Church of England Diocese of Lincoln Swinderby

Swinderby Church and Vicarage Through the Ages

The present building dates from the twelfth century. It has evolved over the years to reflect the needs of the community and yet still evokes continuity with the past. Externally, the tower and substantial parts of the south wall of the nave are all that remain of the original buildings.

Internally, the earliest standing fabric is Norman. It includes the three- bay north arcade, which would have replaced the original north wall when the first alteration was made to the church in the late twelfth century when a narrow northern aisle was added. A fourth Norman arch, just visible in the photograph, may have connected the chancel to a small chapel. On the pillar opposite the door there is a mark, probably made by the stone mason responsible for these changes. This original aisle was replaced in 1854, when the present extension was built, but the Norman arches and pillars remain intact.

Also dating from the Norman period is the piscina  now to be found in the rounded apse built in 1879. A piscina is a stone bowl built into the wall to allow the priest to wash his hands as well as the sacred vessels.

The corner stones (quoins) on the outside of the west tower suggest it was once freestanding, thereby providing refuge for villagers in times of danger. The pointed arch connecting the tower to the nave (the main body of the church) dates from the thirteenth century. It was during this period that the tower may have been, for the first time, permanently connected to the nave.

There are five bells in the tower, the earliest being the tenor, which was most likely cast by Robert Newcombe of Leicester circa 1550. Below the bell ropes in the tower is the octagonal style font dating from the fifteenth century, and is perpendicular (circa 1335–1530) in style.

On the south wall of the tower there is a list of incumbents, starting with Hugh in 1220.

A visible fragment of medieval wall painting survives on the south wall; at one time many of the walls would have been extensively decorated.

Some of the windows in the south wall date from the fifteenth century, with others being added at a later date. The fifteenth-century east window was moved to the south wall of the chancel in 1879 when the rounded apse was added.

At the entrance to the church, and clearly visible from the inside, is a tall rounded arch. Local tradition suggests this opening may have allowed knights and others on horse- back to enter the church, either physically or symbolically.

All Saints Church underwent extensive renovations in the nineteenth century. In 1854, changes initiated by the Reverend R. W. Clark included the rebuilding of the north aisle and the building of a new chapel at the east end of the north aisle. This is now known as the Morton Chapel. A memorial in the Morton Chapel commemorates members of the Disney family buried close to this spot.

The Disney family arrived as soldiers of fortune with William the Conqueror and were given lands in Lincolnshire. They prospered as landlords and farmers, and the village, Norton Disney, on the opposite side of the A46, bears their name. The family purchased land in Swinderby in the sixteenth century and organised the enclosure of Swinderby in the seventeenth century.

The vicar of Swinderby from 1779 to 1782 was the Reverend John Disney. He disagreed with the established Church and omitted the litany and creed from his services for over 10 years. He eventually resigned from the Church of England in 1782 and became a minister in the Unitarian Church in the Strand, London.

In 1739, the Reverend John Drake wrote that the vicarage was very old and in a decaying state. With the permission of the Church he replaced part of the original building with rooms and chambers approximately 12 yards in length fronting eastward onto the churchyard.

A painting by the Yorkshire artist George Cuit (Snr) in 1778 clearly shows the eastward-facing new vicarage and perhaps shows part of the original building in the background, and the numerous outbuildings. This painting was undertaken at the request of the Reverend John Disney. He later had the vicarage extended, which included adding a study. As a consequence, in 1806 the painting was copied in monochrome and updated by the same artist. 

Notes in the church state that in 1956 the original painting was in the possession of a Frederick J.P. Disney.

Both paintings show the rounded Norman arch above the door in the south wall, the tower and the fifteenth-century windows, which still exist today. The small narrow window looking into the nave at the east end of the church would have been used by lepers to enable them to participate in the service but not enter the church. The felled trees at the front of both paintings may indicate that the artist removed the trees blocking his view of the church and surroundings.

The eighteenth-century vicarage was replaced with a new building in the nineteenth century.

The London-based architect J. E. Lee was responsible for much of the building works undertaken in the late nineteenth century under the tenure of the Reverend C. K. Long. It remains an intact example of the architect’s work and developments included the addition of the organ chamber and the apse. The chancel arch was also enlarged. The total cost of these renovations was £480 with the public raising £350 and the Reverend Long making up the shortfall.

The organ was made by Marten and Taylor of London in 1880. The pulpit, lectern and reading desk are all late Victorian, and the detailed carvings on these items and elsewhere are all excellent examples of the fine craftmanship of this era. The figures in the rounded apse were carved by a Miss Long, daughter of the Reverend C. K. Long.