Churches,  Heritage,  Heritage Crime,  The Churches Conservation Trust

21st-Century Iconoclasm?

Heritage Crime…

Little Cawthorpe, Lincolnshire, St. Helen’s Church

The present church of St. Helen was constructed in 1859 to replace a medieval one, this being the third building on this site. Records indicate the earliest church was founded here in the 1100s.

The stained glass in the present St. Helen’s, by Lavers, Barraud and Westlake, was installed between 1860 and 1890. The south windows depict Christ and the Doctors and the Presentation in the Temple. The impressive west window, donated by the inimitably named Lysimachus Parker, who died in 1860, shows Noah’s Ark, the Baptism of Christ and the Crossing of the Red Sea.

In April 2021 the glass was attacked in what appears to have been a spree of deliberate and targeted vandalism. Specific areas of the glass appear have been fractured by carefully aimed projectiles. Several heads and faces of human figures and animals, along with some ball-flower ornament, were severely damaged.

Examination of the centres-of-impact reveal fractures measuring about 3mm-5mm in diameter, suggesting that an airgun pellet, a stone from a catapult, a BB-gun or some other high-velocity projectile was fired at the glass. Some of the damage is at a height too great to have been attacked from ground level, unless by a very long implement using quite exceptional force.

This crime is particularly upsetting for local residents of Little Cawthorpe, who cherish their church, which sits at the centre of the smallest parish in Lindsey. It was the efforts of local people that saved this building from certain demolition in 1996 after it was declared structurally unsound and made redundant.

The Churches Conservation Trust became involved that year and the charity now owns this historically significant building, keeping it open for everyone to visit and for use as a community space. At the time of writing, the CCT is raising the the necessary funds to repair of this significantly historical glass. If you would like to donate, please contact no***@th****.uk.