Church History

Origins of the Church

 

There is an early reference to a Parochial Chapel at Whaplode Drove for the "easement of those who guard the rivers and ring the bells as a warning" but the first dated mention of a church here is from March 1322. On that date the Abbey of Crowland established a chantry (an endowment for a priest to say Mass) "in our chapel in le Broddegrove near Aswick". "Broddegrove" can only be Whaplode Drove (modern Broadgate).

 

The church must have been here for sometime by then; a Romano-British altar shaped like a huge dog bone (see right) was found in the churchyard in 1938 and is now displayed in the church porch. It is made of Northamptonshire stone and is thought to date from between 100 and 400 AD. It was probably used in the worship of Pagan Celtic Gods and is another indication that this was a more substantial place than others round about. The present church dedicated to St John the Baptist dates from 1820 but the original one stood until then; it was built of wood with a thatched nave and tiled chancel.

The Reformation

 

In pre-Reformation times, before the Abbey was closed down, the parish priest was probably a monk from Crowland. So when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and confiscated their property there was no longer a priest here nor any means of paying for one. For a number of years there were no services at the Church. Eventually some local gentlemen Walter Coppinger, Sir Anthony Irby and others asked Queen Elizabeth to let them buy back some of the Abbey lands "for the maintenance of one minister of the Word of God" in Whaplode Drove. She granted this request by letters patent in 1589. This is the origin of the "Church Land" in Whaplode Drove which is administered now, as then, by a body of Feoffees.

 

Until 1902, the church was a Royal Peculiar; it was outside the jurisdiction of the Diocese. In 1902 an ecclesiastical parish was created from the southern end of Whaplode and assigned to the Drove which then ceased to be Peculiar.

Romano-British altar