St Margarets Church
Although we have no exact date for its build, this Grade II listed church is of the Early Perpendicular style and we have found records of a church in Somersby dating to 1235. It is built of the local Spilsby sandstone, the green colour deriving from gluaconite in the stone. The source is a disused quarry 1/2 mile out of the village on the road to Salmonby which was last used during Victorian restoration work. Our claim to fame is the fact that Alfred Lord Tennyson was born- and spent the first 28 years of his life here in Somersby. His father George Clayton Tennyson was rector of St. Margaret’s, Somersby and of its namesake in the neighbouring village of Bag Enderby for 23 years until his death. His tomb is in the graveyard to the west of the porch. Catherina Tennyson mysteriously has a stone here too, next to George. She was the second wife of Horatio, Alfred’s youngest sibling.
See within the chancel the plaque to George Littlebury, Knight who died without issue in 1621 and who was the landowner at the time. Near the pulpit there is a plaque to members of the Burton and Langhorne Burton family, who after the Littlebury’s were landowners for several centuries. There are many Burton graves on the left of the path as you enter the churchyard from the road.
You can’t miss the copy of a bust of Tennyson, sculpted by his good friend, Pre-Raphaelite Thomas Woolner. And in the display cabinet there are various artifacts lent to us by the Tennyson Research Centre in Lincoln and others including an image of the young Tennyson. All Tennyson siblings born in Somersby were christened in the font.
We are very proud of the Perpendicular Cross found outside, missed by the Roundheads who destroyed many others in the area after the battle of Winceby which is just a few miles away to the south. And notice the sundial above the porch with its inscription ‘Time Passeth’ and dated 1721.
There was restoration work carried out to the church in 1833 whilst the Tennysons were still living here although George had died in 1831. And it was restored again in 1865 which is when we believe the thatched roof was replaced with slates.
During recent restoration work (2015) we discovered a graffiti in the belfry which simply says ‘AT 1837’. Was this Alfred signing off? The family left that year and he never returned.
St Margaret’s sister church and namesake in nearby Bag Enderby, 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.
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We are very honoured to be the first church to be granted HLF funding (2015) to enable us to carry out essential restoration work both inside and out.
We hope you enjoy your visit and are appealing to visitors to support us in our quest to help us maintain our church for future generations to be able to visit and enjoy. We do have to match-fund so anything you can spare would be welcome. There are envelopes for British tax-payers and the collection chest is on the floor.
As part of the HLF project besides the essential restoration work which has been completed we will be updating the interpretative materials, making use of the latest technologies such as smartphone apps, 360° panorama’s and aerial photography for this our new website. We also be placing an audio handset with audio recordings of Tennysons poetry in the tower in the spring of 2016.
Both St. Margarets, Somersby and St. Margaret’s Bag Enderby are members of the South Ormsby Group of Parishes.
Prior to the setting up of the group in 1949, several of the churches had tiny and in some instances non-existent congregations. By Easter 1959, however, 500 people were attending one or other of the 12 churches. There was lively youth work, a monthly magazine going into every home, much new lay involvement in parish life and a buildings restoration programme under way.
The parish magazine, The Tennyson Chronicle is still in circulation. The other churches still in the Group are at Brinkhill, Calceby, Driby, Farforth, Ketsby, Harrington, Haugh, Maidenwell, Oxcombe, Ruckland, South Ormsby, Tetford and Worlaby, though some are sadly no longer open for services.
More information on the history of the Group, and of its present situation will be available soon via this website.