A BIT OF HISTORY
The church, a Grade II listed building, can trace its history back to the village of Bectun, Becton or Becthon, which was the name of the village in Saxon and Norman times, and its original meaning was a settlement by the bend. The bend is that of the River Rother. There was no mention of the church in the Domesday Survey of 1087 but it was noted as the “Church of Saint Radegwanda of Becton” in a late 13th century charter.
Based on the evidence of the original Norman Arch, rediscovered during the major restoration of the church in 1868, it is believed that the Church was built around 1150 AD. The Tower Arch remains and is Early English. The Church was developed and improved with the Nave Arcade and with the original chancel windows in the Decorated Period. The side aisles and Nave roof were updated in the Perpendicular style in the 15th century. The present Tower was built around 1456.
Much redevelopment and improvement of the church was undertaken in Victorian times, following the appointment of Revd. George Antrobus in 1865. Finding that the building was in poor condition, he arranged for substantial work to be undertaken, including raising the floor to its original level; rebuilding the Chancel and South aisle walls; and completely re-roofing the Church.
The clock and chiming mechanism and the lych-gate were installed as First and Second World War Memorials. The current chimes were a replacement electronic system put in after the most recent re-ordering.
The Church interior was re-ordered in 2007/8 to enable more flexible use and access as a community resource. The replacement of the pews with modern seating and the provision of kitchen and toilet areas enabled choral and youth theatre groups to make better use of the Church, as well as visits from local schools and the staff and residents of a nearby residential home for the elderly.
Some of the more significant historical and architectural features of the church are:-
- the present tower, dating from around 1456, has the curious capital design of a human head with a distended mouth
- an early 14th century restored piscina in the South Aisle that suggests there was an altar there
- the upper part of the window tracery on the South side of the Chancel is original from the 15th century
- stained glass windows installed in 1872, 1888 and c1870, and 15th century fragments in the aisle windows
- 19th century Italian alabaster reredos
- memorials including incised slab, 1480, to John Tynker, and brasses from 1667 and 1753.
A WARM CHURCH
In October 2018, a new heating system was installed in the church building. This consisted of a new, more powerful gas boiler, new and bigger pipework to the underfloor system, and an electric water heater for the kitchen and toilets taps. The previous system was put in around 10 years ago, but had become unreliable in recent years, frequently breaking down, and it was expensive to maintain and repair. It had not worked at all from around Easter, so the Parochial Church Council decided that it was time to replace it.
Fund raising for the cost of this project was vital because church funds could contribute less than half of the total costs of just over £11,000. Successful applications were made to a number of grant-giving charities, including the Beatrice Laing Family Trust, and the Sheffield Diocesan Board.
A grant of £1,150 was made by Allchurches Trust Limited, which is one of the UK’s largest grant-making charities and which gave £15.6 million to churches, charities and communities in 2017. Its funds come from its ownership of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group.
Everyone at St Mary’s is very grateful for the generosity of all the charities and trusts that have contributed to our replacement boiler. An improved heating system will benefit all the people using the church building, not just church members but everyone attending services and the various community groups which visit the church. Properly heating the church building will also save on energy bills, help to prevent damage to the building fabric, and provide a more comfortable and inviting environment.