Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden carved panel, Greetham church
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden carved panel, Greetham church

St Mary's church in Greetham dates from the 12th - 15th century, but there is one notable earlier feature; a section of a Saxon tympanum is set into the west wall, beside a piece of 12th century moulding and a section of a later Norman tympanum.

Sanctuary panelling

The font also shows 12th century carving, but the most interesting feature is probably the wood panelling in the chancel, which is decorated with Biblical scenes. The panelling is fascinating; it has been variously dated as being anywhere from Saxon to Georgian. The Saxon guess seems unlikely, and the church guide puts it as Jacobean, though without much certainty.

It is thought to have come from Sussex, though how it ended up here is anyone's guess. One panel shows Adam and Eve driven away from the Garden of Eden by an angel, while a serpent looks on. One vertical panel depicts the heads of saints, another shows the dove returning to Noah's Ark. Another horizontal panel depicts Moses striking the rock with his staff and another shows Daniel in the lion's den.

The carvings represent a range of Biblical scenes, from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to Noah, Moses, Daniel and the lions, and the sacrifice of a bull. There are also heads of saints and floral designs. The overall effect is quite sumptuous.

Carving of a serpent
Carving of a serpent

There has been a church here from at least the 12th century, and maybe much earlier. Documents show that the Earl of Warwick granted the advowson (the right to appoint the vicar) of Greetham to the Priory of St Sepulchre at Warwick in 1123.

There is a blocked north door from the 13th century, at the same time as the tower was added. The tower was bult in 1272, possibly by Edward I's royal architects. King Edward is known to have stayed at the manor house in Greetham in 1290, when it served as the Earl of Warwick's hunting lodge. The manor house stood west of the church, but no trace of it remains.

The north arcade was added in the 14th century, at the same time as the clerestory and chancel arch. The pulpit is Jacobrean, with nicely carved panels on the top. There is a royal coat of arms to George I in the north aisle. At the bottom of the painted panel is oversized text admonishing readers to 'Fear God, Honour the King'.

The font is 12th century, in a tub shape with rolled moulding at the base and a large capital at the top of the bowl, decorated with reeded leaves joined by a dogtooth frieze.

The chancel is 13th century, and feature a pair of narrow lancet windows with glass depicting the four Evangelists.

The church was restored by JA Cossins in 1897. Every facing stone was reset, so that the church appears as it did in the 14th century.

Greetham church is a delight to visit. The Jacobean panelling is quite exceptional, and a wonderful example of the woodcarver's art.