St John’s is one of five Medieval churches in the heart of Stamford. Once there were 14. This small town was at the height of trade and politics in England and a very important place.
But within sight of St John’s is the church of All Saints (pictured below) and in 2003 both churches were in serious need of repair. The funds could only be found for one and St John’s lost and was declared redundant. It was put into the very safe hands of the Churches Conservation Trust.
But the Church of St John the Baptist remains part of the street scene and the street architecture of the centre of Stamford. And its door is open to visitors, so how could I not pop in?
The reason, apparently, that Stamford had so many Medieval churches is that it was one of the five Danelaw boroughs (with Derby, Nottingham, Lincoln and Leicester) and was also a Royal Borough.
This meant rich benefactors could commission churches. And they did in abundance.
According to the very informative booklet on the church written by John H F Smith for the CCT, the current building, built on the site of an earlier 12th century church, was completed in 1451. But history tells that Stamford was sacked by Lancastrian forces in 1461 during the Wars of the Roses and churches were destroyed. Well obviously not all of them.
St John’s is lovely. It has beautiful stained glass windows and a wonderful ceiling with carved angels on the ends of the beams.
You probably can’t tell from this particularly badly-taken photograph but there are five people on there with the surname Flecknor. I wouldn’t imagine Flecknor to be a hugely common name and so the deduction must be that they were members of the same family even if the relationship was distant. That’s so sad.
The church has been refurbished many times over the years. Box pews were here prior to these ornately carved ones. I still don’t understand box pews, at least with these pews, everyone is looking in the direction of the preacher.
Under the central stained glass in the picture above is an altar frontal, one of two from the early 18th century that have been restored reasonably recently. It has the letter S in one corner and I in the other for Saint Iohn or John.
The church also has a memorial to Sir Malcolm Sargent, musician and conductor but also resident of Stamford and former choirboy at St John’s where his dad was the organist and choirmaster.
This font is lovely. It’s by the south door, is that where fonts traditionally sit? I don’t know.
The font itself is 15th century and is believed to be the original font. The cover is a 17th century addition. I’m not sure I like font covers, I don’t know why.
So that’s the Church of St John the Baptist at Stamford. A beautiful town church and well worth a visit.
There are a lot of hidden treasures behind the doors of these redundant churches.