Heckington, Lincolnshire – St Andrew

En route from Lincoln to Suffolk we could go via the A1/A14, or the A17 and across the Fens. We stopped in Heckington and found Sylv’s cafe – very nice, and a chatty couple who are involved in the church. John tells us that there’s about 40 people attending St Andrew Heckington (doubled from a few years ago) – website – it’s in a group of eight churches. They have a rather good strap line “Built in the 14th century, still alive in the 21st.

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We walked up to the church, and Julie spent a happy time looking at the bookstall while I explored for the blog. Incidentally, how nice to have proper bookshelves and a decent stock – rather than the pile of tatty rubbish (including the obligatory five copies of Fifty Shades of Grey) which you so often see stacked on the end of a pew somewhere.

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They do need a better guidebook – the folded A4 leaflet (which looks as if it has been photocopied quite a few times) tells us that the porch is “Decorated”. Northernvicar had to check, c1275 to 1380. The notice on the small door invites you to open the big door if you need to. It is a huge church and cannot be easy for a small congregation to care for (that sentence is an understatement). It did feel in a need of a damn good clean – which is not written to upset those who do their best to keep it cared for it and loved, but a recognition of the enormity of the task. They do have plenty of equipment available … .

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The font is imposing – restored in the 1960s – and they have a lovely board of happy people photographs.

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The north aisle is the oldest part of the church and, standing at the chancel step looking back, you get another impression of the huge size of the church. In the Chancel is the tomb of Richard de Potesgrave. The tatty piece of paper says “Presented to the living by King Edward, Richard de Potesgrave was instituted as Rector of Heckington in 1309. He was Chaplain and Confessor to Edward II and Edward III and, as the letter from Dr Trollope suggests, no doubt his position and influence at Court enabled him to pay the enormous cost of constructing this magnificent Chancel, which is 55 feet long, 24 feet wide and 53 feet high. He was responsible for the foundation of the Chantry of St Nicholas and he was still incumbent when the Church was appropriated to Bardney Abbey in 1345. The face of de Potesgrave’s effigy has been almost entirely destroyed but we get some idea of his rich vestments. In 1800, when the grave below was opened, his chalice was found and later placed in the casket above his tomb.”

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To the left of the Altar is the Easter Sepulchre. This was used to accommodate the Blessed Sacrament from Good Friday to Easter Sunday – putting the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus, here, reflected his body lying in the tomb. The Ecclesiological Society has more information – website. This is a stunning example. Note Christ supported by angels, the women on either side of the tomb, and the soldiers asleep underneath.

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On the south side is a double Piscina (where the chalice and paten were left to drain) and a Sedilia (clergy seats) – again, beautifully carved. The East Window (34 feet high) shows the Benedicite at the top and the Te Deum lower down. Apparently it contains a polar bear – must go back and check! In the South Transept another nice window depicts the building of the church, and there is another Sedilia.

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There is a World War Memorial window in the South Aisle, and a memorial to those who flew from here to Arnhem. Many of those who participated in Operation Market Garden were billeted here, and reunions took place until the 1990s. There are plans to commemorate the 70th anniversary later this year. The internet is incredible – here  is a list of all the memorials to that particular campaign.

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Walking around the church is incredible too. Built of Ancaster stone, the tower is 185 feet high.

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We walked back to the car and parked at the station. When the kids were little there was a building called The Pearoom, which had arts and crafts, a cafe and a TIC. It was rather fun. Googling, it was built for the GNR in 1870 and used for grading and supplying local peas. It became the National Centre for Craft and Design, until the 1990s when they moved into Sleaford. Now it is luxury, gated apartments. Opposite is the eight-sailed windmill (originally built 1838 with five sails, rebuilt 1892). Now it is only open at weekends – details here. The sails were removed on 13 June this year – new ones will be fitted. The station (1859) has a small museum, but it’s only open eight times this year – website – and the simple semaphore signal which protects the crossing has been replaced with a monstrosity.

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