Early January 2012 and a beautifully sunny, but cold and windy, bank holiday and the chance to take out the cycle and attempt to get rid of some of the Christmas excesses.
West Deeping is a very ancient settlement, with evidence of occupation in Prehistoric times. Given that it is so close to King Street, an important Roman Road, West Deeping also had a Roman connection. In my research for this piece, I found that a very rare Roman item had been found at West Deeping, this was a "curse tablet" Curse tablets’ are small sheets of lead, inscribed with messages from individuals seeking to make gods and spirits act on their behalf and influence the behaviour of others against their will. If someone had grieved you in some way these curse tablets would be used against the person who had grieved you. Fascinating stuff. The church of St Andrew dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The three stage buttressed tower and spire is exquisite and dominates the surrounding landscape. There is a particularly fine view to be had from the south east, from an old stone bridge, with the church surrounded by buildings and trees, with the stream winding its way a little to the south. The tower has a pinacle at each corner and a gargoyle sits on each side of the tower. The gargoyles up high are very weathered and appear at some point to have been cleaned. Scaffolding was up here for quite a time as the south wall was re-rendered and perhaps these might have been cleaned up at that time. When North compiled his Victorian study of the church bells of Lincolnshire there were five bells hanging here. Three of these were cast by William Dobson of Downham, Norfolk. All of these are dated 1829 and one has the name Myhill Addy on it who was the churchwarden of that time. One bell was dated 1673 and came courtesy of Tobias Norris III from the Stamford bellfoundry. The fifth bell was cast by Edward Arnold, who worked out of premesis at St Neots. A note in North's study states that, prior to 1829, there were only four bells hanging here. It looks as if Dobson would have re-cast some of the existing bells that hung here. Today, there is a ring of six bells here. Two of the Dobson bells were re-cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1903, with the same founder adding a sixth bell in 1923. This church, along with several in the area, is kept open to visitors and for private prayer.Standing in the nave and looking upwards it is possible to see the initials CI and RW carved in to one of the beams. At this time the roof was replaced and the initials are there to commemorate the churchwardens of the time. The church is bright and welcoming. Walls are limewashed and in the centre aisle there is a large brass chandelier bearing the inscription "Lammas 1770". The font is a beautiful piece of work and is thought to date back to the time of Edward III (1327 - 1377). The font is octagonal and each of the eight sides bears a shield. Stained glass includes a depiction of Jesus cradling a child and the Virgin Mary being anointed by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Centre piece of the stained glass on the east wall of the chancel is a depiction of the lamb of God. The church grounds are picturesque, with the stream mentioned previously winding its way very close to the southern edge of the church grounds. Lots of trees here as well and with the church being set well back from the main road, it really is very peaceful here indeed. So much so that, in the past, I have used West Deeping as a stopping off point to take in food and water and just enjoy the surroundings. There is nothing of massive age of interest in the church grounds but there are a couple of things worth noting here. Sometimes grave inscriptions can be sad, but also they can be slices of local history. One is inscribed "Sacred to the memory of Edward, the son of Robert and Susan Wright, who lost his life in a fire at West Deeping Mill May 16th 1856" Another grave commemorating one William Nicholls reads as follows..."Remember me as you pass by. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be". This was dated 1859 and would be a more modern version of the deaths head stone. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when most of the population were unable to read or write, gravestones sometimes had images carved on them indicating Man's Mortality, enforcing the fact that Man is mortal and would die. In later years, when more people could read, the images were substituted for text, but the message is still the same! Okay, that's cheered everyone up, bet you are glad that you read down this far! A lovely church, well worth a visit if you are in the area.