Coningsby Church, Lincolnshire

Coningsby is a small town dominated by its RAF history – indeed the famous Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is stationed here. The church, the oldest building in town, dates to the 13th Century, at which time it was a simple “Norman-style” country church. The north aisle was added in the 14th Century and the south aisle if the 15th. At the same time as the south aisle was added, St. Michael’s most distinctive feature was also put in place – the tower.

The tower would be remarkable in itself as it is attached to the exterior of the church, rather than being an integral part of it. Thus a public footpath passes through the arch at the base of the tower. However, the 17th Century one-handed painted clock which adorns the tower is the most famous landmark of the church.

Believed to be one of only two one-handed church clocks in Britain (along with St. Andrew’s in Holt, Norfolk) it is believed to be the largest of its kind in the world – the single hand is just shy of 9 feet long. The pendulum is so large it takes more than two seconds for it to swing from side to side.

A lot of work was done to the church in the 1700s and then by the Victorians who – as usual – waded in with some heavy handed restoration work, particularly around the roof.

One of the tales associated with the church is one of strange tragedy. There is a small carving of a monkey above the south porch. In October 1732 Margaret, the Countess of Coningsby was delivered a baby son – the Viscount Coningsby. In January of the following year the family’s pet monkey stole the baby from his cradle and carried him to the roof of the family home at Culverthorpe Hall near Sleaford. There, either accidentally or deliberated, the baby was dropped to the ground and he died from his injuries… with him died the earldom of Coningsby.

As you would expect here, there is a chapel dedicated to the RAF – although it only came into being in 1970. A Dutch flag stands by the altar not, as you would think, because of the close connections between Lincolnshire and the Netherlands but because this flag was used to cover the bodies of two RAF pilots shot down over the Netherlands who were sheltered by Coba Pulskens of the Dutch Resistance. Unfortunately, they were discovered and shot by the SS and Pulskens ended up dying in a concentration camp, but this flag made it back to Coningsby and was dedicated to this brave act in a special service in 1983.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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