Linton in Pictures
A History of Linton
in Photographs
Available here
LINTON CHURCH STEEPLE

The 1600 Paris Map draws the tower with a simple cross on top, so it comes as quite a surprise when the Millicent Map of the same year depicts it as having a steeple. The church undoubtedly had a steeple. There are references to “a belfry in the steeple” in an Inventory of 1552 ,and repairs were carried out to “the bells in the steeple” in 1554. In Churchwardens' accounts for 1665 weather boards were provided for the steeple.

So what actually happened to our steeple? In 1836 the Revd. Fisher located a document which supplied the first clue, and this paper was printed in the Parish Magazine in1895. A Sermon was preached by the Revd. William Stephens on May 13th 1705 upon the occasion of the re-building of the church “beaten down in the late dreadful storm”. In the Sermon he equates the re-building of the church with the reparation of the Temple by the Jews. He said:

“It is my Brethren, a great pleasure, and satisfaction to me to see this godly Fabrik so decently repaired, and set in order: so that we may worship the most High God not in Deformity, as we have been forced since the storm, but in the Beauty of Holiness, as we did before.”

The second clue was provided by the testimony of a local carpenter, William Willis, who gave evidence to an enquiry into tithe rights held at the Black Bull Inn, Linton on October 7th 1736. The Vicar, Thomas Woodruffe, was in dispute with John Twinn the tenant of Great and Little Linton farms ,over tithes and the position of pews in the church. Willis said that when he was an apprentice aged 11 he worked on the repair of the church and he recalled that…” in the year 1703 the spire was blown down and falling on the South side of the church broke through the roof and beat the pulpit and desk to pieces, which stood where they now stand.

Daniel Defoe in his book “The Storm 1703” recounts the horrific tale of the gale which hit S.E. England and Holland on Friday, November 26th 1703 and raged for five days. There were truly biblical scenes of destruction from Southampton to Yarmouth and the storm dwarfed our 1987 Hurricane. Over 8000 people died, 400 windmills were destroyed along with over 800 houses. Hundreds of vessels were smashed to pieces by a tidal wave which flooded the Thames Estuary. In Brighton the lead was ripped off the church roof, at Wells the bishop was killed when a Palace chimney smashed into his bedroom and the first Eddystone lighthouse was swept out to sea. Defoe relates that, “a great many spires and weather cocks were blown off the steeples of churches”. Such a fate awaited Linton steeple. The steeple at Stowmarket suffered a similar fate.

The Linton Churchwardens postponed their plans to build a new Workhouse in the grounds of the Guildhall near the old 1527 Almshouses. The Vestry spent £60-15-0 on repairs to the church. The Three Decker Pulpit and high sided pews were re-constructed ,but the steeple was replaced by a low bell tower or belfry. This tower can be seen in a sketch drawn by William Cole when he stayed in Linton in September 1742. The “bell steeple” was raised to a height of ten feet in 1797 and a clock bell remained on the tower until 1900.

The 3 Decker Pulpit ,which was smashed in 1703, was replaced in 1705 and finally discarded in 1881 (some say 1870). It stood against a large pillar on the South side of the church and faced North. All the pews in the Nave faced South. Two new arches replaced this large pillar after 1870. Dr. Palmer says that parts of the old pulpit were made up into the present one (once on the north side).The best local examples of “3 Deckers” can be seen at Dennington and Kedington in Suffolk. The Parish Clerk sat or stood facing the congregation, whom he led in the responses printed in the Prayer Book. The Parson conducted the service from the second stage and preached from the third stage.