

One of the panels which tell the parable of the return of the prodigal son is worth commenting on. The prodigal son returns, embracing his father whilst barefoot. This was a measure of how destitute he had become as in Biblical times only servants and slaves went barefoot!


There is an altar set up at the north end of the east wall, with a modern statue of the Madonna and child. Close by, a squint allows those in the transept a view in to the chancel.

The font dates from 1660 and is octagonal with carvings on each panel; chevrons, foliage and a cross.  Several stone carvings look out across the interior. These include an angel in flight, wings outstretched but one wing missing, a human figure wearing a head dress at prayer and a fearsome beast, snarls at the onlooker, showing its impressive dental work!


There is nothing in the large church grounds that has its own Grade II Listing. The grounds are of interest but I didn’t notice anything of any great rarity or interest. Mind you, the grounds are large enough that I may well have missed something!

This is an impressive church and is well worth taking a look at; open and welcoming; and as I mentioned earlier this is a real statement piece. Full of interest and in an area where quite a few churches are open to visitors. In fact the benefice here has a lovely attitude to open churches with Edenham and Swinstead also open to visitors and covered in the pages of this site.

It was time to hit the road, with Little Bytham being the next point of call, where the run of open churches continued; for a short while anyway as neighbouring Castle Bytham was closed, with this being the only closed church of the day.

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