Building record MLI93215 - Church of St Mary, West Torrington


Former parish church built in 1860-1, and formally closed for worship in 2011. Thought to have been built on the site of earlier, medieval churches, with the current structure incorporating re-used 14th century masonry.

Type and Period (4)

  • (Post Medieval to Modern - 1860 AD to 2050 AD)
  • (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1300 AD? to 1860 AD)
  • (Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1299 AD?)
  • (Early 20th Century to 21st Century - 1922 AD to 2050 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Former parish church built in 1860-1, and formally closed for worship in 2011. The church is believed to have been built on the site of an earlier, medieval church, and the 1860s rebuild by R.J. Withers re-used quantities of 14th century masonry in the new construction. The building is of ironstone, greenstone and limestone rubble with limestone ashlar dressings, and slate roofs with decorative ridge tiles and stone coped gables. The church has a west bellcote, nave with a south porch and a chancel with a north vestry. For the full description and the legal address of this listed building please refer to the appropriate List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. {1}{2} Documentary sources from the 17th century and later make reference to a medieval church existing at West Torrington in the early 12th century. The church was in the estate of Jocelin at that time, along with the similarly vacant church at Sempringham. Jocelin gave the living of these two churches to his son, Gilbert, whilst he trained to be first a clerk, then later a priest, with Gilbert inheriting the whole manor after the death of Jocelin in 1130. Gilbert then proceeded to found the Gilbertine monastic order, being later canonised in 1202 by Pope Innocent III as St Gilbert of Sempringham. The church at West Torrington and its living was granted to the Gilbertone Priory at Bullington at some point in the mid 12th century (see MLI54188). {3}{4} This earlier church was rebuilt in the 14th century, as a two-aisle nave and chancel structure. It is likely that the adjacent churchyard cross was erected at the same time (see MLI40337). The church continued in use, though was described as 'ruinous and dilapidated' in 1770, when some repairs were conducted at the expense of the landowner, George Harrison. These works involved the removal of the north aisle and the rebuilding of the chancel, allowing the church to continue to be used until the mid 19th century. Thomas Wimberley Mossman was appointed vicar at West Torrington in 1859, who found the church to again be in a dilapidated state, with considerable rain ingress. Mossman was an important and controversial figure in the Oxford movement, and was also notable as an historian and active Liberal politician and a crucial figure in the early Oecumenical Movement. He began a subscription fund for the repair of the church, with the architect Robert Jewell Withers being appointed to oversee the restoration works. What remained of the 14th century church was largely demolished and rebuilt as the present structure between 1860 and 1862. The church was enlarged to its present form, with a new porch, new chancel and new roofs, with material from the 14th century church being re-used for part of the construction. The works were completed and the church re-opened for worship on the 3rd of July 1862. A service was held within the church to mark the dedication and unveiling of a First World War memorial plaque on the 8th of January 1922. The memorial is located inside the porch, on the western wall, and takes the form of a white marble tablet with a black border. It is inscribed 'West Torrington. In ever grateful memory to the men of this village who fought in the great war 1914-19.' The memorial is unusual in celebrating the safe return of their parishioners, including a female nurse, as well as commemorating those who lost their lives. The inscription ends 'By their sacrifice we live'. An investigation into the internal wall paintings of the church was conducted in January 1988. The survey used remote sensing photography techniques to provide information on the painted areas of the walls on the north side of the nave, and on the northern end of the chancel's east wall. The survey revealed 19th century paintings beneath the later wall finishes. Whilst no earlier paintings were identified, the 19th century paintings were thought by the surveyor to be of high quality and worthy of preservation. The Church of St Mary was formally closed for worship on the 29th of October 2011. A detailed summary of the church's known history and development was written following a site visit and condition assessment, conducted in December 2019 to inform the building's proposed conversion to use as a community centre. {5}{6}

Sources/Archives (6)

  •  Index: Department of the Environment. 1986. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. 1/49.
  •  Unpublished Document: Historic England. Document Held by The Historic England Archive. BF105161.
  •  Bibliographic Reference: Rose Graham. 1901. Saint Gilbert of Sempringham and the Gilbertines: A History of the Only English Monastic Order. pp.1-6.
  •  Bibliographic Reference: William Page (ed). 1906. The Victoria County History: Lincolnshire - Volume 2. pp.179, 191-2.
  •  Report: Christopher J Brooke. 1988. West Torrington Church. -.
  •  Report: Austin Heritage Consultants. 2021. Church of St Mary, West Torrington. -.



Grid reference Centred TF 13501 82048 (19m by 16m) Surveyed

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (2)

External Links (0)

Record last edited

Feb 27 2024 9:33AM


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