St Denys' Church, Sleaford

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St Denys Church, Sleaford
The church's west facade, facing the market place
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Dedication St Denys
Parish New Sleaford
Deanery Lafford
Diocese Lincoln
Province Canterbury
Vicar(s) The Revd. Philip A. Johnson
Asst Curate(s) (vacant)
Reader(s) Mr Bernard Pope (PTO),
Mr David Hitchcock
Organist/Director of music Mr David Prescott
Churchwarden(s) Mrs Anne Smillie-Pearson,
Mr Richard Clash
View into the north transept and the chantry chapel

Sleaford Parish Church (St Denys) is a Grade I listed Church of England church in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. It is notable for having one of the oldest stone broach spires in England and an altar rail designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Built in the early 13th century, the building was added to during the 15th, 18th and 19th centuries. Over its lifetime the church has been used as a barracks (during the English Civil War) and as a school room (during the 19th century). Members of the local Carre family are buried in the building, and two altar tombs are dedicated to their memory.

Location and description[edit]

Dedicated to Saint Denis, the church is located on the eastern side of the market place in Sleaford and stands in a small graveyard with a vicarage to the north side. The building has a large atrium upon which sits the bell tower. The nave, with clerestory and aisles to both sides, leads to a chancel. The church has a north transept which houses a small chapel.


The earliest mention of a parish church in the town is in the 1086 Domesday book, but the current building largely dates from 1180 when it consisted of a tower, nave and southern aisle. A spire was added to the top of the existing tower in around 1220, bringing their combined height to 144 feet (44 m). It is one of the oldest stone broach spires in England.[1][2] A chantry chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was founded in 1271 by Thomas Blount and John de Bucham and is located at the eastern end of the north aisle.[1] The building was extended and remodelled several times. The north transept was built, along with decoration of the nave, during the 13th century and a clerestory was added in around 1430.[2]

The clerestory of the church, illuminated by the stained glass windows

During the English Civil War St Denys' was used as a barracks for parliamentary troops who destroyed the interior furnishings (including the organ and eagle lectern), broke the stained glass windows and looted valuables.[1] It was not until 1772 that Edward Evans, a ship's surgeon on HMS Egmont, donated £300 to replace the destroyed organ with one built by Samuel Green. During the 1790s the church was gifted an altar rail, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, that had been left spare during the renovation of Lincoln Cathedral.[3]

A north aisle was added by local builders Kirk and Parry in 1853 to accommodate an expanded congregation. At the same time the church's interior was renovated, at a cost of £3,500. In his 1872 book Sleaford, and the wapentakes of Flaxwell and Aswardhurn a local vicar, Edward Trollope, called St Denys' "the most beautiful and attractive building in the town".[1] During the early part of the 19th century part of the building was used as a schoolroom; a practice Trollope described as "desecration".[1][3]

The church was damaged by an electrical storm in 1884 and parts, including the spire, were rebuilt by Kirk and Parry. A 15th-century window removed from the front facade was reconstructed and stands in the grounds at the rear of the church.[2] In 1891 the Green organ was sold and replaced with one by Forster & Andrews of Hull.

The Scottish-born architect Sir Ninian Comper restored the church's rood screen in 1919, dedicating it in memory of the Peake family, killed during World War I. The building was Grade I listed in on 16 July 1949, the listing notes "particularly good mid Cl4 tracery and ornament".[2]

In 2008 solar panels were installed on the roof of the south aisle at a cost of £57,000, half of which was provided by grants through the British government's Low Carbon Buildings Programme.[4]


The churchyard around St Denys' was expanded several times: first in 1391, when the Bishop of Lincoln John Bokingham purchased a 150 by 8 feet (45.7 m × 2.4 m) piece of land to one side of the church. It was further enlarged to the north in 1796. Until 1837 the grounds were surrounded by a dwarf wall, when it was replaced by a more substantial stone wall. The churchyard fell out of use as a burial ground some time before the 1870s.[1]


St Denys' in 1872, from the frontispiece of Trollope's book

Originally St Denys' had 6 bells, some dating from 1600, one from 1707 and two undated. In 1796 a new peal of 8 bells were cast by Thomas Osborn of Downham, Norfolk.[1] The bells carry inscriptions from Osborn:[1]

  1. The Lord to praise, my voice I'll raise
  2. Give no offence to the Church
  3. Peace and Good Neighbourhood
  4. Edward Waterson, vicar
  5. Long live king George the third
  6. William Kirton and George Robinson, Churchwardens
  7. These 8 bells were cast in the year 1796
  8. I to the church the living call
And to the grave do summon all

— Thomas Osborn, Founder[1]

Monuments and burials[edit]

The oldest tombstone in the church dates from the 13th century, however it was faded and illegible, according to Trollope, even in the 1870s.[1]

Carre family[edit]

Altar tomb of Sir Edward Carre

Members of the Carre family (a notable local family, originally from Northumberland) are buried in the church. George Carre, the first Carre to inhabit the town, was entombed in the nave of the church in 1521, but was later moved and laid in the floor of the chancel. His tomb slab carries the inscription Hic Jacet Georgius Carre et Anne uxor ejus, qui quidem Georgius obiit—Ano. Dni. 1521.[1]

On the northern side of the chancel opening is an altar tomb containing dedications to George's eldest son Robert Carre (who founded the local grammar school), his first wife Elizabeth and some of their children. Opposite, on the southern side, is a similar tomb dedicated to Robert's fourth son (and eventual heir) Sir Edward Carre which carries the effigies of Edward and his second wife, Anne Dyer.[1]

Later burials[edit]

The English novelist Frances Brooke (died 23 January 1789) is buried in the church with her son.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Trollope, E. (1872). Sleaford, and the wapentakes of Flaxwell and Aswardhurn. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Parish Church of St Denys (Listing NGR: TF0687645892)". Listed Buildings Online. English Heritage. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Sleaford St Denys C.E Parish Church". Lincolnshire County Council. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  4. ^ "The Story of our project to install solar photovoltaic panels on the South Aisle roof of St Denys’ Church, Sleaford.". 2009. 
  5. ^ Brooke, F. and Backscheider, P.R. and Cotton, H.D. (1777). The excursion. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-0881-0. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Simon Jenkins: England's Thousand Best Churches. London: Penguin Books 1999/2009, p. 450f

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°59′59″N 0°24′32″W / 52.9997°N 0.4089°W / 52.9997; -0.4089