St Michael and All Angels - History


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Historical Background

The building dates from the 13th century, replacing an earlier structure of roughly the same dimensions and nothing remains of this earlier building. It seems likely the construction of the ‘new’ church was possible by the relative wealth of the village at that time. This prosperity came about from the unusually mild climate England was then experiencing and records show there were 2000 sheep kept in the parish in 1270. The Vicar of Langtoft was demanding double and triple offerings at weddings and funerals: Church festivals (called Church-Ales) were being celebrated to such excess that the Bishop of Lincoln banned them in 1239.

The Church

The Church is dedicated to St Michael & All Angels.

Christian tradition gives St Michael four offices:

  • To fight against Satan.
  • To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy – especially at the hour of death.
  • To be the champion of Gods people.
  • To call men’s souls away from earth and bring them to judgement.

The 13th century Bell Tower is unusually situated at the end of the North Aisle rather than at the end of the Nave.

The Broach Spire above the Tower was a 14th century addition: identified by its small dormer windows looking over the Roman Carr Dyke and far across the flat lands of the Fens.

The external entrance door was a 17th century or later alteration.

Following a silence of some 90 years and as part of the restoration project of the late 1900’s the five original bells were re-hung and a new treble bell commissioned: the bells now ring out most Sundays calling parishioners to worship.

The main entrance to the Church is through the South Porch, the most recent addition. As you enter the Church through it you may notice a memorial slab on the West wall with a date of 1619, which may well be the date of its construction. The attractive classical frontage with its semi-circular arch and pilasters was a 17th century alteration.

Records are confusing as to when the Nave was built but indications are a structure with a much lower roof was constructed in the 14th century along with the Spire.
The Nave was greatly remodelled in the 15th century with the Great West Window, the aisles, the clerestory and the blocking up of the original West Doorway all being attributed to this period.
Much of the medieval glass has been retained.

You can see the arches have carved stone heads of medieval men – possibly of the masons who worked on this remodelling phase.
The pillars of the Nave Arcades are puzzling because of the variety of their capitals which are of 14th century character: some carved and some plain but the pillars themselves suggest an earlier date.
The Nave roof has some classical features including the carved wooden figures on the wall brackets that suggest the same date as the Porch.

The Chancel and the Sanctuary is the oldest part of the church and is of the 13th century: the South Chapel was added in the 14th century and the North Chapel (now the Vestry) in the 17th century and houses the only stained glass windows in the church.
The Piscina at the Sanctuary dates back to the 14th century and is an excellent example of its type with its ornate carving: both side Chapels have there own Piscina’s which are used to dispose of the water used for washing the communion vessels (which could contain minute parts of the consecrated elements) and run into the ground via the Sacarium or the drain.

The Easter Sepulchre is an arched recess generally in the North wall of the Sacristy and between Good Friday and Easter Day the Crucifix and sacred elements, commemoration of Christ’s entombment and resurrection were placed in.
In older days candles were lit around the Easter Sepulchre on Good Friday evening and parishioners would stand guard until the Easter morning service: the Eucharist was brought out as Jesus rose from the tomb and it would be placed on the pattern (or communion plate) on the alter.

There are two Aumbry’s in the Church: one at the side of the East font the other in the South pillar of the Chancel.
The name Aumbry has derived from the medieval Almarium “a place for keeping tools” and is a recessed cabinet in the wall of the church for keeping sacred vessels, chalices etc. and vestments as well as the consecrated elements from the Eucharist.

At the East end of the South Aisle we find a Hagioscope or Squint which in architecture is an opening through the wall which allows worshippers who are out of sight of the Altrr, to see the elevation of the Host.

The Pulpit is late 17th century and on a close inspection it can be seen it is decorated with flaming suns and sacred monograms on tarsia panels.
This is a type marquetry, inlaying different timbers for the colour variations to produce the patterns.

The large ornate Brass Chandelier dates from the mid 18th century and has 25 candled branches in three ties with a dove of peace above them.
The chandelier bears the inscription – “The gift of Edward Presgrave of Tongue End.
Gentleman who died 12th January 1759.”
Little is known of Edward Presgrave other than the lane that used to run between New Road and the A15 was named Presgrave Road.
The candles of the chandelier are lit for each Christmas Eve Carol Service and other special events during the year.

The 15th century narrow winding Rood Stairs can be found in the North respond of the Chancel arch (Respond – a half pillar or pier attached to support an arch: normally at the end of an arcade)
The stairs correspond to the doorway to the Rood Loft on the opposite wall which is curiously corbelled from the clerestory walls.
The word Rood is derived from the Saxon word rood or rode which means “cross.”
The rood screen is so called because it had fixed to it a Rood – a large figure of the crucified Christ.
Until the 6th century the Altar of Christian churches would have been in full view of the congregation, separated only by a low alter rail.
Then however churches began to follow the example of the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople where their altars were surrounded with a colonnade or templon which supported a decorated architrave beam along which a curtain could be drawn to veil the alter at the specific point in the consecration of the Eucharist.

You will notice the Church has two fonts – the story of why we have two fonts has long been lost to the annals of time.
The font near the main entrance has not been used for many years and now acts as host to our flower ladies displays.
The pedestal font at the East end of the South Aisle is where all Christenings are carried out: it was once located in front of the West Window and is almost identical with the font at Wilsthorpe just a few miles away.

The walls are all plastered internally and except for the Chancel and Chapel the plaster appears to be medieval.
Somewhere on the West wall of the Nave below the West Window is one of the original consecration crosses.

There are not many memorials in the church but two of the most prominent feature the Hyde family.
The Hyde family dominated the village as Lords of the Manor living in Langtoft Hall during the 18th century.
There is also a carving of Elizabeth Moulsworth in Black Stuart gown and ruff in a niche high up in the Chancel.
She died in 1648 and was also a member of an important village family.

The latest major alteration in the Church happened in December 2013 when we took delivery of our new chairs following a two-year battle with Church Authorities and other agencies.
The 19th century pine pews were sold without any problems to people in the village, with the exception of one pew, and were removed over the two weeks prior to the chairs being delivered.

Outside in the churchyard are the graves of many people who have lived in the village.
Some of the older stones have eroded with age, though there are still many legible inscriptions with their brief and often moving record of lives lived in a different age and reminders of our own mortality.
Although the churchyard is closed for burials, cremated remains are still laid to rest in the peaceful area at the rear of the Church.
In the North West corner of the rear churchyard is the grave of the Rev. Tomlin vicar of Langtoft and when his grave was being dug a Roman urn was unearthed – sadly there is no record of its present whereabouts.

The village war memorial stands beside the front entrance path.

As a point of interest the Rev. Samuel Gregg a vicar of Langtoft in the 1590’s had a son named Hamlet who went off to London where he worked on the King James version of the Bible translating parts of the book of Joshua.