Saint Martin’s Church, North Owersby

A photoessay on an 18th century church in northern Lincolnshire.

Initially, as you approach this church along the footpath it has the appearance of a mediaeval church. As you approach closer it starts to look a bit wrong. The windows are clearly not mediaeval for a start. Have they been inserted into an older building? The window openings have rounded arches – the door is not in the usual place – generally, the church is just ‘wrong’. I will return to this a bit later as a register inside then building reveals aNorth Owersby-3

My first comment is that it is a church that is still in regular use and it is kept locked. I could find no indication as to where I might find the key but as luck would have it, while I was looking at the outside a chap came along walking his dog – he turned out to be a church-warden and he directed me to his home with the instruction to ask his wife for the key. Before fetching the key, I continued my exploration of the outside which I will now describe.


Outside the Church.

Starting at the west end of the church, behind then tower: this church is built from local ironstone which is badly weathered (ironstone is not really a good building stone but is what is available locally). The tower has one stage with a stringer course at about two metres. The tower is slightly narrower above this stringer but not by very much. There is a squarish lancet window half way up and a second, rounded arch window near the top.

Moving around to the south side of the tower, there is the only door into the church. There is a very worn step into the church. Above the door, about halfway up the tower, is a wooden clock face. This is octagonal in shape, was made in 2009 and needs to be repainted.

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North Owersby-6Moving along to the south wall of the church, there are three rounded windows. Inside each is decorative stonework which is of better quality stone than the walls. The glazing of these windows is geometrically patterned stained glass. Towards the top of each window is a roundel with a branch and a bird. This is repeated in each of the three windows, with a different bird in each.

North Owersby-2Between the west-most and central windows there is the remains of a plaque which no longer contains any details. Otherwise, the wall is featureless and weathered. There are some indications of repairs. At the base of the wall are some gravestones leaning against the wall rather than being in their original positions.

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Moving to the east end – there is an apse, which is slightly narrower than the body of the church. I do not understand why, but an apse always lifts my spirits and it is a pity they became out of fashion. There is one window in the apse of the same design as the windows on the south wall, and again the window stonework is much better than the wall’s stones.

North Owersby-5Moving around the corner again, we see the north wall of the church. Again, there are three windows of the same design.There are no features at all on the north wall apart from the windows (and an iron brace in the shape of a cross at the upper east end of the north wall). Further along, we get to the north face of the tower. There is one rounded window near the top of the tower. These tower windows are not glazed (at least as far as I can see) and are fitted with louvres. On the north-west corner of the north wall of the church is an Ordinance Survey benchmark (no. 86420).

North OwersbyLeaving the church briefly, the churchyard is well maintained. At some point, all the memorials on the south side of the churchyard have been moved into two rows. This is generally done to easy the mowing of the grass but they are managing well on the north side with the memorials in situ so perhaps there is another reason. At the east end of the churchyard are some chest tombs which are well mossed and also some more recent polished granite memorials. many memorials have fresh flowers so the churchyard is clearly still active.

Inside the Church.

Inside the tower is a wooden box-like structure going up the wall and a helical staircase going up which is blocked off with furniture so a good reason not to try to go up.

Going into the main body of the church is a wooden door with a lattice light glazed with Perspex. Inside the door, on the north side, are a padlocked chest, a table, chair and a pew screened off with a curtain and a wooden panel.

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There is a notice on the wall referring to a Robert Sheardown which is dated 1764. There is another word which is not quite readable.

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The church is simple with a nave and no aisles. The stained glass looks a whole lot better from the inside with daylight coming through the glass (as it is obviously intended to be viewed). Each window is much the same but with a different bird in the roundel.North Owersby-9

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Here is one of the windows in its entirety which probably looks a whole lot better than my descriptions.

North Owersby-16There are ten pews on each side with plain ends. Where the pew ends might be carved there is a simple circle.

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North Owersby-26Before reaching the apse there is a raised portion of floor which is tiled with unglazed tiles. The main body of the nave has a blue carpet and the pews are on a raised platform. There is a wooden pulpit which is not ornate but is attractive in its own way. There is also a small brass lectern with a cloth on it (just visible behind the cushions on the left).North Owersby-23

The altar is on another rise portion which is tiled as the rest of the apse. The altar is covered with a patterned cloth with a plain cloth on top. On the altar is a brass crucifix with a Lamb and Flag on it and two brass candlesticks. Behind the altar are two large, floor-standing, candlesticks with coloured glass decorations.

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North Owersby-25The main body of the apse is plain. There is a carved chair with a blue cushion intended for the priest. There is a memorial on the edge of the chancel dedicated to  “The Rev Thomas Nelson, Vicar, 1827. Interred in the centre of the altar.”

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On the right on the raised portion before the apse is an electronic organ and an older harmonium. On the harmonium is a carved onyx font which is six inches in diameter, together with another couple of candlesticks.

North Owersby-20North Owersby-21In front of the north range of pews is a bigger brass lectern marked “In memory of John Osgoodby 48 years Parish Clerk and in commemoration of a diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria”. The lectern contains a book: “The Common Worship Lectionary” which is  a table of psalms and readings from the Bible.

North Owersby-19Looking back towards the entrance on the west wall there is a plaque above the door “In memory of Mary Randell dies 1849” and a painted memorial on the wall “John Richardson, Churchwarden”.

North Owersby-28North Owersby-29The walls are painted white but the two painted memorials on the west wall have been carefully painted around to preserve them.

There is a larger stone font which is quite attractive. It has a modern glass fruit bowl inside to hold the water. There is an ornate stool in front of the font.

North Owersby-32There is a bookcase beside the door containing Hymns Ancient and Modern. On the north wall there is a list of Rectors, Vicars and Curates from the original date of the church. Alongside many of the dates are notes. One of these explains the anomoly of the style of the church and the variation in weathering of the stonework outside. The church was rebuilt in 1763, reusing the original stones in the main but with modern (for 1763) stonework for the windows.

The earliest incumbent  was a Rector called Walter in 1238 but there was an undated Robert before him. This is a modern list collated from the original registers. One of the notes suggests that one Rector, John Scott (1733), signed his own burial entry!

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Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

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