All Saints Church

Photograph of all saints church, hemswell

Hemswell Church is pleasantly set in an ‘island’ churchyard at the centre of this pretty stone built Under-Cliffe village.  At first sight it looks like a Victorian ‘Gothic Revival’ Church.  Indeed, most of its exterior was reconstructed in 1858, but the tower (with its round topped windows) is Georgian, whilst the worn gargoyles round the twoer parapet may be relics preserved from a still older building.  In fact, closer examination reveals that All Saints is a church of three periods – mediaeval, Georgian and Victorian.

This is confirmed by the individualistically spelt inscription above the fine ‘Georgian Classical’ tower doorway, proudly recording the work of eighteenth century Hemswell Churchwardens.  Firstly they repaired the body of the church but demolished the south aisle – perhaps because it was no longer needed by a shrinking village population and this gives the church its present lop-sided appearance.  At the same time, they took down the mediaeval steeple and in 1764 the present tower was ‘Compleatly Finished’.

Less than a century later, however, the body of the church was again restored and today the interior still has a Victorian feeling, with a text over the chancel arch and a raised organ gallery at the west end.
A considerable quantity of mediaeval work has managed to survice both the Georgian and Victorian restorers.  Thus the pointed arches of the north aisle (and the carved faces between them) date from the thirteenth century, while the ornate priests’ seats (or sedilia) by the altar are perhaps a century later; they are sculpted with foliage and four tiny heads, that on the right depicting a lady wearing the ‘chin bandage’ whimple headdress fashionable in about 1310.  The font may also date from about the same date.  It is decorated with a pattern of traceried arches like those in mediaeval windows, and with the heraldic arms of localy Knightly families.
There are two other Hemswell treasures, both at the back of the church.  One is the ‘Benefactions Board’ recording Thomas Codd’s gift of £1 a year (a generous sum in 1661) to the village poor; half was to be distributed on Good Friday and half on St Thomas’day (21st December), the traditional date for much needed pre-Christmas charity.

Church History

  • The Anglican parish church is dedicated to All Saints. The church was restored in 1858.
  • The church seats about 220.
  • Parish registers exist from 1676, but the Bishop's transcripts go back to 1599.
  • The North Lincolnshire Library holds a copy of the parish register entries for baptisms 1685-1885, burials 1684-1963 and marriages 1685-1836.
  • The stone font bears the arms of the MONSON family.

More unusual, and indeed almost certainly unique, is the eccentric
All Saints’ Royal Arms panel. Dating from the late Georgian period, it was clearly painted by a rather haphazard artist and contains several mistakes. The inner shield (the arms of Hanover) should correctly be topped by a crown, but the artist has substituted what looks like an old-fashioned ‘skep’ beehive. The inner shield itself is wrongly painted and to make matters worse, the red lion of Scotland which should stand in the right hand top corner of the outer shield has been ousted by a black horse. Perhaps the painter disliked Scots, or possibly he had done too much celebrating round the Maypole, whose successor still stands almost opposite Hemswell churchyard.