The church of St Margaret in Somersby is a small and inviting Grade II listed building consisting of a square tower, nave, chancel and south porch. It is built of Spilsby Sandstone and at first sight is fairly typical of the churches to be found across the Lincolnshire Wolds. However, St Margaret’s is far from a typical church for it was here in 1809 that the poet Alfred Tennyson was baptized. His father Dr. George Clayton Tennyson was rector here from 1808 until his death in 1831.
Built sometime before 1612 the church has architectural features surviving from the 15th century including some of the windows. There is a brass plaque of a kneeling knight to George Littlebury dated 1612 in the chancel, and a stone memorial to Kath and Robert Burton dated 1742. The Burtons were the landowners for many, many years and lived opposite the church.
For the restoration of the church – between 1863 and 1865 – the khaki coloured Spilsby Sandstone was used, sourced from the now disused quarry just outside the village. There is also redbrick patching on the tower. And a slate roof. Originally the roof would have been thatched.
Inside there is a wooden ceiling and coloured stone-tiled floor. The church has a plain octagonal font.
St Margaret’s contains a copy of the bust of the bard by the pre-Raphaelite sculptor and friend of Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Woolner, and a small display of material concerning Tennyson’s life in Lincolnshire.
The tower is clad with oak panels with information on Tennyson’s life in Somersby. Momentarily part of this display is being renewed and updated, and may be absent if you enter the church.
There are however free full-colour guides on the gift table which also has notelets and tea-towels for sale. The proceeds of which go to the Restoration Fund.
The church seats around 80 people and is used several times a year for services. Above the porch is a sundial.
Outside the porch is a well preserved 15th century perpendicular cross.
In the graveyard, to the west of the porch, the modest tomb of the poet’s father Dr George Tennyson who died in 1831 can be found. There are various Burton graves denoted with crosses as you enter the graveyard.
On the north nave there is a blocked doorway to be found.
The graveyard is dotted with yew trees and there is a bench to be found where one can sit in the shade and enjoy the tranquility.
In 2012 St. Margaret’s underwent its quinquennial inspection and findings brought to light that an alarmingly substantial amount of money needs to be raised to repair and restore the church and to ensure its existence for generations to come. If you would like to make a donation for the conservation of this heritage church, we would be very grateful.
St Margaret’s sister church and namesake in nearby Bag Enderby, (photo on the right) is also of greenstone and has several interesting features such as segmental window arches of note and a perpendicular octagonal font. Found in a nearby field and now nailed to the door is what is believed to be the shield boss of Danish origin.
But like Somersby’s church, it is the connection that is key. Alfred Tennyson’s father was rector of both churches and would walk between the two, and deliver long and impenetrable sermons at both.
If you would like to attend a service in Somersby or Bag Enderby, dates can be found on the Events page.