All Saints Church, Paston has stood here, originally on the edge of the marshy Fens for almost 800 years. The site is probably that of an old heathen temple, though at least one other Christian Church was built here before the present one. Until the start of the 20th Century, the church was surrounded by agricultural land. Walton was a small hamlet on the Lincoln Road and Fulbridge Road was just a dirt path joining the villages of Millfield and Werrington. Hence, for many years All Saints was called "the Church in the Fields", and was described in 1833 by Andrew Percival as "a kind of oasis in the desert."
The Earlier Church
Evidence of an earlier church can be found next to the font where there is a Saxon stone with its spoon-shaped carving perhaps dating back to the 10th Century. In the plaster work of the south aisle (west), are traces of Norman carved stonework from the 12th Century. The mediaeval stone font, lined with lead, is considered to be the oldest construction in the church, possibly belonging to a previous place of worship on this site.
The Present Building
The present building is mainly of Gothic structure. The chancel, with its north aisle and the lower part of the western tower appear to be of Early English design, characterised by height and pointed arches that could support greater weight. At this time the hollow walls of the early Normans were replaced by single layers of stone. The belfry arch is massive and acutely pointed. From its capitals project two grotesque figures representing a monk and a nun. Each has a cowl drawn closely over the head. The female holds hers with one hand under the chin, whilst the male seems to be hiding something behind his back. In the north and south side of the tower is a Lancet window, and what has been a two-light trefoil window in the west wall with a shepherd's crook ornamentation inserted above. The tower also has a ball-flower cornice ornamentation from this early period.
The belfry has three bells. The earliest is inscribed "Praise the Lord. 1601", the second "Omnia fiant ad gloriam. 1607" (let all be done to the glory of God) and the third, a more recent addition has inscribed upon it the names of the founder, the rector and the church wardens but no date. Embedded in the wall of the belfry chamber are stone coffins, placed there probably to strengthen the tower. The tower and spire were restored in 1929.
The nave, with its beautiful clerestory windows, dates from the Decorated Gothic Style of the 14th Century and the plentiful wide windows are typical of this period. The 500 year old rood screen separating the chancel from the nave was removed in the 19th Century by the Rev Joseph Pratt but was replaced in the 1890s. Unfortunately, in refitting, it was turned around and the beautiful and varied carvings at the top now face away from the congregation. Marks on the capitals of the lofty chancel arch are a reminder of the Pre-Reformation dates, when the Rood, a large crucifix, hung on a beam above the screen and was the dominant feature of the church. It is interesting to note that the church was so crowded in Victorian Times, during Rev Pratt's incumbency, that a gallery was built along the west side of the church to accommodate the "overspill". At this time, the Parish of Paston also included Dogsthorpe, surrounding villages and, until 1853, Werrington. A list of rectors can be found on two boards near the main entrance. This nave was restored in 1884 at a cost of £1,000.
The 15th Century chancel windows are fine examples of perpendicular tracery on the south side. Behind the Rector's stall is a priests' door and by this can be seen a small grilled window (now blocked) which was once covered on the inside by a wooden door. This could have been a leper window or maybe it was used for confessionals, but it is more likely to have been where the verger rang a bell at the start of the Eucharist. The low three-seat sedilia in the Sanctuary dates from the 13th Century, and the piscina, where earlier priests performed the ablutions at the end of Mass, is slightly later. The new aumbry to the left of the piscina was presented in memory of Stella Kathleen Manser and replaced an earlier 19th Century aumbry. It is surmounted by a perpetual light to indicate that it contains the reserved Sacrament. Above the sedilia is a marble memorial containing an effigy of Edmund Mountsteven, an Elizabethan businessman who returned to Paston with a fortune to become a benefactor of the church and the local Jacobean almshouses. He died in 1635. The silver crucifix and candles that stand on the altar were donated by the Railwaymen's Union in 1920 to commemorate the settlement of a strike which Canon Lewis Donaldson (rector) served as mediator. The chancel was restored in 1902.
© All Saints Paston 2017