21st-Century Iconoclasm

Heritage Crime…

Little Cawthorpe, Lincolnshire, St. Helen’s Church

Constructed in 1859 to replace a medieval church, this is the third building on this site, the earliest dating to the 1100s. Its stained glass, designed and made by Lavers, Barraud and Westlake, was installed 1860-1890. The windows were painstakingly created by highly skilled artists and craftsmen during these years. 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. During the past few weeks the glass has been targeted by vandals. Carefully aimed projectiles have fractured specific areas of the glass, mainly several heads and faces of the depicted human figures and animals.

Examination of the centres of impact reveal circular fractures measuring about 3mm-5mm in diameter, suggesting an airgun pellet or small stone fired by a catapult, or some other high-velocity projectile. Some of the damage is at a height too great to have been attacked from ground level except with some kind of long implement using exceptional force.

This crime is particularly upsetting for the people who live in this, the tiniest parish in Lindsey and who cherish this church. Local people saved this building from certain demolition in 1996 after it was declared structurally unsound.

The Churches Conservation Trust became involved in that year and the charity now owns this historically significant building, keeping it open for everyone to visit and use as a community space. There is a fabulous war memorial in the churchyard too!

On a more positive note, today I had the privilege of being the first to photograph two Elizabethan panels hidden for several hundred years in a private and usually inaccessible historic building in Stamford (see photos). It’s like being back in my old job 😏