A Day at All Saints, Holton-cum-Beckering

Holton cum Beckering is a tiny village 6 miles south of Market Rasen with a population of 140 at the 2001 census. The village has some truly beautiful buildings, and a strangely rich history of amateur dramatics. Actor Jim Broadbent was born in Holton in 1949 and his parents, Roy and Dee, were founder members of the Holton Players amateur dramatics society. In 2007, the village was the subject of a radio documentary by Billy Bragg titled ‘Conchies of Holton-cum-Beckering’. The radio show interviewed the surviving members of a group of conscientious objectors from WWII who isolated themselves to form farming communities and the aforementioned Holton Players.

So, why is All Saints such a lovely church? Well, it certainly attests to my argument that all churches possess some fascinating history and little treasures inside, if you just bother to look. The church is a Grade I listed Church of England church with sections dating from the 13th to 19th centuries.

The lower section of the tower is all that remains of the 13th century church, as by the 14th century, they extended the church upwards, and by the 15th century, the local congregation was growing and expansion was necessary.

By the time the Victorians came around in the 19th century, extensive restoration work was conducted between 1859-60 and 1870-74 by WA Nicholson and Sir Gilbert Scott. Scott has quite the enduring fan club, as he rebuilt the north arcade, repaired the aisles, rebuilt a mortuary chapel, re-fitted the roof and added the mosaic reredos (altarpiece), which was reportedly created by an Italian Catholic called Sqlviati who refused to stop smoking his pipe while making it.

The chancel has some beautiful frescos of angels and a carved oak rood screen which separates the nave from the chancel.

All Saints was also featured in Kelly’s Directory, which was a Victorian version of the Yellow Pages, listing tradesmen, important facilities, landowners etc. As disinteresting as this may sound (it is, essentially, ye olde list), these directories have proven to be an invaluable resource for historians and researchers. During my visit during the Churches Festival, another festival-goer (it’s like Glastonbury, but with more tea and Jesus) had brought along a copy of Kelly’s and was checking off the churches therein.

The octagonal font is a real showstopper. Thought to be 13th or 15th century, it is topped by a Victorian wrought iron lid with intricate tracery that you can’t help but touch. This fancy lid was restored in 1984 by Andrew Gaskin and looks flawless to this day.

Most of the memorials commemorate local gentry, such as the Caldecote family of Holton Hall.

The stained glass windows are of phenomenal quality and size – rather unusual for a small, rural church. Being mostly 19th century, they depict important events in Christ’s life such as the Nativity and the Crucifixion with beautiful intricacy.

Like so many rural churches, All Saints was a victim of heritage crime in 2017 and has had to increase security measures (and reduce opening times) as a result.

The churchyard is small, but has the most fantastic array of headstones. My personal favourites are a close trio of stones with fancy tops close to the church entrance. These mark the resting places of:

Ann Johnson, who died in 1855 aged 42,

Ann Capp, died on Christmas Day in 1865 aged 82

Robert Capp who died in 1852 (?) aged just 38.

There are two commonwealth war graves within the churchyard, commemorating the short lives of Canadian Flight Sergeant Eugene Salmers (d.18th June 1943 aged 23) and John Broomfield Lindup from the Royal New Zealand Air Force who also died on the 18th June 1943, aged 24.

The church also has a small wall mounted slab listing the names of local men who died during WWI.

There are also some examples of intricate carving and mason’s marks, such as this lovely curved ‘Lincoln’ sign and this dainty bow! It’s like a My Little Pony grave!

There are also some lovely examples of historical graffiti close to the entrance of the church.

One final mystery before I left was that of this unusual pillar-type grave. On top of what looked like a family tomb slab, it has a Latin inscription and looks somewhat like a sundial. But with no names to speak of, its purpose remains unknown… It looks great though, doesn’t it?

From two tourists with a love of churches to you, go visit your local churchyard and find some history!

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