Rector’s letter August 2019
Visit Westminster Abbey
Wolds Witness - A Consultation
St Thomas the Apostle, North Willingham
Baptisms, Marriages & Funerals

Rector’s letter August 2019

Dear Friends,

Do you ever wonder how visible we are to the communities we serve? Do you ever consider how we can make our presence felt more in the places that we live? Do you ever feel like we are side-lined and from the perspective of the general populous, that we are no longer needed?

If so you are probably in good company, with all those people who were faithful and trusting in our Lord down from the birth of Christianity. Our job has always been a difficult one, an uphill struggle. Yet, there aren’t many organised groups of people who can say they have a willing and active presence in every community in this country. So surely we have a good start to do our work. We don’t even have to advertise our presence, people know we are there! And for the many who do not come to church, there is still some comfort in knowing that we are there ... how do I know that, well – just try and close your church building and see the uproar it creates!

It strikes me that while it is the church as ‘the body of Christ’ that is often invisible, often not effective, often seen as out of touch, it is the church as a ‘building’ that is powerfully symbolic of our Christian heritage, morals and ethics; symbolic of each generation’s connection with the one before. A connection of place, made through baptism, marriage and funeral services within the church building. We may no longer live in a predominantly ‘theologically’ Christian country, but we most definitely live in a ‘culturally’ Christian country.

It is our church buildings towering over most of our towns and villages that are the physical outworking of this cultural Christianity. Buildings built to enable prayer and worship, but also for those passages of life as we move from cradle to grave.

We often complain about our buildings as being the financial ball and chain around our legs. Yet I would like to suggest it is our magnificent churches (as buildings) built to the Glory of God, that keep the undercurrent of Cultural Christian connectivity alive and kicking. They are without doubt the best marketing tool we have.

Nearly every town and village has a Christian symbol standing proud at its heart in their church. A beacon of light, love and hope in the midst of a difficult world. Within the Walesby Group we have some magnificent church buildings, with prayer soaked walls from centuries past, creating places of sanctuary. They are amazing and we should be proud of them, as they stand the buffeting of weather and time and do not buckle or shy from their duty as sentinels to Christ. Are we able to say the same?

This issue of the Wolds Witness will start a series focussing on one of our churches in particular. This time we will look at St Thomas the Apostle in North Willingham. Many of you will know the difficult issues with St Thomas’ at the present time. Because of structural issues we have had to lock the building and not use it for services. Yet we believe St Thomas’ has a bright future, and as we meet as a church in homes across the parish, we are determined to restore the building to its former glory and bring it back in use for the 21st century. A shining beacon of hope in the world and the heart of its community. Let the warmth of our welcome, reflect the magnificence of our churches and the Glory of God.

Yours in Christ


As we move towards September and October our harvest celebrations take centre stage.

Harvest Festivals are a traditional part of our village life, reflecting the bounty God has bestowed upon us. Yet we need to balance that with the responsibility of good stewardship He also bestowed upon us. To that end, our Harvest Festivals this year will take on a general theme of ‘Creationtide’. This is a time when we as Christians are called upon to pay special attention to our responsibility for the earth and for all that lives upon it. Each service will offer its own perspective on this. I do hope you enjoy the season, the services and maybe a supper or two!

Visit Westminster Abbey

I have acquired a number of free entry passes to visit Westminster Abbey. If any Church member or their family are going to London and would like to use the pass, then please contact me. Each pass admits up to 4 visitors free of charge to the Abbey. The only condition is that the passes are returned to me as they can be used up to six times in the twelve months from the date of first use, before they expire.

For your information:

Current entry charges are Adult £21, Concession £18 and Child £9 (if purchased on Line).
Sundays are free to enter, as worship takes precedence and there is no sightseeing.

Fr Chris

Wolds Witness - A Consultation

Recently a number of discussions have been held regarding the usefulness, cost effectiveness and purpose of the Wolds Witness. To help this discussion we would be interested to know your opinions on the Wilds Witness as we currently provide it. It takes much ministry time to produce from both me, Elaine and Mike English … are we spending our time wisely?

Some simple questions may be helpful to reflect upon.

  1. Is it useful?

  2. Why do you say that?

  3. Do you read it?

  4. What do you use it for?

  5. How would you feel about it being totally on-line?

  6. Currently it is issued every two months: Should it be monthly? Should it be quarterly?

  7. Currently it only goes to church members, do you think in a modified format it should be a publication that goes to every household in our villages?

  8. Do you ever access the same information on the website? If not why not?

I really look forward to your opinions on this. Please reply either by email, phone or drop me a note. Please be assured that we are just asking the question, with no view to do anything at this time.

Fr Chris

St Thomas the Apostle, North Willingham

History & Background

The first thing that stands out when taking a look at the exterior of the church of St Thomas the Apostle is its physical difference to all the other parish churches that make up the Walesby group. It is built of softer green sandstone rather than the orange-brown ironstone generally used, and it is largely a Classical Georgian style, whereas the others are either medieval or Victorian Gothic revival. The village itself of North Willingham is also different in that it lies at the foot of the Wolds, rather than in them and its name is Anglo-Saxon rather than having Scandinavian origins.

The current church was built in 1777 by Ayscough Boucherett, in what was then the fashionable Georgian Classical style. The Boucherett family had dominated the surrounding area since the late 17th century. The village and surrounding lands being first acquired by Matthew Boucherett, a French Hugenot (protestant) refugee, who first became a London apothecary and merchant, before setting himself up as a Lincolnshire country gentleman.

There must have been a church on the site around the time of the Domesday book, as records exist of Sixhills priory appointing vicars throughout the middle ages. The first known vicar being Andrew of Normanby in about 1220. Sixhills priory was founded about 1150, belonging to the Gilbertine order, established by Lincolnshire priest Gilbert of Semperingham. The Gilbertine order was the only medieval ‘solely English’ order of religious life.

The church records pre-date the current church and go back in some form to 1658. The records are today stored for safe keeping in the Lincolnshire Archives. There is a substantially complete set of ‘Parish Officer’ records commencing 1795 which throw much light on the nature of life in Georgian Willingham. Officials then elected by ‘the Vestry’ had to cope with law and order, local government and church upkeep. Nothing much has changed through time and it seemed, as is also often the case today, one or two hard-working villagers held all the offices of the church: churchwarden, surveyor of highways, overseer of the poor and parish constable. Also, the churchwardens responsibilities included surplice washing twice a year!

In 1790 the Boucherett family built the great, but now demolished mansion of Willingham House to the West of the village. It remained an important focus even after the Boucherett family had died out in 1905. Willingham was an estate village until the final break-up of the estate in 1942. It must have been a successful and important place with a population of 234 in 1851. Around the same time Archdeacon Bonney on in inspecting the church reported it as being in good order, in 1895 however the tower had to be extensively repaired.

The Church

St Thomas’ stands adjacent to the Market Rasen to Louth road. With the increase in traffic over the recent years parking has become difficult. The church is often bypassed by visitors as the easier option. It is undoubtedly Georgian in style with its West Gallery still intact, yet untypical in other ways having no aisle, a narrow nave and a very distinct chancel. This all suggests the footprint of the current church is very similar to that of the medieval church it replaced. Indeed the lower tiers of stone suggest they are from an earlier era. The tower is medieval and is considered to date from the 13th century, heightened by contrasting ironstone in the 14th century. In 1895 architect CJ Fowler repaired and modified the top of the tower introducing battlements and pinnacles.

The Georgian style is simple and plain. No images of Saints adorn the windows, this would have been considered too idolatrous for the puritan sentiments of 1777. The West Gallery of the church, in the years before organs and formal church music, would have probably housed the choir or ‘church band’ a rather haphazard assembly of strings and woodwind instruments that would have accompanied psalms and hymns.

Originally the Nave would have contained box pews, similar to the few remaining pews that can be seen in the North Aisle of Walesby ‘Old Church’. These were removed and what is presently in place are typically Victorian.

The Church Today

Until recently St Thomas’ has been in regular use with monthly services of Holy Communion and well attended Harvest and Christmas celebrations. It also used to operate as the Polling Station and as the only community building in North Willingham also a public meeting space. It is well loved by the village, which makes it even more difficult to contemplate it in its current state of repair. I refer, of course, to the difficult decision taken to temporarily close the church for worship and other uses, as it is considered potentially unsafe.

As a church which has no heating system and also suffers from perennial moisture ingress from various sources, there has been a substantial amount of decay to the fabric and structure of the building, most of it hidden from view. Recently in the interior large areas of plaster have started to sag and fall from the Chancel ceiling, and a large section of cornice and ceiling, in the Nave, have fallen into the West Gallery. Demonstrating the failure of some parts of the fabric at high level. Externally quoin stones have started to move outwards at the south east corner of the Nave, suggesting some structural difficulties in this area.

For public safety, in consultation with the archdeacon, the decision to temporarily close the church was taken. Access for the general public is prohibited until architectural and structural assessments have been completed and it is declared ‘fit for use’. In the meantime the body of Christ, in the form of the congregation of North Willingham, are still worshipping as they did before but now in the houses of parishioners. This has proven to be a very sustainable and successful option as we try to get the church building back into use.

The Future

To take a church in this modern world and want to not just make it safe, but bring it back into use and take its place centre stage in the heart of a village community is not something to be considered by the faint of heart. However the congregation and PCC of St Thomas’ have taken the decision that, this is exactly what they want and must do.

Architects have assessed the building and an indicative quote of £320,000 has been offered as the suggested cost of the works. At first sight a tall order as most of that must be raised from grant funding, something that is not as easy as it used to be. Churches today get no special privileges, indeed to ask to repair a building solely for worship, will not get you through the initial listing process and nowhere near the short list.

To be successful in major grant applications places of worship need to be open day to day, to show community involvement and a need for the building in addition to its use for worship. Additionally, a demonstration of its importance from a heritage perspective is needed.

Worship, being open day to day and in use by the community are fairly easy to demonstrate in the case of St Thomas’.

What about its heritage though?

It is a building different in style to most in the local area, it does have many of its original features intact, and that can be argued as physical heritage, but the most important aspect to its claim to heritage is its undoubted connection to the Boucherett family, and their importance locally and nationally, especially in the person of Jesse Boucherett.

Jesse Boucherett - 1825 -1905

Jesse Boucherett was born at Willingham house in 1825, into the landed family of Ayscough Boucherett who built St Thomas’ in 1777. A very wealthy woman, who spent long periods of the year in London, becoming socially and politically aware of the plight of working women in the mid-Victorian era.

After reading the journalist and writer Harriet Martineau’s article ‘Female Industry’ in the Edinburgh Review in 1859, she was moved to found the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women (SPEW). This changed her life, but more importantly the lives of many thousands, if not millions, of women since.

The committee of the new Society met for the first time on July 7 1859. It comprised 12 women and 4 men and established an office in Great Castle Street, London. Later it moved to Langham Place and became known as the Langham Place Group.
The aims of the Society were clearly laid out - to open more occupations to women. Around two million women needed to work for a living and the ‘great want of employment’ for them led to distress and suffering. The traditional occupations of teaching, domestic service and needlework, now so overcrowded, that employers were able to force down wages and conditions to such an extent that many were reduced to seek the support of the workhouse.

Jessie Boucherett realized that unless girls had better schooling, they would not benefit from wider opportunities for employment. She set up a school to remedy this, concentrating mainly on arithmetic. This enabled them to obtain employment in occupations such as ‘clerks, cashiers and ticket sellers at railway stations’.

As public awareness of the society grew, more important names joined the committee - the Earl of Shaftesbury as President, the Bishops of London and Oxford, and William Gladstone MP.

In 1865, a permanent salaried Secretary was appointed - Gertrude King - her salary of £100 being met by Jessie. She held the post for the next 50 years!

Jesse’s work and commitment to the Society also paved the way for many girls to be apprenticed in a wide variety of occupations which had previously been open only to men, such as: china-painting; gilding; hairdressing; photography; telegraphy and watch-making. It also enabled other important ‘firsts’, such as helping the first two women to be accepted for training as hospital dispensers, as well as spearheading women’s admittance to Fellowship of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Jessie Boucherett was a dominating presence in the Society for the first 50 years of its existence. Using her own money, which by now had been considerably enhanced by a further inheritance of £16,000 (around £1,100,000 today) from her mother and an income of £1,000 a year, from 1877, after her last brother died. Then she inherited the entire estate after her sister died in 1895.

The second great enthusiasm of her life was the women’s suffrage campaign, which began in the offices of the society and which she financed with its first £25 (around £2000 today).

Jesse died in 1905, the last of the Boucherett line. Her body was interred in St Thomas’ churchyard, where she rests today. A daughter of North Willingham who made a real difference to the lives and conditions of millions of women then and now.
Now, Jesse Boucherett is a much talked of woman and substantial research is taking place into her life and the impact she had on the world of women’s rights.

As part the development and restoration of St Thomas’ church the PCC would like to ensure that more information on Jesse is available to the general public. They hope to incorporate her life, works and achievements into a permanent exhibition at St Thomas’.

Where next ...

The PCC working alongside Fran Bell and Matthew Godfrey, the Community and Heritage Buildings Officers of the Diocese of Lincoln, are preparing to advertise for tenders for a development phase of the project that it is able to fund itself. Owing to the prospective cost of the development phase, anticipated at around £25,000, we are obliged to ask for three tenders from supervising architects because when the final implementation phase is undertaken we will be over the required tender threshold.
We are determined to reopen St Thomas’ in due course and return to, the village and to generations to come, a living sentinel to our Christian faith.

If you would like to know more about Jesse Boucherett, please click here to go to the link on the North Willingham page of our website.

Baptisms, Marriages & Funerals

Michael van der Lubbe & Emily Archer Tealby Church 29th June 2019
Alistair Hopkins & Jayne Simmons Tealby Church 20th July 2019
Geoff Parker & Philippa Hallam Tealby Church 3rd August 2019

Hunter Samuel Teal Tealby Church 28th July 2019

Joyce Ellen Roach Tealby Church Burial 12th June 2019
Sheila Jacklin Thoresway Church Burial 17th July 2019
Florence Maisie Sleight Walesby Church Cremation & Thanksgiving 5th August 2019