History of Reepham Parish Church
Welcome to the parish church of Reepham, dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. The building has seen a number of changes in appearance during its long history. The columns and arches of the south nave date from the early 13c, and those of the north nave from the early 14c.
At this date there were north and south aisles, but these were removed in the 18th century (perhaps because the outer walls and roofs were in poor condition) and the arches filled in. A marble tablet beneath the east window commemorates the rebuilding of the chancel in 1836, at a cost of £150. The north chancel window is early 13c, whilst the east and south chancel windows date from the 1836 restoration. In 1855 the 14c chancel arch was rebuilt and the pews were installed in the chancel, at a combined cost of £50. In 1862 a further major restoration took place, under the direction of the architect Mr. Michael Drury. The north aisle was added, the tower was rebuilt, a new porch erected (using some of the 14c earlier porch), and the nave roof retimbered at a much steeper pitch, at a combined cost of £900.
The next major restoration took place in 1950. A large hole in the roof above the central aisle lead to major repair being carried out to all the roofs. Following this, extensive replastering took place, and the church interior was redecorated, including painting over some 19c stencils over the chancel arch. The foundations of the porch were also underpinned. In 1962 the south slope of the Nave roof was re-slated and the platform under the centre pews was renewed.
The architect, Mr. Michael Drury, gave the font after the 1862 restoration. Originally it stood at the west end of the north aisle, but in 1964 was moved to its present position. The aumbry was dedicated in 1957.
On the south wall, within the altar rails, is a tablet to the Rev. Edward Bromhead, M.A., who was for sixty-four years Vicar of Reepham, and who died in 1855, two years before his wife, who is memorialised on the same tablet.
On the south wall of the chancel is a memorial to the Rev. Gilbert Benet, M.A., Vicar and Prebendary, who died in 1753. Next is one to his wife, the date of whose death was 1738, the tablet stating that at her feet, (she is buried within the altar rails), lies the body of her first-born child, Ann, who died at the age of two days. On the north wall of the nave are two tablets in memory of the men who lost their lives in the two World Wars. On the shelf beneath the World War I memorial is a crucifix. The vicar, Revd J. Hutchby, picked up the maimed figure of Christ during the Battle of the Marne.
In 2010 a toilet and servery were installed in the base of the tower making the Church better able to be used by the local community for social occasions and a better venue for weddings etc.
A major refurbishment was undertaken in 2013. This saw the removal of the pews, which were not in good order, the levelling of the floor and full re-decoration. Comfortable chairs were purchased and the heating and electrics were upgraded. The chancel was not refurbished to reflect the Victorian renovations and the pulpit was also left in situ. The open space allows full sight of the pillars and the organ and makes the worship space a more welcome and flexible space.
Messrs. Cousans of Lincoln built the Organ in 1892, at a cost of £150. A poster advertising the dedication service is still visible on the back of the organ case. At various stages additional organ stops have been added, the last major additions being carried out in 1963, when the organ was moved to the west end of the north aisle.
The tower was rebuilt during the 1862 restoration. Previously much lower and with a shallow pitched roof, the tower was heightened to match the new higher nave roof and the spire added. The same founder as the Guildhall bell of Lincoln made the single bell, which is of the date A.D. 1371. The Latin inscription was cast by mistake in reverse, and translates as "Blessed be the name of the Lord." The bell was rehung in 1936.
The church clock dates from about 1740, and was restored, given, and put up by the Rev. Arthur F. Sutton, Rector of Brant Broughton, in 1892. The clock face dates from the installation.
The furnishings of the church include several items made by local craftsmen.
The processional cross, the two churchwardens staves, and an oak notice board, were made and presented by Mr. C.T. Wilson, churchwarden, in the 1950's. An altarpiece, in mild steel and ceramic, and two standard candlesticks, in mild steel, are the work of Charles Sansbury and Robert Blatherwick of the staff of the Lincoln Art School and date from the mid 1960's. The altarpiece represents the cross arising out from the crown of thorns.
The chalice, paten, and flagon, were presented in 1873 in memory of Revd. Jones, the late vicar. The large brass alms dish was presented in 1902, and is probably German. The central image represents the return of the Israelite scouts from their first foray into Canaan. On a branch between them they carry a massive bunch of grapes. The German inscription is "Companions in peace", repeated three times. The wafer box was presented in 1951 in memory of Jean Martin. The Brass Candlesticks, Bell Rope and Sally, were donated by Family and friends of Marjorie Blatherwick, churchwarden for 15 years and John Wheeldon on the occasion of their marriage in April 1998. The Brass Candlesticks are 19th Century and French in origin.
The original churchyard contains a number of 18c gravestones, several altar tombs, whose brickwork has since decayed, and the stone base for the old village cross, later used as the base for a flagpole. By 1870, the original churchyard to the south of the church was almost full. In that year the Rev. John Bayles, Vicar of Cherry Willingham, presented a new churchyard to the church. However by 1934 this new churchyard was nearly full, and so a third churchyard, on Hawthorn Road, was opened and consecrated.
The village of Reepham, spelled Refaim or Refam, is listed in Domesday Book. The first mention of a church here is not until the 11th century when Bishop Grosseteste states that a Petrus de Radenhoven was made sub-deacon of Refam. The patronage, the right to present a new vicar, passed through a number of hands, including the king and the dean and chapter of Lincoln until soon after 1631 the patronage was bought by the Mercers' Company, under the terms of the will of Richard Fishbourne of London who left £2800 to the Mercers Company to purchase "Two or more impropriate parsonages, rectories, or church livings in Lincolnshire or some other northern county." The Mercers' Company are still patrons, now jointly with the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough following the union of the livings of Fiskerton and Reepham. In 1999 the new benefice of South Lawres was created, uniting the parishes of Fiskerton and Reepham with Cherry Willingham and Greetwell. 2013 saw the addition of a further four churches to the group.
However, our Church is not just a historic building reminding us of the past. We endeavour to make it a living, active part of the Community in Reepham. We strive to be outward looking in our support of those less fortunate than ourselves by supporting charities both world wide and closer to home by regular donations to Christian Aid, the Children’s Society, BeAttitude and the Nomad Trust.
Social events take place on a regular basis and are open to the whole community. They are usually well attended and much appreciated. Strong links are maintained with the Methodist Church and festivals are often shared and celebrated together. Support for the Church of England Primary school in the village also has high priority, especially as the Church was instrumental in founding the school in 1859, donating £50 of the £350 building costs.
A Heritage Resource Base has been established recently with the objective of collecting documents and photographs to reflect the history and development of the village. It is hoped that this will be a well-used resource for many years to come.
The worship in our church is of paramount importance to us, Sunday Worship varies with Holy Communion, Messy Church and Family Worship all taking place during the month. We play a full part in the life of the Benefice of which we are a part and in the events organised by the Diocese.
During the week, the church is open to be used for prayer, both formal and informal or for quiet reflection or rest. We hope that you will take time here to pray, especially for the work of the church in this parish.