Silk Willoughby, Lincolnshire – St Denis

15 September 2018. Off to Norfolk for a week’s holiday. We had a couple of Heritage Open Days to enjoy en route. First stop was St Denis church, Silk Willoughby. The deanery has a website, but it doesn’t mention this weekend’s activities. There is another selection of photos here. The church is just off the old A15 – TF 057430

Silk Willoughby was anciently two manors. Willgebi (from old English ‘welig’ and old Scandinavian ‘byr’ meaning ‘the place among willows’)  and Silkebi (Norse ‘selki’ meaning ‘young seal’). Makes you wonder why there are seals, and whether a seal was called Denis, who is the Patron Saint of France. There was a church here at Domesday, but this one was commissioned by William Armyn, Master of the Rolls 1317, Bishop of Norwich 1325-1336, Chancellor of England, and local Lord of the Manor. In his 1872 book the Venerable Edward Trollope, Archdeacon of Stow, wrote “He who erected this tower … must assuredly have been a master of his art, and we can still perceive how boldly he could design, and how freely he could execute what he had conceived.” The door is earlier than the inscription to Robert Oak, churchwarden in 1690 – obviously a modest and retiring churchwarden!

The font is rather lovely – it’s Norman, so about 250 years earlier than the church. The cover is Victorian, 1891. The guide says the font is large “because the Prayer Book used to require that … the Vicar … shall dip the child into the water”. It’s amazing how a Lincolnshire Norman had managed to get hold of a copy of the Prayer Book 500 years before it was written!

Also pre the Prayer Book are the remains of wall paintings – one of which showed St George and the dragon. I am annoyed I failed to get a decent photo of the whole church.

They had a good selection of local history on display – as well as excellent home made cakes – and a nice welcome. Here is a fascinating photo, the rood screen, and some carvings in the oak.

The bench ends are more gorgeous wood. The pulpit is Jacobean – it used to be painted and 3½ feet higher – the lectern is 1910, the old chest much older. I like the carving too.

The Jubilee Window was built and installed by Glen Carter in 2003 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and in memory of a churchwarden Kath Armstrong. It includes representations of the village pond and a dove, but suggests that people see different things in the different colours. The East window dates to 1896, designed by Christopher Whall, depicting ‘Christ, the object of our worship, as he may be imagined now waiting for us’.

As we left, Julie stopped to buy books from the old coffin trolley, then I looked up and enjoyed the faces looking back at me. What a marvellous selection of beards.



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4 Responses to Silk Willoughby, Lincolnshire – St Denis

  1. Gregory Smith says:

    The “Old Coffin Trolley” is properly called a hearse.


    I live in Silk Willoughby and love our church. We have some very interesting medeival grafitti in our south porch and inside church and outside. The minister Hugo Tuke in around 1577 did a bit of grafitti too.

    • admin says:

      Thank you Fiona. Lovely to have an excuse to re-read one of my blogs from umpteen years ago. All the best to lovely Linclnshire. Peter

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