English Church Architecture -
LANGTON-BY-SPLISBY, St. Peter & St. Paul (TF 389 704) (August 2009)
(Bedrock: Upper Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous, Spilsby Sandstone Formation)
This is a fascinating church (shown above, from the southwest), constructed in Flemish-bonded brick c. 1725 in a vaguely Palladian or, at least, early Georgian style, with the rather severe external appearance typical of the times. Characteristically also, most of the interest lies in the interior, which is set out like an Oxbridge college chapel with pews arranged laterally, but the building will be described in the usual way in these notes, first outside then in.
It consists of a single cell, five bays in length, with bays marked by large round-arched windows set in a wall some 24’ in height (approaching 7˝ m.). These windows are quite plain, save for stone abaci at the springing level and little keystones at the apices. A stone string-course runs above, and on top of that, there are recessed rectangles in the brickwork, overshadowed by wide overhanging eaves to the low-pitched tiled roof, recalling St. Paul's, Covent Garden, which was erected in 1631 to the designs of Inigo Jones. The present building may also share with Jones's church the plan of the double square (insofar as one can tell without measurement), but the end elevation here appears to be another square (see the W. front, illustrated left), whereas the height to the eaves at Covent Garden is two-thirds the width.
The church interior at Langton-by-Spilsby provides no window in the E. wall, which displays outside just three blank arches of the same size and shape as the N. and S. windows, while above the string course in the low gable, the recessed rectangles are now segmentally arched. The W. wall contains the doorway - a large plain rectangle, about twelve feet high and six feet wide, with a triangular pediment above - and there is another blank round-headed arch on either side of that, with segmental-arched blank recesses above, and above the door between, a blank ellipse in a stone surround, with “keystones” at the top, bottom and sides. The nave roof is surmounted to the west by a curious “rough-and-ready” octagonal belfry, added in 1825, approximately six feet high to the north and south and barely half that at the ridge, with two tiers of round sound-holes to the southeast, south, southwest, northwest, north and northeast, and a single tier (which is all there is space for) to the east and west.
The doorway leads into a little ringing chamber-cum-porch from which a round-arched door to the left and a smaller rectangular door to the right, lead up to a gallery. The main body of the church is entered through round-arched double doors ahead, with wooden-panelled soffits and a fanlight above. The main body of the church is reminiscent of nearby St. Margaret's, Well. The box pews run east/west, three generous rows deep, with a great three-decker pulpit with heavy tester set centre-stage to the south. (See the view facing northeast, above right.) The altar, which must needs play second fiddle to this, is set within a communion rail running round it on three sides, as was common at this date, with a rail curved at the angles, supported on turned balusters, and the reredos, which begins as oak panelling at right angles to the north and south walls, then curves round behind the sides of the altar before straightening up again at the back, the changes in direction being marked by fluted Corinthian pilasters. (See the photograph at the bottom of the page.) The W. end of the church (illustrated right) has the gallery already mentioned, supported on two round fluted columns. The only significant item in the building that clearly predates all this work is the octagonal font in the northeast corner, with faces carved mostly with Decorated tracery, though some have strong mullions between the lights suggesting the date is not much earlier than c. 1400. The hatchments commemorate Bennett Langton junior (1736-1801), Bennett Langton senior (1696-1769), Robert Uvedale (1642-1722), and John Langton (1908-1989) (church guide).