For this church:
The current All Saints’ Church is Victorian, replacing an earlier building that stood a few metres to the south.
We know that Harby had a parish church in the late 13th century as a charter dated 12th August 1288 held in Lincoln Cathedral library describes a transaction of freehold possession for property in Lincoln involving “master William of Kelham, rector of Harby”. We also know that parish priest “William de Kelm” was present on the evening of 28th November 1290 when Queen Eleanor died at the adjacent manor house of Richard de Weston.
A plain Norman doorway from the south side of the old church was re-used in the vestry when the new church was built, suggesting that Harby had a stone church as early as the 12th century. A drawing of the old church in 1824 shows a north facing 13th century window with Y-bar tracery and contemporary accounts describe early 14th century sedilia which survived until 1877 when the old church was pulled down. The early 16th century font is used today in the current church.
After the death of Queen Eleanor in 1290, King Edward I founded a chantry chapel at Harby, consecrated by the Archbishop of York in 1294 and its first incumbent, Roger de Newton, was paid ten marks a year and the manor of Navenby given to provide for its maintenance. The chantry chapel was incorporated into the parish church and survived until 1548.
Some time after the Reformation and the dissolution of the chantry chapel, Harby church became a chapel of ease associated with the parish church of St George the Martyr at North Clifton and over the next 300 years evolved into a plain rectangular building 37ft long by 15½ft wide incorporating parts of the early church and chantry chapel. In 1790 Thoroton described it as a “little chapel of one aisle”.
In 1824 Reverend Charles Kingsley (father of the author Charles Kingsley) Vicar of North Clifton secured £60 funding from the Incorporated Church Building Society to increase the capacity of the chapel by 110 sittings by the addition of another aisle. An account of this extension describes a “very pretty turreted steeple” and some “ancient oak carvings”; the oak benches were sold at auction and some “valuable stonework broken up to mend the roads”.
In 1851 the church was described as Harby Chapel with 80 free and 80 other seats. The general congregation at the afternoon service was 37 which the curate, GC Gordon, reckoned to be less than the average, which he put at 40 for the previous twelve months. Another 80 children attended as Sunday Scholars. Gordon noted that:
The Wesleyan Sunday School children are brought to church in number about 80 every alternate Sunday, except during the winter months.
The Wesleyan Reformers and Methodists both had chapels in the village, with much larger congregations. The Wesleyan Reformers had 90 at the afternoon and 100 at the evening service and the Wesleyans 200 at the afternoon and 250 at the evening service. Their minister claimed an attendance of 100 Sunday Scholars at the afternoon service!
By 1868 it was increasingly apparent that Harby needed a new church and an account was opened with £500 from Mr GK Jarvis of Doddington Hall, who added £100 twice a year for the next three years. The Rev George Harpur, Vicar of North Clifton, and a generous benefactor Mr George Freeth of North Clifton Hall argued the case for a new church with the Church Commissioners. In May 1872, the Rev Richard Davies Harries accepted, seemingly reluctantly, the position of curate and launched an appeal for funds to build a new church capable of seating up to 250 parishioners.
By 1872 there were two Methodist chapels in Harby. The Anglican Church congregation had declined to “one church family in the village, an aged couple in the receipt of parochial relief” and the building described as “the most unsightly place of worship in the diocese”. Harries writes of “one service every Sunday with a celebration of Holy Communion three times a year” in “the wretched barn-like structure in which we now worship”. The poor state of the old church and the increasing popularity of nonconformist worship in Harby added impetus to the appeal for funds to build the new church and for Harby to become a parish separate from North Clifton.
By early 1873 Harries’ appeal had raised around £1,500 towards the estimated £2,500 required and in 1874 London architect Mr John T Lee was commissioned to design the new church. Mr Jarvis laid the foundation stone in 1874, and in early 1875 builder JH Wallis of Market Rasen started construction of the new church in the Vicar’s field to the north of the old church.
In March 1874 the parish of Harby incorporated the extra-parochial parish of Swinethorpe in Lincolnshire and the Rev RD Harries was appointed as its first vicar.
Some fascinating correspondence survives between Harries, Jarvis and Freeth, initially about fundraising, but latterly about construction problems with Wallis’ poor workmanship. There appear to have been problems with the quality of foundations for the tower and the dialogue soon becomes more personal. Harries described Wallis’ builders as “a worthless drunken lot and not to be trusted”. Freeth wrote to Jarvis and referred to Wallis as “quite an impossible man”. On 7th June 1875, Mr JJ Smith, Clerk of Works at Lincoln Cathedral, advocated completely replacing the insufficient foundations for the tower. By June 1875, relations had deteriorated to a point where a meeting between Harries, Jarvis, Wallis and architect Mr Lee was required. Lee and Wallis came to “sharp words”, Wallis refused to speak to Harries and the remaining work on the tower and spire was completed by a builder called Hibbert.
The new church was completed by 1877 and the old church was pulled down shortly after the consecration ceremony.
All Saints’ Church
The parish church of All Saints’ Harby with Swinethorpe was consecrated by the Rt Rev Bishop Henry Mackenzie, Bishop-Suffragan of Nottingham, on Thursday 2nd August 1877 with day-long festivities involving over 800 people.
A wonderful account of the proceedings survives and at one point describes:
It was provided and superintended by the Harby and Swinethorpe ladies and was exceedingly well managed, but as provision had only been made for six or seven hundred, there was at one time a panic rumour that the butter was getting short, then that the plum bread was gone, and next that there was no white bread. But the three village shops were emptied, private houses yielded up their supplies, and a basketful of cut bread and butter attested to the victory of the Harby ladies over the hungry crowd.
In 1912 the church had 180 seats. It had 25 children on the Sunday School roll. Eight baptisms had occurred over the previous twelve months.