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Church Post Code PE9 2AW

Open to visitors



It was a cold and sunny winter day in 2023, and I had the morning planned revisiting the four Stamford churches which I had thought would be open. The church of St John the Baptist was the third of these and was open to visitors, as it had been on each occasion that I have visited over the years.

As mentioned on another page, Stamford is a rewarding place for the churchcrawler to visit, with six ancient Anglican parish churches and a priory surviving today. At one point back in history Stamford contained six monasteries and priories, six religious colleges and 14 churches. There was much damage here during the Wars of the Roses during the 15th century, with several of these buildings being lost at that time.

Of the six surviving medieval churches, four are still open for worship, one was converted in to shops in the early 1980’s and the sixth; the church of St John the Baptist, which was declared redundant in 2003 and is now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.

The churches here are clustered together, with All Saints just across the road to the North West. St Mary is a two minute walk away to the south east, with St George a further two minute walk to the east of St Mary. Those up for a huge five minute walk which involves crossing the bridge over the River Welland will find the church of St Martin, where I had started my day. Those in the area will probably like to visit the Eleanor Cross, which is a short distance away to the south west.


To be fair St John the Baptist is not the easiest church to photograph due to the buildings which surround it. There is a fine west front here, which is very difficult to shoot due to the buildings on the opposite side of the road and I have always found the church grounds closed, so I wasn’t able to get any shots of the exterior from the south. This is a shame; but what the interested visitor find inside more than makes up for this!

It is thought that the church we see today is the third to have existed on this site, with the original church dating back to the 12th century. Stamford was badly damaged during the Wars of the Roses, with many buildings lost, including some churches. However, St John the Baptist fared better than others and was relatively undamaged. In 1451, the church was acquired by a group of local gentry and clergy and was rebuilt.

The structure that we see today consists of western tower, which is incorporated in to the most western bay of the north aisle, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch, south vestry and chancel with north and south chapels.

The five stage tower pre dates the rest of the structure, and is perpendicular. There is an empty image niche over the west doorway. The tower is ornate, with two friezes of a repeated quatrefoil design high up. Gargoyles look out from the four corners of the tower, which is battlemented, with tall slender pinnacles.

The western end of the nave butts up against the tower, and is battlemented with fine five light window dominating. The south porch is shallow and ornately carved, with crocketed ogee arch over the door and gargoyles looking out to the side.

The external structure remained virtually unaltered until a period of Victorian restoration in 1856, with the south east vestry added in 1906.


When Thomas North published his look at the church bells of Lincolnshire in 1882 he noted that there are four bells in the ring here, and that is still the case today.

The first and fourth of the ring were cast in Leicester by Francis Watts in 1561. The first of the ring is inscribed with the name Richard Snowden, the Parson of the day. The fourth contains the names Robert Meddows and Tobe Lovedale.

North was incredibly good at what he did, and went above and beyond just listing the bells. Occasionally he gives fascinating glimpses in to the history of the people of the day, such being the case with Parson Snowdon listed on the first bell. North notes that he married in 1603, only to die of the plague which was attacking the village the following year.

The second of the ring was courtesy of Robert Taylor of St Neots; this being dated 1814. It is inscribed with the names Edwd Clipsham and Edwd Askey, the church wardens of the day. North notes that this bell was re-cast by Taylor and was originally another from Watts dated 1561. The third of the ring is also the oldest, cast by Mellours of Leicester around 1500.

North lists items from the church account books, and these make interesting reading. Of interest are three separate entries detailing money paid to the bellringers for when the King, Charles I came to the town.


Structurally, the interior here dates mainly from the 15th century rebuilding but there is much here which is from the Victorian restoration.

The south arcade is of four bays, with the north arcade being of three, with a fourth bay being the tower arch.  Both north and south are of similar design, with clustered piers with octagonal capitals.  Grotesque heads look out from the nave walls; one figure with wavy hair and beard is playing two recorders at once, another has two heads on one body, with one looking happier than the other! The 15th century screens can now be found at the east end of the north and south aisles, blocking off the chapels.


One of the glories of this church is the angel roof, which dates from the same time as the mid-15th century rebuilding of this church; the figures were however repainted during the restoration of 1856.

The angels line the length of the nave on north and south walls. These are fabulously carved, with wings outstretched and are depicted in a variety of poses. Some are shown at prayer; some are playing musical instruments whilst some carry shields. One holds a scroll, one carries a crown whilst another wears a crown and carries a sceptre.

It is worthwhile thinking back to what things must have looked like in the pre reformation days. The angels lined the walls of the nave from west to east, leading up to the rood screen which separated the nave from chancel. This would often be painted with depiction of saints.

The rood screen would have had an upper section, the rood loft, with a large wooden carving of Christ crucified; this being the rood, with rood being an old English word for cross. Mary the mother of Jesus and St John would be found in their traditional positions alongside.

All brightly coloured, with the churches often having doom paintings over the chancel arch, showing the scene of the day of judgement when the righteous would be saved but those who were condemned would be thrown in to hell, which was often portrayed as a serpent’s mouth. Windows would be filled with medieval stained glass.

The reformers hated these, seeing them as being idolatrous with the people worshiping the image rather than God. These were destroyed throughout the country; all destroyed in an attempt to get back to basics so to speak and get rid of the images and rituals associated with the Catholic Church. Wall paintings were whitewashed over, roods were broken up, stained glass was smashed and statues defaced. Strange and interesting times!


Moving in to the chancel, the altar is plain and simple, with just a single cross on the gold altar cloth. There is no reredos here, with just bare stonework at the east end. A 15th century piscina is set in to the south wall of the chancel, with similar in the south chapel. The church nativity scene was still set out which surprised me a little at epiphany and Candlemas had each passed.

There is some fine stained glass here; with the east window of the chancel dating from 1856, the time of the restoration here, being made by Francis Wilson Oliphant. The main scene here is the nativity, in vibrant colours. The wise men have just arrived and the infant Jesus reaches out towards one of the gifts. Joseph stands off to one side a little.

Five small scenes below illustrate scenes from the life and beyond death of Jesus from him teaching in the temple as a 12 year old, the age when a boy was considered a man in the Judean culture  to him breaking bread with the two disciples that he met on the road to Emmaus.


The west window is also by Oliphant, again in the same vibrant colours. The depictions here are on two levels. Above is the resurrection; the risen Christ emerges from the tomb, surrounded by blazing aureole, wearing a blood red cloak,  the colour symbolic of his blood shed.  Wounds are visible on hands and feet and his appearance has caused chaos among the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb.

Below, Christ’s body is prepared for burial. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are present, with Mary Magdalene crouched at Jesus’ side, head down with eyes closed and hands at prayer. To left and right are smaller illustrations of Jesus’ baptism and the crucifixion. Angels can be seen high up in the tracery, along with the four evangelists, each of whom carries the symbol that they are associated with.

One further window depicts charity, with the word being replaced by love in many modern Bible translations.  Charity is shown as a female figure surrounded by children. Around her are four scenes which relate to Matthew Chapter 35 verses 34-36 which reads…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (NIV translation).


A depiction of Dorcas fits in well with the above. She is shown feeding the poor and lived the Christian life that the above passage from Matthew commands. Peter brought her back from the dead in Acts.

Just time to mention a panel where Jesus is at the home of Mary, Marth and Lazarus. As always, Martha is shown working whilst her sister is shown listening intently to what Jesus is saying; Jesus appreciated this, saying ‘Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her’.

There are some medieval stained glass fragments in the south chapel, which are said to date from the 15th century rebuilding. These were re-set during the mid 1970s. Originally these would have been part of larger designs but what has survived is of great interest.

There is a mixture of animal and human figures; a human figure with golden curly hair strums his lute.  A figure carrying keys is obviously Peter; his suspiciously small head looking to be a replacement! Two lions are flanking an angel musician who plays the same instrument as one of the angels in the ceiling. Close by two grotesque beast stick out their tongues in medieval gesture of insult. King David plays his harp and on another panel five heads all look in the same direction, with a couple of these having haircuts which reminded me of Edmund in the first series of Blackadder!


There is so much to see here that I feel that I have hardly scratched the surface. This is a delightful church and as always we should appreciate what the Churches Conservation Trust do to preserve our heritage. It was time to move on, making the long and dangerous journey of around 100 yards to All Saints. The church of St John the Baptist is open to visitors and is well worth taking a look at; as indeed are the other churches in the town and the town itself!

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