The parish is known as Langton with Sutterby and there are churches in both parishes. The 12th century church of St John the Baptist in the hamlet of Sutterby is no longer in use and is looked after by the Friends of Friendless Churches. Wall paintings have recently been discovered and restoration work was scheduled for completion in 2012. Langton with Sutterby is now a member of the Partney Group of parishes, which comprises nine parishes within the Deanery of Bolingbroke.
There appears to have been a church at Langton since before the Norman Conquest and there was an inventory in 1552 (see “Bells” below). There are no presently known details of previous churches except for the reference in “Lincolnshire Church Notes” by Gervase Holles written between 1634-1642 (British Museum, Harleian Manuscript No 6829 and transcribed and edited by R E G Cole in 1911 for Lincoln Record Society) to a stained glass window in the north aisle, a statue of St Peter & St Paul, gravestones of Elizabeth (wife of John Langton) who died 4 May 1524 and gravestones in the south aisle for Ricus Ligh (from Henry VIII’s reign?) and Johannes Wortes, rector who died 6 September 1582. Holles also records a Langton coat of arms (“3 floures de lize, in cheife a lyon passant” over “a fesse nebuly between 3 roses”).
The present church, which like the church it replaced, is dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, was constructed about 1725 by George Langton. It is a Grade I listed building in the Classical style with box pews facing each other, a three decker pulpit and a gallery at the western end. There are said to be only three parish churches in England which share the same arrangement of facing box pews. The font predates the present building and is in the Decorated style.
In the past few years a very extensive fundraising campaign has enabled much conservation and restoration work to be done in the church and the PCC is extremely grateful to the donors (all of whose names appear below) who have made this work possible.
The head of a small stone cross, which may be of Saxon origin, but which Pevsner dated as early 13th century, was found by the rector of Langton in a nearby wood at the end of the 19th century and is now fixed to a wall in the porch.
Originally the roof was covered in lead, but this was stripped in 1792, possibly to make bullets for the Napoleonic Wars. The lead was replaced with slates which were placed on a roof with a steeper pitch than the original. A sketch of the original church by Claud Nattes dated 1791 shows what is thought to be the original design with a cupola. The cupola was replaced by a bell tower added to accommodate the bells in 1825.
Following tests on the paintwork in 2005 the church was redecorated in its original Georgian colours in 2006.
It appears that there were bells in the church at Langton from at least 1552. North’s ‘Church Bells of Lincolnshire’ (published by Samuel Clarke in 1862) says that an inventory of 1552 states “Item iii bells and one little belle”
The tower in the present church has six bells by Thomas Mears of London. All six bells were made in 1825 for John Stephen Langton and three have inscriptions. One reads
Fecit 1825 We were given by John Stephen Langton Esq. Lord of this Free Warren
Fecit 1825 Are you prepared for me to call you here
The third reads
1825 Geo. Street A.M. Rector
John Stephen Langton died aged only 37 in 1833 and had he lived longer he would have had a further two bells added to the tower. After his death the Rector wrote that he had given the church “a ring of the sweetest bells in Lincolnshire to one of the ugliest churches in Christendom.” Later in the nineteenth century W.H. Bailey & Co of Salford (a well known engineering company of its day) made an unusual “barrel” mechanism to ring the bells by pulling the clappers rather than the bells. The barrel has projecting tines which pluck levers attached to the clappers of the six bells and the levers can be set in different positions to enable the bells to play three different changes. It is evident from the bells that this mechanism has been used heavily in the past.
From 1956 till 2008 it was not possible to ring the bells full circle because of the poor condition of the oak bell frame, which was originally made by a local craftsman from nearby Hagworthingam, so the Bailey mechanism was used to chime the bells for services.
The Bailey mechanism
The bells awaiting transport to Whitechapel Bell Foundry
Following a successful appeal for funds a project started in December 2007 to re-hang the bells in the original repaired wooden frame (i.e. not a new steel frame) so that they could again be rung full circle. Whitechapel Bell Foundry (the successor to Thomas Mears) completed the work in May 2008 and the Bishop of Lincoln attended a re-dedication service on Sunday 31 August 2008. Major donors included Heritage Lottery Fund, Lincoln Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers, Kochan Trust, Allchurches Trust, John Warren Foundation, The Sharpe Trustees and Stanley Darman. The bells are now rung regularly and it is particularly satisfactory that this project has introduced several newcomers of widely differing ages to the art of bell ringing. Bands who would like to ring should please contact the Webmaster or telephone 01790 753649.
As part of this restoration project and in order to protect the bell mechanism from inappropriate interference a pair of very fine oak doors were made for the archway at bottom of the West Gallery staircase by Peter Millburn of South Ormsby.
The chamber organ, which has a particularly sweet tone, was built by Henry Bryceson of London probably in the mid 1850’s. The firm of Bryceson was later well known for an electro-magnetic organ mechanism, though the Langton organ has no such sophistication. Where the organ now stands was possibly originally the Langton family pew, but this is now next to the organ.
A fundraising campaign for the restoration of the organ took place in 2009. Thanks to the funding from Batty Charitable Trust, Idlewild Trust, Council for Care of Churches, Manifold Trust, Mercers’ Charitable Foundation, ON Organ Fund and Lincolnshire Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, Goetze and Gwynn Ltd of Welbeck, near Worksop were able to complete the restoration in May 2010. Since then it has been used for normal church services. The following notes on the work are quoted from Goetze and Gwynn’s own website
“Made by the London builder, Henry Bryceson of Brook Street, Euston Road, according to a paper label behind glass set into the music desk. This label also records a ‘Prize Medal, Class 10 A’ at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Bryceson’s workshop was at Brook Street between 1859 and 1867.
“The organ was cleaned by E. Vickery in Sep 1908 and perhaps by others before him. The organ was restored by Edward Bennett and team during the winter of 2009, and returned to the elegant Georgian village church in May 2010.
“The single manual organ is all enclosed in an oak-grained Gothick softwood case, with gilt dummy wood front pipes. Inside the hinged back panel is a list of ten hymn tunes for each of three barrels. There is no evidence that this was ever a barrel organ, however, and it can be set up and played without its surrounding casework, so the conclusion is that the casework was planned for either a keyboard or a barrel organ. On the same panel is nicely pencilled in large letters ‘Stoke Fleming’. Dimensions of the organ are: Height: 3288mm/ 10′ 9½”. Width: 1610mm/ 5′ 3½”, Depth: main case 1062mm/ 3′ 5¾.
“The manual keys have 54 notes, C-f³. The ‘pull-down’ pedal board has 30 notes, C-f¹. Above the keyboard are the stop knobs, reading, from left to right:
- Octave Coupler from c¹-f² only
- Open Diapason 8 C-B open wood, metal from tenor c
- Dulciana 8 from tenor c
- Stopt Bass 8 C-B stopped wood
- Stopt Diapason 8 from tenor c
- Principal 4
“The pitch and tuning remain as found, A=446.6 at 18.7° C, and the tuning an unequal equal temperament, perhaps provided in 1908. There have never been tuning slides. The wind pressure is also as found 88mm. A trigger pedal operates the swell shutters. Hand- pumped cuckoo feeders fill the double-rise bellows reservoir.”
In September 2010 the organ was the centre piece for the first of the summer chamber music concerts which now take place twice a year in May and September to take advantage of the building’s excellent acoustics. The first soloists were Oliver Hancock (former organ scholar at Jesus College Oxford) and Edward Bennett (director of Goetze and Gwynn), who played the organ, and Clare Douglas (soprano and former choral scholar at Caius College Cambridge) who sang.
Details of the concerts are circulated locally and can be found on the Activities page of this website.
The wood panelled interior
The whole of the east end of the interior of has fine oak panelling and similar panelling was also used to make the box pews, which face each other in a manner reminiscent of some Oxbridge colleges. Over many years the sun, which is particularly harsh in the summer as the large south facing windows are of plain glass, had significantly bleached and damaged the panelling. As a result of generous donations by Allchurches Trust, Henry Moss-Blundell, John Warren Foundation and Leche Trust all the panelling and woodwork was cleaned and polished in summer 2010. During the work it was discovered that the doors which had originally closed off the space in front of the altar from the body of the church had been pointlessly relocated near the organ. The opportunity was taken to replace the doors in their original position – a project that was generously funded by Marshall’s Charity.
The upper door of the three decker pulpit was discovered recently, having been made into a prie-dieu many years ago and was restored in 2012, thanks to a donation from the Georgian Group.
All the work on the wood panelling, the pulpit and the new door to the West Gallery was done or supervised by local joiner Peter Millburn of South Ormsby- thus continuing the original tradition of the church using local craftsmen wherever possible.
The floor in the western end of the church contains memorials to memorial stones dated 1533 for John Langton and 1625 for Roger Langton. The four hatchments are (clockwise from the door) for Bennet Langton (1737-1801) who married Mary Dowager Countess of Rothes and was Dr Johnson’s friend; Bennet Langton (1696-1769), who married Diana Turnor, daughter of Edmund Turnor of Stoke Rochford in 1736; Robert Uvedale (1642-1722) the horticulturist who married Mary Stephens of Charrington, Gloucestershire, whose grandson (Rev Robert Uvedale) was rector of Langton and married Diana Langton (1742-1809); and John Langton(1908-1989) who married Angela Warren (1912-2004) of Skendleby in 1940. John Langton’s hatchment is pictured here. Diana Douglas (John Langton’s eldest daughter) is the present Patron of the Living of Langton.
There is a marble bust behind the main inner door. This is of Rev Charles Langton (1803 – 1886) and is by the German scuptor Fritz Gerth (1845 – 1928) whose studio was for some time in Rome. The bust was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1888 together with the bust of his brother-in-law Charles Dawkins. In 1832 Rev Charles Langton married Charlotte, the third daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the master potter. Charlotte died in 1862 and Charles married Emily, the sister of Charles Darwin, the naturalist, the following year. She died four years later and in 1883 Charles married Emily Dawkins of Over Norton in Oxfordshire (see above). Charles died in Frankfurt in 1886 and was buried in Bournemouth. His widow placed a brass memorial tablet to him on the south wall of the church near the pulpit. His bust seems to have returned to the Langton family and been placed in the church sometime after this.
We have recently discovered a record of monumental inscriptions in the church and churchyard for the period 1758 – 1982, prepared by the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology in May 1984. The list can be found here. For more information contact the Webmaster.
Other interesting facts
A photograph in the porch shows Ann Fletcher (1830 – 1909), who lived fifty years in the Round House (formerly the post office) at Langton and traditionally carried parish babies to the font for baptism. The photograph shows her carrying her 100th baby to be christened. Ann Fletcher’s will had a probate value of £87 13s 10d.
John Betjeman described Langton church as ‘one of the most attractive and interesting churches in Lincolnshire and therefore in England, because Lincolnshire is rich in remarkable churches.’ The church features in Simon Jenkins’s book “England’s Thousand Best Churches” published in 1999.
The church of St Margaret in the grounds of Well Vale, near the village of Well, about 1 1/2 miles south west of Alford has some similarities with the church at Langton, but its details are simpler, though it has a commanding location over looking the park in which it stands.
Churchwardens and services
The present churchwardens are Mr and Mrs Diana Douglas (01790 753649)
There is a monthly service in the church, alternating between Holy Communion and Family Service. The service normally takes place on the fourth Sunday of the month. One of the monthly services is combined with Harvest Festival and in most years (unless the main Partney Group Christmas Day service takes place at Langton) there is a candlelit carol service at 6 pm followed by refreshments in the Village Hall on the Sunday after Christmas.
Langton summer concerts
As mentioned above two summer chamber music concerts are held by candlelight annually in May and September: the evenings conclude with drinks and canapés served in the church. Details of the concerts are shown on the Langton Concerts page.