Monday, June 16, 2008


click photo to enlarge
Many architectural historians consider that the district of South Lincolnshire, long known as Holland, has the best group of medieval churches that England can offer. During the middle ages the flat landscape of the Fenlands echoed to the cry of sheep, and it was on the back of these animals that masterpieces such as St Botolph at Boston, St Mary at Long Sutton, and St Mary Magdalene at Gedney were built. Virtually every village in this area has an old church, often begun in the 1100s, added to in the 1200s and 1300s, and given a major overhaul or expansion in the 1400s using the money that flowed from the wool that made it one of England's most affluent localities.

St Peter & St Paul, Algarkirk (shown above) is one of the lesser known churches of this part of Lincolnshire. A cruciform building, it was begun in the 1200s, completed in the 1400s, and given a major restoration by R. C. Carpenter in 1850-4. At a time when the Victorian restorers were often heavy-handed, replacing old with new, and re-modelling with great insensitivity, The Ecclesiologist described Algarkirk as a model of refurbishment "so good it could hardly be improved upon". Tractarian principles were applied, with Carpenter aiming to be faithful to the design and spirit of what he found. So, new window tracery was modelled on the decayed original designs and examples from old drawings of the building: new choir stalls were based on delicate fourteenth century models rather than the current heavy Victorian style. Today the church sits in stately splendour in its churchyard, barely a mile from its contemporary neighbour, St Mary the Virgin at Sutterton, as much a pleasure to our eye as it must have been to the original builders.

Why is my title Algarkirk rather than Algarkirk church? In the Domesday Book of 1086 the settlement is called Alfgare which is thought to be an old Danish personal name (the area was settled by Danes in the early middle ages.) In 1174 it is called Algarescherche, adding the Old English "cirice" (church) to a variant of the original name. But, by 1212 the Old Norse for church (kirk or kirkja) was used and the village became Algarekirke. Clearly the building of this church that we see today resulted in the village name changing to incorporate its largest building. It is that which renders the additional word "church" superfluous in my title!
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 22mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off