COVENHAM ST BARTHOLOMEW
1048/7/2 VILLAGE STREET 09-SEP-67 CHURCH OF ST BARTHOLOMEW
GV II* Church; late C14 - early C15, with possibly C18 brick patching, and C15 porch; north transept has been removed possibly C17 or early C18. Two episodes of restoration 1854-5 and 1863-64, the latter to the designs of the architects Rogers and Marsden of Louth. The church is built of chalk and greenstone with limestone dressings and brick patching. Its bell tower above the crossing is timber-framed with slate hanging, and the roofs of the chancel and south porch are also slate covered. The nave roof is covered in lead.
PLAN: The plan was originally cruciform, with nave, chancel and south and north transepts, with opposing south and north doors to the centre of the nave. Of the two transepts only the south now survives.
EXTERIOR: The construction of the nave and south transept is mainly of roughly squared blocks of chalk laid to course, the blocks diminishing in size from ground to eaves, with brick patching mainly towards ground level. The stonework to the chancel is smaller and more roughly coursed. An almost continuous string course runs round the nave at sill level. The windows to the south of the chancel are C14 and have two lights with cusped ogee trefoil heads and hood moulds; the smaller C19 window to the east of the south transept imitates the style of these. The south wall of the transept has a pointed arched, C15 two-light window with trefoil heads to the lights and hood mould; the stained glass in the tracery at the top of the window is complete. The west nave and east chancel windows are C19, while the two nave windows and that to the north transept arch are C19 repairs or replacements, of three lights with pointed arches and hoodmoulds. Above the entrance to the porch, just below the gable, is set a much worn mitred head of a bishop or abbot. Through the porch, the entrance is a pointed, moulded arch with hood mould, while the north entrance has a plain pointed arch over brick infill.
INTERIOR: Inside, the north wall and chancel are unplastered. The pointed arch to the south transept is revealed as double chamfered where C19 plasterwork has fallen away. The floors are covered in a geometric pattern of C19 tiles. The roof to the nave has a king post flanked by struts, and the C19 encased tie beams are supported by carved braces. The chancel roof is concealed beneath C19 boarding. The C19 altar, pulpit and pews survive, as does a memorial on the west wall of the nave to John Wallis d.1773, and most notably, the floor brass in the chancel to Sir John Skipwith, dated 1415. In the south transept is the matrix for another small brass, and originally contained a knight with shields.
HISTORY: St Bartholomew's is one of two churches in Covenham; the second, St Mary's, about 250m to the south, remains in use as the parish church. Both appear to be medieval rebuildings on an earlier plan, but there is evidence to suggest that St Bartholomew's is the earlier of the two and may have served as a pre-Conquest minster church. The clearest physical evidence of this is its setting at the south-west corner of a large enclosure, defined to the south by Birketts Lane, and to the east and north by a ditch and bank, visible in the field to the north and on aerial photographs. At the south-west corner the road curves round to the west of the churchyard, clearly respecting an earlier boundary.
The fabric of the church is largely late C14 - early C15, with possibly C18 brick patching, and with a C15 porch. Originally cruciform in plan, the north transept has been removed; the date of demolition is uncertain, but may have taken place in the late C17 or early C18. The roof also seems to have been reconstructed at that date, re-using medieval timbers but lowering its pitch, and adding decorative bracing to the tie beams. The bell frame, replaced in 1823, is housed in the central turret, reported in 1846 as 'slated not only on the top, but on its sides', and contains three bells dating from c1500 - 1632. It seems probable that these slates are contemporary with the bell frame, and also with those covering the south porch and the chancel.
During the second half of the C19 there were two episodes of restoration. In 1868 Kelly's Directory reported that five windows had been inserted in 1854-5, probably the east window to the south transept, the east chancel window, the two windows to the nave and the window in the former arch to the north transept. The second episode, undertaken from 1863-64, appears to have started as a comprehensive programme of renovation and repair to the designs of the architects Rogers and Marsden of Louth. Presumably financial constraints prevented the architects' plans being fully adopted, or executed to the expected architectural standard, as they distanced themselves from the final work. The Lincoln Diocesan Architectural Society's list of church restorations in 1864 stated that the church had been 'repaired and re-seated, but -- the architects ---- repudiated the responsibility of these works, with much reason, because they only supplied the designs, which were partially carried out.' The work undertaken by the Restoration Committee included the replacement of the west window, the construction of the brick chancel arch, encasing the medieval timbers of the roof and laying the decorative glazed floor tiles. The early C19 box pews were also replaced.
C20 work was limited to the stained glass of the east window (1907) and the introduction of chancel furniture and a new altar. Since the church was listed in 1967 (at Grade A) the floor brass of 1415, commemorating Sir John Skipwith, has been returned to its former place in the chancel. The church was made redundant in 1981. The possibility of dismantling the church and exporting it to the USA was explored in the 1980s, but not proceeded with.
SOURCES: Lincoln Diocesan Architectural Society, list of church restorations in 1864. Associated Architectural Association Papers, VII (1864). (Quoted in Richard Halsey's report on St Bartholomew's Church, 2008).
Halsey R, 'St Batholomew's Church, Covenham St Bartholomew', unpublished report, (November 2008).
Rodwell W, 'Covenham, St Bartholomew, Lincolnshire. Report to C.C.C. Executive on the Archaeological Implications of Exporting the Church to the United States of America'. Unpublished report, (1986).
REASON FOR DESIGNATION: St Bartholomew's, Covenham, a medieval church altered and restored in the C17, C18 and C19, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Survival: It is of particular importance and more than special interest for the substantial survival of its medieval fabric and plan, despite later repair and renovation. * Alterations: many of the alterations and repairs are of additional historical interest, particularly those undertaken in the C17 and C18. * History: It is of more than special interest for its probable early-medieval date, and particularly for its possible role as a pre-Conquest minster church.
© Diane Seddon ARPS AFIAP CPAGB BPE3