1.The Roof Line
The roof-line of the 13th century church is still visible on the wall of the tower arch, and the Decorated style west windows in the aisles were also part of this building. In the next century came the lower part of the tower and the arcades with their octagonal pillars
2.The Children’s Corner
The children’s corner at the east end of the south aisle once had a side altar, the evidence for this being a piscina (restored) on the south wall and two corbels or brackets originally used for statues.
During the Bodley restoration the bowl of the old font was re-worked, decorated with sunk panels and carving and set on a new shaft and base. The font cover, designed by Garner, was a gift by Mr. Stuart Sutherland in 1889 in memory of Canon Frederick Sutton. Its decoration echoes the crockets and pinnacles on the spire of the church. The cover opens to reveal a painted interior, and carved figures of St. Michael, St. Nicholas and St. Agnes.
4. Stained Glass
Most of the windows in the south aisle post-date Canon Sutton, those on either side of the door being Sutton memorials, as is the west window under the tower.
All the stained glass in the church is 19th century. Much of it was designed by Canon Sutton and made, possibly with the assistance of C.E. Kempe, in a kiln at the former Rectory, the building south of the church, currently a residential college. The style is again admirably chosen, its figures (mainly prophets, kings and saints) and architectural features being typical of 14th century stained glass. The Rector was already experienced in this field, as in the 1860’s he and his brother, the Revd. Augustus Sutton, had been responsible for the west window and other glass in Lincoln Cathedral.
The attractive chandeliers, designed by Canon Sutton, were made at the forge in the High Street by Messrs. F. Coldron and Son, as were the gates to the chancel and those at the north entrance to the church. The Coldrons are an old established Broughton family noted for wrought ironwork, which is to be found not only in Lincolnshire but in many other parts of the country.
5. Rood Screen
The rood screen and choir stalls were erected in 1890 by Canon Arthur Sutton in memory of his uncle and predecessor, Canon Frederick Sutton. There is Latin inscription to this effect on the back of the screen The figure of the crucified Christ was added in 1919.
The vaulting and the west window were reconstructed by Bodley as nearly as possible to their original designs. Two fragments of a stone effigy, comprising the robed torso of a priest and a hand holding a chalice, were found beneath the floor at the base of the tower, and Canon Sutton thought they might have come from the tomb of John Torald (Thorold) who was Rector here from 1457 to 1468.
Displayed under the west window is a damaged 10th century carving of the Trinity. This was dug up on the north side of the church during the Bodley restoration.
The clerestory and the fine angel roof (which has mostly original carvings) were added in the 15th century and are Late Perpendicular. Great care was taken during the Bodley restoration to retain as much as possible of the existing woodwork and to copy the mediaeval colouring when repainting the roof. The clerestory windows illustrate the ancient chant “Te Deum”
From the central aisle it is interesting to compare the roofs, doors and earlier Perpendicular windows of the side aisles. Although they appear identical at first sight, their style and decoration differ in several respects, the south side having been built later than the north aisle.
The subject of the frieze on the walls of the nave and the two aisles is the Nicene Creed in Latin.
The chancel arch marks the beginning of the re-building undertaken in 1874, when the chancel of 1812 was demolished and replaced by the present structure. The north-east aisle and the vestries were also built then, in part on pre-1812 foundations.
To the right of the vestry screen is buttressed pillar with a blocked doorway (on which hangs a list of rectors and patrons of St. Helen’s). Behind this is a spiral staircase which would once have allowed access to a rood loft across the chancel arch.
The Gothic design of the chancel blends perfectly with the ancient church to which it was added. It is typical both of Bodley’s architectural style, and of High Church emphasis on a raised altar in a splendidly decorated setting.
Architect and rector had already worked together before the restoration of St. Helen’s began, and Canon Sutton was himself responsible for many of its features. He designed the reredos installed In 1887 and gave the painted panel depicting the Ascension which is its centrepiece. This, part of a triptych, dates from about 1490 and is the work of the Westphalian artist known as the Master of Liesborn. The reredos, with its carvings of the four Evangelists and its rich gilding, was inspired by mediaeval German examples.
The restoration of the ceilings in the chancel and the choir aisle, undertaken in 1991 and 1992, enables them to be seen again in their original splendour as outstanding examples of High Victorian design by a great architect.
The east window is the only example in the chancel of the work of another designer. It is by Burlison and Grylls, a firm of glass-painters trained by Bodley’s partner, Thomas Gamer. Central among its figures is St. Helen, holding the Cross of Christ.
This is a fine instrument for a village church, no doubt because of Canon Sutton’s considerable knowledge of church organs. It has two manuals, choir and swell, and twenty-two stops, and is the work of Wordsworth and Maskell of Leeds. The keyboard is in harpsichord style, the arrangement of white and black notes reversing the usual order. The organ was installed in 1876 but the present organ case dates from 1906.
10. North aisle
During the demolition of the old chancel some long and short work from the original Saxon church was uncovered at the north-east angle of the nave. Other finds included a piece of interlaced Saxon stonework. Fragments of monuments of the Daubney family (Lords of the Manor in the 13th and early 14th centuries) were found in the old walls and later reconstructed to form the table tomb in the side chapel.
11. War Memorial
On the north wall of the nave is a modern war memorial in honour of the men of Brant Broughton and Stragglethorpe who lost their lives in the two World Wars. The work of Robert Kiddey, it was installed in 1950. The earlier memorial to men killed in the Great War consisted of a restored churchyard cross, which can be seen to the south of the church.
In 1881 the bells were repaired and refurbished by Messrs. John Taylor and Sons of Loughborough, who also supplied a new tenor bell, weighing over 23 cwt. There is a peal of six bells, four of them dating from 1792. They were cast by Thomas Osbourne of Downham, Norfolk, who inscribed them not only with his name, but also with rhyming couplets.
Links To Reference Web Sites
St. Michael’s Church, Stragglethorpe
Also within the parish, and well worth a visit, is the church of St. Michael at Stragglethorpe (across the A 17). Most of the building dates from the early Middle Ages, but it has a Saxon west doorway, pine box pews and two-decker pulpit, and a fine 17th century monument to Sir Richard Earle.