ST FIRMIN’S CHURCH (http://stfirmin.wordpress.com)

St Firmin’s Church

Thurlby Church is dedicated to Saint Firmin. We do not know why this dedication was chosen. There is only one other church in England with the same patron saint; at North Crawley, near Newport Pagnell, in Buckinghamshire, Saint Firmin was born in Pampeluna, in Spain. He went to northern France as a missionary, and became the first Bishop of Amiens.  His martyrdom there is commemorated by his statue on the west front of Amiens Cathedral, and also by some carving on the south choir screen.

 

Saxon Thurlby Church

The Church was of Saxon architecture, and only the Tower remains, this was built in 925 AD. The walls are sturdy and are three feet thick. The Tower had two stages, the entrance to the upper stage being through a doorway in the east wall. In the times of marauding Vikings villagers would climb up into this tower and pull the ladder up after them to escape. There would have been a door in the west wall of the tower.

How the church might have looked  in 925AD

On the west face of this east wall and in the stone south frame of this doorway is to be found a carving of a man’s head wearing a winged helmet.   We call it the Viking’s Head, even though the British Museum gives it a later date.

It is probable that the nave of the church was built from wood and had a thatched roof, this roof would have been steep to allow the rainwater to run off. The thatching materials would have been readily available from the surrounding fens.

Norman Thurlby Church

About the year 1100 the Church that had been built in Saxon times was pulled down, except for the Tower, and a new building took its place.  It was, found necessary to support the Saxon Tower Arch with a new one.  The new Church seems to have consisted of the pre­sent two western bays of the nave, with north and south aisles, and probably an apse at the east end.  The Norman arch forming part, now, of the south wall of the Sanctuary, presumably opened into the apse. The present Font was provided at about the same time.  The south doorway of the Church seems to include Norman work so perhaps part of the village lay to the south of the Church in those days. A village would normally lay south of the church at this time.

 

This is how the church might  have looked in 1100AD

There is no record of the materials used but it is possible that the church, unusally for this time, could have been tiled with Collyweston Stone as from the middle ages until the 19th century it was used on almost all buildings within ten miles of the quarries of Collyweston and on prestigious buildings further afield

The 13th  Century

Less than a century after Thurlby Church had been given as an endowment to the Convent of St. Michael at Stamford Baron, it was decided to enlarge it.    Petronilla was Prioress at the time  (1240) and it can be assumed that she supervised the work that was done. To the Saxon and Norman work was added nearly all of what we see now, except for the chapel to the north of the Chancel, the Clerestory and Spire.

 The Norman Chancel was pulled down.  Perhaps that piece of Norman carving in the  south wall of the Sanctuary was part of the Norman Chancel Arch. The Nave was extended from about 30 feet to 48 feet.  The Chancel Arch was put up, and the Chancel, 40 feet long was added. This deep Chancel lends considerable dignity to the Church. The Aisles were extended and from them were built the North and South Transepts and the chapel to the south of the Chancel.  As a finishing touch the Church was given its North and South Porches.

How the church might have looked in the 13th Century

It may be asked, why provide three chapels, and later a fourth, in a church like St. Firmin’s , they were probably Chantry Chapels, founded to ensure  that Mass would be sung for the repose of the souls of the founders and their friends.  There would be an endowment for the maintenance of the Chantry priest, who would also act as schoolmaster.  The Chantry chapels were   suppressed by Act of Parliament in 1547- Though it was intended that their endowments should be used for public and charitable purposes, most of the money went into the pockets of the advisers of King Edward, the Sixth, by this suppression education in rural parishes languished for nearly two hundred years.

Though the plan of the Church was very much as it is today the interior was different.  The Nave roof was lower.  All the win­dows would be tall, narrow lancet windows, such as can be seen now in the north and south walls of the Sanctuary. At the east end there were probably three tall  lancet windows. It is more than likely that there would be no glass, and through the lancet windows would penetrate draughts greater than we experience today.  There would be less daylight.  The only artificial light would be from candles. There would be no heating apparatus.

This enlargement of Thurlby Church was a remarkable under­taking for a community as poor in worldly goods as St Michaels.  It is the result of faith, prayer and sacrifice, to which succeeding generations have become the heirs.

The 14th Century

Petronilla, Prioress of St. Michael’s  Stamford Baron, in 1240, left Thurlby Church very much as we know it today, in plan, but looking lower and darker inside.  About 1320, steps were taken to lot in more light.  Mabel Le Venure was Prioress, and she probably set things in motion.

The windows that we now see, in the North and South Aisles, the North and South Transepts, and the largest window in the South Choir Aisle Chapel wore built in, to take the place of narrow lancet windows. This must have been a great improvement, not only on account of the increased amount of light, but also the glass with which they were filled.   Another advantage would be that the Church was made much less draughty.

How the church might have looked in the 14th Century

The Tower was raised to a height of 44 feet, and it was surmounted by a Spire 36 feet high.  Perhaps money ran short, be­cause the Spire is stumpy, and has not the noble proportions of those of other churches in the district.

About 1359, when Agnes of Braceborough was Prioress, the Chapel to the north of the Chancel was added. The door in the north wall suggests that it was intended to be used, cither when the rest of the Church was closed, or by persons who desired to worship apart from the congregation.  The squint in the   south wall of the Chapel seems to strengthen the latter suggestion. It would be interesting to learn whether any of the nuns were sent periodically to Thurlby, and whether this Chapel was built for their use. Under the orders of their Rule they would not be  permitted to use the Nave. There must have been a strong reason for adding it to an already spacious Church, for .it was built while there was still confusion and distress which were the results of the Black Death.  The finances of the Convent were, in the year that the Chapel was built, at  such a low ebb that Bishop Gynewell of Lincoln had to licence the nuns of St. Michael’s to beg for alms to assist them in their poverty,

The 15th Century   

About the year 1440, while Elizabeth Weldon was Prioress, Thurlby Church received the last additions to its fabric.  The great East Window, that we now know, was put in, as were the large ones in the South Choir Aisle Chapel and in the North and South Transepts. The height of the Nave was increased by the addition of the clerestory.  What a difference it must have made when the summer sun­shine flooded the whole building.

 

The church as it was in the 15th Century and how it is seen today

So, for five hundred years generations of Thurlby  people have grown accustomed to the outward appearance of St Firmin’s, but then the interior was much more impressive.  Across the Chancel Arch there was a wooden screen, carved and painted, surmounted by the Rood, depicting Christ on the Cross attended by His Mother and St John.  Some, if not all the chapels were screened by carved woodwork.   Five altars with lights and coloured hangings invited every worshipper to prayer.  Statues and stained glass windows commemorated the heroes of the Church or displayed the coats of arms of families connected with the parish. The perfume of incense hung on the air as a reminder that this building was a place of worship. There were no pews to crowd the Nave, which stood in full and uncon­cealed beauty.  No organ; no stove.   It can be said that never before, nor since, has Thurlby Church been seen to such great advan­tage.

It should be realised that these last additions were car­ried out by the Convent at a time when it was passing through a per­iod of great stress, and when the financial situation as well was serious.   It has been recorded that in 1426 and 1440 the Convent was so poor that it could pay only half the fees due to the Archdeacon for his Visitation.

The 16th Century

The Puritan zeal for destroying everything associated with the old religion reached Thurlby in 1564.  We learn from a report sent to the Archdeacon of Lincoln of some of the furnishings that previous generations had provided to grace St. Firmin’s Church, and which now were to disappear for ever. Others may have been looted in King Edward’s reign, but of this there is no record.  William Harebie and William Eldred were churchwardens. They supervised the taking down of the Rood in the Chancel Arch, and had it burned. Some of the timber of the Rood Loft was used to make seats in church. Three albes and three banners were cut to pieces.

In 1566 Richard Waterfall and John Thekar, churchwardens, supervised the final ransacking of the Church. Service books were cut to pieces. Altar stones were broken and used to make stiles in the churchyard. Two vestments were defaced and sold. The Easter Sepulchre in the north wall of the Sanctuary was defaced.  Eight candlesticks, a cross and a pair of censers were broken up and sold. Two handballs and the holy water stoup were melted down at the cast­ing of two bells.  Altar hangings were cut up and sold.

 The 17th Century

 When Queen Elizabeth the First accended the throne she took a serious view of her title Supreme Govenor of the Church of England. she instituted an enquiry into the State of the Churches, having been informed that many churches and chancels were in bad repair.  The report made in 1602 about Thurlby was :-

“here the church is in good repair and decently kept. The Chancel is in decay, butorder is taken for repair to be had speedily” The Lay impropriator was Eton College. The Vicar was William Baker. There were 323 communicants.

In l6l6 Thurlby Church received a new Chalice and Cover, which remained in constant use until it was sent in 1959 on loan to the Treasury at Lincoln Cathedral to be included in the Exhibition of Church Plate there, after it had been repaired by the Goldsmiths Com­pany of London.  It was made in London and bears the maker’s mark ‘R.P’  with an inscription “This belongeth to the church of Thurlby” The Chalice is 8 1/2 ins inches high and weighs 9 oz 13 dwt. the Chalice Cover is 4 inches in diameter and weighs 2 oz.11 dwt.

What happened to the Church Plate used in medieval times has not been recorded.  It was probably plundered, in the previous century, along with other articles of value.  In any case, the med­ieval chalice was intended only for the communion of the celebrant, and would be found to be too small when, after the Reformation, communion in both kinds was restored to the laity.

When William Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, he set about many reforms.  Among the chief grievances of the Puri­tans was that he made the Altar rather than the Pulpit the centre of Church Worship.  He ordered that the Altars which had been placed in the Nave should be restored to the east wall of the Chancel.  He required that Altars should be railed off, to protect them from irreverence. At the Altar Rails the communicants could kneel to receive the Sacrament. The Commonwealth Parliament of 1641, being Puritan in composition, ordered the removal of the Rails.  They were finally put back at the Restoration in 1660.  The handsome Altar Rails in Thurlby Church probably date from that period, say l634, and were made, one supposes, by the village carpenter

Just  as King Charles returned to what was rightfully his in the  twelfth year of his reign, so  the  Church returned to what was rightfully hers in the eighteenth year of her suppression.

To  Thurlby Church was  supplied with the King Charles Bible. It  comprises the Prayer Book of 1604 and the Authorised Version of 1611.  At some later period this book was discarded, and it lay under a heap of rubbish until it was discovered by the Revd. G.M. Davis in 1927. it was re-bound in leather in 1927  at the  cost of Mr H.A. Sneath. restored it to its proper place. Some pages are missing and many have suffered from wear and tear. The  spelling of some words is old fashioned, e.g.  ‘bloud’   for  ‘blood’, and it has the  ‘long s   that can be mis­taken for an  f’,e.g. ‘fifter’ for ‘sister’, an invariable trap for the unwary reader.

1680 has been given as the  approximate year when the-Bishop’s Chair was made.  It stands in the Sanctuary as a reminder of the authority which the Bishop of Lincoln has over the Church in Thurlby. It is made of walnut and has a caned seat and a caned back. There is no record of when it was placed there, or who gave it.

The 18th Century

The Tower was furnished with the bells that now hang there.

No.l Bell is dated 1714

No.2 Bell, 1713. 

No. 3 Bell, 1790.

Nos. 4 and 5 Bells 1713.

No 3 Bell was made by Edward Arnold of Leicester.  The others were made at Nottingham.  They all bear inscriptions in Latin; that, on No. 4 Bell commemorates the end of the war with France, marked by the Duke of Marlborough’s victories at Blenheim, Ramallies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet, and which ended in his disgrace.  No, 1 Bell weighs six hundredweight, No. 5 Bell fourteen hundredweight.

Ann Fisher directed in her Will that her executors should purchase, for use in Thurlby Church, a silver flagon and a silver paten, and for ”no other use, intent and purpose whatsoever.” This proviso clearly forbids their sale in order to relieve any temporary financial stringency; which has happened in some parishes, that have yielded to the temptations of the American market.   Her executors complied with her wishes.   The flagon they “bought is a vary handsome piece of plate, weighing 24 ozs. 15 dwt. and is in­scribed “The gift of Ann Fisher, 1769 “ They also provided a standing paten weighing 14 ozs. with the same inscription.

About the same time a silver salver was given by some unknown donor.   It weighs 7 ozs. 2 dwt. and is inscribed “Thurlby 1766.”   Its hall mark is that of 1712.

The 19th Century

Between 1816 and 1837 the display of the Royal Arms, now in the North Porch, was placed in the Parish Church. This date can be ascribed because the Arms have those of Hanover, surmounted by a royal crown, placed centrally.  Hanover became a kingdom in 1816, and was separated from the British Crown when Victoria became Queen  because under the Salic Law no woman could succeed to the throne of Hanover. 

Henry the Eighth first ordered the display of the Royal Arms in churches to emphasise the transfer of temporal power in the Church of England from the Pope to the Sovereign.   At first they were placed on the Chancel Screen, and took the place of the carved figure of the Crucified Christ with the attendant figures of His Mother and St. John.   This caused great offence,  When the Chancel Screens were pulled down, the Arms were placed above the Chancel Arch, they were removed during the reign of Mary, replaced by order of Elizabeth the First, destroyed during the Commonwealth, then replaced at the Restoration.

The Arms of Hanover were added in 1801 to counter the views of such clergy who continued to favour the claims of the House of Stuart

In 1833 William John Monson, afterwards sixth Baron Monson of Burton near Lincoln, visited a number of Lincolnshire churches and compiled a collection of Church Notes.   He visited St. Firmin’s on July 20th. and recorded the. Trollope, Harrison, Hubbard, Bevill, Chalsworth, Phillips, Pallet and Fisher memorials, together with a general description of the architectural features of the Church. The Bevill memorial, a flat stone in the Have, has since disappeared.

1839.       White’s Directory of Lincolnshire for 1842 has a description of Thurlby.   It records that a good Organ, built by Mr.John Jackson who resides in the village purchased for £70. by subscription and erected in the Church in 1839 since been replaced by the present one

1848.  Henry Kaye Bonney, Archdeacon of Lincoln, compiled a collection of Church Notes between 1845 and 1848.   These were based on his official Visitations to 526 churches in his Archdeacon­ry.  He visited St. Firmin’s on September 13th and described the architectural features of the Church.  Since his visit the following have disappeared:  a wooden door at the west end of each aisle; good oak open seatings and some pews; oak grained pulpit and desk; pulpit cloth embroidered 1607 and cushion to match,he noted that North East Chapel was used as the village school

1854.    Mr J.J. Davies, who wrote and published “Historic Bourne” in 1909, stated that the decorated cross that now stands in the triangular headed opening in the west wall of the nave of St. Firmin’s and above the Tower Arch, was brought from Edenham Church in 1854.  But he does not say why.

1855.    A tablet in the south wall of the South Aisle of St Firmin’s records the restoration of the Church in 1856  while Charles Pennyman Worsley was Vicar and William Bland was Churchwarden.  So far no record has been found of what was done then.

1860   Thomas Cook Hubbard of Thurlby Grange gave the coloured glass that now fills the Great East Window of St Firmin’s, in memory of his ancestors and of Sarah his first wife and Mary his second wife.  It was made by Messrs E. Bailie & Co of London. The figures from north to south represent: St. Matthew, St. Peter, Our Lord in Glory, St. Paul and St. John.

Other examples of coloured glass seem to date from about the same period. The north Window of the North Transept depicting Our Lord’s Ascension was placed there in memory of Hill and Maria Cowslip Wallace of Cheltenham, the parents of Caroline Worsley, wife of the Vicar.

In the South Choir Aisle Chapel the East Window of two lights is filled with eight panels depicting Scriptural subjects, and a South Window of three lights has two of them representing St. John the Baptist, and “Suffer little children to come unto Me”. A West Window of the Tower represents St. Andrew, and two West Windows in the South West Vestry are filled, with green and red glass. 

1888.  The Sanctuary was provided with a new oak Holy Table. It now stands in the South Transept.  One supposes that it took the place of the oak Jacobean Holy Table now in the South Choir Aisle Chapel, which must have stood in the Sanctuary since Reformation times.

1889.  The Parish Magazine for that year records that the Norman Font was brought out of “a dark northwest corner of the Church and restored to its original position near the entrance at the west end.”

1890.  The two manual pipe Organ, now in the North Tran­sept was installed.   It was made by Messrs Abbott and Smith of Leeds and it replaced one made in 1839

1891.  Miss Bettinson of Thurlby Manor, gave the brass Font Ewer now in use.

1893  The oak Choir and Clergy Stalls were placed in the Chancel The Parish Magazine for that year states that they re­placed choir seats “at the east end of the Chancel” – a most unusual position. They were designed by Mr. Hodson Fowler, architect.

The Victorian pews and choir stalls stood on wooden platforms these were found to have woodworm and had to be removed and destroyed. The area under the platform was rubble this was covered with flagstones and the oak chairs you see today replaced the pews.

A sixth bell made by John Taylor of Loughborough was added in 1987, this was hung above the existing frame.

The oak bell frame, due to decay, was replaced in 2009 with a cast iron frame, at this time all six bells were able to be hung in the same frame.

The drawings of the church through history are based on the recorded information, the past in history books, local information and a few clues in the church itself. If anyone has any knowledge about church buildings through the ages we would be very pleased to talk to them.

Many thanks to Patsy Moore who produced the drawings from this information given to her. 

 

 

Extracts from

A Lecture on the History & Architecture of the Church of St Firmin  Thurlby  

Delivered by Mr William Groome of St John’s College Cambridge

In the School Room Thurlby on the evening of

Thursday April 6th 1865

First a brief note on Architecture as we see in Churches.

Gothic Architecture is divided into two classes, according to the date at which the style prevailed Anglo Saxon styled prevailed before the Norman Conquest and is distinguished by triangular headed arches, by a peculiar arrangement of stones, which form the angles of the towers, which is called “long and short work.”

After this came the Norman style, and many of the peculiarities of the Norman Period are seen in it, thus we have semicircular arches resting on capitals supported by plain single pillars.

Immediately following the Norman comes the Early English Style. The great peculiarity of this style is the high narrow pointed archway called the Lancet Arch.

The style, which succeeded the Early English Style, was the Decorated. This style was so called from the profusion and rich character of its decoration both in wood and stone.

The last of the styles, properly so called, is that which was common between 300 to 400 hundred years ago and which is known as the Perpendicular. This style derives its name from the mullions or panelling of the windows being perfectly upright or perpendicular and in this way it is distinguished from the decorated. Another peculiarity is the shape of the archway, which is flatter and more obtuse heading than preceding styles. Many churches of this age are even more full of decoration than those in the style technically called Decorated

 

We now turn to the Church of St Firmin.

Part of the tower of Thurlby church appears to be of the Anglo Saxon style of architecture, which is called long and short work. In all probability many of the stones that form that tower have occupied their present position for more than 900 years. The body of Thurlby church is in the Norman Style and many of the peculiarities of the Norman period are to be seen in it, thus we have the semicircular arches resting on capitals supported by plain single pillars. All the arches in the body of the church are of this style and we may notice that the capitals are all ornamented differently, no two are exactly alike.

In the south wall of the chancel, on the inside, is a semicircular arch in a very strange position ornamented with one of the most peculiar features of the Normans Style, the Zigzag Ornament.

The whole of the north porch is in the Early English style as is also the outer arch of the south porch. Immediately above this arch is a little trefoil headed recess, this is supposed to have been intended for the image of the patron saint St Firmin. This trefoil ornament representing three small leaves forming one large one is believed to be a symbol of the Holy Trinity- the three in one. The chancel and the transept are also in the early English style.

In the chancel, on each side are two tall, narrow lancet windows, wider in the inside than in the outside and on this account called splayed windows, we see another specimen in the belfry, in the pretty little window now filled with stained glass representing St Andrew with his cross. 

The large and magnificent East window (now filled with stained glass, the costly and liberal gift of Thomas Cooke Hubbard Esq. the Lay Rector) is in the perpendicular style. It seems to have been inserted about 200 years after the chancel was rebuilt, very probably in place of three tall narrow lancet windows of the Early English Age.  The perpendicular mullions and panelling, the peculiarities of this style, are very clearly defined in this window. but it is almost entirely free from the decoration so common at that period. The reredos below (the generous gift of Mrs Worsley) which consists of seven obtuse headed arches of this style, is much more full of ornament, in the middle is an ornament of a long and oval shape, this is intended as a rough representation of a Fish, and is regarded as the symbol of Christ.

A very beautiful and very ancient wooden screen of the Perpendicular Age is still preserved in the church, having been placed at the west end near the belfry *

 

The north chantry is somewhat larger than the south giving the plan of the church the appearance of hanging over to one side. Many have supposed that this was intended by the original architects and founders to be a symbol to remind the worshippers continually of the drooping of our Lord’s head whilst He hung upon the cross.

Directly above each of the two pillars which support the arches in the nave of the church is a very rough, ugly fiendish head ** These were supposed to represent the flying away of the evil spirits from the church as a holy place.

The font is of Barnack stone and very ancient at least 500 years old. In passing we may notice the existence of the beautiful stained glass window*** in this Baptistry inserted by the late Vicar (the Rev. C F Worsley) in memory of his father.

In Thurlby Church there were originally five altars, the high altar in the same position that the present altar now occupies – two smaller side altars, one in each chantry, and two others one in each transept. Some 300 or 400 years we would probably have witnessed all these altars in use during the day – by the priest and men and women of all ages performing their morning or evening devotions.  Within two to three hundred yards of the church was an Abbey called Broomsby Abbey. This building (which was formerly moated around) is now used as a farmhouse, and is in all probability that which is occupied by Mr Bettinson and is known as the Manor House. From this foundation the Church would naturally be well supplied with priests and other ecclesiastics necessary for the performance of its services, and its existence will, we may suppose,be in part for the size and beauty of the neighbouring church.

Proof of the existence of these altars, in former times, at any part of the church, is usually supplied by the presence of the little niche, or recess in the wall, The head of which is generally highly decorated, and which looks as if it has been intended as a water receptacle, this is called a Piscina or water drain. It was here that the priest washed his hands and rinsed out the chalice after the celebration of Holy Communion, the water which had been used for this purpose was regarded as sacred, and to prevent its further application to any common use, was pored down this Piscina or water drain, where it was conducted by a little pipe to the ground below. These are not to be mistaken for a Stoup which was a hollow scooped out to hold Holy water at the entrance of the Church, either in or near the porch, where the worshippers crossed themselves with this water as they entered the church.

There is still remaining in Thurlby Church what appears to have been the cover of the stoup, at the doorway which forms the entrance to the North Chantry, when this part of the church was desecrated, and used as a schoolroom, but which is now blocked up. Near the Piscina, just mentioned, is an aumbrey or locker in the wall, and almost directly opposite in the north wall is another of larger size. This latter has a door of very ancient carved work, and the former has also some early wood carving of the kind known as perforated screen work. In these aumbries were kept the cup, the chalice, the plate or paten, and other articles belonging to the service of the altar.

In the south wall in the chancel of the Church, adjoining the aumbrey, is a pointed recess known as the Sedilia, these in most churches were used for the priests as seats when they were not required in the service.

On each side of the chancel is an oblique opening in the wall, which separate the Chantries from the Chancel. These openings are known among archaeologists as Squints or Hagioscopes, and were intended to enable the priests and others who were worshipping at the side altars to take part in the service at the High Altar and especially to be witnesses to the elevation of The Host.

Directly above the pulpit there is an opening in the wall, which is approached by means of a staircase in the North Transept. With regard to the intention and use of this several theories have been started. The most probable appears to be that it was the entrance to a small gallery immediately over the screen which separated the Chancel from the Nave of the church, this screen was called the rood screen, and the gallery above, the rood loft. In it were generally kept a crucifix or rood, images of the Virgin Mary, St John and other Saints, as well as any relics, of the possession of which the church should boast.

Whether the Romans or our ancestors the Britons of those times had any temple or place for public worship at Thurlby, is a question, which we cannot decide, but we have seen, when mentioning the tower, that the Anglo Saxons had an edifice for public worship here. The body of the Anglo Saxon edifice was in all probability destroyed by the Danes who ravaged all this part of Lincolnshire. How many years passed after their visit before the body of the church of Thurlby- as it now stands-was founded we have no authentic records to decide. From the general style of the building one would suppose that it was very early in the Norman period, probably soon after the coming of the Conqueror. In the western most pillar of the South Aisle of the Church, about three feet from the ground, there is a small shallow triangular headed recess, about ten inches in length and seven in breadth. This forms one of the many interesting antiquities of the Church. In it was inserted a dedication stone, on which there was an inscription stating the year in which the church was founded, the name of the founder, the name and the title of the King then reigning, and the name of the patron saint.

The writer records that he met with the following notice “Thurlby Church near Bourne was dedicated in 1112, by Robert Bloet, Bishop of Lincoln, the church and Manor then belonging to the monastery at Peterborough

The writer also found the following information about St Firmin in “The Book of Days”-“St Firmin”- a Bishop of Amiens and Martyr The Patron Saint is St Firmin- a Bishop of Amien and Martyr. The following comprises of all the facts of his life, the history of which is well authenticated.

St Firmin was born in Spain, rather more than 1600 years ago. Of his early life we know nothing until he crossed the Pyrenees as a Christian Missionary. Full of energy and holy zeal he preached the great truths of Christianity in many of the large towns of France. His preaching to the heathen Gauls was attended with much success and so greatly was his talent appreciated both by those who had sent him out, and by those who managed the affairs of the church in France, that he was appointed to the Bishopric of Amiens, at that time one of the most important Dioceses of France.

Amongst his converts was Faustinian the Roman prefect there. This man was the governor of the district, and his conversion would undoubtedly very greatly tend to increase the strength and importance of the infant church. So great was his attachment and so deep his gratitude to St Firmin, as the instrument of his conversion, that he gave to his infant son the name of Firmin in honour of the holy missionary. How long Faustinian lived to assist St Firmin by his counsel, influence and example we are not told, but he was in all probability dead before the commencement of the great Dioclesian persecution.

Amongst those who suffered was St Firmin. He was beheaded on the month of September 303. In all paintings he is represented as walking with his head under his arm. Firmin the son of Faustinian piously built a church over the grave of his godfather and eventually after taking holy orders himself succeeded as Bishop of Amiens presiding over the See for forty years.

The church at Thurlby seems originally to have been in the gift of the Abbot of Burgh, who held much of the land in the village. In the year 1156, William Waterville, the then Abbot of Burgh, founded the Nunnery of St Michaels at Stamford “ in which “as the deed hath it “he assembled no less than 40 virgins living in true religion and pure virginity” To the nunnery, thus founded, he presented the living connected with three separate churches The Church of the Blessed Michael the Archangel at Stamford, the Church of St Martin at Stamford and the Church of St Firmin at Thurlby in Lincolnshire. The deed by which the last mentioned living was handed over to the Nunnery of St Michael may be found in “ Peck’s History of Stamford. “

In accordance with the deed the nuns of St Michaels always presented a Vicar to the Church of St Firmin’s Thurlby until the 30th year of Henry VIII.  The nunnery of St Michaels seems to have been amongst the last which fell and the patronage of the Church of St Firmin at Thurlby was made over to the Provost and Fellows of the College of King Henry VI at Eton in whose hands it has continued since. The value of the livings at the present time (1865) may be roughly estimated at between £400 – £500 a year. In the year 1856 the church underwent a thorough restoration

*believed to bee the screen that now stands on the south side of the chancel behind the choir stalls

 **these cannot now be seen

 *** believed to be the window in the north transept.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s