St John the Baptist Church, Corby Glen
St John the Baptist Church, Corby Glen

In 1939 a churchwarden in St John's Church, Corby Glen, Lincolnshire, was removing some flaking whitewash from the church walls. What he discovered beneath the whitewash was a series of extraordinary medieval wall paintings, with 15th-century scenes painted over an earlier set of 14th-century paintings.

Medieval Wall paintings

The Corby Glen wall paintings are remarkable in that they cover a wide range of subjects, some of which appear in no other British church.

The paintings can be confusing to unravel, with the overlapping 14th and 15th-century scenes and a patterned stencil background.

King Herod wall painting
King Herod wall painting

On the clerestory walls are scenes from the Nativity. Here you can see the figures of Mary with the baby Jesus, two of the three wise men, the shepherds with their flocks, and King Herod holding a sword. It is fascinating to see that all these characters are shown in medieval clothing; the only reference that the medieval artists had.

On the north aisle wall is a figure of St Christopher carrying the Christ child, partially obscured by a later depiction of the Seven Deadly Sins. As usual, the figure of St Christopher is shown facing the main door, so people would see it while entering and leaving the church.

Also on the north aisle walls are figures of St Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read and a Pieta (Mary holding the dead body of Jesus). It is fascinating to see that St Anne is depicted much larger than Mary, almost like a mother and child.

Here also is a depiction of St Michael weighing souls (minus his head), while other souls await their fate while sheltering under Mary's cloak (though the figure of Mary is very faded).

In its traditional spot over the chancel arch is a very faded Doom, or Day of Judgement scene, while on the south aisle wall is a Tree of Jesse, a highly imaginative family tree of Jesus.

St Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read
St Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read

There is much more to see in St John's Church than just the wall paintings. The church is very simple in plan, with a nave, chancel, clerestoried nave, south porch and embattled west tower. The most striking exterior feature is the very tall nave, with its large clerestory windows rising high above the side aisles.

You enter the church through a south porch, with a parvise, or priest's chamber above the doorway.

Over the tower arch is a painted royal coat of arms to King George I. In the west window of the north aisle is a medieval stained glass window depicting St John the Baptist, while in a north aisle window is a fragment of 15th-century glass depicting the head of the Virgin Mary.

Nearby, close to the north door, is a beautifully carved octagonal font dating to the 13th century. Near the chancel arch is the richly carved pulpit, with a carving of St John the Evangelist on one panel.

15th-century stained glass figure
15th-century stained glass figure

The chancel is largely Victorian, the result of a restoration in 1860. The east window, however, is framed with reused 15th-century tracery. The altar rails are 17th-century work.

Near the south door is a 15th-century parish chest, bound with iron straps. The nave is full of attractive panelled box pews. The pews in the aisles date to the 18th century while the matching nave pews are 19th century but made in 18th-century style.

There are several interesting historical monuments in the church. In the north aisle is a wall tablet commemorating Captain Willliam Willerton, who lost his life in 1882 when his ship sank in the North Sea while en route to India. Another interesting memorial in the north aisle is an oval wall monument with an ornate rococo surround commemorating Frances Wilcox (d. 1764).

Getting There

St John's Church is extremely easy to reach. It is at the end of Church Street, just a stone's throw from the market place. There is no dedicated parking but it should be easy to find a spot in the market place or on one of the nearby side streets.

More Photos

About Corby Glen, St John's Church
Address: Church Street, Corby Glen, Lincolnshire, England, NG33 4NJ
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: On Church Street, just north of the market place
Website: Corby Glen, St John's Church
Location map
OS: TF001249
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express

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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

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