History of St Helen’s

st helens church brant broughton

Most Glorious Of All…

In “Lincolnshire Churches” the Reverend Henry Thorold describes St Helen’s Church, Brant Broughton as “without doubt one of the most glorious of all Lincolnshire churches…..it is like a mediaeval dream”. Much of the credit for this beauty must go to Canon Frederick Heathcote Sutton, who was Rector from 1873 to 1888. Soon after his appointment he wrote, “The whole interior presented an appearance of poverty and squalor”, and in partnership with the architect G.F. Bodley he carried out an extensive programme of rebuilding and restoration, mainly between 1874 and 1876.

st helen's church brant broughton lincolnshire

 

Interesting facts

The crocketed spire on St Helen’s Church, Brant Broughton is 198 feet high, a landmark for many miles and is described in Pevsner’s “Buildings of England” series as “one of the most elegant in Lincolnshire”.

In 1897 Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was doubly commemorated. An addition of seven feet was made to the top of the spire (to bring it back to what Bodley considered its original height) and this was surmounted by the weather vane, made by Messrs. Coldron, which is still in position.

The Clock

The clock was built by Messrs. William Potts and Sons of Leeds, and installed in 1881. It replaced a single handed clock on the south face of the tower. Canon Frederick Sutton recorded that almost everyone in the parish contributed to “this much needed addition to the church.”, a response which was repeated in 1983 when the clock was repaired and modernised by Potts’ successors, Messrs. John Smith and Sons of Derby.

Sun Dials

On the south side of the church there are two sun dials, one in the angle of the buttresses at the south-east corner of the nave and the other between the southeast buttresses on the wall of the tower.

Porches

The porches on St Helen’s Church, Brant Broughton, date from the late 14th century.  Both have fine stone vaulted roofs and are described in Pevsner as “The real showpieces” of the church. Like the aisles they are similar, but not identical, and both have a number of interesting carvings. Inside the north porch are splendid bosses of the pelican in piety, the rose and the lamb and flag, and in the frieze outside can be found a harvest scene, a fox carrying off a goose and a priest administering extreme unction.

On the south side the carvings are less elaborate, but include some considered by a contributor to “The Gentleman’s Magazine” in February 1804 “too indelicate to be permitted to occupy one of your plates”

There are many other carvings around the church, including angels, musicians and some splendidly grotesque gargoyles.

G.F. Bodley

G F Bodley and the architecture of refinement
by Adrian Barlow (an extract)

Sometime Director of Public Programmes at Maddingley Hall, (University of Cambridge), Adrian Barlow is also well known for his many treatises on literature.

George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907) began his career as an architect in the office of Sir George Gilbert Scott; he was Scott’s first pupil.  From 1854, however, he setup in practice on his own, though in his early years he sometimes did work for his contemporary and friend, George Edmund Street. Bodley’s distinctive designs, approved by the Ecciesiological Society, soon led to his receiving commissions to build churches in Gloucestershire and the Welsh marches, and then in Brighton, Scarborough and London, and thereafter the momentum of his fifty-year long career hardly faltered.

In his early years he had been a close friend of William Morris and Philip Webb – It was Bodley who gave Morris and Co. their first commissions for stained glass. His churches were highly praised; his turn away from French stylistic Influences to a refined version of fourteenth century English Gothic heralded what would become the characteristic Anglican style of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Churches designed by Bodley were built around the world —Tasmania, India, Florence. His were the original drawings for Washington Cathedral; at the time of his death, he was also architect of Grace Church Cathedral in San Francisco and joint architect of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral with the young Giles Gilbert Scott. Other architects admired and Imitated him.

He had wealthy and influential patrons, particularly within the Anglo-Catholic movement. For them he and his partner Thomas Gamer built majestic churches such as the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross, and Clumber Chapel in Nottinghamshire; in sprawling cities like Cardiff and Manchester they built lofty churches such as St. German’s, Roath, and St. Augustine’s, Pendlebury. Chapels, churches and college buildings in Oxford and Cambridge were a far cry from the village schools and even factories Bodley had worked on early in his career. So he did not only build churches: in the 1870s he designed rectories and private houses that heralded the start of the Georgian revival – he was by no means a Gothic-or-nothing architect.

Three features of his work deserve particular mention. First, Bodley was as impressive designing on a small scale as on a large. Some of his finest work can be seen In country churches such as Corringharn, Laughton and Brant Broughton, (St Helen’s Church, Brant Broughton), where his restorations were sensitive and his decorative work (for instance his designs for wooden screens or organ cases) was wonderfully detailed but never showy. Even the hand-hammering of a metalwork door plate or a key hole, overlooked by worshippers and visitors for a century and more, mattered to Bodley. His art of refinement was also an art of reticence.

 

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