St. John Baptist Church, Wolvey
History of the Church:
There was a church at Wolvey in Saxon days when the site on which the present Church of St. John the Baptist stands, was adjacent to the habitation of Ulve or Wulf, from which the parish derives its name. The site is an ideal Saxon knoll or mound, rising above the River Anker. The church is typical of the larger English parish churches, having chancel, nave, north and south aisles, west tower, south porch and north doorway. The earliest parts of the present church are: the south doorway of the twelfth century and probably the lower stages of the tower. There have been various substantial restorations through the centuries: in 1900 the Church having been closed for twelve months for very much needed restorations. In 1909 the old porch was replaced by a stone one, some of the early seventeenth timbers being reused in its roof. The flooring of the Church is of Horton stone paving (1929) and the pews are late Victorian.
This was rebuilt in the nineteenth century in the gothic of that period. The
glass of the east window is modern but is partially covered by a 1st World
War Memorial Reredos. There are some interesting memorials and floor slabs.
The capital with a deep lead-lined basin is original 14th century, on a modern base. Its position is not thought to be original and is not very practical or liturgically suitable.
The roof is modern. The chancel arch is modern and there is a blocked doorway to a former rood loft. The tower arch on the north side has traces of a Norman headed arch and traces of an earlier wall which now acts as a buttress. When the fourteenth century north aisle was added, it was built outside this, making the tower out of centre with the chancel and nave, the original nave (probably Norman), being narrower.
This aisle, which dates from the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, was renovated and improved in the first half of the fourteenth century by Alice de Astley as a memorial chantry to her husband Giles, (who was killed at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314) and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is a round-headed doorway to the rood-loft vice.
The rubble walling of the south wall to sill level is of the early work, but the windows are the work of Alice de Astley, daughter and heiress of Thomas de Wolvey. At the eastern end of the south wall is a badly mutilated piscina, which appears to have had attached shafts. Adjoining it are triple sedilia with roll moulded arches; the eastern one having been filled in with masonry flush to the wall. The roof is modern, constructed on the timbers of the earlier eighteenth century roofs. Carved on one of the beams are the initials: E.B., T.F., J.A., 1778.
The fifteenth century tower arch has been closed by a memorial screen at ground level and a first floor modern screen to the ringers platform. The wall, which is of considerable thickness and probably Norman, are of unplastered ashlar.
The earliest is by John de York c.1400 and is said to have been brought from Nuneaton Priory. One bell dated 1625 is by Hugh Watts and another of the same date reads “Toby Morris made me” (Stamford). In 1911 these were re-hung on a new framework and three new bells were added.
The twelfth century doorway is of two orders. The outer is decorated with zigzag and the inner with foliage: both rest on detached with carved capitals decorated with grotesque birds and moulded bases. The shafts to the outer order are plain, to the inner, decorated; one with cable moulding, the other with chevrons. The shafts show much use for sharpening of arrow heads or blades. Like many early churches, the floor is below the level of the churchyard.
The roof is modern on one of old timbers. One timber is carved H.T., T.F., C.W., 1726. The old register of 1653 states that the roof of the north aisle fell down in 1620 and rather than buy new timber, the wall was pulled down and built up again according to the length of the old timber, minus the rotten parts. This aisle contains several interesting memorials to the Astley family of Wolvey Hall, the most interesting being that of Thomas de Wolvey (died 1314 at the battle of Bannockburn) and his wife Alice.
Most memorials in the original churchyard were laid down many years ago for maintenance purposes. A new section of churchyard was given to the church about 50 years ago, which is in use and has the usual modern memorials. As the original churchyard was full, a church cemetery in Wolds Lane was opened in the early 20th century. The churchyard now has the Millennium Building (c. 2000) to the South of the church. This contains a meeting room, kitchens, toilets and a small office.
Where to find us in Wolvey:
to view or download Wolvey Map
See also a Brief History of Wolvey:
here for details