History of St Guthlac's Church

Little is known of the church's history in Saxon times, but it is evident that the church building stood on or near the present site. The Doomsday Survey (1085) makes the following reference to a church at Fishtoft

"There is a church and a priest and one mill of 10 shillings and sixtey acres of meadow, witha a value in King Edward's time (1043) of eight pounds, and now (being 1085) of ten pounds."


Norman Church

The patronage of the church passed from the Norman de Croun family into the hands if the Abbots of Crowland in 1114 at the time of relaying of the foundations of the Abbey which had been completely destroyed by fire in 1091.

According to Thompson (1856) there is a tradition that the monks and other builders employed by the Abboy re-built the church at Fishtoft at the same time they were building a cell for the monks of Crowland in the church at Freiston.

The prevailing style of architecture is Perpendicular, but distinct traces of Norman architecture can be seen. The chancel is inherently Norman but then transformed by the insertion of Perpendicular windows. Some writers suggest that the chancel itself represents the church as it would have appeared in Norman times but others say that there could have been a Norman nave, because stones with the Norman decorations can be seen in the walls of the Nave and the scarcity of stone in the district would account for the use of the older material at the time of re-building the nave.

Chancel door                                                 Original window

If we look at the chancel of the present church, we can easily picture it as it originally appeared. Notice the square headed door on the south wall with each jamb ornamented with pillars on either side having Norman capitals (pictured  left).

On the inside walls can be seen the remains of Norman windows with their round arches. Originally there were three Norman windows high up in the north wall and two in the south wall, together with the central door, and a blank east wall. Only one of the windows remains in its original form. (pictured right). Three have been built up, and replaced with Perpendicular windows and one had been altered to Early English Style.

Gothic Church 

Gothic architecture is a general term used to include the styles of the Thirteenth Century, Early English and the Fourteenth Century Decorated, and, the Fifteenth Century Perpendicular.

There are two features in the church of Early English origin; the lancet window in the south wall of the chancel which now contains the stained glass depicting St. Guthlac. The other feature is the headstone of the lancet window in the south wall of the nave between two of the arcades. This suggests that sometime after A.D. 1200 the Norman church was altered and extended.

The Decorated period of building is represented by those windows of this style which contain tracery with an ogee pattern. It is therfore sometime after A.D. 1300 that the further enlargements and alterations took place. The beautiful east window, with the crucifixion in five lights (inserted in memory of John Cabourn Simonds, who died in 1893), is of this style but not of this period.


The Most extensive alterations and additions took place during the Perpendicular period. Sometime after A.D.1400 a major re-building of the nave and the addition of the tower would have taken place. From this time the church consists of the chancel, nave, the north and south aisles, and the tower, which stands at the west end of the nave and is evidently the latest addition to the stucture. The north aisle has four windows and the south aisle three, all in the Perpendicular style.





The sixteenth century graffiti depicted here can be seen in the wall of the east end of the the south aisle. It is assumed that Messrs. Thacker and Briges were builders.


A clerestory of five windows on each side lights the upper part of the nave. The characteristic style of windows can be seen in the west wall of the south aisle and in the tower over the west door. The font, chancel screen and much of the restored pulpit are also originally from this period.

There are four faces carved on the eastern side of the chancel screen, one of which is depicted here.

Carved face




At the time of the reformation in the sixteenth century Henry VIII servered allegiance to the Pope with the Act of Supremacy (1534) which declared the King to be the supreme head of the Church of England. He then ordered the Roayl Coat of Arms to be placed in all churches to remind people of this fact. The Coat of Arms in St Guthlac's church can be seen in the inside of the roof at the west end of the nave.

Seventeenth Century

There is a chair from this period, situated at present in the sanctuary, with carved scrolls and roses and an inscription: "Parise ye the Lord" and the date 1625.


Many armorial bearings and monumental inscriptions existed in this church when Colonel Gervase Holles visited and took notes in 1690 (details in Pishley Thompson's 'History of Boston'). None of the armorial bearings noted by Colonel Holles can now be identified, although the floor in the north west part of the nave shows evidence of brasses having been stolen.

Among the inscriptions which were seen by Holles were a number to the memory if the Quincy family of this parish and of particular note is one to William Quincy, a church warden of St. Guthlac's who died in 1788. Quincey memorial

Under the Communion Table is a stone bearing the floowing memorials of the Kyme family: Kime memorial

Mrs. Orudence Kyme deied Oct. 22nd. 1718, aged 63 and Mrs Alice Kyme died June 2nd 1723 aged 32.  (The Kyme family resided at Rochford Tower from 1640 - 1816 when it was know as Kyme Tower)




Other memorials of note are as follows:

Thirkeld memorial Francis Pulvertoft Thirkill died 9th May 1843, and his only child Francis Richard Thirkill died 16th. June 1844 aged 11 years (tablet in the chancel)
Francis Thirkill White, J.P. V.D. D.L. died 5th. March 2899, aged 84, and one to his daughter Harriet Elizabeth White died Nov. 13th. 1885 aged 32. Both of these tablets are on the wall of the north aisle.
Rev. Henrey Holdsworth M.A. died 10 Nov. 1860, for 26 years the Rector of fishtoft and Jane Holdsworth his wife, died 14th. March 1871 (tablet in the chancel).


In the south wall of the nave is a window illustrating the test, "Suffer little children to come unto me." It is in the memory of Thomas Rowson who died Nov 6th 1900, aged 63. Mr Rowson was wellknown throughout the county, and was a recognised authority on cattle breeding and husbandry. 
The east window memorial to J.C Simonds was memtioned eariler.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Apart from repairs, no major work was carried out on the church until the 19th century when from 1853-54 the Rector, Rev Henry Holdsworth undertook the organisation and supervision of a general restoration. This included the removal of all the platering from the walls and repointing of stonework; the provision of a heating system; the provision of new oak seating (as at present); the vestry was built on to the north wall of the chancel, and; the porch was rebuilt on the south aisle. The oak screen which now stands by the north door was obtained from Freiston Church by Henry Holdsworth at little cost. It had fallen during repairs and stored in pieces some of which were 'rescued' and reconstructed for the screen in Fishtoft church. The restoration work organised by Henry Holdsworth is described in some considerable detail by Pishey Thompson (History of Boston 1856) who was obviously highly impressed with the efforts of Rev. Holdsworth and the laity of the parish.

Thompson reports that the cost of the works was some £600, al large amount of money 150 years ago, which was raised by coluntary contributions locally.

In 1935 the roof of the nave was repaired and recovered with copper.

Roof boss carved angel
 Roof boss carved faceIn 1957 the south aisle roof was recovered with lead and the timbers decorated with golden bosses adorned with carvings of angels and faces.




In 1944 and again in 1958 the tower roof was repaired and recovered with lead. The tower has six bells, which were rehung in 1947, of good tone and in good order. An elderberry tree grew for some 60 years on top of the tower until it had to be removed in 1944 as it was damaging the masonary of the tower. It's removal caused great consternation throughout the village community and a special meeting was called to debate the issue. After several hours of heated discussions the church warden came up with the idea that another elder tree would be planted in a tub and put on the tower roof to replace the original - problem solved, end of meeting.

Stone font

The font was moved to the east end of the north aisle from the west central end of the nave to leave the place clear for the construction of the Community Room, (plus kitchen and toilets) which was completed in 1973 and officially opened on the 19th June 1973 by the then Bishop of Lincoln the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Riches. This facility has proved most useful as a venue for a range of church related activities, and in no way adversely affects the use of the church as a place of worship.


In 1978 three bays of the roof of the north aisle were repaired and releaded and in 1970 the outside walls of the chancel and sanctuary were rendered.

In 1990 the new 'Makin' electronic organ was installed in the organ loft at the west end of the nave.

The Staircase in the Community Room to the organ loft and the wooden panelling on the church side of the Community Room were installed in 1991.

A central heating system was installed in the church and Community Room in 1992/93.

In 1994 the Chancel roof was repaired and re-covered.

Twentyfirst Century

In the year 2000 new chairs were purchased and installed in the Chancel.

Clergy before the Reformation

1274William de Bottewyke, Parson.
1276Alan de Hipetoft.
1343Adam, Rector of Tofte.
1382John Deynes.
1406John Wessyngton.
1440Willaim Jay.
1447John, Parson of Tofts.
1471William Ernes or Hernys.

Rectors from the Reformation

Dr. William Breton was Rector at the time of the reformation (circa 1534)
1586 Anthony ingoldsby
1642 George Marshall - then there is a gap in the records
1696-1705Henry Perkins.1894-1906P. E. Wilson.
1705-1711William Cooper.1906-1913E. P. Cook.
1711-1717John Powell.1913-1928J. H. B. Hamond.
1717-1739John Ashcroft.1928-1934F. Franklin Watson.
1739-1781Samuel Whiting.1934-1936S. Skelhorn.
1781-1790John Vardill.1936-1944A. J. Bratt.
1790-1791Charles Birtwhistle.1944-1948B. R. G. Gilpin.
1791-1811John Vardill.1948-1952M. C. Garton.
1811-1825John Simpson.1952-1959A. Arthur Muxlow.
1825-1834Richard Conington.1959-1963Francis Coveney.
1834-1860Henry Holdsworth.1963-1976Edward Barlow.
1861-1872John Atkinson.1977-1985Geoffrey Waghorn.
1872-1877T. Lushington Edwards.1986-1995John B. Pavey.
1877-1891C. D. Holland.1996Marc A. R. Cooper.
1891-1894W. J. Latham  

Fenne Chapel in the parish of Fishtoft

The Hamlet of Fenne in Fishtoft was in existence in the 13th century and comprised lan between Willoughby Hills in the north and Hawthorn Tree corner in the south was helpd under the Richmond family, who lived on the site of Rochford Tower, Fishtoft.

Early records state that Fenne had a chapel and is was dedicated to St. Michael. It was founded by William Rochford, Knight "with the intention that a chaplain would celebrate divine service there, for ever, for the ease and convenience of the inhabitansts of the Hamlet of Fenne which is one mile distant from the parish church in Fishtoft".

According to Thompson teh chapel was located very near what we now know as the Ball House Inn, at the junction of the lan leading from Rochford Tower and the road from Boston to Wainfleet. Records state that the two and a half acres of pasture lying there were known as Chapel Green and the lan leading from Rochford Tower was called Church Green Lane, still familiar names to this day. Thompson adds that although there are no traces of foundations or remains the Chapel of Fenne stood in that locality.

The Following clergy were amongst officiating chaplains:
1377 Robert, 1381 Peter and Thomas, 1535 Richard Parker & 1552 Thomas Sladen.

In 1535 it is recorded the free Chapel of Fenne was receiving an annual pension of five pounds from the Recory of Fishtoft. In 1552 the goods belonging to the Chapel were valued at six shillings, and the plate weighed six ounces. No records have been found of St Michaels's Chapel after Thomas Sladen's report fo 1552.  

Hilldyke Chapel

Incumbents of Fishtoft, Boston, and Sibsey took steps to provide the people of Hilldyke area with a school which could also be used for worship. The building was constructed in 1857 at a cost of £205, which was raised by public subscription. The seating capacity was for some 120 people. Achurch room was added in 1899.

The Rector of St. Guthlac' at the time, Rev. Henry Holdsworth, was largely responsable for organising the construction of the chapel.

In 1969, the Rector at the time, the Rev. E. B. Barlow, reported the building was being used as a Youth Club.

The Building was sold in 1977 and is now in the grounds if a private residence, and unfortunately is in a serious state of disrepair. The old chapel/school is located on the lefthand side of the Hilldyke Road approximately half a mile from the junction with the Boston to Skegness road.



Text by Mr. John Parkinson.
Drawings by Mrs. Elizabeth Harness.
Armoral drawings by Mr. Robert Meeds.