touching place

St Denys, Aswarby, Lincs

Location, location. Aswarby church sits right by a bend on a byroad just off the A15. The church demonstrates the blend of Dec. and Perp. that Lincolnshire carries off so well, to which the west tower and recessed spire make a satisfying climax. Across the road is the entrance to Aswarby Hall, demolished in 1951; it was the setting for ‘Lost Hearts’, about the most sinister ghost story in the whole of M.R. James’ canon. Shudder.

Step through the N door and the hatch ments and monuments of the Whichcotes of Aswarby Hall remind you that this was an estate church; facing the raised manorial pew of the Whichcotes in the N aisle, the pick of the monuments is the 1849 tablet in the classical style to Marian, Lady Whichcote, who died aged only 29. The church was given a new chancel then; at the same time, Blore restored the nave with box pews whose unusual ramped doors give the building a certain distinction.

People come from across the world to see another monument in the nave, a rugged hunk of stone, celebrating George Bass. Son of a yeoman farmer, he was baptized here in 1771 and qualified as a surgeon. Travelling to Australia, he disappeared mysteriously in 1803, but not before he discovered the strait between Australia and Tasmania which was given his name by fellow explorer and Lincolnshire man, Matthew Flinders.

And the $64,000 question – ‘Why did M.R. James set ‘Lost Hearts’ here?"’ Well, according to Henry Thorold, MRJ knew the Ninth Baronet, Sir George Whichcote (1870–1946), from Eton.

Pray for all those readers making a journey of discovery, whether in the Roman Communion or the Church of England. Grid reference: TF 067399

Simon Cotton

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