A NEW CHURCH


In 1805, as the Church was found to be “rather too large for the parish”, it was “modernised and reduced in size” under the directions of John Cracroft, squire of Hackthorn Hall (1748-1821) and Archdeacon Illingworth.  These alterations, including the reduction of the Chancel to a very small semi-circular feature, were carried out at the expense of Mr Charles Mainwaring, the lay Rector. On removing the stones of the Chancel, the coffin of Robert Cracroft (1702-1763) fell to pieces, but that of his eldest son Robert Wilson Cracroft (1747-1787) remained perfect.  Black marble tombstones in memory of these two members of the Cracroft family now form part of the floor of the new Chancel.  Presumably the tower, or at least its upper portion, was also rebuilt at the same time (1805-7).

A Terrier of 1822 reports  “Belonging to the said parish are first the parish church containing in length (with a Chancel) fifty one feet, in breadth eighteen feet and a half, the chancel in breadth is one part fifteen feet, the other part fourteen feet, the steeple ten feet and a half square within the walls, in height thirty feet.  Within and belonging to which are one Communion Table with a covering of green cloth for the same with one napkin, one pewter flagon, one silver chalice, one paten, one pulpit and reading desk made in the year 1811, one pulpit cushion covered with green cloth, one large bible of the last translation, two large common prayer books, the book of Homilies, one surplice, one bell and frame, the seats in the church (except belonging to Robert Cracroft Esq) have been repaired at the public expense of the parish, one iron chest with one lock, one pair of stocks, two register books in parchment”.

The following notes on the building of the present church are largely compiled from the diaries if Colonel Weston Cracroft-Amcotts (1815-1883):-

In 1844 it was found that “the accommodation in the church was so scanty that a fourth part of the Parish were without sittings altogether”.  It was therefore decided to enlarge the church, and a subscription list was opened to which every parishioner agreed to contribute according to his means.  The sum of £200 , with a further £100 promised by instalments, was to be paid to Mr Mainwaring the Lay Rector, who undertook the extensions and alterations; as will be seen this sum formed but a very small proportion of the total cost.”

Enlarging the Church

On October 1st 1844, the foundation stone of the new aisle was laid in the North West corner of the church; it was a white marble slab bearing the following inscription:-

 

THE FIRST STONE OF THIS NEW AISLE

WAS LAID 1ST OCTOBER 1844 BY

WESTON CRACROFT ESQR

THE CHURCH BEING AT THE SAME TIME

CONSIDERABLY ENLARGED AND BEAUTIFIED

ROBERT CRACROFT, ESQ, PATRON

CHAS. MAINWARING ESQ, LAY RECTOR

EDWIN GEORGE JARVIS, VICAR

Mr Charles Mainwaring, the Lay Rector of Hackthorn and owner of about eight hundred acres of land in the parish was the sole architect, Mr Durance, stonemason of Lincoln, being the builder.  After the foundation stone was laid, the line of the outer north wall was twice altered so that the position of the stone itself is now “a little to the proper left of the porch”.  New foundations in concrete were laid for the Chancel and south wall, the former being on the same lines as those of the chancel that existed in 1800.  The old foundations of the south wall seemed to extend further towards the south, which led Mr Durance to think there may have been at one time a south aisle.  The original foundations, Saxon or Norman, were completely replaced.  The stone was chiefly the common limestone and ‘water pit’ stone, and probably came out of the old stone pits in the Park, but there were also found pieces of a reddish stone which were not recognised as belonging to this part of the country.  In digging holes for the new buttresses, the workmen came upon a tier of stone coffins lying East to West along the whole length of the church and also extending towards the South.  These stone coffins were thought to be the resting places of members of some great family who lived at Hackthorn some 5 or 6 hundred years previously, possibly in a large house located in the “ Chapel Field” north of the present village.  Skeletons were found in some of these coffins, the bones of which crumbled to dust, and in others there were indications that fresh tenants had been deposited, which in their turn had perished.

Below these ancient stone coffins lay a tier of tombs still more ancient, perhaps Saxon, made of large slabs of stone rudely put together, lying on the clay foundation; scarcely a remnant of humanity was found in them – only a half decayed skull.  The ground inside the church seems to have been raised at two different times, if not more often.

By May 1845 the building of the church had progressed rapidly.  The hoodmold of the porch was laid on May 27th, carved by Mr Durance himself, together with two Griffins heads copied from the doorway of the West Front of Lincoln Cathedral; the two other carved arches, together with the capitals of the pillars are of Norman origin, being taken from the arched doorway that stood in the South Wall of the old church.

By October 1845 the nave of the church had been roofed in, but not yet the chancel.  The roof was now actually six feet higher than the tower, but Mr Charles Mainwaring decided to remedy this incongruous position by raising the tower 30 feet in the following year.

It was not till March 4th 1849, that the first service was held in the new church.  The gallery was not finished, nor was the newly carved church furniture installed;  the exterior spouting and rain-water down pipes had not yet been fitted and the church was reported to be very cold.  In December 1849 heavy rain came through the roof in many places, proving that the pitch was not steep enough for the blue tiles, which were later replaced by slates.