touching place

ST ETHELDREDA, GUILSBOROUGH,

NORTHANTS

Northamptonshire being Northamptonshire, you expected and got a spire. This is not one of those stately Nene Valley masterpieces that you see at Warmington, Kettering or Oundle, as the 14th c. tower is topped with a spire of 1618.

Guilsborough church received a big restoration in 1815-1820, well before the Camden Society made it la mode; new oak seating was topped and tailed with a new roof and stone floors, all through the initiative of Thomas Sikes, vicar 1792-1834. The Victorians were left to provide a reredos to the main altar, as well as panelling to much of the chancel, and there is a lot of glass by Burlison and Grylls, Burne-Jones, and Morris and Co. What of this vicar who was ahead of his time? Though he was content to remain officiating in this rural backwater, Thomas Sikes was not without influence, a respected High Church oracle linked by marriage to the Hackney Phalanx (he, Henry Handley Norris and John James Watson all married sisters). For their inspiration, they looked to Jones of Nayland and further back to the Non-jurors. In 1832, two years before his death (and one year before Keble's Assize sermon), Sikes was visiting Hackney Vicarage when he made a pronouncement that echoes down the years:

`Wherever I go, all about the country, I see amongst the clergy a number of very amiable and estimable men, many of them much in earnest and wishing to do good. But I have observed...the uniform suppression of one great truth. There is no account given anywhere, so far as I can see, of the One Holy Catholic Church... We now hear not a breath about the Church, by and by those who live to see it will hear of nothing else... The effects of it I even dread to contemplate, especially if it comes suddenly: and woe betide those...who shall in the course of Providence have to bring it forward... They will be endlessly misunderstood and misinterpreted. There will be one great outcry of Popery from one end of the country to the other.'

It is the lot of a prophet to be ignored.

Map reference: 5P 676727

Simon Cotton

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