Langton by Spilsby

 

 

 

 

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Church of St Peter & St Paul

  ChurchInterior - general view


 

History

The parish is known as Langton with Sutterby and there are churches in both parishes.  The church of St John the Baptist in the hamlet of Sutterby is now closed and is looked after by the Friends of Friendless Churches.  Langton with Sutterby is now a member of the Partney Group of parishes, which comprises parishes within the Deanery of Bolingbroke.  Partney Choir sings at Langton Church.

There appears to have been a church at Langton since before the Norman Conquest and there was an inventory in 1552.  There are no known details of the previous churches except for the references in "Lincolnshire Church Notes" (Gervaise Holles 1634-1642, British Museum, Harleian Manuscript No 6829) to a stained glass window, some gravestones and coats of arms in a church which had a north aisle. 

The present church, which replaced a church also dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, was constructed about 1725 by George Langton.  It is a Grade I listed building in the Classical style with very unusual box pews facing each other, a three decker pulpit and a gallery at the western end.  There are said to be only three parish churches in England which share the same arrangement of facing box pews in the style used in many Oxford and Cambridge colleges.  The font predates the present building and is in the Decorated style. 
 

Saxon cross

 

The head of a small stone cross, which may be of Saxon origin, but which Pevsner dated as early 13th century, was found by the rector of Langton in a nearby wood at the end of the 19th century and is now fixed to a wall in the porch.
 

 

Claud Nattes sketch

Originally the roof was covered in lead, but this was stripped in 1792, possibly to make bullets for the Napoleonic Wars.  The lead was replaced with slates which were placed on a roof with a steeper pitch than the original.  A sketch of the original church by Claud Nattes dated 1791 shows what is thought to be the original design with a cupola.  The cupola was replaced by a bell tower added to accommodate the bells in 1825.

 

Following tests on the paintwork in 2005 the church was redecorated in its original Georgian colours during 2006.  It is hoped shortly to start work on the time consuming task of renovating the sun bleached oak woodwork of the box pews and the gallery to reveal their original fine colour.  At the same time this work should reveal the history of the previous restoration work and the reason for some of the unusual positioning of some doors to the pews.


The bells

It appears that there were bells in the church at Langton from at least 1552.  North's 'Church Bells of Lincolnshire' (published by Samuel Clarke in 1862) says that an inventory of 1552 states "Item iii bells and one little belle"


The tower in the present church has six bells by Thomas Mears of London.  All six bells were made in 1825 for John Stephen Langton and three have inscriptions.  One reads

Fecit 1825 We were given by John Stephen Langton Esq. Lord of this Free Warren

Another reads  

Fecit 1825 Are you prepared for me to call you here

The third reads  

1825 Geo. Street A.M. Rector

John Stephen Langton died aged only 37 in 1833 and had he lived longer he would have had a further two bells added to the tower.  After his death the Rector wrote that he had given the church "a ring of the sweetest bells in Lincolnshire to one of the ugliest churches in Christendom.” Later in the nineteenth century W.H. Bailey & Co of Salford (a well known engineering company of its day) made an unusual “barrel” mechanism to ring the bells by pulling the clappers rather than the bells.  The barrel has projecting tines which pluck levers attached to the clappers of the six bells and the levers can be set in different positions to enable the bells to play three different changes.  It is evident from the bells that this mechanism has been used heavily in the past. 

From 1956 till 2008 it was not possible to ring the bells properly because of the condition of the bell frame but the Bailey mechanism was used to chime the bells for services.

Bell winder

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The Bailey mechanism

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The bells awaiting transport to Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Following a successful appeal for funds a project was launched in December 2007 to re-hang the bells so that they can again ring full circle.  The work was completed in May 2008 by Whitechapel Bell Foundry (the successor to Thomas Mears) and a re-dedication service attended by the Bishop of Lincoln took place on Sunday 31 August 2008.  Major donors include the Heritage Lottery Fund, Batty Charitable Trust, Lincoln Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers, Kochan Trust, Allchurches Trust, John Warren Foundation, Idlewild Trust, The Sharpe Trustees and Stanley Darman.

The organ

The chamber organ, which has a particularly sweet tone, was built by Henry Bryceson of London probably in the mid 1850's.  The firm of Bryceson was later well known for its improvements in organ mechanisms, particularly the electro-magnetic action, though the Langton organ has no such sophistication.  Where the organ now stands was possibly originally the Langton family pew, but this is now next to the organ. 

A fundraising campaign for the restoration of the organ has been completed successfully.  Goetze and Gwynn Ltd of Welbeck, near Worksop will start work on this project in January 2010 and work should be finished by end March 2010.  Thereafter it is hoped to start a series of chamber concerts (incorporating the refurbished organ) during the warmer months of the year to take advantage of the excellent acoustics of the building.  Further details will be available from the Webmaster or by telephoning 01790 753649.

Memorials

JCP Langton hatchment
The church contains memorials to members of the Langton family, including memorial stones dated 1533 (John Langton) and 1625 (Roger Langton) in the floor in the western end of the church.  The four hatchments are (clockwise from the door) for Bennet Langton (1737-1801) who married Mary Dowager Countess of Rothes and was Dr Johnson’s friend; Bennet Langton (1696-1769), who married Diana Turnor, daughter of Edmund Turnor of Stoke Rochford in 1736; Robert Uvedale (1642-1722) the horticulturist who married Mary Stephens of Charrington, Gloucestershire, whose grandson (Rev Robert Uvedale) was rector of Langton and married Diana Langton (1742-1809); and John Langton (1908-1989) who married Angela Warren (1912-2004) of Skendleby in 1940.  John Langton's hatchment is pictured here.  Diana Douglas (John Langton’s eldest daughter) is the present Patron of the Living of Langton.

Other interesting facts

Ann Fletcher picture

In the porch is a bust of Dr. William Langton (d. 1626) who was president of Magdalen College, Oxford in the reign of James I, and among the photographs on view in the porch is one of Ann Fletcher (d. 1909), who traditionally carried parish babies to the font for baptism, taking her 100th baby to be christened.
The church silver (none of which, unfortunately, is any longer kept on the premises) includes two chalices and patten covers by John Fawdry (1719) and John White (1738).

John Betjeman described Langton church as 'one of the most attractive and interesting churches in Lincolnshire and therefore in England, because Lincolnshire is rich in remarkable churches.'   The church features in Simon Jenkins's book "England's Thousand Best Churches" originally published in 1999.

The church of St Margaret in the grounds of Well Vale, near the village of Well, about 1 1/2 miles south west of Alford has some similarities with the church at Langton, but its details are simpler, though it has a commanding location over looking the park in which it stands.


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Last modified 11/8/09
 

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