Monday, 16 August 2021

1595 And All That

As I dithered and dawdled on my way along Church Street in Litlington, with the vague idea of completing my set of photos (see previous post) with a view of the rather beautiful church, a friendly gentleman wished me "Good morning" and with little further ado announced that the church should be open "if they've remembered to unlock it". I've seen the church before but didn't want to disappoint him, so in I went.

I didn't know much about the building, though apparently parts of it date from the twelfth century. Lets see if the keyholder's alarm clock worked this morning!

Sure enough, the door swung open. Once inside, apart from it being a much larger church than might have been expected in a small village, everything was much as I'd remembered. 

There's a bright and colourful window showing St Catherine, but it seemed to be of no great age. The inscription confirms that it commemorates the life of one William Pateman "ringer and choirman of this church", who passed away in 1935. 

Unusually this church has two organs, one in the nave and another, just a few feet away in the chancel. One dates from 1877 and the other from 1879. I wonder how that came about. Then I was struggling to find anything I really wanted to photograph - time to get inventive...

Some modern glass (or perhaps it's plastic), inserted between the nave and the tower gave curious reflections of the old windows, which also seemed to link up with the silhouetted bell-ropes hanging in the tower.

Then something attracted me to this rather off-kilter composition. Somehow it reflects the rather large church and this small village (and presumably even smaller congregation).

Next I was attracted by the light shining through St Catherine's window and lighting up the stone work. But there's always something which has survived from an earlier age, despite all the tidying up which some churches underwent back in the late 1800s.

Just inside another window I found the above, having been tipped off by a small printed notice beneath it. It falls within the category called "church graffiti" and used to be blamed upon bored choirboys. However more recent research has shown that it's something very different from our modern idea of graffiti. Most of these graffiti are very old - indeed they date from a time well before there were any choirboys. Rather than being the result of vandalism they were tolerated and even encouraged by the medieval church, being something akin to "prayers in stone". This one, to save you a probably fruitless task, says, according to that little printed notice:

Francis Drake, knight, about to set sail in the thirty-seventh year of the reign of the most august and serene prince Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, defender of the faith. 1595 

The same always, John Sherman.

That's right, it does say prince Elizabeth but that may just be because of the bizarre hand-writing or the fact that it was written in Latin. Clearly not the work of bored choirboys, but seemingly a prayer for the safe return of the expedition and, being in Latin, probably the work of a man of the church. Was it a simple act of patriotism or did the writer have a friend or relative on board? 

I had another look around and found these. Carvings of heads are common enough in our old churches, but I've never seen anything like the triangular headgear of the lady on the right. At first sight I thought she had a strap under her nose (!) but now I reckon it is supposed to represent a veil. Whatever it is, I don't foresee fourteenth-century ladies' fashions making a comeback any day soon.

And behind the tower was this - a probable Roman coffin. Apparently it's a "Listed Building - Grade II", though its listing doesn't reveal any more than what I've already told you.


This is nothing whatever to do with churches or the village of Litlington, but I thought you might like to see a couple of pictures taken as I wandered with my brother along a little watercourse known as Wicken Lode.

A spiky swan - well, you'd have a funny hairstyle if you had to put your head underwater to find your dinner!

And a couple of baby Moorhens floating on a lily-pad, proving that it is possible to be both cute and ugly at the same time.

Take care.


  1. That sure is a big church for a little village but kept nicely. You did find interesting things to photograph. I was blown away with the very very old graffiti. Loved your last photos too.

  2. Oh John - you dear - you have brightened a wet mrning (and cold with it) for me. Lovely old church with fascinating bits and boba inside and then those water birds. As usual thank you.

  3. Hi John - what an interesting post ... thank you and I love your decision to change up the photos - they've worked well. The nod to Drake and his safe return is so interesting ... but I'm sure you'd find ladies in hats/veils like that at Ascot in today's era. The swan and the moorhen babies are delightful ... Enjoy your week - Hilary

  4. Thank you so much.
    All of this post was heart balm - and interesting too.

  5. A great account of the church, John, steeped in history, yet doomed to inevitably fall into disuse I would imagine. The upkeep alone must far exceed the proceeds of the collection plate. Your shot of the young moorhens on the lily pad is precious, the kind we all hope for.

  6. Most enjoyable post, a different view of a church interior, and that graffiti phrase definitely gave me pause.

  7. You spotted so many interesting details to share with us, John! I was curious about the lady with the triangular headgear! Unusual!

  8. Thank you for the tour of that beautiful church. Love seeing the details and especially the old acceptable graffiti.
    The Swan and baby Moorhens were a lovely addition to the ancient works of humans.

  9. The church seems to be in such good condition!
    Love the sweet Moorhens!

  10. Your photos are always interesting. The last one is so cute. Love it!

  11. Love the description of the Moorhens. You nailed it.

    The writing on the church walls is incredible really. I love how it has lasted through the centuries.

  12. Interesting church (and neat Swan).

  13. Thank you for your photos and accompanying descriptions. So many village churches seem to be on the large side. I know where I grew up in Lingfield, Surrey the church was very large as well.

  14. Fascinating church and inscription. I love your reflection photos inside and the little moorhen chicks too:)

  15. What a beautiful church! I'm so glad you went in and took the photos. My favorites though, are the spiky swan and the baby moorhens. I've never seen baby moorhens. They really are adorable. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  16. You found a number of super shots to take here John despite the fact you'd visited before.. sometimes a second look can be quite fruitful! Enjoyed seeing your spikey swan, white swans are not something we see often here ✨

  17. You really are good doing photoes!Very nice to look at and nice story too
    I think it was a calming experience.Was ii something in that rome coffin?old bones?wow I would love to spend some hours visiting the place.Beautiful swan too❤❤❤Pretty hairstyle😂

  18. You always manage to find such interesting tidbits in the village churches you visit. There is something animal-ish in that head carving on the right. I guess it’s the neck. Anyway, I do wonder if she looked in the mirror before heading out for church the morning of her portrait session!

  19. What a lovely collection of pictures and history you've done.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).